Just in time for Halloween, I came across a bizarre story from the Daily Mail in 2010:
Firefighters who responded to a hotel blaze stumbled upon a blood-spattered hotel room littered with bottles of alcohol and even a piece of a scalp. Police Chief J.R. Blyth, who was called in to investigate, described the discovery at the George Washington Hotel in Pittsburgh as 'the most grisly murder scene in his 35 years in law enforcement'.
Detectives had spent eight hours of overtime on the investigation before Chief Blyth realised the blood wasn't real and that the murder scene was in fact the leftover set of a horror movie filmed two years ago with Corey Haim.
The film called New Terminal Hotel shot a scene in the hotel and the owner, Kyrk Pyros, decided to leave the room untouched in case the crew had to come back for re-shoots.
Now, this has all the trappings of a classic urban legend - especially including the fact that pretty much all the reporting of the incident seems to trace back to the above story. Seeing as this is in my neck of the woods, though, I decided to do a little digging.
After posting the above link on the Book of Face, an old friend who works with the Pittsburgh police pointed out that Pittsburgh records show that there has never been a police chief named Blyth on the force. That would seem to be a big red flag right there.
On top of that, the owner of the hotel that caught fire was reported as... Kyrk Pyros. Seriously. A fire in a hotel owned by Mr. Pyros? How... delightfully karmic.
Smelling more and more like an urban legend, isn't it?
The George Washington Hotel really does exists, but is not located in Pittsburgh - it is in Washington County, which is south of the city. Now, the Daily Mail is an ocean away, so I'll give 'em an A for effort. They managed to get the right area of the country, at least.
More importantly, while there has never been a Blyth as police chief in the city of Pittsburgh... well, we should be looking at Washington County, shouldn't we? Apparently the chief of police in Washington County from at least 2009 until 2012 was one James Roger Blyth.
What about the oh-so-conveniently named Mr. Pyros, though?
Turns out that he's not only a real person, he's a builder who specializes in restoration of historic structures. He did indeed buy the George Washington hotel in 2007 with an eye towards remodeling it. Said remodeling was derailed a bit in 2010 by a fire that started in one of the hotel's laundry rooms.
On top of that, IMDB says that yes, there was a horror movie titled "New Terminal Hotel" that was released in 2010, starring Corey Haim, and it was filmed in... Washington, PA. (Which is apparently the place to go if you want to film a low-budget horror movie for some reason...)
So the major characters, the events, and the timeline all seem to match up. At this point, I suppose that it could still be a very well-put together hoax. Take all the elements, toss in an unusual hook, and bingo! If someone pulled that off, I would honestly have to tip my hat to them; the details certainly seem to check out.
One of the benefits of this being a local story, though, is being able to stir up other people's memories. After doing the above digging, a friend of mine from college commented on Facebook, saying:
Sam, I worked for one of Kyrk's companies and kept an office at the GW circa 2011. This story was told to me a couple of times back then. Pretty sure it's true. The room was on a floor that hadn't been remodeled, yet.
I would say that's a pretty reliable source right there!
So, there you have it. The true story of a freakout over a false murder.