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missing: 3 right feet
February 15, 2008 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Last summer two right feet washed up on shore within a week of each other on two separate tiny islands in British Columbia. Today a third right foot has just washed up.
posted by joelf (93 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does that make a right yard?
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:51 AM on February 15, 2008 [11 favorites]


I expect that the Oceanside RCMP are putting the 'best foot forward' in investigating this mystery.
posted by ericb at 7:53 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


[Insert Foot Pun Here]
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:56 AM on February 15, 2008


So that's what happened. And all this time I thought that was when Barack Obama carried me.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:56 AM on February 15, 2008 [35 favorites]


Does it count as a double if I remember making puns in last year's severed feet FPP but can't find it?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:57 AM on February 15, 2008


I'm seriously worried about the state of our universe, folks, when robocop is bleeding phones it in on a story like this.
posted by psmealey at 7:58 AM on February 15, 2008


The latest foot, still in its sneaker, was found last Friday on Valdes Island....Two other right feet, both in size 12 men's sneakers, washed ashore on Gabriola and Jedediah islands last August. .....RCMP say they're not sure whether foul play is involved

Is there some way this would be fair play? Paging coldchef maybe?
posted by cashman at 7:59 AM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


"RCMP say they're not sure whether foul play is involved and are trying to match any missing-person cases to the severed foot."

I can't see how foul play could NOT be involved. Surely, if people had simply drowned, it wouldn't be only the right feet that were found? And even if these feet are all the result of hospital-performed amputations, I doubt that the accepted means for disposing of bodily parts is thowing them in the ocean.

Interestingly, the other two feet that washed up were size 12s. Is this some bizarre, one-footed serial killer who covets his victim's left shoes? Why even cut the right foot from the body at all, if it will just end up in the ocean--where's the rest of the body?

Intriguing. Thanks for the thread.
posted by misha at 7:59 AM on February 15, 2008


Previously
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:04 AM on February 15, 2008


Deja foot.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:05 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, it's foul play all right. But it hasn't happened yet.

See there's a species of shark that, instead of attacking, lures victims in. It has an intriguing mechanism to do so. It emits human foot analogues (there are some species that do left feet, some that do right). Eventually the foot washes up on shore, where a team of investigators finds it. That team then goes out in a boat to trawl the ocean for the "rest" of the body and....NOM NOM NOM.

Evolution can't explain this one. Further evidence for my Devious Design theory.
posted by DU at 8:06 AM on February 15, 2008 [10 favorites]


For sale. Three right shoes. Lightly used.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:06 AM on February 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hmm. Assume 3 people die in the ocean (in some manner, or are disposed of there), and their bodies are not recovered. During decomposition, the feet (and hands, and legs) can separate from the rest of the body.

So, six feet, six hands and three heads are loose in the ocean. If we assume the heads are heavy enough that they don't move far, we can discard them.

What are the odds then that in a random sample of the loose body parts, you select three "consecutive" right feet? (curse that early morning probability class!)
posted by aramaic at 8:06 AM on February 15, 2008


Extreme Hokey-Pokey!

To comment on misha's conjecture that these could be medical amputations, if that were the case they would not have sneakers on. I wonder if something like this might be involved. Definitely an intriguing mystery.
posted by TedW at 8:07 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this will lead to the discovery that a certain brand of fishing boat's collapsible ladder can fail if a fisherman with a weight > n straddles it in open water, wedging his foot onto one of the 30 cm steps, causing it to open/close, severing the foot.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 8:08 AM on February 15, 2008


Man. I`ve heard the saying "I've got two left feet," but some poor fucker's got three.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 8:09 AM on February 15, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'm seriously worried about the state of our universe, folks, when robocop is bleeding phones it in on a story like this.

Don't mind me. I'm just miffed that ericb beat me to the pun I wanted to use. The agony of defeet and all.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:09 AM on February 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


The game is afoot!

Solving this will be a feet of detecting.

How many flatfoots they got working this case?

