Pet snakes under the bonnet and other stories from the frontiers of the believable

D ead rabbit traps snake in hamster hoax. The Spanish daily El Mundo reports a case of a garage mechanic who was startled when a two- metre long boa constrictor popped its head out of the body of a car he was working on. The car's owner, who had lost his pet snake a month ago, took the car to another garage where he asked them to find his pet hamster. When they could not find the hamster, he admitted it was a 14kg snake, so they coaxed it out by feeding it with a dead rabbit.

Particle accelerator brought to a halt by beer. The world's largest particle accelerator, the LEP Collider at CERN in Geneva, failed at the end of last week, shortly after an expensive refit. Five days of investigations led to the discovery of two beer bottles in a vacuum chamber. A spokesman commented: "This really was the beer that reached the parts other beers cannot reach."

Annie get your starting pistol. Danish police have refused to give a firearms permit to a theatre in the town of Kolding for their production of the musical Annie Get Your Gun. A disappointed stage manager commented: "We have borrowed some starting pistols instead, but even though they give nearly the same sound it's not the same as using real weapons."

Skydiving Elvis impersonator tragedy. The opening celebrations of a nightclub in the Boston area ended in disaster as four Elvis impersonators were blown off course in a skydiving stunt. The four, all members of the Honeymoon in Vegas skydiving team, had planned to land in the car park of the WaterWorks nightclub in Marina Bay, but strong winds blew one of them into a yacht club and another suffered back injuries on landing. One of the men subsequently died in hospital. A Boston police spokesman said: "Elvis hit town - he just hit it too hard."

Police in Rotherham are looking for a wall. Wickersley hairdresser Ann Tattershall was surprised to find that a 15ft by 3ft wall had been stolen from behind her salon. "I'm amazed something like this could disappear," she said. "It's not the sort of thing you could fit in the boot of your car."

Police in Birmingham are looking for a garden. Mary Cookson and Richard Reeves returned home this week to find their garden missing. Workmen, who had previously called at the house to offer to install a new drive, had turned up to do the job despite being told that it wasn't wanted. The builders have now disappeared, leaving a mass of rubble in place of the previously well-tended front drive and lawn.

Geese's goose is cooked. Despite petitions from the "Friends of Ducks and Geese" animal welfare group, a judge in Michigan has ruled in favour of local authority plans to slaughter 500 Canada geese. The birds are said to wreak havoc in populated areas, particularly with their "canine- sized" droppings. "The law doesn't allow the government to kill nuisance water fowl just because people don't like where they leave their doo-doo," an attorney commented.

Flashy males get more women, according to some new research on fireflies. Entomologists at the University of Kansas have discovered a new method of stimulating the flashing mechanism of fireflies and have used it to examine their sex lives. The results, published in a letter in the current issue of Nature, show that females take the important decisions concerning who mates with whom, and they tend to prefer the males who flash their luminescent tails most often.

Family lunches can cause distress. Particularly in Taiwan, where Vice President Lien Chan is under attack for having lunch with his mother. Each day 200 traffic police and security guards are put on high alert an hour before lunchtime to halt and divert traffic to ensure a smooth ride for the vice-presidential limousine. This cuts what would normally be a half-hour drive down to four minutes, but causes considerable traffic jams near the route. The Mayor of Taipei has offered to deliver lunch to Lien Chan's desk, but Lien, 59, is reluctant to break a long tradition of lunching with his mum.

Old boiler wins whisky. A 1964 Fulton Model 30E oil-fired steam boiler has won its owners a bottle of 15-year-old malt whisky, in a competition to find the country's oldest Fulton steam boiler still operating successfully. According to a report in Laundry & Cleaning Today, the old boiler was bought 32 years ago by the Elizabeth Manners dry-cleaning firm in Birmingham to replace a coil generator that had given only three years of service.

Six funerals and a reprimand. The Chinese authorities have sacked or otherwise punished six senior officials for arranging over-elaborate funerals for relatives or colleagues. According to a party circular: "The extravagant funerals, particularly those with tints of superstition, are a phenomenon of serious corruption and an equally serious violation of the party's discipline, which poison the social mood and damage the image of the Communist Party and government."

Financial speculation is like water down the drain. According to a report in Nature, the mathematical equations used to describe water turbulence provide a surprisingly good fit to the behaviour of the foreign exchange market.

Wizard tips Yeltsin to win. Yuri Longo, a Russian wizard famed for his televised seances, has predicted that Boris Yeltsin will defeat Gennady Zyuganov in the run-off for the Russian presidency. "I know Yeltsin has a team providing extra-sensory help and cosmic force. The election is a huge psychic battle for him and this extra-sensory help is very important," he said, but added that Yeltsin will have to leave office in 1997 through ill health.

Blackbirds of a feather. The Kent fire brigade needed to call for a hydraulic platform to rescue a crow trapped high in a tree. The fire-fighter who finally succeeded in cutting the bird free was named Jeff Rook.

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