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Why did the severed fingers cross the Red River from North Dakota to Minnesota?

This is a very long bridge to finger-walk across.

This is a very long bridge to finger-walk across.

The Grand Forks Herald prints lies.

Just look at this sentence, the first line in a story printed in this morning's daily paper of record for the North Dakota border town.

"The mystery of the severed fingers in the East Grand Forks park seems to have been solved."

Does it? In one aspect, there are more details available about whose fingers were found on a picnic table in East Grand Forks. But to say mystery solved, move along folks, nothing to see here... it's all a bit premature. 

This is because the guy whose fingers turned up in East Grand Forks was, at the time he lost them, standing in the city of Grand Forks -- one rushing river and a state line away from where they were found.

One night in late April, 24-year-old Grand Forks resident Mackenzie Steel was shooting off mortar shells in a city park. Things went precisely how your mother warned you they would. A 2-inch shell exploded inside the launch tube Steel was holding, "resulting in the complete or partial loss of his left palm, wrist and fingers," the Herald explains.

So far, so awful, but at least it makes sense.

Grand Forks cops arriving at the scene were more concerned about Steel's condition than collecting his severed digits, and apparently no one thought to look for them later. (Steel's accident was deemed punishment enough, and he wasn't prosecuted for illegal use of fireworks.) 

Weeks went by before the fingers were spotted by a family that was just getting ready to camp in the East Grand Forks Recreation Area. Treated at first as a sign of potential foul play -- and why not? -- the fingers were taken to analysts at a state crime lab. DNA tests done there matched Steel's, confirming the identity of the fingers' former owner.

How'd they get over the river and into the park, about a half-mile by road, a little less as the crow flies?

Aha! Now you're onto it, my dear Watson. Those lab analysts spotted what looked like "beak marks," meaning a bird might have picked up the fingers (which had come off Steel's hand still attached) and flown them across the river... only to drop them on a picnic table in a public park, where a 6-year-old would later find them.

Reminder: Birds are our enemies, and are now taunting us with the macabre debris from our own hubristic folly. We have but one recourse. Someone must take a basket of chicken wings to the East Grand Forks Recreation Area, set it down on a picnic table, and slowly look up to the sky. Maybe declare war, or laugh evilly. See where the scene takes you.

That is, if you believe the story of the bird that crossed the river with the fingers. At various points in the Herald's story, law enforcement describe the bird idea as "an answer" and "a theory." 

If you've got a better explanation, we encourage you to immediately begin working it into a piece of short fiction.