...and so forth.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:09 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Has anyone questioned her yet?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:10 AM on February 15, 2008


never used baby shoes -- Eponysterical.
posted by ericb at 8:11 AM on February 15, 2008


How about this: Someone is murdering people by tying their feet to a weight. But they only need to tie it to one foot and they choose the right one. Eventually the wire/rope cuts through the decomposing leg. The foot floats but the body sinks.
posted by DU at 8:12 AM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


That is, by tying their feet to a weight and dropping them in the water.
posted by DU at 8:13 AM on February 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


never used baby shoes -- Eponysterical.

Well, I never used the right shoe...

Perhaps I have said too much.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:14 AM on February 15, 2008


I found the left ones in my Wendy's chili.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 8:16 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


You may be overthinking this, DU. I bet it's more of the case that UPS can't fucking deliver anything oversees without messing it up spectacularly.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:21 AM on February 15, 2008


I suspect Relic.
posted by phirleh at 8:23 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thank you thank you thank you. You've been a wonderful thread. I'll be here until Tuesday. Try the pigs' feet.
posted by Doohickie at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2008


It'll be a CSI plot by fall.
posted by pineapple at 8:30 AM on February 15, 2008


1. Carniverous aquatic animals eat the majority of the body, except for the foot, which is shod and hard to get at. 2. Shoes are made of light material, prone to floating. There is no three, or cabal. People do fall from fishing boats with alarming frequency.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:32 AM on February 15, 2008


RCMP corporal's "best guess is that they are from missing persons... There have been people that fall off ferries, missing boaters and a tugboat that went down within the last year and people fall off fishing vessels all the time."

"Feet in particular can go through a process called adipocere, as the ocean turns the fat into a soap-like substance during weeks and months in the water," Anderson said. "Once that happens, nothing will eat the flesh"


All size 12, all right feet, all wearing running shoes (I'm guess on the third sneaker, as no details were to be released)? My guess is a description of the last sneaker wasn't released in case someone comes forward claiming responsibility.
posted by Crash at 8:33 AM on February 15, 2008


Aramaic, while the extremities can separate from the body during decomposition, it's not bloody likely without a violent impact. Them bones keep them on for a while. And the odds of only the right feet washing up is pretty out there, no?

Having just watched the first two episodes of Picket Fences, thanks to that fancast FPP, I'd recommend leaving it in local police domain.

now, a 4th shoe would be beyond the pale...
posted by Busithoth at 8:39 AM on February 15, 2008


Not enough info. Were the feet cleanly amputated? Raggedly torn off? I am thinking that this thing is involved.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:41 AM on February 15, 2008


The universe is weird and wants to play.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:42 AM on February 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


Hmm I think somethink has been LEFT OUT of this story.












HAHAHAHHHAHHAAAHAH!
posted by Mister_A at 8:43 AM on February 15, 2008


The universe is weird and wants to play.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse

I never quite expected to find my mantra in a thread on decomposing severed feet, but there you go. Thanks, Henry!
posted by MrVisible at 8:47 AM on February 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Surely this explains all those shoes filled with butter.
posted by loquacious at 8:53 AM on February 15, 2008


Suspicion immediately fell on Nice Pete.
posted by alexwoods at 8:53 AM on February 15, 2008


It smells like feet in here.
posted by not_on_display at 8:54 AM on February 15, 2008


I never quite expected to find my mantra in a thread on decomposing severed feet, but there you go.
posted by MrVisible

The truth of the statement is thus proven!
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:56 AM on February 15, 2008


I blame Languagehat's islanders.
posted by boo_radley at 8:56 AM on February 15, 2008


What if the DNA in all three feet match? That's the real horror--no matter how many times I cut it off, it keeps growing back...
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:57 AM on February 15, 2008 [20 favorites]


"Does it count as a double "

no, three would be a triple...
posted by HuronBob at 8:58 AM on February 15, 2008


Somewhere in this topic is a really good joke about feet.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:01 AM on February 15, 2008


You better toe the line, or this could happen to shoe.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:09 AM on February 15, 2008


Bad dancers?
posted by anthill at 9:10 AM on February 15, 2008


"What if the DNA in all three feet match? That's the real horror--no matter how many times I cut it off, it keeps growing back..."

That, and the idea about the shark with the foot-analog emission are likely to be stolen by some nefarious writer and turned into horror story material. I suggest copyrighting them.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:11 AM on February 15, 2008


Alas, something amiss is afoot, alack.
posted by sourwookie at 9:16 AM on February 15, 2008


Aramiac: I'd say that you should just count feet. I don't think you can assume that a hand will float or not float the same as a sneaker-clad foot. So you've got a one in ten chance of getting three of the same side in a row.

