A Nine Inch Nails Video Prompted a Year-Long Murder Investigation
Frank Micelotta/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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.
Paramount Domestic Television
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."
Eric Yosomono writes for Gaijinass.com and you can like him on Facebook.
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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