Strange But True

Strange-But-True: Into the Snake Pit

The Sessions' thought the 5-bedroom house on nearly two acres would be their dream home. Little did they know, the home’s current reptilian residents had other plans.

They slithered behind the walls at night and released foul-smelling musk into the drinking water. And they were so numerous that Ben Sessions once killed 42 in a single day.

Shortly after buying their dream home, Sessions and his wife discovered it was infested with thousands of garter snakes. For the next three months, their growing family lived as if in a horror movie. More than a year after they abandoned the property, the home briefly went back on the market, and they fear it could someday attract another unsuspecting buyer.

garter_snake_400That's when they realized their home was probably sitting atop a hibernaculum,...

Strange But True: Giving a Condo to a Veteran Harder Than Expected

The owners of luxury condominium Eagles Point at the St. Croix, in Prescott, Wis., wanted to show their support for Minnesota troops. So they decided to donate a beautiful condo to one lucky veteran. A year later, they still have no takers.

They've tried to find a veterans' organization or other group to help them choose a veteran and arrange logistics. They've contacted more than a dozen organizations - from First Lady Mary Pawlenty's "Military Family Care Initiative" to the Minnesota Military Appreciation Fund to the national Troops First Foundation. They even tried the Minnesota Lottery. No one has come forward to help.

"The most common response we get is, 'It doesn't fit our mission,'" said Ken Miyamoto, sales manager for Eagles Point at the St. Croix, in Prescott, Wis. "We get all these pats on the back, but no one will help us do this. It's been really frustrating.''...

Strange But True: Home For Sale, Lot Not Included

There is a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom rambler for sale in Chaska. Ron Olson is even willing to deliver it to a lot of your choice, as long as it's close to Chaska.

Ron is a contractor who runs an excavation company, acquired with the custom-built house after he was hired last fall to demolish it on a lot in Chaska MN. The home had suffered some smoke damage after some paint rags caught fire during the finishing process. The buyers didn't want it though, so the builder offered to tear it down and build a new one. Rather than haul it to a landfill, Ron decided to recycle the house, which would have sold for $600,000 at its former location.

"It's really a waste to take a perfectly good house that can be cleaned up fairly easily and throw it away like it's garbage," he said. "Ethically, I don't think we should be doing that."

The house is currently sitting on a trailer on Bavaria...

Strange But True: The Igloo and The Ice House

The cabin fever caused by winter's snowy weather and cold temperatures seem to have inspired some creativity. An igloo in Ohio and a house encased in ice in Detroit are drawing national headlines.

First, Jimmy Grey, of Aquilla, Ohio, has been out of work for almost a year. To keep himself busy, he took advantage of the heavy snowfally to build an extreme igloo in his family's yard. The "man cave" has 4 rooms, 6-foot tall ceilings, and an entertainment rooms with a flat-screen TV, cable, and surround sound. He says when he has friends over, cold temperatures mean the beer never gets warm.

Next, two artists who have encased one of Detroit's thousands of abandoned homes in ice, hoping to draw attention to the foreclosure and housing crisis that has battered the nation. Photographer Gregory Holm and architect Matthew Radune, of spent weeks spraying water on the home for the Ice House Detroit project. The city's foreclosure rate is among the country's highest. View pictures...

Strange But True: Own a Piece of Minneapolis Skyway

An 83-foot piece of the Minneapolis skyway has been taken down from the sky and put up on the market. It could be yours for just $49,500.

This section of skyway was built in the late 1970s and spanned across 5th Street. It connected J.C. Penney and Powers department stores, which closed in the mid-1980s. Powers was leveled in 1993, and instead of taking down the skyway, it just sort-of dead-ended on the other side of the street. When light rail came, the skyway segment needed to go.

Minneapolis architect Ben Awes and his City Desk Studio partners offer in a Craigslist ad an array of possibilities for the 1,380-square-foot structure, all 140 tons of it sitting behind TCF Bank Stadium: office, bridge over a creek, ice rink warming house, etc.

"The one we are most excited about right now is a Minnesota State Fair booth," Awes said Thursday, two days after posting the ad with a starting price of $49,500. "Can't you imagine the Skyway Pronto Pup?"...

