Strange but True

Ethan Wenberg

Panty Raid

Grand Marnier bases a national ad campaign on Vail's infamous Panty Tree, which blooms annually with scores of colorful girls' panties. The tagline for the ads, which begin running in Ski magazine, reads: "You Just Recognized a Pair of Panties in the Sun Down Bowl Tree...The Conversation Is Waiting." Just hope that conversation isn't with your daughter.

In March, a Colorado State University freshman is arrested and charged with felony theft for allegedly lifting more than 200 pairs of women's underwear from the laundry facilities at Allison Hall dormitory, where he lives. CSU cops spend weeks trying to track down the coeds who have been wrongly separated from their granny pants and T-backs.

Naked City

In September, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office receives calls regarding a naked man chasing two women out for a morning walk on the mean streets of Littleton, and of a naked man hiding in the bushes. When a cop and his dog find James D. Christner hiding in a nearby back yard, he reportedly jumps out from behind some bushes and states the obvious, shouting, "I'm naked!" Christner, a registered sex offender, is arrested.

In June, an intoxicated woman drives a van the wrong way down a road in Thornton and crashes into a concrete structure. She is naked when the police arrive.

In August, a man who's crashed a party in Curtis Park and held revelers at gunpoint flees the house after police flood it with tear gas. He is naked.


Governor Bill Owens signs a bill banning buzz-boosting machines called "Alcohol Without Liquid," which send alcohol vapors straight to the brain. Alcohol vapors -- which can take hours to show up in a blood-alcohol test and are definitely less filling than beer -- remain the buzz of choice in calorie-conscious East Coast cities like New York and Miami.

And Don't Even Think About...

: Digging through someone's trash to steal personal information. Colorado is fifth in the nation for identity theft, and it's now a felony to dumpster-dive for digits.

Dumping a dump on the side of the road. The fine for discarding human waste along state highways has jumped from $40 to $500.

Having a cell phone smuggled into a Colorado prison. A new law makes this a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to eighteen months of additional time or up to $100,000 in fines.

Family Values

"She told me she wanted us to spend time as a family and that there was somebody she wanted me to meet." That's how a fourteen-year-old Fort Collins girl describes group sex with her mother, her little brother and her mother's boyfriend in a Motel 6. Despite the girl's compelling testimony, the man is found guilty on only two of six counts.

"He's not like those kids. He tells me he loves me and he wants to make love to me, and everything's okay." That's how 35-year-old social studies teacher Nicole Barnhart explains her relationship with a sophomore at Ponderosa High School. Even so, in March, Barnhart -- a married mother of two -- is charged with sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.

Higher and Higher

Katherine Cline, a 25-year-old stripper, is arrested by Boulder County cops in July after smashing into a fence three times and driving on the wrong side of the road. Cline was either wiped out after a long night of pole-dancing at the Bus Stop in Boulder, or she'd had a few too many of the red, homemade hard candies authorities find in a bag in her car. The candies contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana; Cline says she purchased them for $25 a pop.

Between January and June, the Larimer County Drug Task Force busts 25 pot-growing farms. During the same period, the task force seizes forty pounds of high-grade dope, much of it originally bound for international export. The high-dollar weed is blooming in homes, false rooms, basements, crawl spaces and garages around Fort Collins and Loveland.

A Basalt man admits to bilking wine lovers out of $2.5 million as he enters a guilty plea in federal court in Los Angeles to mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, unlawful monetary transactions and criminal forfeiture. Ronald Philip Wallace had actually collected a total of $13 million for the undelivered wines but is prosecuted only for their fair market price.

Brain Drain

In June, Dr. Denise Crute, a Pueblo neurosurgeon, admits she provided substandard care to seventeen patients, including two who underwent brain surgery on the wrong side of their brains. She loses her medical license.

Fuck Face

State Farm puts a huge billboard featuring agent Tammy Booth at Colfax and Fillmore. Vandals strike the billboard again and again, but it's not taken down permanently until one bold soul sprays the words "Fuck Face" directly over Booth's head.  