Busithoth: From the article: It is common for hands, feet and the head to detach as a body decomposes, said Gail Anderson, a forensic entomologist from Simon Fraser University who has submerged pigs in Saanich Inlet to study ocean decomposition.
posted by ssg at 9:23 AM on February 15, 2008


It's a viral promo for the third series of Dexter, I'm sure.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:28 AM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe a crazed French scientist is trying to find a replacement foot for his unusually large-footed daughter whose right foot was badly disfigured in a tragic car accident.
posted by Evangeline at 9:31 AM on February 15, 2008


What are the odds then that in a random sample of the loose body parts, you select three "consecutive" right feet? (curse that early morning probability class!)

The odds are actually quite good. There's been at least one incident where a container full of sneakers fell off of an ocean going freighter, and because sneakers float they ended up over a number of years washing up on beaches far from the point where they went overboard-- but the vagaries of ocean currents have turned out to incorporate very efficient sorting mechanisms, and widely separated beaches have gotten right shoes or left shoes exclusively.

I think something similar is happening here, except that what went overboard was not a container full of shoes, but a boatload (or more likely boatloads) of people who thought they were paying for passage to North America and a new life. The smugglers they paid had different ideas.
posted by jamjam at 9:34 AM on February 15, 2008


This will probably turn out to have a really mundane explanation. Like a robotic dog with a razor sharp bear-trap for a mouth being programmed to hunt for the right foot of people running on the shore or some such.

You know, something really obvious.
posted by quin at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


...a boatload (or more likely boatloads) of people who thought they were paying for passage to North America and a new life. The smugglers they paid had different ideas.

Somewhere a bunch of ultra-rich right feet have gotten a new lease on life due to having the rest of a body to be attached to.
posted by DU at 9:44 AM on February 15, 2008


Maybe they were homing feet?
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:47 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Makes me wonder about all those tennis shoes on the side of the interstate...hopefully they're empty. Ick.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:10 AM on February 15, 2008


The west coast does attract a lot of footloose vagabonds, after all.
posted by Rumple at 10:23 AM on February 15, 2008


I actually have recommended people come out here and do a bit of Island hopping. Now I am feeling a bit guilty.
posted by Rumple at 10:30 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought Vic Mackie wasted that guy.
posted by Scoo at 10:31 AM on February 15, 2008


Three right feet. Huh, that guy must've been a weird dancer.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:47 AM on February 15, 2008


Someone make a Daniel Day Lewis joke. Or Kevin Bacon.
posted by tadellin at 10:59 AM on February 15, 2008


Given that all these feet are in running shoes, I think we can probably assume that they weren't fishermen or some other variety of mariner who fell overboard.

I suspect that this is tied to the escalating Vancouver gang wars. Thanks, drug prohibition!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:13 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I suspect that this is tied to the escalating Vancouver gang wars.

Don't shed any tears, they were probably just foot soldiers.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:24 AM on February 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Remember, two wrongs don't make a right - but three rights make a left.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:33 AM on February 15, 2008


Oh god, the puns...

That out of the way, Nanaimo is home base for a lot of Hell's Angels, who are mean to people they don't like.

All the feet are showing up pretty close to the town: if you took someone offshore in a boat, killed them and dumped them overboard, the bits that would eventually rise to the surface when the crabs got through with them would be carried by the current in this direction, I'm thinking.

And yep, sneakers float.
posted by jrochest at 11:36 AM on February 15, 2008


If you give me a hand, I can get ya three feet.
posted by jamstigator at 11:43 AM on February 15, 2008


This is the perfect moment to throw in a De La Soul album from '89
3 ft high and rising.
. . . just me myself and I
posted by isopraxis at 11:55 AM on February 15, 2008


I'm still waiting for the other shoe to fall.
posted by Quonab at 12:11 PM on February 15, 2008


They are probably from Davy Jones' Footlocker.
posted by tadellin at 12:17 PM on February 15, 2008


Busithoth writes "And the odds of only the right feet washing up is pretty out there, no?"

