I’ve always been fascinated by J.K Rowling’s assertion that the idea for Harry Potter “just strolled into (her) head fully-formed” during a train journey. I commute on darn trains all the time, and no multi-million-dollar pop culture phenomena have ever strolled into my head, let me tell you.

With something like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, it’s odd to think how a completely fantastic story and a vast universe can be conjured out of nothing. Sauron, Ents, Quidditch, Quaffles and all manner of other nonsense names and phrases can just be accepted and adopted all around the world.

How does this happen? Probably because the real world is an even more peculiar place than the strangest fiction can muster. Bludgers, Muggles and Horcruxes? That’s nothing. Have you checked out some of the headlines here in the real world lately?

We like to think that we’ve got some kind of handle on our lives and the wider world around us. That, by and large, we go about our daily routines and everything (more or less) makes sense. There are certain things that science hasn’t quite pinned down yet, like the secrets of the depths of the oceans and the reaches of space, but we just don’t question those things.

As long as our immediate worlds make sense to us, we’re generally happy. Which is why it’s best to stay away from the lighter side of the news, because there are things going on here that nobody could ever explain.

Like the thief who stole 800 pounds of lemons, the goats who stormed an Idaho neighbourhood and the Florida man who attacked his mother with a sausage. Buckle up for some of the United States’ most peculiar recent news headlines.

25 “Oregon Man Changes Name To Captain Awesome”- Must Be A Chuck Fan

Now, as names go, Douglas Allen Smith Jr is perfectly fine. It’s not the most creative, perhaps, but it’s totally serviceable. Some people just can’t resist making a scene, though. They want something with a little more pizzazz.

I’m not sure what pizzazz actually is, or how to quantify it, but I know one thing: the name ‘Captain Awesome’ has a lot more of it than Douglas Allen Smith Jr ever did. Which is why, The New York Post reports, Douglas made the bold decision to change his name in 2010. It was in honor of Dr. Devon ‘Captain Awesome’ Woodcomb, a character from NBC spy show Chuck.

The real-life Awesome also legally changed his signature to a glyph (right-pointing arrow, smiley face, left-pointing arrow).

24 “Missippi’s Literacy Program Shows Improvement”- Maybe A Little More Improvement Needed

Now, that’s all kinds of unfortunate right there. In case you missed it, read over the title one more time.

We all make the occasional typo in our writing, it’s just unavoidable. This is why editing and proofreading are so darn important. Even if it’s just a shopping list, take a moment to have another glance at it. You don’t want to go out to pick up a couple of bottles of cabernet and come back with an IKEA cabinet, do you?

Of all the times to mess up a sentence, though. As The Huffington Post reports, this one hasn’t done much for the overall impression of the literacy levels of Mississippi.

23 “Florida Suspect, 22, Allegedly Attacked Mother With Sausages”- Won’t SOMEBODY Think Of The Sausages?

Now, I’m a big fan of sausages. Whether we’re talking hot dogs or good old fashioned bangers and mash (yep, I’m British), I’m all over that. Not these ones, though. They’ve got a mom-shaped dent in them.

Police in Florida arrested a hungry 22-year-old man who allegedly pelted his mother with sausages because she accidentally bumped into him while making his dinner,”

Fox News reported the incident earlier this month. Hermes Callijas-Gasperin demanded his mother make him a meal, then threw the sausages at her when she accidentally knocked into him while doing so. The sausages hit her in the eye, friends. Oh, the humanity.

22 “Doritos Lure Runaway Pig ‘The Size Of A Mini Horse’ Home”- Who Wouldn’t Be Lured By Doritos?

Am I the only one thinking that the technical term for a ‘mini horse’ would probably be pony? Let’s not be pernickety about that, though, because the real issue here is that I can relate to this pig on a deeply personal level. Offer me a pack of chili heatwave and I’m basically anybody’s.

This wild event took place in San Bernardino, California, where officers staged an attacked after being alerted to the whereabouts of the pig’s hangout. One of the deputies had the heroic Doritos in their lunch bag, and so they were able to lure the pig and secure it.

21 “Don’t Microwave Urine Samples, Florida Convenience Store Owner Warns Customers”- A Life Lesson For Us All

Now, see, you might think that this is one of those pieces of advice you could file under Well, That’s Just Freaking Common Sense, Right There, but there’s a little more to this one.

The convenience store in question belongs to Parul Patel, and is situated very close to two labs (though one doesn’t take urine samples for tests) in Jacksonville, Florida. The idea is that warming urine from somebody with a clean system will enable you to pass the test, and so Patel’s microwaves were… well, you can imagine.

“Patel said a woman became aggressive a few months ago when she asked her not to warm urine. She asked to see a sign that says it’s not for that purpose. So she made one,” Fox News reports. Problem solved.

20 “7-Eleven Customer Dramatically Throws Iced Coffee On Counter After Learning Price”- Well, We’ve All Been There

Again, here’s another story I can totally get on board with. If you’ve ever bought popcorn and a soda at the movie theater and then wondered why you can’t make rent that month, you’ll totally appreciate how this person was feeling. The prices of the simplest things really can be absurd these days.

