The Weird Week in Review

Marijuana Christmas Tree

Police in Germany seized a Christmas tree from a resident of Koblenz, because under the ornaments was a six-foot-tall marijuana plant! It had been cut and set into a Christmas tree stand, then decorated with a string of lights. The unnamed owner of the tree told police he planned to put wrapped gifts underneath it. He was promptly arrested and held on drug charges. Along with the tree, police seized another 150 grams of marijuana in the apartment.

Old Rolex Brings Unexpected Fortune

A retired doctor named Bob decided to sell his watch on eBay. It was a Rolex that he bought for a few dollars at a Navy Exchange in 1958. Bob wore the watch for decades and then put it away for a few years before deciding to get rid of it. He set the starting bid at $9.95 and didn't expect much more. But those who know recognized his watch as a rare Rolex Submariner Ref 5510, worn by Sean Connery as James Bond in the movies Dr. No, Goldfinger, and Thunderball. The bidding closed at $66,100! Bob has no regrets about selling the watch.

Monetary Jigsaw Puzzle

A businessman in Taiwan named Lin accidentally fed a sack of money into his company's industrial scrap machine -a shredder!

The 200,000 New Taiwan dollars are worth $6,600 US or £4,000. Each of the 200 bank notes was torn into about 20 pieces. The shredded money was taken to the Taiwanese Justice Ministry, which offers to repair torn money. Investigator Liu Hui-fen, a forensic scientist who normally works on handwriting samples, went to work putting the pieces together. Liu has handled many cases of torn money, but never a job like this. She fitted the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle, and eventually restored all 200 bills to a condition that is acceptable by the central bank.

History Repeats Itself in Traffic Citation

An unnamed man was ticketed for speeding twice, once in England and then two years later in New Zealand. The odd thing was that the same police officer issued both citations! Andy Flitton was an officer with the London Metropolitan Police when the first citations was issued. He then emigrated to New Zealand, where he became a constable in the town of Rangiora. The driver, originally from South Africa, had lived in London for twelve years and then also moved to New Zealand. He was there less than two weeks before being pulled over by Flitton -again.

"He asked if I had worked in London," Constable Flitton said. "I said, 'yes'.

"He asked if I used to operate the laser gun on the A5 in north London. I said, 'yes'.

"And he said, 'I thought it was you. You gave me my last speeding ticket there two years ago'.

The two men then laughed about the coincidence. The driver has only received two traffic tickets in his life, and both came from Constable Flitton.

Police from Three Towns Respond to Bridesmaid Fight

A fight between two members of the wedding party led to police involvement in Verona, New Jersey. Around 100 people were at the reception when two bridesmaids began fighting. The fight was still going on when Verona police arrived. The officers called for backup from the Cedar Grove and Montclair police departments. A local rescue squad treated four people for minor injures. Police did not arrest the two bridesmaids, but escorted them from the reception hall, after which the festivities continued. Police say they don't know what the fight was about, calling a "family dispute."

Crash Leaves Family Coated with Paint

A minor traffic accident in New Germany, South Africa left a family covered in paint. Two adults and two children emerged from their Fiat uninjured, but also unrecognizable. They were traveling with a five-gallon bucket of white paint sitting on the back seat, and the force of the wreck caused the lid to pop off. The paint splashed all over the interior of the car. The occupants of the second car involved in the wreck were also unhurt. Fortunately, plenty of photographs were taken of the aftermath.

Roosters Wear Cool Shades for Peace

A free-range chicken farm in Chengdu, China is experimenting with a new method of preventing cockfighting. The competitive roosters tend to attack each other on sight. Now they are are fitted with special round blinders that resemble John Lennon's trademark specs to prevent them from seeing straight ahead, so they don't see their rivals. The shades are working so far, and other farmers in the region are considering using them.

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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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