The Weird Week in Review

Exploding Refrigerator Wrecks Home

Kathy Cullingworth of Normanton, England was awakened by an early morning explosion downstairs in her home. She and her husband found their refrigerator had exploded, leaving appliances wrecked, the kitchen walls cracked, and windows broken. Firefighters came to the home to turn off the electricity and inspect the damage. Cullingworth said there was no carbonated drinks or alcohol in the refrigerator that could have caused the blast. Investigators don't know what sparked the explosion. The eight-year-old refrigerator is still under warranty and will be examined by the manufacturer.

8-year-old Wing Walker

Tiger Brewer of London, England has become the world's youngest person to walk on the wing of an airborne plane at the age of eight. Brewer's grandfather Vic Norman operates a formation wing walking team and offered the boy a chance to try the stunt this week on a flight over Gloucestershire. Tiger stood on the wing of the biplane as it cruised at 100 miles per hour. The previous youngest wing walker was 11-year-old Guy Mason, son of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, who performed the stunt in 2001.

Catfish Clean Foreclosed Pools

Nine percent of the homes in Wellington, Florida are under or in danger of foreclosure, and many of them have pools that are no longer maintained, which leads to a problem with mosquitoes. City authorities are trying an alternative method for controlling the insects. They are stocking the pools with catfish from the Amazon in hopes they will clean the pools and consume mosquito larvae.

"Everybody is looking to see how they work out, but starting the program this time of year is like us mowing grass with a push mower when it's already knee-high," said Dave Hoy, a fish farm owner who has used plecos for years to clean fish tanks.

3,000-year-old Butter Found

150butterbarrelAn oak barrel of butter has been found in a bog near Gilltown, Ireland. Two workers, John Fitzharris and Martin Lane, noticed a white streak in the peat and uncovered the barrel, later estimated to be 3,000 years old. The butter is now white adipocere, resembling animal fat, that is the final product of many organic substances preserved in bogs. Curators at the National Museum of Ireland consider the barrel to be from the Iron Age.

"Putpockets" Give Out Money

A broadband provider in London, England is giving away money with the help of twenty reformed pickpockets. The participants are putting five to twenty pound notes in unguarded pockets and purses in public squares around London. At the end of this month, the company plans to take the program to other towns. A total of 100,000 pounds will be given away.

"It feels good to give something back for a change -- and Britons certainly need it in the current economic climate," said Chris Fitch, a former pickpocket who now heads TalkTalk's putpocketing initiative.

"Every time I put money back in someone's pocket, I feel less guilty about the fact I spent many years taking it out."

Watch Returned 128 Years Later

150pocketwatchIn 2000, Rich Hughes was diving near a shipwreck off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales when he spotted a shiny object under the sea. He retrieved a pocket watch with "Richard Prichard 1866 Abersoch North Wales" engraved on the casing. After nearly ten years of detective work, Hughes reconstructed the story of the pocket watch and its owner. Ship captain Richard Prichard died during a voyage of the Barbara and was buried at sea. A man named Jones took over both the ship and the captain's effects, but did not have the necessary navigational skills. The ship sailed into the wrong channel and sank during a storm in 1881. The crewmen were rescued, but captain Jones went down with the ship, and presumably had the watch on his person. Hughes enlisted the help of an amateur historian to track down Prichard's family. He finally found a grandson of Prichard's cousin, and will present the watch to the delighted descendent next month.

Cow-damaged Breast Saved by Pink

Kimberley Koy works at a cattle station in Australia and was slightly gored in the chest by a cow's horn in the line of duty. The horn didn't break the skin, so she thought there was no damage done. A week later she boarded a flight to Sydney to see a Pink concert, and her left breast swelled to twice its size! Her implant had been damaged by the cattle incident, and the air pressure caused silicone to leak out. Koy said,

"When I woke up the day after the plane trip it was double the size of my right one "¦ I thought I had breast cancer.

"If I hadn't have gone to the Pink concert I wouldn't have known my breast was leaking."

The implant was replaced yesterday.

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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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