6 Insane Real Police Responses to Clearly Fake Crimes
You literally cannot believe your eyes anymore. If it's not Photoshopped, it's CGI'd or otherwise manipulated. So your loopy aunt can be forgiven for Facebooking that picture of a smiling sun with a bunch of geese forming a smiley face in front of it and calling it "irrefutable proof that God exists." It would be less forgivable if she, say, got the authorities involved somehow. It would be even less forgivable if the cops actually showed up and started seriously investigating it. Like the time ...
British Police Raided a Man's House Because of Toys
The small town of Tewkesbury, England, doesn't see a lot of action, so it's understandable that local police got excited when somebody reported that resident Ian Driscoll had changed his Facebook profile photo to an image of a man surrounded by a cache of deadly, illegal assault weapons. Most chilling: featured in the background of the photo was a mortar, a long-range, military-grade bomb launcher.
Concerned that Driscoll was England's answer to Timothy McVeigh, police sent an army of officers, two of whom were even armed (England has a slightly different gun culture than the U.S. does) to Driscoll's home with a search warrant and orders to demand, "What's all this 'ere then?" and shake their truncheons at him if things got out of hand.
"You are hereby fined 50 threepenny bits, and no crumpets with your tea for 30 days."
Of course, the problem is pretty obvious if you so much as glance at the photo at the center of the controversy:
High-rise jeans? That monster.
Oh wow, there's the mortar all right. It's huge. Even bigger than the five-foot monolithic PlayStation and gargantuan remote. What does that control, the sky?! Plus, look at the man's glassy-eyed stare and the fascist, military discipline of that German shepherd. This is serious business. Or it would be if everything in that photo was not clearly just a toy.
Driscoll was confused at first when officers showed up at this door, but like all good boys with a serious toy collection, he was all too happy to show them his arsenal. Here's the mortar:
"But how do we know Mr. Driscoll isn't simply 75 feet tall?"
After deciding that Driscoll did not pose a threat to Toyland, everyone had a good laugh together over tea and biscuits, which is what the British call literally every food over there. The police defended their actions, saying that it's better they investigate all possible threats than to risk the community by not taking action at all. Which is probably a PR-friendly way of saying, "This town is seriously boring, and we just wanted to check out that dude's sweet toy collection."
Dan Aykroyd Was Mistaken for a Serial Killer
When a Calgary landfill worker dug up a segment of film that appeared to depict a man standing over a bloody corpse, he thought he'd stumbled upon the buried trophy of a killer who had a thing for filming his murders.
Which will technically be true once Ghostbusters 3 gets off the ground.
The police launched an investigation, but it was difficult, due to the fact that the film had spent decades wasting away in a landfill. Investigators were eventually able to clean up the blurry image enough to make the face of the killer somewhat recognizable.
After passing the touched-up image around, somebody, whom we like to think was a starry-eyed police intern, commented that the killer looked kind of like a young Dan Aykroyd. And also that he appears to be wearing a badge. Investigators did some hard research (read: they spent the afternoon surfing IMDb for Dan Aykroyd cop movies that weren't Dragnet) and eventually concluded that the image was actually a scene from the 1990 buddy-cop movie Loose Cannons, starring Aykroyd and Gene Hackman.
"I once was on a mission from God, but he has since forsaken me."
If you don't remember it, you're not alone -- the film was such a huge bomb that, instead of being distributed to cinemas around the world, many of the film reels were just tossed in the garbage, where they prompted this brief murder investigation. But the only true victim here was cinema. As Aykroyd later said of the discovery, "The movie should have been left in the landfill where it belongs."
Shockingly, "split personality = guy doing Bullwinkle voice" did not seduce the Oscar voters.
Italy Repeatedly Confused Special Effects for Reality
This is visual effects artist Carlo Rambaldi with some of his more famous work:
"You should see my kid's Halloween costumes."
The practical effects legend is responsible for both E.T. and adapting H.R. Giger's designs into the original Alien Xenomorph, as well as like 60 percent of our other childhood nightmares. His work was so realistic that he received the ultimate visual effects artist's compliment: being charged with animal cruelty and facing a two-year prison sentence.
The investigation stemmed from this scene from the 1971 Italian horror movie A Lizard in a Woman's Skin. The scene features four vivisected dogs strung up, still alive and whimpering. It was so effective at the time that Italian authorities refused to believe they were puppets and insisted that Rambaldi was a psychopath who exposed the still-beating hearts of four disemboweled pups to the camera in the name of realism. But no -- the dogs were purely animatronic, and he managed to have the case against him dropped by bringing the models into court. So that's what we nominate for the weirdest court case in history: that time the defendant got off by assembling a murdered dog diorama for the consideration of the jury.
If cats could watch movies, they would watch only this movie.
That wasn't the only time Italy had a problem separating fiction from reality. The 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust was the first "found footage" horror flick, back before producers beat the genre to death. Cannibal Holocaust followed a bunch of fictional documentarians who traveled to the Amazon to film a secluded tribe of cannibals and subsequently became an afternoon snack themselves. Like The Blair Witch Project, the filmmakers had promoted the film as real in order to add to the mystique, even asking the actors to disappear from public for a year. This backfired when the French magazine Photo published an article suggesting that the footage was real, and the filmmakers found themselves in court on charges of making a snuff film. Of course, they were able to counter the charge by bringing the actual actors into court and pointing out that some things are pretend, which made the next case, The People of Italy v. Godzilla, a little awkward.
