The Weird Week in Review

Inflatable Breasts Recovered

Last week we learned that a shipment of 130,000 inflatable breasts were lost during shipping between Beijing and Sydney. The shipment has been recovered in Melbourne, where they had been offloaded by mistake. The men's magazine Ralph is scrambling to get them packed inside the January issue, as was the original plan. Editor Santi Pintado said the breasts were found just in time; one more day and they would have missed the scheduled issue.

Chipmunk Disables Car with Nuts

When Hope Wideup of DeMotte, Indiana noticed her windshield wipers and turn signals on her car wouldn't work, she found a glove under the hood that a chipmunk had stolen earlier. She drove another car for a couple of weeks, and then tried it again. When the car made a loud revving noise, she looked under the hood again. Underneath were thousands of black walnuts! The chipmunk had apparently stuffed nuts in the accelerator throttle. After $242 in repairs, Wideup says she will alternate her cars so neither will sit unused for long.

Actor Slits Throat on Stage with Switched Prop

Daniel Hoevels' final scene in the play Mary Stuart called for a suicide. But Saturday night,  the blunt prop knife had been switched with a real knife, so the blood spurting from his throat was also real. The audience applauded the "special effects", unaware the actor was injured until he failed to rise and take a bow. Hoevels survived because the knife missed the carotid artery -barely. After hospital treatment, he returned to the stage wearing a bandage for the Sunday night performance. Police are investigating the incident.

Cat's Face Reattached After Accident

150edgar.jpgEdgar, a female cat in Winthrop, Massachusetts came home after a three day adventure with half her face hanging from her skull. Her unnamed owner fainted when she saw the damage. When the woman recovered, she took Edgar to Angell Animal Medical Center. Surgeons reattached the skin on Tuesday with 35 stitches. Edgar is recovering well, and seems to have suffered no nerve or eye damage. Doctors believe she may have gotten under a car hood to say warm and was injured by a moving fan belt, an occurrence that usually kills a cat instantly.

Christmas Parade Duty Saves Suicidal Man

In a scene reminiscent of the movie It's a Wonderful Life, an unlikely event saved a suicidal man from drowning. Deputies from the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office river patrol were on duty for the 54th annual Christmas Ship Parade on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. They spotted a car with the engine running on a bridge and feared the worst. A search by various agencies who responded led them to the unnamed man who had apparently jumped into the water and was clinging to a log. Deputy Ken Yohe was one of the first responders.

"Any other night, we wouldn't have had a boat out," Yohe said. "We would have been responding from home."

"He could barely move," said Yohe. Officials estimate the man had been in the water about 40 minutes, and he was suffering from hypothermia. He was taken to Legacy Emanuel Hospital, where he was in intensive care.

"This is amazing," Yohe said. " It was amazing that he was even alive."

Obama to Appear in Nativity Scenes

150obamanativity.jpgEvery year for centuries, craftsmen in Naples, Italy sell handmade figurines for Italian nativity scenes. These scenes often have dozen of figures, including celebrities and newsmakers. The top selling figure this year is the US president-elect.
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"The ones we are selling the most of are those of Barack Obama, America's new president, along with his wife Michelle," said craftsman Genny Di Virgilio.

Tradition requires that the nativity scene be built up over time until Christmas Eve, when baby Jesus is put in the manger as the very last element of the display.

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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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