The Weird Week in Review

Congress Votes to Ban the Word ‘Lunatic’

Congress cannot agree on what to do to avoid the fiscal cliff, but the House of Representatives overwhelmingly agreed to ban the word "lunatic" from all federal legislation. The vote Wednesday was 398-1 in favor of the ban. One has to wonder why the word comes up in legislative bills at all. The bill follows others intended to stop the use of outdated terminology concerning the mentally ill. The one dissenting vote came from Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, who said, "we should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.”

Handyman Forced to Fix Home

A good handyman is hard to find -and even harder to keep. A couple in Morgan Hill, California, were arrested on kidnapping and other charges for holding a handyman against his will and forcing him to do repairs on their home. They lured him into their home on Monday morning.

Detectives said 36-year-old Jason DeJesus and 33-year-old Chanelle Troedson beat the handyman, threatened to kill him and forced him to fix several items in the house over a six-hour span. The repairs included a dishwasher and a broken door.

“The victim was pretty terrified. He was pretty shaken up and scared by this whole incident,” Cardoza said. “What he did tell investigators is that he was just trying to do what he was being told, wait for the opportunity to escape.”

The unnamed victim escaped when he was being transported to another house for additional work Monday night. He fled during a stop for gasoline on the way. Police arrested the couple shortly afterward.

Beached Whale Rotting Near Bob Dylan's Home

A 20-ton fin whale washed up on the beach at Malibu, California, near the homes of celebrities such as Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand on Monday. Officials still haven't decided what to do with it. Los Angeles County Lifeguards had planned to tow the 40-foot whale out to sea, but found on Thursday that the carcass is too deep in the beach, and is too degraded and would have fallen apart. Burial may be too difficult, as the beach is rocky. Meanwhile, the smell of the rotting carcass is "Blowin' in the Wind."

Man Shoots Girlfriend Over The Walking Dead

Jared Gurman of Long Island, New York, was arrested for shooting his unnamed girlfriend on Monday. The woman is in stable condition with multiple injuries. According to Nassau County police, an argument started at the girlfriend's home over the TV show The Walking Dead. The 26-year-old Gurman insisted the zombie scenario could happen in real life, and became so upset that she took him home. However, he continued to argue by text until she went by Gurman's home to check on him. He was waiting outside the door with a .22-caliber rifle. As she walked up the stairs, he shot her once in the back. Gurman was arrested on a charge of attempted murder.

Russia Going Nuts Over Mayan Calendar

Russian officials have gone to great lengths to quell fears of the world ending on December 21st, the day the ancient Mayan calendar runs out. Reports of stores being wiped out of supplies, a "mass psychosis" at a women's prison, and citizens who are building an arch of ice in Chelyabinsk sparked the official response.

As a consequence the Russian government's minister for emergency situations has sought to calm panic over the prophecy, saying he had access to "methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth," and that he could say with confidence that the world was not going to end in December.

At least one official has suggested prosecuting people for spreading rumors and panicking the public.

Whisky Restores Sight in Man Blinded by Vodka

Denis Duthie is a 65-year-old diabetic who had too much vodka at an anniversary party in July. Duthie went blind while drinking at the party, and when his sight hadn't returned the next day, he was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital in New Zealand. Doctors there suspected formaldehyde poisoning, which is treated with alcohol infusion. Since the hospital was out of medical alcohol, they fetched a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch Whisky from a liquor store and introduced it into Duthie's stomach by feeding tube. He stayed in intensive care for a week, and his eyesight was restored within ten days. Now, Duthie says he can see clearly, and he hasn't had a drop of alcohol since the incident.

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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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