Thu, Nov 18, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Cheesy miracle attracts online bidders

AP , MIAMI

Diane Duyser holds a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich that she says bears the image of the Virgin Mary on Friday in Hollywood, Florida. Duyser put the sandwich up for sale last week, drawing bids as high as US$22,000 before eBay pulled the item Sunday night. On Tuesday the site allowed bidding to resume.

PHOTO: AP

The people at eBay were no believers in this cheesy miracle: half of a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich whose owner claimed it bore the image of the Virgin Mary.

Diana Duyser put the sandwich up for sale last week, drawing bids as high as US$22,000 before eBay pulled the item Sunday night. The page was viewed nearly 100,000 times before being taken down.

An e-mail Duyser received from eBay said the sandwich broke its policy, which "does not allow listings that are intended as jokes."

But, Duyser, a jewelry designer who has bought and sold items on eBay for two years, insisted this was not a laughing matter.

"How could eBay do this to me?" Duyser said Monday, hours before the online auction was supposed to have ended.

On Tuesday, the Web site allowed bidding to resume, with the top offer reaching US$16,000 by late afternoon. Bidding is scheduled to end Nov. 22.

Company spokesman Hani Durzy said the listing was mistakenly removed because officials doubted whether Duyser could deliver the product.

"After looking at it a second time, there's nothing to indicate that the seller isn't willing to give up this cheese sandwich to the highest bidder," he said. "We're going to allow it to stay up."

In mocking response, some similar items were posted later -- grilled cheese sandwiches bearing the images of the Virgin Mary's used chewing gum and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, as well as a "Make your own Virgin Mary grilled cheese kit."

Duyser thought eBay would be the best place to show off the sandwich, made on plain white bread with American cheese. It was cooked with no oil or butter.

Duyser, 52, said she took a bite after making it 10 years ago and saw a face staring back at her from the bread. She put the sandwich in a clear plastic box with cotton balls and kept it on her night stand.

At first, she was scared by the image, "but now that I realize how unique it is, I wanted to share it with the world," Duyser said.

The sandwich, she added, has never sprouted a spore of mold.

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