Well so far it's only been 3 feet and even wildly unlikely odds (which these probably aren't for all the reasons above) do happen. Lots of people are lost at sea every year. Bodies wash up all the time to the point they aren't anything but local news.
posted by Mitheral at 12:25 PM on February 15, 2008


This is perfect for Mythbusters. I'm sure that Adam and Jamie can rig up Buster with a rad pair of trainers, and sharks are standing by in SF Bay.
posted by lukemeister at 12:49 PM on February 15, 2008


I just de-lurked after 5 years,

and totally blew my mefi virginity to say:






BEST


THREAD


EVAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11








[thank you]
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 1:15 PM on February 15, 2008


Glad you finally got your foot in the door, [son].
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:30 PM on February 15, 2008


I have clearly spent too long pondering the effects of decomposition on land. It just seems a little bit fishy that they keep finding the same appendage in the same area.

plus while I understand pigs are close to human for some tests as to conditions, surely there's discrepancies that cannot be verified without going far past the limits of ethical science.

besides aren't 'odds' a measure of humans imposing order on chaos?
[50/50 chance you'll flip a coin tails, even if you've done it 5 times previously]

happy forensic friday, all!
posted by Busithoth at 1:43 PM on February 15, 2008


perhaps these are remains of those people that have been severing underwater internet cables?
posted by edgeways at 1:58 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The BS in this thread is about three feet deep.
posted by SteveTheRed at 4:14 PM on February 15, 2008


This brings to mind the song Let There be Rock by AC/DC. Not for a very good reason, though.

A couple of winters ago I had an awful flu. I was at home listening to the radio, zoned out in my bubble of phlegm and fever, sticking strange thoughts on everything I saw and heard. On the radio, Bon Scott's singing:

And it came to pass
That rock 'n' roll was born
All across the land every rockin' band
Was blowing up a storm
The guitarman got famous
The businessman got rich
And in every bar there was a super star
With a seven year itch
There were fifteen million fingers
Learning how to play

And you could hear the fingers picking
And this is what they had to say


Fifteen million fingers learning how to play? What's that, severed fingers? Oh no, I may be a bit ill, but I can still use my head and I know that wouldn't make any sense. I'm sure he means they're attached to hands and the hands are attached to arms and the arms are attached to people.

So, how many people does that make, anyway?

Think, Anything, Think! Logic. Mathematics. Science! Five fingers per hand, right? Oh yeah, I've got it.

That's right, a million two-handed people and a million one-handed people.

Happy with my result, if a bit exhausted by all the heavy brainwork, I went back to concentrate on snorting and sneezing. And there were fifteen million flu viruses learning how to land on the rug and not get a shit done in their pathetic little pseudo-lives.
posted by Anything at 5:05 PM on February 15, 2008


Why do these feet not sink? I can see a bloated cadaver gasing to a point and floating but a foot? Crabs not on duty, WTF?
posted by Freedomboy at 5:28 PM on February 15, 2008


What's weird to me is, if three right feet have been found in what is generally a fairly remote set of beaches and islands, then how many more are there out there? Statistically, I dunno, maybe they have a 1 in 5 chance of getting found? So, another dozen feet bobbing around or washed up in the gulf?
posted by Rumple at 5:41 PM on February 15, 2008


They probably don't sink because the sneakers are very buoyant, and they also keep the decomposing feet together.
posted by Rumple at 5:42 PM on February 15, 2008


Six feet, six hands and three heads are loose in the ocean. If we assume the heads are heavy enough that they don't move far, we can discard them. What are the odds then that in a random sample of the loose body parts, you select three "consecutive" right feet?

The odds are 3/12 * 2/11 * 1/10, or 6/1320, or about one in 200.

However if you think 3 left feet are just as spooky as 3 right feet, the odds rise to

6/12 * 2/11 * 1/10, or about 1 in 100
posted by unSane at 6:29 PM on February 15, 2008


Three souls lost at sea. A shoe-in for the most bizarre story of the year. Etcetera.

Devious Design theory

LMAO. Both a fantastic idea for a web site, and a new rock band name.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:47 PM on February 15, 2008


And the chances of someone actually finding the feet, unSane? A million-to-one, I bet.

