December 22, 2015 7:00 am
Updated: December 23, 2015 6:34 pm

Year In Review: 13 of the strangest stories in 2015

WATCH ABOVE: Toronto tunnel diggers identified, but why did they build it?

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From a dress that broke the Internet to a goat arrested at a Saskatchewan Tim Hortons and even a dead raccoon memorialized on a Toronto street corner, it’s the weird news stories each year that can provide a small-escape from the stressful and depressing headlines that dominate the news.

Here’s a look at some of the oddest stories of 2015.

  1. Family receives letters from ‘The Watcher’

Like the plot straight from a horror movie, a family in New Jersey was forced to abandon their massive, six-bedroom, $1.3-million home after receiving unsettling letters that they were being watched.

‘The Watcher’ says in the letters that his father and grandfather watched the home through the 1900s and “it is now my time,” according to claims made by the family.

Derek and Maria Broaddus who bought the home sued John and Andrea Woods, who they bought the house from. They accuse the couple of knowing about the letters and not disclosing them.

Details of the bizarre legal case quickly made headlines around the world.

  1. Toronto’s mystery tunnel

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When a tunnel was discovered in a wooded area of Toronto near York University and the Rexall Centre, which was hosting tennis events for the Pan Am Games, the story quickly grabbed the attention of Canadians and others worldwide.

Toronto Police began investigating the mysterious 10-metre-long tunnel to uncover if there was any criminal intent behind the discovery that had many around the city asking questions.

The architect of the mystery tunnel was later revealed to be 22-year-old construction worker Elton McDonald, who had dug the impressive passage with his friends and meant no ill-will.

Then Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair even called it “one of the coolest forts ever.”

  1. South African girl reunited with parents after 17 years

A South African couple whose daughter was kidnapped 17 years ago from a Cape Town hospital were reunited with their loved one earlier this year.

The emotional story came to a happy conclusion when a 50-year-old woman was arrested in February on charges of kidnapping and fraudulently pretending to be the child’s biological mother.

The girl, who turned 18 in April, was raised by the arrested woman and her husband as their only child. She was living just a few kilometres from her biological parents. The Cape Argus newspaper reported the fortuitous discovery happened when she became friends with her younger biological sister after they attended the same school.

Local media reported how the family had invited their missing daughter over for coffee once their youngest daughter described how a new student at school bore an uncanny resemblance to her. After seeing the girl the father immediately contacted police who found the couple claiming to be the teenager’s parents and could not prove she was their biological daughter.

  1. 4-year-old just wants a slushie

Who doesn’t love a late night snack?

A 4-year-old Philadelphia girl snuck out of her house at 3 a.m. on March 27, and got on a transit bus in search of a snack.

The incident grabbed headlines as surveillance video released to the public showed preschooler Annabelle Ridgeway sitting on the bus chanting, “All I want is a slushie.”

The young girl was later reunited with her family who were unaware she had awaken and unlocked the back door.

  1. The case of the armadillo

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A man shot an armadillo in Georgia, but ended up accidentally wounding his mother-in-law when the bullet ricocheted off the mammal, known for its hard shell, and travelled through the wall of a mobile home striking the 74-year-old woman who was sitting in a recliner.

Enough said.

  1. Goat ‘arrested’ at a Tim Hortons

Maybe he wanted a double-double?

A goat in Martensville, Saskatchewan was “arrested” at a Tim Hortons by two RCMP officers who were called after concerned employees reported the strange encounter.

When the Mounties arrived they found the stubborn animal standing in the entrance way to the coffee shop. The RCMP believed the animal was just trying to warm up from the cold and escorted it to an animal hospital before it was reunited with its owners.

  1. One lucky Labrador

Tiki the black Labrador is recovering after having 62 hairbands, eight pairs of underwear, a Band-Aid and four elastic bands surgically removed from her stomach.

Screenshot via WATE News

A black Labrador named Tiki was lucky to survive after veterinarians in Pennsylvania discovered 62 hairbands, eight pairs of underwear, a Band-Aid and four elastic bands in the dogs stomach.

It took two hours for vets to remove the items from the unfortunate dog’s stomach.

Tiki pulled through and went on to make a full recovery.

  1. The dress

Are you team #whiteandgold or #blackandblue?

The Internet lost its collective mind after a woman posted an image of a dress to her Tumblr account, causing people on social media to vigorously debate what colours they were seeing.

Caitlin McNeill, a 21-year-old musician who lives on the Scottish island of Colonsay, later apologized for posting the image of the dress, which is actually black and blue.

“I’d like to say ‘I’m sorry’ to half the world and I’d like to say ‘have a good time arguing with your family’ to the rest of the world,” McNeill said in an interview with The Roz and Mocha Show on Toronto’s KiSS 92.5.

There were several reasons for why people saw the colours differently, including the way our brains are individually set to see colours differently, what screen you were seeing the dress on and the poor quality of the original photo.

  1. #DeadRaccoonTO

A bizarre memorial for a deceased raccoon sprung up on social media when a Toronto resident posted an image of the dead animal on Twitter.

The tweet sent at 9 a.m. July 9 was meant to alert the city’s Animal Services of the poor, deceased creature.

But as the city failed to pick up the raccoon a makeshift memorial appeared on the sidewalk complete with flowers and a framed picture. The hashtag #DeadRaccoonTO quickly began trending.

  1. Drivers vs. carpool lanes

Whether it was here in Toronto or Washington State it seems drivers will go to great lengths to use high occupancy vehicle lanes.

A Washington State Patrol trooper pulled over a driver and found his “passenger” was a cardboard cutout of the actor who portrays “The Most Interesting Man in the World” in Dos Equis beer ads.

During the Pan Am Games, Toronto police pulled over a vehicle and determined that both passengers were mannequins, completely dressed in clothing in an attempt to pass them off as real people.

  1. Australian’s photos of frostbite go viral

Australian Emma Quirk documented the painful experience of severe frostbite.

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An Australian woman living in Saskatchewan provided a graphic account of her severe case of frostbite after she fell asleep in the cold following a night of drinking.

The unlucky Aussie, Emma Quirk, got a painful lesson in what a Canadian winter can mean.

Quirk posted the photos of her hands to social media and provided a step by step account of the stages of frosbtie.

Warning: viewer discretion is advised.

  1. Edmonton farmer faces fine for sheep

A farmer in southeast Edmonton faced a fine of $25,000 over his herd of sheep that he’s tended to for more than 20 years.

David Koch’s 1.14-acre property in the Ellerslie area has been in his family since the 1960s. He bought three sheep with his brother in 1990 and the herd has since grown to 50 animals.

A city bylaw officer said he would be fined $500 for each sheep as his property was not zoned for livestock.

Koch was ultimately forced to find homes for his flock at other farms in the area.

  1. Man throws snake at Tim Hortons employee

What began as a dispute about diced onions on a breakfast sandwich at a Saskatoon Tim Hortons quickly escalated into a bizarre scene when the upset customer tossed a snake over the counter at an employee.

While the incident occurred on Dec. 18, 2014, video of the incident only surfaced in Jan. 2015.

Police were called to the scene and caught the non-venomous garter snake, which they named Outlaw.

In Aug. 2015, Christopher Cook was charged with mischief and causing a disturbance and was given a six-month conditional sentence and ordered not to go back to the store.

*With files from Caley Ramsay, Adam Frisk, Nicole Mortillaro, and Dave Giles

© 2015 Shaw Media

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