Next week, Westword will be capping off 2009 with a blizzard of blogs leading up to our annual Year in Review issue: Look for them in this space.
But before long, we'll be ending a decade, too. And with that in mind -- and to whet your appetite for lists to come -- we proudly present our ten favorite strange but true stories by Westword writers past and present from previous Year in Review issues, linked for your perusing pleasure. Look back with us at peeping toms, battling newlyweds, decomposing whales, unruly bears and the guy who was busted by the Secret Service during a presidential visit for pimping toilet paper called "Bush Wipe."
Those were the days. Read on:
A notorious Peeping Tom, who liked to stand at the bottom of the sewage vault in a park outhouse near Fort Collins and videotape women using the latrine, was finally apprehended in January. Robert Thomas Cobabe, 42, had eluded police for more than a year before they finally compared fingerprints at the scene of the crime to state records. Cobabe had recently submitted his prints to the Colorado Department of Education because he was pursuing a teaching license at Regis University.
[George W.] Bush, who'd already shown Colorado how much our state matters by skipping us entirely during his campaign stumping, thanked these top GOPs by waiting until August to grace us with his presence, and then only for 24 hours. During that busy day, Bush visited Rocky Mountain National Park to pitch his wildfire protection plan and pose for rugged photo ops, hosted a million-dollar fundraiser for Owens and Senator Wayne Allard, and attended part of a Colorado Rockies game. Thanks, George. Hell, even Vice President Dick Cheney lasted a couple of days in Colorado -- even if he spent them fishing at the exclusive Wigwam Club near Deckers.
But the President's trip was long enough for Longmont entrepreneur John Fischer (another ex-Texan) to get himself arrested by the Secret Service and charged with disturbing the peace. One of many protesters who weren't allowed to get anywhere near Bush during his Rocky Mountain high, Fischer handed out sample rolls of toilet paper he sells online that feature a picture of the president along with the words "Bush Wipe." Fischer also sells versions with Cheney ("Dick Wipe"), Secretary of State Colin Powell ("Colin Wipe"), and Attorney General John Ashcroft ("Ash Wipe"), as well as anti-Bush bumper stickers, T-shirts and other paraphernalia.
Witnesses told Estes Park police that Fischer, who had wrapped his body in toilet paper, was encouraging people to throw their rolls at the president's motorcade. He denied the charge, but the ensuing national attention sparked a major business boom. Way to go, and go again, John.
The Jesus Run, organized by a Highlands Ranch ministry of the same name, sent out a call for world-class runners for a June race in Denver. As a further inducement, race director Rob Sigmon promised to establish a marathon and 12K Jesus Run Israel around the Sea of Galilee. But problems bedeviled the local event from the start. One runner complained that the course was confusing, and others ratted off participants for running distances other than what they signed up for. And a top competitor, who said he was promised prize money for finishing second in a half-marathon, claimed he never got his $500 prize. Jesus Run ministries has since laid off its paid staff. It the race makes a comeback, it will be a miracle.
Moby dicked: It was bad news for the nose at Burlington High School on November 6, when a fishy smell wafted through the vents. A janitor investigated and discovered that vandals had stuffed parts of a decomposing sixteen-ton whale under some ceiling tiles, then dumped the remaining Free Willy fragments in the garbage. (The whale had been on display in a trailer outside of town.) School officials allowed students to go home if they couldn't stomach the odiferous orca, and by that afternoon, only about forty of the 240 students remained. Not surprisingly, Burlington has since seen no upsurge in marine-biology majors.
In January, a thirteen-year-old boy was arrested in connection with a string of break-ins that caused $250,000 in damage to businesses in southeast Denver. At the American Oil & Gas Building on Hampden Avenue, according to police, the young vandal had spilled cognac, smeared blood and left a scrawled message that read, "She's cute and sexy as hell. I want her tomorrow by 8 p.m. or everybody will die." The cute, sexy girl was not identified. Two weeks earlier, a prowler had broken into the same building and spent 22 minutes surfing porn sites on a company computer.
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.
A June wedding for a Boulder couple had to be postponed after a tussle in an Aspen hotel room led to their arrest the night before the scheduled blessed event. Police say that Ali Aghili and Marney Hurst had been drinking and that an argument broke out over who would babysit their one-year-old son while the lovebirds attended a party at a local bar. Hurst had swelling around her eye; Aghili had scratches on his face. The two were booked and released on bail with a temporary order to avoid contact with one another.
The only thing louder than the sound of the Broncos crashing and burning were the six car horns that Jeri and Larry Priest, of Adams County, repeatedly honked every time the team scored. In October, 69-year-old Jeri was cited for disorderly conduct after a neighbor complained numerous times about the Priests' loud contraption. "I love the Broncos. I don't care if they lost, I still honk the horns, I'm always a Broncos fan," Jeri told a reporter. But in December, as part of a negotiated agreement, she donated the horn to a charity, which will auction it off. Presumably outside of Adams County.
ANIMAL MAGNETISM: An elk that had been hanging out near David Furr's home in western Colorado finally invited itself in when Furr left the door open while he gathered firewood, according to a story in the Daily Sentinel. The elk slipped on the hardwood floor in the living room, fell and remained on the floor for about a half-hour before finally managing to get up and out.
Cyclist Tim Egan was riding on Old State Road in Boulder County when he collided with a bear that had run out onto the road in front of him. "This bear looked at me with a look of terror on his face and sort of made a noise," Egan told the Rocky Mountain News. "I looked at him with a look of terror and we went, 'Aaaahhhhh.'" Egan, 53, suffered cracked ribs, cuts on his head and road rash. The bear's injuries were unknown; it ran away after the accident.
A large black bear apparently chased a group of marijuana farmers from a growing operation in rural Garfield County, according to sheriff's deputies who raided the site. Police found "pipes chewed in half, food containers ripped apart, cans scarred by bites, claw marks and bear prints and trees bearing claw marks," the Denver Post reported. "If I can find this bear, I'm going to deputize him," Sheriff Danny Perkins said.
Another black bear ran onto the green during the second round of the U.S. Senior Open in Colorado Springs, crossing a couple of fairways and then escaping via a drainage pipe. "I never heard of such a thing," golfer Fred Funk told the Denver Post. "It would be pretty scary if (the bear) got a little panicky and some spectator or some of the golfers were too close. That wouldn't have been an issue if a caddie had got too close."
At about 6:30 p.m. on Monday night [November 2], Aaron Siebers reported that he'd been stabbed in Edgewater by "three skinheads or Hispanic males dressed in black" who tried to rob him. Trouble is, a surveillance video from a business where this alleged attack supposedly took place didn't show anything like what Siebers described. So the cops interviewed him again -- and this time, he reportedly admitted that he stabbed himself rather than go to work at a Sheridan Boulevard Blockbuster.
An insanity defense wouldn't seem like the best way to go for Siebers when fighting the false-reporting charge he faces, since everyone with a job at Blockbuster probably dreams of stabbing himself on occasion, making it a totally logical impulse. Then again, maybe Siebers could argue that a sane man would have turned a blade on himself a lot sooner than he did. Either way, we're pulling for him. We've all been there, Aaron!