The Bear Necessities

One night in July, a black bear breaks into a home in Colorado Springs and helps himself to hot dog buns, a loaf of bread, tortillas, turkey, pot pies, chicken legs and vanilla ice cream. Terrified family members hide in various bedrooms as the bruin feasts and then departs through the same screen door he destroyed on his way in.

Jesus Wept

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs demands that a large stained-glass window that adorns the walls of the Church nightclub -- which is housed in an old church building on Lincoln Street -- be covered for Diamonds and Furs, the rap star's VIP party during the NBA All-Star Weekend in February. The window depicts Jesus Christ with his disciples. As for Diddy's flock, they're largely ignored: Combs spends about an hour in the club's balcony, occasionally waving to fans below, before splitting.


P. Diddy, Lil Jon, Jenna Bush (and the Secret Service), Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, U2, Lenny Kravitz, the Eagles, Allen Iverson, Lionel Ritchie, Vivica Fox and Fergie are sighted at Cherry Creek's JW Marriott, which emerges as D-Town's celebrity crib in its first year of business.

Not Sighted

In September, Dennis Rodman blows off a date with the Summit County Court, where he was due to answer to charges of reckless driving and speeding that he picked up while cruising near Frisco -- going 98 mph in a $250,000 yellow and black Lamborghini Gallardo. At an earlier stop, Rodman had been accused of helping himself to a hat and paying just twenty dollars of a forty-dollar bill at a Glenwood Springs gas station. An anonymous fan covered those charges, though, and Rodman ultimately settles with Summit County by paying a $516 fine and donating $200 to 4-H programs.

"The Least Surprising Legal Development of the Year"

That's what Denver lawyer and CBS legal commentator Andrew Cohen calls the March announcement that Katelyn Faber's civil lawsuit against Kobe Bryant has been settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

The Cookie Monster

"They've robbed us of our laughter. My spirit, my soul, is damaged." That's how Wanita "Renea" Young, a 49-year-old Durango woman, explains why she sued two teenage girls for dropping cookies on her back doorstep. After her successful suit receives international attention, the Wal-Mart cashier and food-bank volunteer -- who claims the late-night cookie drop triggered an anxiety attack -- gets threatening letters and phone calls, including one that suggests she would be better off in a ditch.


In October, Esquire names Boulder-born sex bomb Jessica Biel the "Sexiest Woman Alive" after one of the slowest reveals in publishing history. Photos of Biel's various body parts have been published -- and lavishly praised -- for months before she is identified as their owner. Esquire editor A.J. Jacobs attributes Biel's indisputable sexiness to her "star" posture: "She could hold an apple between her shoulder blades."


After a hotel maid loses the tip of her finger to Jack, a capuchin monkey brought to town for the NBA All-Star Weekend in February, the monkey is quarantined at the Denver Municipal Animal Shelter for thirty days. During his stay in town, Jack eats junk food and lounges around in a miniature Carmelo Anthony jersey, which eventually causes a rash and has to be cut off his body. Jack also throws monkey crap at the staff and engages in self-love activities before he's shipped back to his owner in Dayton, Ohio.

Monkey Gang

Not long after Jack the Monkey is sprung from the D-Town jail, eight marmosets and one Java macaque, all of which are illegal in Colorado, are impounded at the Denver Municipal Animal Shelter after their owner is busted for drugs. The animals stay for a few weeks before being transported to Arizona, passing the time by stinking up the place with foul-smelling protective odors.


In August, Lance Armstrong's puppy, Rex, a gift from Armstrong squeeze Sheryl Crow, undergoes open-heart surgery at Colorado State University's James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Surgeons sew a heart valve made from cow tissue into the nine-month-old yellow Lab's faulty ticker. The hospital has also treated Bart the Bear, who took a bite out of Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.

Lost and Found Department

Alicia Keys leaves her laptop on the Frontier jet that brings the R&B singer from Austin to Denver in March. The next day, as Keys prepares to fly to Phoenix, a member of her 29-person entourage retrieves the machine from Frontier management.  

Lost and Found, Again

Alicia Keys's laptop is left in the boarding area when the singer and her posse hop a Frontier flight in Denver that's bound for Phoenix.