The sorry story took place in Mastic, Long Island, where the customer intended to purchase three iced coffees. “Getting in an argument with the 7-Eleven staffer,” Fox News reports, “…the customer dumped the drink after learning how much it all cost, according to police.”

19 “Tennessee Man Arrested After Throwing Biscuit ‘Really Hard’ At Ex-Girlfriend’s Face, Police Say”- When Cookies Attack

Now, break-ups are tough. I can totally appreciate that. The key is to manage them responsibly, to be an adult about it, not to descend into childish pettiness or spite.

Do you know what isn’t the key? Pelting a biscuit super-hard at your ex’s face. According to Fox News, a man from Tennessee saw his ex-partner with somebody new, and his jealousy took a bad turn. A spectacularly bad turn. A biscuit-throwing, car-hood-punching turn, it seems.

He was arrested “on charges including public intoxication, vandalism and assault.” This wasn’t anybody’s finest hour, it’s probably safe to say. What a scene to make.

18 “Goats Caught Roaming New York City Subway Tracks”- This Is No Place For A Goat

As I say, I’m a frequent commuter, and it’s not easy. The delays, the cancellations, the super-rude fellow commuters who stare at their cellphones and wouldn’t notice if your head was on fire… it’s rough at times, it really is. If there’s one thing we don’t need thrown into the mix, it’s a band of rebellious goats hanging out on the tracks.

The NYPD get all kinds of questionable jobs to do, as you can imagine, but wrangling two goats from the tracks of Brooklyn’s N line isn’t something they have to do every day.

The daredevil duo was on the loose on the tracks for about two hours before being safely removed, Fox News explains.

17 “Michigan Best Buy Employees Say Deer Walked Through Front Door”- Oh Deer

Employees at stores like Best Buy are adopting headsets more and more lately. One peculiar afternoon, workers at a Novi, Michigan Best Buy heard something very odd over theirs: there’s a deer in the store. According to Fox News, employee Erin Ellison thought that this was a code word for something. Nope. It was a simple code meaning that there was an actual darn deer in the store.

It entered the building at around 12.30pm and went barrelling over to the appliance section, apparently. Customers were sent to a break room while the workers cornered the animal and sent it on its way. No harm was done, and Best Buy employees had a fantastic anecdote to share.

16 “Trick-Or-Treaters Over 12 Could Face Jail Time In Virginia”- Sorry, Kids, Halloween’s Cancelled

Whether you celebrate (is that really the word where this spooky holiday’s concerned) Halloween or not, you’ll be totally familiar with the concept of trick-or-treating. Children dress up in costumes, go from door to door and hope that the homeowners will play along and give them some candy.

If you live in Chesapeake, Virginia, however, it’s not a harmless tradition at all. As reported on the Greg Gutfeld show, trick-or-treaters over the age of twelve can face a fine or even jail time. Granted, nobody likes being tricked, but this certainly seems like a whole heaping helping of harshness. Better watch out.

15 “New Jersey Police Release Mugshot Of Runaway Pug”- Do You Recognise This Pugshot?

Let this be a lesson to all you pugs out there considering giving it all up and embarking (hehe, embarking) on a life of crime: nobody is above the law, however small, furry, squishy-faced and adorable.

According to Fox News, police in Cape May, New Jersey, issued a mugshot of the lost pug, which they snarkily said had been “captured sneaking through yards on the 1300 block on New Jersey Avenue.” They left a number for the owner to contact, because, let’s face it, overcrowding is a serious problem. House arrest is probably the best solution where this little miscreant is concerned.

14 “Bear Recorded Relaxing In Hot Tub, Drinking Margarita”- Sounds Like A Chill Afternoon To Me

Life sure can be stressful these days. The modern bear-about-town has to balance social, romantic and professional lives, exercising, eating right, ensuring that enough of their proceeds go to charity… it’s a darn minefield, even for the most together and anxiety-free big ol’ hairy bears.

Who could blame this bear, seen on Fox News, for wanting to take a break from the rat race and chill in a hot tub? Mark Hough, of Altadena, California, captured the amazing footage of a bear who had gotten into his hot tub and seemed pretty darn content not to get out of it for the moment.

13 “Virginia Man Erects Electric Fence Near School Bus Stop To Keep Kids Off Property”- GET OFF MY YARD!

Now, we all know that children can be troublesome. To some of the older generation, teenagers, in particular, can be a menace. Groups of them gather on street corners and outside stores, like some kind of surly gang. It can be frightening.

There are ways of dealing with these sorts of situations. Some might be considered extreme, such as this man’s Jurassic Park-esque approach to home security.

As ABC8 News reports, a Henrico County homeowner outraged parents by installing an electric fence on his property to keep students out. It was inches away from where the students pass, and there was no warning sign that it was electric, which is how the police got involved.

The homeowner, Bryan Tucker, explained that children often trespassed and left trash on his property. “I'm not in charge of other people's children… not directing other people's children what to do. All I can do is protect myself and that's why I've got a fence up," he said.