An International Task Force Assembled to Bring Down a Canadian Visual Effects Artist
When police in Austria and Germany began receiving complaints in 2006 about a website that was hosting photos and videos of mutilated bodies, they thought they were looking at the Internet's Ed Gein, which would be pretty much just like the normal Ed Gein, but with worse social skills. An Austrian pathologist who analyzed the photos confirmed that they were looking at some potentially serious shit, so they referred the case to Interpol, who eventually traced the website back to the serial killer and flannel capital of the world -- Montreal, Canada.
Their inquiry led them to Remy Couture, a renowned effects artist. But even knowing that the suspect made a living from realistic gore effects, investigators still set up a sting: pretending to be a potential customer, an officer lured Couture out into the open, presumably due to concerns that if officers tried to enter the house, he'd sic a robot clown on them like that scene from F/X2.
It's the most common cop fear, aside from dark people.
Of course, Couture's apartment was seriously creepy -- police found a makeup workshop that contained fake human faces and body parts -- but no evidence of murder. The investigation was dropped, but the case was handed over to Canada's so-called "morality police," who charged him with distributing obscene material. He was found not guilty on the grounds of "Hey. Come on."
Besides, he only stabs the ones he loves.
Pittsburgh Police Confused a Movie Set for a Murder Scene
When firefighters were called to put out a fire at the George Washington Hotel, located in a small town near Pittsburgh, in December 2010, they probably didn't expect to find a scene straight out of The Shining -- one of the rooms was completely drenched in blood, with liquor bottles and body parts strewn about the place in equal measure. After slowly tip-toeing backward out the door, the firefighters contacted police, who found what the local police chief called "the most grisly murder scene" he'd experienced in his 35-year career.
Not grisly: the killer's fabulous hair.
Investigators combed the scene for a full day, plus eight hours of overtime, before someone decided they should probably speak to the hotel owner. In fact, the owner knew all about the grisly scene -- aha! He was complicit in the murders!
Swing and a miss: turns out the room had been used to film a scene for the horror movie Do Not Disturb (then under the working title New Terminal Hotel). Everything in it was fake. A full day and then some of investigating and nobody realized the body parts weren't real and the blood was probably corn syrup and food coloring. Even worse, filming for the movie had wrapped two years earlier in 2008 -- for some reason, the hotel kept the scene intact, in case the film crew needed to do a reshoot. Even worse, the film features Corey Haim. Your whole department got taken by a stale setpiece of the latest flick from the star of Prayer of the Rollerboys.
The most lost boy of them all.
A Nine Inch Nails Video Prompted a Year-Long Murder Investigation
In 1989, a farmer named Robert Reed took a stroll out into his Michigan cornfield to make sure that the notorious corn cartel hadn't stolen it overnight. What he found was much more insidious: lying among the rows were deflated helium balloons attached with string to a Super 8 camera. Assuming it was a weather balloon or surveillance drone during a time when the government's budget was humiliatingly depleted, he turned it in to the authorities.
Government agents watched the footage and found something much more sordid than aerial footage of lazy farmers peeing in corn fields when they thought nobody was looking. The film opened on a scene of a dead body, with a gathering of cultish figures looking down on it.
And peeing on him because they thought nobody was looking.
The mystery launched a year-long investigation to figure out the identity of the corpse. After some serious CSI-style analysis, it was eventually decided that some lights in the background of the footage belonged to a train in Chicago, and the footage was sent to Chicago police. As time went on, Chicago Homicide was finally able to track down the exact alley in which the film was shot, but there were still no leads as to the victim's identity or the weird, Satanic cult shown kneeling around him.
... aka "anyone who actually liked With Teeth."
After sending out fliers appealing to anyone who might recognize the victim, the police finally got a call confirming the body's identity. It turned out that the corpse was that of a local underground musician named ... Trent Reznor. The film belonged to a then-unknown band called Nine Inch Nails who were shooting one of their first music videos, for the song "Down in It." It involved lead singer Reznor, in corpse makeup, lying on his back as the camera floated upward into the sky. The balloon that the camera was mounted to got caught in a gust of wind and floated over 200 miles before settling in that Michigan cornfield.
I was up above it
Now, I'm Up in it
By all accounts, that was some fine police work: just from a pattern of lights, they managed to match them up to a train, then traced the location to Chicago, where authorities further narrowed it down to the exact scene of the murder. Everybody was truly bringing their A-game on this case. You can picture the task force with intricate light patterns tacked up on a corkboard, really burning the midnight oil, then the lead detective heads home, walks into his rebellious teenage son's room to tell him to turn that garbage down, looks at the album cover, and says, "Oh, goddamn it."
For more baffling law enforcement moves, check out 6 Real Police Screw-Ups That Put Chief Wiggum to Shame. And then check out 25 Movie Heroes You Didn't Know Were Breaking the Law.
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