An Evil Endorsement

In May, The Exorcist's Linda Blair lends her support to a campaign challenging the City of Denver's ban on pit bulls.

But You Can Have It for a Song

Singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg puts his 610-acre Mountain Bird Ranch in Pagosa Springs on the market for $17.5 million. The pad, which is near the Wolf Creek ski area, includes a four-bedroom mansion, a six-bedroom guest house, a heated barn and indoor riding arena, an indoor greenhouse with waterfall and pond, a gas station and a recording studio.

The Hair Apparent

"Penny, you out yo' damn mind." According to the November issue of Esquire, that's the response of Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony to director Penny Marshall's stipulation that he lose his cornrows if he wants to star in a major Hollywood film.

Outta His Damn Mind

"I had...a little boy who looks up to his dad, and he said, 'Dad, do you do drugs?'" former Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski says on 60 Minutes in October. "[I said], 'Your daddy did a lot of things to deal with the pain of the game.'" In addition to pimping his book, My Life on the Edge, Romo tells his television audience that he took steroids and human growth hormone from spring 2001 to fall 2003.


Colorado experiences a record number of bank robberies in 2005. By the time the final tally is in, the FBI estimates there will be 200 stickups on the books, a 64 percent increase over last year. Among the culprits:

The Mr. Magoo Bandit -- so named because law enforcement officials think the robber, who wears a big hat and dark glasses, resembles the cartoon character -- is arrested in Summit County in March. Tyler Hamilton pleads guilty to six bank heists.

The Front Range Bandit turns out to be Albert Lawrence Vaughan, who says he started robbing banks after he abandoned his dream of making a living by playing cards and pool. Vaughan robbed banks in Loveland, Boulder, Fort Collins and Wyoming, but he's arrested in Vegas.

The Booger Bandit, Mark Hazlett, is indicted in April by a grand jury. A member of a sixteen-person crime ring that stole merchandise, guns and personal and financial information from Denver-area homes and cars, Hazlett had been captured by a surveillance camera while cashing a stolen check and picking his nose.

The Itty Bitty Bank Bandit is linked to seven bank robberies over four weeks. Louis Gabriel Archuleta, who is just four feet fall, gets a big 188 months in prison.

Still at Large

Masked Marauder

Matt Hatter

Baggy Shirt Bandit

Periodical Bandit

Cuervo Extra Bandit, who was videotaped wearing an Oakland Raiders hat and a Cuervo Extra sweatshirt over the course of three bank robberies in Boulder and Westminster.

Still at Large, and Hopefully Not Standing in Front of You in Line

The Hollywood Bandits are smooth, organized, articulate and armed to the teeth -- like characters in a Tarantino flick. The pair use assault rifles and handguns and wear body armor. They've hit eight times in the past eighteen months, forcing bank customers to lie on the ground while they pilfer the place.


The "Mysterious Douglas County Lady" is re-buried in a ceremony attended by more than a hundred people, including American Indian spiritualists and people in pioneer-era garb. The remains of the woman, who died between 1860 and 1880, had been unearthed during a 2003 construction project in Castle Pines; she now rests in a hand-dug grave near Sedalia.


The Denver Mint makes thousands of 2004 Minnesota quarters with an extra leaf on a cornstalk -- an anomaly that fires up frenzied collectors around the country.

In June, a decomposed female body turns up in a storage container in the back yard of an Aurora home.

A 77-year-old amateur paleontologist and retired Navy master chef discovers the first fossil of "Popeye," a strong-armed, termite-eating mammal that lived in Colorado 150 million years ago.

Mammoth and camel bones found near the Colorado-Kansas border are determined to have been smashed by tool-wielding humans more than 12,000 years ago. The discovery pushes back the estimated date for human occupation of the Plains by more than 1,000 years.

Thirty-seven dead horses are found in various pastures in El Paso County over the course of one month. Locals suspect the horses were shot with ice bullets, as no bullet fragments were found; the official culprit is listed as lightning.  

While patrolling the 146,000-acre Pike National Forest, Sergeant William Ruppart of the Douglas County Sheriff's Department finds satanic souvenirs, stone pentagrams, burned pyres, animal sacrifices and naked people chanting in a cafe.


