Hey, just another day at the office, said DHS spokesman Brian Bell, referring to the discovery of 18 human heads at O'Hare Airport.
While Bell said he has never before fielded questions about a large package of human body parts, such shipments are not without precedent, he noted.
"Everybody here is 'Oh my gosh, you got a box of heads' and everybody thinks that it’s unheard of,” Bell said. "It is a potentially legitimate medical shipment. We’ve seen it at various ports in the nation."
In fact, about 67 million heads passed through O'Hare last year, although most of them were attached to travelers. (Like many others, these heads were actually stranded at O'Hare over the holidays. The discovery was reported yesterday.) The number of undeclared boxed heads is likely unknown, something I infer from the fact that officials appear to have had no idea the box or boxes in this case contained heads until they X-rayed the containers, and they only did that after finding the paperwork to be "a little confusing." (The report did not elaborate.)
Bell's "nothing to see here" approach is not entirely convincing. While it is certainly true—if über-creepy—that body parts are frequently and legally shipped for medical purposes, there are a few more unusual facts here. First, heads, okay? Second, according to the Chicago Sun-Times report, the shipment was delivered to the Cook County Coroner's office instead of its destination, a "research facility" in the suburbs. Officials first said this was because of a "paperwork problem," but a source told the Sun-Times that the diversion is connected to an "ongoing investigation" of said facility. The investigation is "absolutely not" connected to these heads, though, said Anonymous Source, which is not too reassuring. Finally, the heads were shipped from Rome, despite the availability of perfectly good heads (many not being used) made right here in the U.S. of A.
So to recap, we got a box of severed heads from Italy accompanied by "confusing paperwork" that were destined for a "research facility" in the Chicago suburbs that is already under investigation, and questions about the matter are being fielded by a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. Well, I'm satisfied.
As a reminder, while it is true that body parts can be legally shipped, head-shippers must comply with required procedures and have all necessary documentation. If you just stick one or more heads in a carry-on, someone will find something to charge you with.