The Weird Week ending January 25th

Snakes on a Plane

Authorities in Vietnam seized a literal ton of ratsnakes packed into 60 boxes aboard a Vietnam Airline flight from Thailand.The snakes are a protected species, Ptyas Mucosus, and may have been smuggled out of Thailand bound for other parts of the world. Only a month ago, a similar shipment was confiscated aboard a Thai Airways flight.

Missing Cat Found in Wrong Suitcase125_GracieMae.jpg

Rob Carter of Fort Worth, Texas arrived home from Chicago and collected his luggage at the airport -but picked up the wrong suitcase. When he opened the suitcase, a kitten jumped out!

"I must have jumped six feet into the air and screamed like a girl," said Carter.

A phone number on the cat's collar connected Carter with frantic cat owner Kelly Levy in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Gracie Mae had snuck into her husband Seth's suitcase before he flew to Fort Worth. Carter took the cat to Seth Levy, who purchased a ticket to take Gracie Mae home to Florida.

Crook Called Cab for Getaway

Most burglars make arrangements to get away from the scene of the crime. But 22-year-old Gareth Waith of Cardiff, Wales called a taxi from the victim's house after he took $6800 in goods from his neighbor Katie Battiscombe while she was out. He was identified by the fingerprints he left behind and sentenced to three years in jail.

Bicycle-Riding Parrot Smuggler Foiled

Border guards in Dubki, Belarus confronted a man attempting to smuggle in 277 parrots, aboard a bicycle! The parrots were stuffed like sardines into six boxes. The man fled back to Ukraine, abandoning the birds and the bicycle. Two birds had died, and the rest will eventually go to petshops in Belarus.

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NASA Photo Shows Humanoid Figure on Mars

NASA's robot explorer Spirit sent back a picture taken at the Gusev Crater on Mars which appears to show an almost humanoid character. The picture bears an uncanny resemblance to the legendary Bigfoot. See a side-by-side comparison. Read what the Planetary Society has to say.

Cattle Rustlers Crash Car With Cow in Back Seat

Thieves in the state of Kedah, Malaysia somehow managed to get an adult cow into the back seat of a mid-sized sedan. They may have gotten away with the crime, if they hadn't crashed the car into a tree. The cow was injured in the accident, and local villagers slaughtered it. The rustlers escaped on foot. No word on the cause of the crash, although a cow in the backseat could have caused a distraction for the driver.

Man Wakes up at His Own Wake

Relatives has arranged a fine funeral for 81-year old Feliberto Carrasco of Angol, Chile. He was dressed in his finest suit for the wake, surrounded by family and friends. But then he woke up!

"I couldn't believe it. I thought I must be mistaken, and I shut my eyes," Carrasco's nephew Pedro told the daily Ultimas Noticias.

"When I opened them again, my uncle was looking at me. I started to cry and ran to get something to open up the coffin to get him out."

Carrasco said he wasn't in any pain.

Mail is as Slow as Snails125snail_mail.jpg

Michal Szybalski of Warsaw, Poland received a priority mail letter on January 3rd that was sent on December 20th. So he did the math. The letter traveled 11.1 kilometers in 294 hours, so its speed was 0.03775 kilometers per hour. Szybalski calculated that a garden snail travels at around 0.048 kilometers per hour, faster than the Warsaw mail service. Snail mail, indeed!

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Karl Walter, Getty Images
When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

 
 

In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

 
 

The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

“It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

“My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

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Pierluigi Luceri, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Two Human Toes Were Stolen From an Anatomy Exhibit
Pierluigi Luceri, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Pierluigi Luceri, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A 28-year-old New Zealand man walked into an anatomy exhibition with 10 toes and walked out with 12. We don't know why or how he did it, but the man stole two human toes from a Body Worlds display in Auckland last month, The New Zealand Herald reports.

The unnamed man appeared in court Monday and pleaded guilty to improperly interfering with the corpse "of an unknown person" and purloining two toes, which alone are valued at about $3800. The motivation for the human remains heist wasn't stated. (Fulfilling a dare seems a likely explanation, or maybe he's just a fan of The Big Lebowski.)

Whatever the reason may be, the story has a happy ending, at least: The digits have since been returned to their rightful place in the "Vital" exhibit, which explores the human body in motion. "Vital," which will remain open in Auckland until July 13, is one of several traveling exhibitions curated by Body Worlds. Two other Body Worlds exhibits are currently on view in the U.S., including "RX" (showcasing the effects of disease) in Toledo, Ohio, and "Animal Inside Out" (an "anatomical safari") in Richmond, Virginia.

The bodies, all of which are donated for exhibition purposes, are preserved via plastination, a process that "replaces bodily fluids and soluble fat in specimens with fluid plastics that harden after vacuum-forced impregnation," according to the Body Worlds website. More than 16,000 people around the world have signed up to donate their bodies after their deaths.

[h/t The New Zealand Herald]

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