Strange But True: Home to be Raffled Off for Charity

For $50, a raffle ticket, and a little bit of luck, a 7,400-square-foot, 7 bedroom mansion in Athens, Ohio, could be yours. And a new car, and utility and taxes paid for 5 years.

Sometimes referred to as "the castle house," the 80-year-old estate is being raffled off by owners, Dr. Ernest de Bourbon and his wife, Jennifer, to raise money for local nonprofit May the World Dance, which helps poor children with obesity and related health problems. The contest, billed as the "Ultimate Life Makeover," is designed to revolutionize the life of the winner, who will be announced July 4.

The winner -- to be chosen through a drawing -- will receive the title to the house, a new car valued at less than $20,000 and money to pay the income tax on the house. In addition, five years of utility bills and property taxes will be covered, provided that the winner lives in the house for those five years and maintains the original integrity of the home.

"It is a...

Strange-But-True: Minneapolis Assessor Contests His Home's Valuation

Many people were upset with their home's assessed values last year. Even Minneapolis' tax assessor wasn't satisfied with his property tax statement.

Minneapolis City Assessor Patrick J. Todd maintains his northeast Minneapolis home was valued at far more than it was worth when he bought it. He appealing to the Minnesota Tax Court to contest the value of his home, which was set by the office he heads. You read that right.

"It's one of those properties where the owner never called [the assessor's office] to say the value was too high," he said.

That's an understatement. He bought the 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom home as investment property in July 2008 for $90,000. On January 1, 2008, the home had been assessed at $166,500 with a tax bill for payable 2009 of $2,239.

The reason behind the discrepancy is easy enough to explain. City assessors don't usually set foot on every property every year. Assessment is done through...

Strange-But-True: Instead of Tearing Down, Donate Your Unwanted House

When the Schrank family decided to sell their Prior Lake home and property, they were horrified to find that the new buyer wanted to destroy the house and build a new one in its place. The Schrank's are now donating the home to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

But it had to be moved to its new site before a new family can take residence in it. That was accomplished last week by Otting House Movers based in Lakeville:

The 30-Ton house, 64-feet in length, 32-feet in width took up both lanes of traffic, which created quite the chore Wednesday.  Crews had to cut branches from the tree-lined streets, Xcel Energy took down low power lines and some street signs were taken apart.

It took 4 hours to move the house 1.5 miles.

"It's always exciting to get a house donation, especially as rare as a donation that involves a house move," Sharon Rolenc said,...

Strange But True: Skeletons in the Basement

When most people decide to sell their home, they take some time to spruce up the place for when potential buyers visit. They clear out the clutter, dust, sweep out the dirt, vacuum, and generally make it more inviting. It makes the home much more likely to sell. A house in Louisianna just might not ever be sold because of the sellers failure to clean out some of the skeletons in their closet. Or in this case, the basement.

A real estate agent showing a house in Gibson found about 100 human bones in a corner of the basement:

James Kenny, a forensic investigator with the Terrebonne Parish Coroner's Office, says the bones found Saturday were so old that dirt had saturated the marrow inside them. He says they probably are remains of Native Americans buried long before the house was built.

Kenny says he learned that the previous residents would often find bones while mowing the lawn or doing yard work, and would put them in the basement.

Half of the split-level house is on top of...

Strange-But-True: Battle of the Bricks

It's been an especially long time since there was a Strange But True post. And admittedly, this one is a little weak, but it's still worth mentioning because it could have ended up a much bigger deal than it is.

The Battle of the Bricks

The city of Minneapolis tried to force Basim Sabri to construct his proposed 77-unit condo development along the Midtown Greenway between Grand and Pleasant Avenues with an all-brick exterior.  Furious at what to him seemed an arbitrary attempt to hold him to a different standard than other developers, Sabri mailed each city council member three bricks to "bolster is argument that an all-brick exterior was impractical."  Then he sued.

The result is that he will still use brick in the development, but he is also permitted to use other materials in specified areas, mainly stucco.  The condos will be built utilizing the brick shell of the former Midwest...