12 “Burglary Suspect Nabbed After Getaway Vehicle Gets Stuck In Large Manure Pile”- When The You-Know-What Really Hits The Fan

All too often, cop shows and action movies make these high-speed chases look like effortless, super-cool sequences. It’s all slow-mo, impossible flashy jumps and dramatic explosions. As is so often the case with Hollywood melodramatics, though, it doesn’t work out nearly that well in real life.

What happens in real life? You go careening off the road into a huge pile of manure, that’s what happens. Fox News reports that a Minnesota burglar’s pickup wound up in a huge mound of the stuff, after he was caught stealing lumber and other supplies from a farm shed in Maine Prairie.

Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson reported that the thief was found on the side of the road, covered from his waist down in manure. “He was wearing jean shorts over long underwear and no shoes, which the deputies assumed were somewhere in the manure pile,” Gudmundson said.

11 “Alligator Visits Florida School Campus, Is Taken Away”- So Much For Equal Opportunities

Personally, I don’t see the problem here. As long as the alligator showed up to class on time and promised not to eat even a little bit of any of his classmates, what was the issue here? It seems a little discriminatory to me.

Still, that’s the way it was. An alligator trespassed onto a Pasco County school campus, Fox News reports. The incident was swiftly and professionally dealt with by resource officers of Seven Springs Middle School and Mitchell High School, who removed the reptile from the Seven Springs campus without any student coming with 100 yards of it.

10 “Giant Lizard In Florida Evades Capture, Torments Family”- The YOLO King Of The Lizard World

Now, we all know what alligators can be like. As we saw, they’ll just galumph onto school property with absolutely zero care for trespassing rules or anything. We expect better of our giant lizards, though. Come on, guy, what are you doing?

As reported by Fox News, Zachary Lieberman spotted a huge six-foot-long lizard on a trail outside his home. He reported it to the Florida Fish And Wildlife Commission, and thought that would be the end of it.

It sure as heckola wasn’t, though, as the wily creature found its way into the Liebermans’ yard. The Asian water monitor lizard evaded capture attempts from trappers and wildlife officials, flouting authority in a way the world hasn’t known since the days of the punk movement.

Rumours that the creature wears a safety pin for an earring and torn clothing and listens to The Clash proved unfounded.

9 “Texas Man Stops Woman, 94, Driving Wrong Way Down Highway”- Highway To Heckola

Now, we all have our snarky remarks to make about particular types of driver. The fact is, though, there are just responsible, safe and courteous drivers, and those who are not. Lazy stereotyping gets us nowhere, friends. It’s 2018 after all.

Having said that, there definitely are senior drivers who are a danger to themselves and others. Luckily, the kindly Tomas Prado was there on the freeway in Lubbock, Texas, to alert the 94-year-old that she was driving the wrong way.

As The Daily Mail reports, he headed off the wrong way himself to alert her, in an effort to get her to stop and keep everyone safe.

“Personally, if I was to get hit in that bigger transit van that I was in, it could possibly, not necessarily save her, but I could take more of a hit than she probably could,” said Prado. Thanks to his actions, no harm was done.

8 “Man Busted With 800 Pounds Of Stolen Lemons”- Citrus Fresh

Now, I can appreciate lemons, I really can. Lemonade? Lemon juice on pancakes? Lemon cake? Those are some of the greatest things in the world, in my eyes. Even so, I don’t think I can quite commit to the lemon cause as strongly as this guy.

The New York Post tells the bizarre story of a man in Southern California, arrested “after deputies found about 800 pounds of stolen lemons inside his car.”

They were investigating a spate of recent farm thefts, and reported that the lemons in question were traced to a nearby farm. The charge? Theft of agricultural products.

7 “Bear Visits Colorado Hotel Behind Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’”- Here’s Bear-y!

Yes, that was one of the feeblest puns I’ve ever made. The polite thing would’ve been not to draw attention to it.

Hurrying right along, the Stanley Hotel (inspiration for the notorious Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s iconic thriller The Shining) has been the scene of all kinds of (fictional) scares. According to Fox News, though, staff got a real-life scare when a bear entered the hotel!

According to the report, the bear “apparently figured out how to pry open the lobby door,” and had a short-lived visit inside while hundreds of guests slept. That’s one way to liven up a quiet shift.

6 “Florida Man Attempts To Rob Krispy Kreme, Demands Money And Donuts, Cops Say”- I Donut Believe It

You know that feeling you get, when you’ve just got a craving for a good donut and nothing else will do? Some of us call that feeling simply ‘being conscious,’ while others don’t have that much of a sweet tooth at all. As far as I’m concerned, though, donuts are great, and Krispy Kremes are the way to go.

One thing you can say for me, though, is that I pay for my super-sugary treats. Fox News shares the sorry story of a man from Tallahassee, Florida, who went into a Krispy Kreme branch demanding money and a donut from the secret menu. Staff were less than impressed by the demands.

“Instead of a ‘secret menu’ donut and cash he got a trip to the county jail,” police said, displaying some super-slick wit of the highest order.