The Weird Week in Review

Squirrel Terrorizes Neighborhood

A small but vicious gray squirrel has attacked at least three residents of Bennington, Vermont in the past couple of weeks. Kevin McDonald was shoveling snow when the squirrel attacked, jumping on his shoulder and holding on. When McDonald shook him off, the squirrel returned for more. Two other people were attacked in a separate incident, and one person was bitten. There are fears that the squirrel may have rabies, but wildlife authorities say that odds are low. They speculate the squirrel may have been reared as a pet and then turned loose. Wildlife control experts have been trying to catch the squirrel for over a week.

Balls All Over

A shopping center in Perth, Scotland was flooded with small red balls when a contest went awry. An Alfa Romeo car was filled with balls for a "guess how many" contest at St. John’s Shopping Centre, to benefit Comic Relief. However, the contest organizers failed to ensure that all the car doors were locked. A child, thought to be about three years old, opened the passenger door and released hundreds of balls.

Crowds gathered and cheered the farcical scene as several of the centre’s security team battled to gather up the balls, while many young children were seen making off with a few.

Siobhan McConnell, the shopping centre manager, said: “This was a bit more comic relief than we had originally planned.

Most of the balls were eventually retrieved, and the contest resumes today.

World's Most Expensive Dog

An 11-month-old Tibetan mastiff named Hong Dong (Big Splash) broke the record for dog prices, going to a new home in China for 10 million RMB, which is £945,000 or about $1.5 million US. Tibetan mastiffs are a very old breed, but lately have become a status symbol among China's new wealthy class. A few years ago, puppies sold for 5,000 RMB, but prices have skyrocketed because of the demand. Hong Dong's new owner will likely receive high stud fees for the dog's breeding services, as much as 100,000 RMB and may earn his money back soon.

30-hour Standoff Over Car Clamp

Jessica Davey, of Salisbury, England found her car clamped on Monday morning, despite the fact that she had purchased a valid parking permit, which was visibly displayed on the car's dashboard. However, since she didn't have it on the window, Anthony Brindley clamped her car wheel and demanded £110 to remove it. Unwilling to pay the fine, and unable to pay £250 to redeem her car if it were to be towed, Davey got in the car and stayed there -for 30 hours! Meanwhile, the police declined to get involved, saying it was civil matter. They intervened, however, when Davey's boyfriend tried to remove the clamp himself. He was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Davey eventually removed the car clamp herself the next day, when the car clamper Brindley was gone.

Commemorative Royal Wedding Cup with Wrong Prince

Guangdong Enterprises is selling a souvenir porcelain cup to commemorate the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The £9.99 cup features an inscription reading “The fairytale romantic union of all the centuries. 29th April 2011” and a picture of the prince and Ms. Middleton -except the prince pictured is William's younger brother Harry. Even if the offer is an elaborate spoof, it may prove to be profitable, as there are people who more likely to buy a limited-edition mistake than proper official wedding souvenirs.

Tsunami Victim Rescued 10 Miles Out at Sea

Sixty-year-old Hiromitsu Shinkawa was found floating on the roof of his house ten miles from the coast of Japan, two days after the tsunami hit his town of Minami Soma.

Incredibly, he was spotted by a maritime self-defence force destroyer taking part in the rescue effort as he clung to the wreckage with one hand and waved a self-made red flag with the other. He had been at sea for two days.

Reports said that on being handed a drink aboard the rescue boat, Shinkawa gulped it down and immediately burst into tears. His wife, with whom he had returned home as the tsunami approached, is still missing.

He was quoted as saying: "No helicopters or boats that came nearby noticed me. I thought that day was going to be the last day of my life."

Officials said Shinkawa was in good condition after being taken to hospital by helicopter.

Proposal On Stage with Robots

Chicago actress Nina O'Keefe is currently starring in the play Heddatron, which is about a woman who is kidnapped by robots. Her boyfriend, Erik Schroeder, works for a different theater company, but was called on stage for the Heddatron curtain call because it was his 30th birthday. However, that was just a ruse. After a prompting by the on-stage robots, Shroeder dropped to one knee and asked O'Keefe to marry him! The very-surprised O'Keefe said yes, after which the robots serenaded the happy couple. The proposal was captured on video.

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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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