; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mystery Of Incident That Inspired Hitchcock's 'The Birds' Solved?

Back in January, when it seemed like you couldn't get through one day without reading about a rash of bizarre bird deaths, you would have been forgiven for adding The Birds [Blu-ray]to your Netflix queue in the hopes of finding out ways to survive the coming birdpocalypse. The 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film remains one of the scariest cautionary tales of all time, if only because of its mystery: Hitch based the film, in part, on a 1961 incident in Monterey Bay, California, where seabirds rammed themselves into houses. Fifty years later, it seems that the impetus behind the bizarre occurrence has been discovered.

"I am pretty convinced that the birds were poisoned," said ocean environmentalist Sibel Bargu of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge to USA Today, presumably while a thunderclap exploded behind her.

The cause of the poisoning? Not a platinum blonde looking for revenge, but plankton. According to Bargu and her team, who surveyed the stomach contents of turtles and seabirds taken from Monterey Bay in 1961, "toxin-making algae were present in 79% of the plankton that the creatures ate." The toxin created was nerve-damaging, which meant the birds suffered from confusion, seizures and eventual death.

According to USA Today, a similar toxin killed four people in Canada's Prince Edward Island in 1987, after they ingested contaminated mussels.

In a circle of life twist, the birds likely ate infected anchovies, which had eaten the plankton. And how did the plankton get infected themselves? Likely from leaky septic tanks, which were installed in the early 1960s after the housing boom in Monterey Bay.


What Got Into Hitchcock's 'Birds'?

Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror flick The Birds [Blu-ray]in which feathered maniacs attack the residents of Bodega Bay, Calif., over the course of several days, never explained the birds' homicidal intent. But marine scientist David Garrison of the National Science Foundation has a theory about the real-life events that may have inspired the legendary film.

"The Birds": An article in the Jan. 8 Section A about unusual bird behavior and the film "The Birds" quoted marine scientist David Garrison of the National Science Foundation speculating that Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 movie was inspired by an actual event. A 1961 incident may have provided Hitchcock with research material for the movie, but the script itself is based on a Daphne du Maurier story published in 1952 in which a flock of seabirds attacks a community in coastal England."

Garrison investigated a strange event in 1991 that caused birds around Monterey Bay to act bizarre and die. He identified the culprit as domoic acid, which was produced by toxic algae off the Pacific Coast. Those acid-making algae were consumed by fish and shellfish, which were in turn gobbled by birds, who couldn't effectively rid the toxin from their systems.

"There were reports of pelicans and cormorants wandering around drunk and throwing up anchovies," said Garrison, who is based in Arlington, Va.

Domoic acid was probably responsible for another instance of strange bird behavior reported in 1961 around Monterey Bay, when Hitchcock was said to be vacationing nearby, Garrison said. The filmmaker reportedly asked to have a copy of the newspaper sent to him, the scientist added.

No link has been firmly established. But Sibel Bargu, a biological oceanographer at Louisiana State University, is following up on the Hitchcock angle by looking at zooplankton samples saved from the 1960s.

"They are filter-feeding, so we're assuming they'll be like a trash can — whatever was in the water was in their stomachs," Bargu said.

Bargu said she remembers clearly when "The Birds" was played her home in Turkey when she was a child.

"They were showing the movie and didn't let me go into the room because it was so scary," she recalled. "I always wanted to watch that movie, because it was forbidden to me." - latimes

NOTE: here are a few good links - The Birds" A History of Horror and "The Birds" and Bodega Bay. I had a 'thing' for Tippi Hedren when I was younger so 'The Birds' and 'Marnie' were favorites of mine, though North by Northwestis my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film...Lon

The Birds [Blu-ray]

Alfred Hitchcock - The Masterpiece Collection

North by Northwest