Computer glitch gives the Virgin Mary a new title: Land baron : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Computer glitch gives the Virgin Mary a new title: Land baron


By Joe Malinconico STAFF WRITER

Computer ONE Virgin Mary gets a new title

By all accounts, she died almost 2,000 years ago and never set foot in Middlesex County, or anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere.

But somehow the Virgin Mary suddenly appeared in Middlesex County's computerized land records this week as a real estate mogul.

The files report the Virgin Mary sold 248 properties from 1946 to 1972, including deals with B&E Liquors Inc., the Hungarian Boy Scout Association, Union Carbide Corp. and Clover Leaf cemetery.

The records also said she took out eight mortgages, yet apparently had some cash-flow problems that resulted in 109 tax liens against her.

This does not appear to be a Y2K problem, officials said, but simply a glitch that occurred this week after they expanded the computerization of their property records to include documents from several decades ago.

The county's computer experts were scrambling yesterday to figure out how the glitch occurred and what they need to do to fix it -- the latest mishap for a new system that cost $3 million, including $500,000 worth of unexpected expenses.

Unable to resolve the Virgin Mary glitch by the end of the day, county officials yesterday decided to take the affected property records off-line. Those records will only be available in paper copies until the problem is solved, officials said.

Title searchers who already have sued the county over problems with the property record computers said the Virgin Mary's appearance is just another example of flaws in the new system.

''We think it's a sign," Ann Sardone, a member of the Middlesex County Title Searchers' Guild, said with a laugh.

Joking aside, Sardone and her colleagues said the glitch could have serious consequences because it muddied the county's computerized land records for the past three days.

Researching land transactions on the county's new computers is a two- step process.

First, a researcher inputs someone's name to produce an index of all the transactions. Next, the researcher uses the index to call up a computerized image of the selected deed or mortgage.

In the glitch discovered this week, the name "Virgin Mary" appeared in the index, replacing the identities of the actual parties involved in the transactions. The computerized images of the documents had the correct names.

But a researcher would have had a hard time finding the computerized images of those transactions affected by the Virgin Mary glitch because the correct names did not appear in the index.

In addition to the Virgin Mary problem, title searchers also have found another glitch involving 1,650 transactions wrongly indexed under the name "Saints."

County Clerk Elaine Flynn, who oversees the county's land records, downplayed the glitches.

''This is one of those silly things that happens," Flynn said. "It will all be corrected. There's nothing corrupted."

-- Homer Beanfang (, January 06, 2000


The Joanne Effect has been replaced by...The Virgin Mary Problem? :-D

-- (, January 06, 2000.

Nothing corrupted? How could the Blessed Virgin corrupt anything?

-- (, January 06, 2000.

Sounds to me like somebody knew ahead of time that they were going to get fired. LOL

-- Simpleminded (nope@wont.never), January 06, 2000.

Wow! This one really is weird! Why on earth would those words even BE in their computer system? Sounds like the hacker thingy ...

-- saints and virgins (, January 06, 2000.

Two SWAGs -- perhaps he (the programmer) had it there all along as test data, and something farkled the system? (In fact, it's not outside the realm of possibility that he put it there in *case* the system got corrupted. While *subtle* corruption can easily go unnoticed, something like *this* would stand out like a sore thumb.)

Or, it's possible that he wrote it in, set to go off if not deactivated once a week (or month, or whatever), and he periodically deactivated it. Then, if he's fired, he exacts his revenge on them without having to lift a finger.

I agree that the "data" simply could not have created itself out of thin air. *Someone* put it there, and they put it there for a reason. What the reason is -- well, that's the only question.

-- Ron Schwarz (, January 06, 2000.

Well, well, well...if somebody comes up with the concept of what happened and how to clean it up, the fix would have to be called the "Immaculate Conception". =)

-- Dee (, January 06, 2000.

Would that mean the system that software is running on is properly known as the "Immaculate Contraption"?


-- Wildweasel (, January 06, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