Vandals ransack the field house at Aurora's Arapahoe Little League baseball complex in June, taking a John Deere Gator utility vehicle and eight pairs of batting gloves.


"If America is a racist, genocidal nation that is exterminating black and brown people, then why do so many Mexicans want to come here?" That's the question conservative activist David Horowitz poses during a University of Colorado talk on wanton liberalism in February.

A Bean-Eating Piece of Shit

In an e-mail to University of Colorado cross-country runner Greg Castro, CU football player Clint O'Neal and his girlfriend, Jacqueline Zeigle, call Castro a "bean-eating piece of shit," as well as a "river rat" and a "border hopper." The e-mail authors are later suspended.

Things Mayor John Hickenlooper Was Seen Doing in 2005:

Riding a scooter through downtown for a Time magazine photographer.

Reacting with genuine-seeming astonishment at having been named one of the country's top mayors by Time magazine.

Going down a water slide (and into Argo Park Pool in Globeville) with his suit on.

Racing the Denver Public Schools superintendent through a water fountain at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science -- while both were wearing suits.

Playing pool with Marcus Camby and Governor Bill Owens during the NBA All-Star Weekend.

Checking out a model train set that sits in the basement beneath Union Station.

Two-fisting a Purple Hooter and a pint of Bass while watching legendary X guitarist John Doe at the Lion's Lair.

Dancing -- dancing? -- to the Dave Matthews Band during the Hurricane Katrina fundraiser at Red Rocks.

Dancing -- dancing! -- to Wendy Woo at the Walnut Room.

Funky Gov

"It's real clear that this town and this state can handle just about anything," says Governor Bill Owens while he watches George Clinton gyrate on stage wearing nothing but a diaper during the NBA Players Association Ice Gala at the Colorado Convention Center.

Funny Gov

"You know, baldness is a sign of raging testo sterone," says the Independence Institute's Jon Caldara during an October TV debate on Referendum C. "But it cuts down on ever having to use it," replies Bill Owens, Caldara's debate opponent.

How About the Shit-Faced Midget?

In proposing a citywide contest to rename the Drunken Monkey, a controversial watering hole on Main Street in Fort Collins, resident Carey Hewitt suggests, "I think this would be a wonderful Christmas present to Fort Collins."


Doug Ramsburg of Northglenn wins a spot aboard one of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceships, which are slated to leave Earth in 2008. Ramsburg had entered the contest after seeing it advertised during the Super Bowl; he is randomly selected from 135,000 other applicants who want to blast off, too.


Over the Fourth of July weekend, NASA's Boulder-built Deep Impact spacecraft blasts a crater in the side of Tempel 1, a black, oblong comet. The craft traveled 268 million miles to excavate primordial ice that could hold clues about the formation of the solar system; light from the blast is visible from Earth, and the rupture of energy is equivalent to the detonation of four and a half tons of dynamite.

Most Likely to Tell This Story With a Weird Sort of Pride for Years, or at Least Until They Turn Into Republicans

In May, Secret Service agents pay a visit to Mesa Ridge High School in Colorado Springs to investigate a student who's been labeled "Most Likely to Assassinate President Bush" in the school yearbook. The school's principal blames the yearbook staff for the prank, which made its way into all but 25 of 600 volumes. Teachers use black markers to cover up the offending caption, which the agents ultimately determine is not a serious threat to W.


In November, Walt Clark Middle School principal Kelly Boren surrenders to Loveland police after a fistfight with Gary Houglum, a cafeteria employee, in the school's kitchen. The fight reportedly started over a complaint about Houglum's driving.


In July, Fountain city councilman Al Lender claims that Darrell Craighead, who is leading a recall campaign against him, doused his eyes with pepper spray. Craighead says he acted in self-defense after Lender swung a pitchfork at him and thrust it into his chest. Lender is treated by paramedics and, a week later, ousted by voters. His replacement is Darrell Craighead.  

