Friday, December 10, 2010

Weird Pennsylvania: Law Enforcement We Cannot Take Seriously

Some places have real news stories--I'm thinking, of course, of the riots storming the UK right now over the hike in tuition, which led to Prince Charles and Camilla's car being attacked. But Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania law enforcement cannot distinguish fact from fiction.

I have a number of personal encounters with the...flakes of local law enforcement in Pennsylvania, which I won't elaborate on here. But needless to say, I feel enthralled by any story that picks up on these themes.

About a week ago, a fire ignited in the George Washington Hotel in Washington, Penna. (a city near Pittsburgh). Emergency response teams arrived at the scene to address the fire, and in so doing discovered a blood- and gore-soaked room. Police Chief J. R. Blyth, according to The Daily Mail article linked to above, described the room as "the most grisly murder scene in his 35 years of law enforcement."

Until they discovered that it was actually a movie set from two years ago for a slasher flick starring the late 1980s heartthrob Corey Haim.

There are some things (hikes in tuition rates, drastic cuts in education funding) that are well worth spazzing about. But what led the police to assume that this was, in fact, a murder scene? Didn't they enquire into when the room had last been registered to an occupant? They spent eight hours before realizing that the blood splattered about the room was fake.

Here, we have an instance where reality becomes the fiction, and fiction, the reality. The first rule of detection--as with literary criticism--is to question your surroundings and what you see. We cannot jump to the obvious conclusions; blood does not always equal murder, just as our discoveries in the first pages of a text may prove false by the time we finish reading a book.

The entire episode is utterly surreal, but I think it's an instructive moment. Appearances can be deceiving. And...apparently, somebody is stilling preserving a shrine to the latter day work of Corey Haim.


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