Strange news: tarantula donations, elves, and a slick new idea for your coffee

Published 5:15 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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Strange and weird things happen every day, and sometimes, it gets recorded for posterity, courtesy of the news media. We’re here to bring you not only the triumphs and tragedies of our community to keep you well-informed about the world around you, but also the stories which simply make you pause a moment, scratch your head, and say, “well… that happened.”

Here are a few samples of odd stories, all recently reported by the Associated Press:

In a startling example of real-life irony, a California man apparently decided to get out of his upcoming court appearance for a vandalism case by… breaking into the courthouse to vandalize it.

He arrived on a Saturday night and ignored the guard as he broke in through the glass front doors. While he was inside, he set a fire which caused an estimated half-million dollars of damage. It might take up to six months to make the repairs to the courthouse since the fire melted lights in the ceiling, scorched the furniture, and activated the sprinkler system.

The suspect is now being held on $75,000 bail, which I assume is a lot more than whatever it was for his previous vandalism charge. So maybe next time you want to get out of something unpleasant, try not to make it everyone else’s problem too. (Also, don’t do more crimes.)

In other strange crime news, police in France recently made a hefty discovery on a shoreline bordering the English Channel. The discovery? Two large packages, linked by rope, containing 850 kilograms of cocaine. That’s 1,875 pounds in our American measurements, which is less than 200 pounds short of a whole ton.

That’s almost quite literally a ton of illegal drugs just floating around in the water! It’s still undetermined if the packages fell off a ship or were “intentionally” floated to the shore for the drug traffickers to pick up later.

But whatever really happened, I’m just glad it wasn’t some silly publicity stunt for that “Cocaine Bear” movie I keep unfortunately seeing trailers for everywhere. Though I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was.

The next story is a little bit closer to home, but thankfully not too close. Iowa State University just received a generous gift, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Unlike typical donations of money or services, however, this one was a donation of 169 confiscated tarantulas.

Apparently, tarantulas are pretty popular in the illegal pet trading industry, though I can’t imagine why. I don’t think any kind of spider would be a very fun pet to have. Not like playing fetch with a dog or petting a cat, right?

Anyway, the university has an “Insect Zoo” education program, and will raise the young tarantulas. Some will stay at the university as part of the program, while others will be sent to other zoos across the country when they’re old enough. Personally, I’m just glad we’re not close enough to Iowa to worry about any potential spider jailbreaks.

For another creature-centric story, we turn to the social media account of Mexico’s president. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently posted a photo of what he said was an “aluxe,” which is an elf-like woodland spirit in Mayan folklore.

That’s right. The president of Mexico is sharing photos of alleged mythical creatures on social media, proclaiming “everything is mystical.”

I clicked on the Twitter post myself to see the photo, which is a grainy nighttime image of what appears to be eyes glowing in a tree. Could be anything really.

The president probably should be focusing on more important things than talking about mythical creatures, but as a Twitter user myself, I’ve seen stranger things people have shared on the website each day.

Nothing I’ve seen there, however, is as odd as this next AP story: Starbucks coffeeshops in Milan, Italy are trying out a new series of beverages where the coffee is boosted with a bit of olive oil.

Yep, skip the cream and sugar. Just pour in a bit of olive oil instead. (You can see why the company is testing this in Italy first, right?) They’re calling it “Oleato” which is Italian for “oiled.”

Italy’s olive oil producers’ association supported the move and called it “a daring innovation.” The group has also been trying to get people to add olive oil to cocktails too, so perhaps they’re a little biased.

I’m not a coffee drinker myself, so you won’t catch me taste-testing the Oleato whenever it makes it to the United States. But hopefully, others will enjoy the well-seasoned coffee at least!

Lastly, I bring to you what is perhaps the silliest AP article I’ve ever read. The story is only five paragraphs long, but that’s really more than enough here.

You see, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (with assistance from the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University) recently conducted an investigation of a mysterious powder that people were reporting. They started seeing it in the air and on their cars during the end of February.

Some theorized that it might be related to dust storms happening in the Midwest, but as it turns out, the source was something we’re all quite familiar with: pollen.

I’m sure those of us here locally probably could have figured it out with less analysis. After all, my car is already coated in a fine layer of yellow pollen right now thanks to the unseasonably warm February we just had.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading this brief break from more serious news for a few minutes. The world is indeed a strange and weird place sometimes.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.