Forget the Medicine Chest; Guess What People Stash in the Fridge?

Yankee Ingenuity Bureau: Snooping through other people's medicine cabinets is losing its thrill. More and more hosts are now hiding their Viagra, Preparation H, Prozac and other embarrassing medications before guests arrive.

So as a substitute we recommend peeking inside their major appliances. For example, in New England, 35% of residents use refrigerators to store dead animals, according to a study by Energy Star, a consortium of New England utility companies. In one case, a Massachusetts man kept his dead poodle in the freezer because the ground was too hard to dig a grave.

(This is probably a big reason why people move to Southern California: easy year-round animal burials.)

Other bizarre findings about New England appliances:

* Some residents use automatic dishwashers to steam fish.

* A Vermont woman waters her lawn by hooking sprinklers to her washing machine.

* A Boston man cleans his bowling ball in the dishwasher.

* A Rhode Island family cleans horses by running a regular vacuum cleaner over their hides.

The Name Game: San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik has put out an APB for the goofiest names given to children in the drug-addled '60s and '70s. The nominees so far include: Celestial Fudge, Mao Che, Bean, Agwitch, Moon Shadow and Lucky Hippo.

She also uncovered offspring christened Raspberry, Blueberry and Strawberry (what, no Frankenberry?).

Can you imagine naming a kid Celestial Fudge in the '90s? It'd be ridiculous. Well, unless the name was Celestial

Random Facts Bureau: Houses didn't have closets in the 18th century because hangers hadn't been invented, according to "Geography of Home" by Akiko Busch (Princeton Architectural Press). The Shakers developed hangers at the end of the 19th century.

Lawsuit of the Day: A British man who was convicted for his role in a fatal car wreck is now suing the victim's kin for wages he lost while in prison, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Alarming Trends Monitor: A Victorian-style carousel on display in New York's Grand Central Station next month will feature horses that resemble Howard Stern, Madonna, Albert Einstein and Dolly the cloned sheep.

Name Game II: The quandary continues over what to call the first decade of the 21st century. In Britain, the No. 1 choice is the Zeros, according to a poll appearing in the Times of London. That name was backed by a third of the people surveyed.

Runners-up were the Oh-Ohs and the Earlies. About 25% had no idea what to call the decade.

Off-Kilter's favorite monikers are the Preteens, the Zips, the Singles . . . or the Celestial Fudge Decade.

Faulty Forecasts: In the early 1980s, M. Scott Peck, a Harvard-educated shrink and bestselling author of "The Road Less Traveled," predicted that demonic possession would be an accepted medical diagnosis by the mid-1990s.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: " 'Magnet Man' Killed When He Walks Past an Open Keg of Nails!" (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News, San Francisco Chronicle. Off-Kilter's e-mail address is Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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