Which means there is very likely several hundred million feet floating around Georgia Strait!!11!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:56 PM on February 15, 2008


That is so bloody creepy. Reminds me of that one spoof posted on MetaChat (I believe) involving feet skeletons in the yard, etc. But still. Creepy.
posted by Phire at 9:27 PM on February 15, 2008


If we assume only feet float, the chances of three of the same side are one in four, not one in ten (eight total cases, and we care about the two cases "all right" and "all left.")
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:23 AM on February 16, 2008


Leftists are at it again.
posted by telstar at 1:59 AM on February 16, 2008


Nike's viral marketing campaign is getting out of hand.
posted by arcadia at 9:33 AM on February 16, 2008


I know one person we can't suspect: Daniel Day-Lewis!












who will be the first to figure out this comment?
posted by arcadia at 9:34 AM on February 16, 2008


Snow falling on sneakers?
posted by dhartung at 9:58 AM on February 16, 2008


lupus_yonderboy: If we assume only feet float, the chances of three of the same side are one in four, not one in ten (eight total cases, and we care about the two cases "all right" and "all left.")

That assumes that there are an infinite number of feet floating out there. If we assume there are only 6 feet, then the chances to pick a repeat are 2/5 for the second foot and 1/4 for the third foot, so 2/20 = 1/10. I guess the truth is somewhere in between those two extremes, but it might be hard to estimate the number of floating feet accurately.
posted by ssg at 10:52 AM on February 16, 2008


I dunno, Daniel Day-Lewis may have had no need for his right foot and therefore donated it to a disturbing, yet ultimately benign, ocean current research project.

Suppose instead of feet, bottles were being thrown into the water with a note saying 500 dollar reward if you report this find to the coast guard. How many bottles would need to be thrown into the water in the summer of 2007 for there to have been 3 found to date? Clearly this requires a lot more data, but some basic orders-of-magnitude estimation should be possible.

Let us say, there are 1,000 km of coastline in the Gulf of Georgia.

Two feet (bottles) have been found on the less accessible islands (Jedediah and Valdes) and one on a very accessible one (Gabriola).

Let us treat the time since the first discovery as equivalent to the time of dispersal of the bottles, and let us call that time six months.

So: the raw rate of discovery is 3 bottles per 1000km per six months, or 6/year within study area.

However, let us say that only half of the coastline is actually visited by people in a given year (much of it is remote, not served by ferries, or not accessible road). With equal visitation, we would extrapolate from known finds that 12 bottles would be found in the study area/year.

Now, the find rate is less than the incidence rate, since people do not examine all bottles/feet that they encounter on or near a beach. Le us say the find rate is one half the incidence rate of bottles on beaches. Therefore, 24 bottles would have had to have been released to account for the known finds.

The above assumes that all bottles make it to a beach intact. While bottles may break on shore and feet may not, feet may sink and bottles generally won't. So let us set the attrition rate as 50%, meaning 48 bottles would have been released.

Now feet come in pairs, so if, contrary to the evidence, we assume that there are equal numbers of left and right feet released, then to provide 48 feet for this study, 24 corpses or lower extremities would be needed to account for the 3 feet found to date.

Which sounds like a lot, until you realize that each bottle has a liability of 500$, meaning by using feet instead of bottles, the oceanographers have saved themselves a potential 24,000$ liability.

Conclusion: police should follow the tracks of the one-legged oceanography graduate students, especially if they answer to 'Eileen".
posted by Rumple at 11:25 AM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think, somewhere in here, there's a joke about socks that've gone missing from the clothes dryer, but I can't quite work it out.
posted by Wild_Eep at 11:42 AM on February 16, 2008


Rumple writes "Let us say, there are 1,000 km of coastline in the Gulf of Georgia. "

The problem is that not all coast line is created equal. Some places it just impossible for feet to wash up because of cliffs. Others the currents are wrong. I'd bet that most places that have things wash up on the beach are, well, beaches. Beaches tend to be good places for people increasing the chance of discovery immensely.
posted by Mitheral at 1:03 AM on February 17, 2008


It's true: if you want to get ahead, stick to the beach. It'll give you a solid leg up on solving this case. There's usually other people on the beach, as well, so they might even give you a hand in your search. Pretty soon, you'll amass a body of evidence and this mystery might be solved!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:47 AM on February 17, 2008


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