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Paperwork holds up shipment of 18 human heads at O'Hare

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 9:26 a.m. CST

(MCT) — Eighteen human heads shipped from Rome and apparently bound for a research facility in the United States are being held up by customs officials at O'Hare International Airport because of a paperwork snafu, officials say.

The heads had been embalmed and were packaged in three coolers shipped from Rome on a Lufthansa Airlines flight about a week before Christmas, according to a spokesman for the medical examiner's office. The items were tagged as human specimens, the spokesman said.

Customs officials at O'Hare held up the shipment because the final destination was not clearly indicated on the accompanying paperwork, according to the medical examiner spokesman.

The coolers were X-rayed and customs officials saw 18 human heads inside, the spokesman said. They were delivered to the medical examiner's office on Monday so they could be properly stored while officials investigated the shipment. One of the coolers was opened for a preliminary inspection, the spokesman said.

The spokesman said that when the office was first notified of the shipment, his first thought was, "Oh, boy. Here we go." But officials said the heads appear to be human specimens for research and that is how they have been logged by the office.

The FBI, along with Customs and Homeland Security officials, are investigating, according to the spokesman. The final destination of the specimens is the main question, he said, adding that the recipient of the shipment has not come forward.

"That's the big thing, where were they going?" said the spokesman.

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