Always Be Prepared

"I'm taking a bag of legs." That's what Captain David Rozelle, who lost a leg in Iraq as a commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, says he's taking when he returns to the war zone. Rozelle is the author of Back in Action, which tells the story of his missing limb.

No Pain, No Sane

"Only if I moved wrong or felt the bones grinding was it really painful." That's how Charles Horton of Steamboat Springs describes his condition during the eight days he awaited rescue with a broken leg in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Double Trouble

In August, Rob Wright of Trinidad loses two TVs in his basement apartment when lightning strikes nearby, sending a shock that singes both machines. Moments later, as Wright discusses the lightning strike with a friend over the phone, his house starts shaking and doesn't stop for thirty seconds -- thanks to a 4.9-magnitude earthquake that hit across the border in New Mexico.

O Mercy

In October, a Glenwood Springs woman's decision to break from her normally scheduled programming -- by skipping a day of The Oprah Winfrey Show to go visit her neighbor -- may have saved her life. A boulder half the size of a Volkswagen Beetle rolls down Red Mountain and smashes through the wall of her second-story apartment, crashing into the spot where she spends most afternoons sitting and watching TV, before finally coming to a halt in the front yard.

Gnome Sweet Gnome

In July, Greeley police find eighty yard gnomes stashed in black plastic trash bags. The stash is a mystery to both the cops and the Weld County Sheriff's Office, who set out to reunite the plaster elfin creatures with their owners. Both agencies say they'd received numerous calls from gnome lovers who'd had their statues stolen.

Take This Job and Shove It

In January, three teenagers working the night shift at Papa Murphy's in Parker are put into the deep freeze by masked, armed robbers, one of whom has a shotgun. While the gunmen grab the cash, one of the young pizza-slingers uses his cell phone to call the cops from the freezer. The three teens all quit the next day.

Sweet Meat

In November, Steve's Meat Market in Arvada donates 600 pounds of processed deer and elk burger to the Food Bank of Northern Arizona, which is taking donations to hurricane-ravaged Mississippi.

Who Was That Sensible-Car-Driving Man?

One early morning in July, an unidentified man parks his car along the side of Canyon Ranch Road in Castle Rock and frees five horses from a burning barn. As firefighters arrive to fight the big blaze, the man flees in a Subaru station wagon.

For the Record

In June, University of Colorado student Leo Chau and his friend, Sean Duffy, set the world record for land crawling when they crawl 33 miles across Colorado Springs to raise money to help combat pediatric AIDS.

School Stinks

Sky Vista Middle School in Aurora is evacuated in September after a strong, noxious odor overwhelms the school's upper west wing. Fire and rescue teams trace the odor to a stinky sink in a classroom, which is emitting a dangerously high level of sewage gas.

There's the Rub

In October, a Denver District Court jury awards Michelle DeYoung $40,000 in her suit against a massage company that operates out of DIA -- and videotapes its customers' rubdowns without their knowledge. DeYoung, a management consultant from Washington, D.C., says she'd had approximately 24 airport massages before she learned that the sessions were being recorded; in 2002, she sued for invasion of privacy and outrageous conduct. According to the massage company's owner, the video cameras were installed to discourage bad behavior by clients -- many of them from Europe and Asia -- who expect a different kind of massage than those offered in the terminal.

They Say We Were Monkeys/

I Think Their Heads Are Stuck in the Ground 'Cause They're Too Busy Diggin'/And Puttin' the Bible Down!

In September, ApologetiX, a Christian band that describes itself as "Weird Al Yankovic meets Billy Graham," entertained 1,500 teens, youth-group leaders and parents who flocked to Focus on the Family's Dare 2 Dig Deeper apologetics conference in Colorado Springs. In addition to "Monkey Scheme," ApologetiX performed its own version of "Stacy's Mom (Has Got It Going On)," this one titled "JC's Mom (Has Got a Growin' Son)."

6,000 Years

The age of Planet Earth, according to Rusty Carter and Tyson Thorne of BC Tours, which offers "biblically correct" tours of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The tours also dismiss the museum's prehistoric exhibit as "a lie," maintain that God "spoke fish into existence," and declare that Hitler, as well as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were evolutionists.

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