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Kaleidoscope · Idaho · Floribama
Plus: The results of our cold case poll
“Loosely based on a true story,” reads the Netflix description for Kaleidoscope, a dramatic heist series that the streamer claims is “#1 in TV shows today.” Any time I hear the phrase “true story” I want to know more — how loose is the base, anyway? And after a certain level of looseness, can’t you just leave the “true story” claim out of it? (Does it move the viewership needle if folks think events in a series actually happened? This seems improbable to me! [“If I had to guess, it’s a ‘forestall IP/slander litigation’ deal a la Law & Order.” — SDB])
The good news is that basically every content farm-y website out there will pick up a search-friendly concept like “Is Netflix's New Heist Series Kaleidoscope Based on A True Story?” and run with it, which makes my interest considerably easier to slake. And that’s why this newsletter on true-crime analysis will now link to the website for Seventeen magazine, which I will note was the first glossy fashion magazine I ever read (in fact, here is the issue in question, which included a young model named Whitney Houston). How dramatically both Seventeen’s and my interests have changed!
Where was I? Oh, yes, Kaleidoscope. So the Netflix series is loglined thusly: “Centered around the largest heist ever attempted, the vengeance and betrayals that surround it. A master thief and his crew attempt an epic and elaborate heist worth $7 billion dollars — but betrayal, greed and other threats undermine their plans.” And per Seventeen, ”the series is loosely inspired by a scenario where $70 billion in bonds went missing in downtown Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy.” Sadly, the fashion mag doesn’t provide any links to this case, but a little googling with those details gets me to Netflix-generated spon which admits that the inspiring issue is actually, uh, water damage — not a heist at all. Per Netflix:
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in late October 2012, floodwaters made their way into a large depository located underneath downtown New York, operated by DTCC (Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation). Linked to some of Wall Street’s biggest firms, the vault housed more than 1.7 million bond and stock certificates that were soaked by water. Among its contents were a reported $70 billion worth in bearer bonds.
The NY Post had more at the time:
Hurricane Sandy floodwaters inundated a 10,000-square-foot underground vault downtown, soaking 1.3 million bond and stock certificates — including bearer bonds that function like cash — and putting them in danger of turning to mush.
A contractor working for the vault owner, the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp., is feverishly working to restore the paper.
But the value of the threatened notes under 55 Water St. remains unknown to all but the innermost circle of Wall Street bankers.
One source said $70 billion in bearer bonds were in jeopardy.
In the end, Netflix admits, those damaged bearer bonds survived:
In what became perhaps the largest vault recovery ever undertaken, 99.9% of the certificates were eventually recovered over the course of six months. Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, recovery teams descended into DTCC’s vault, 60 feet below street level, to collect the more than 1.7 million certificates threatened by the floodwater.
With high security and audit oversight, the recovered certificates were packed into boxes, placed in on-site freezer trucks and then transported to Texas to be freeze-dried to stop the paper from deteriorating. Once dried and sterilized, the boxes were sent to DTCC Jersey City where each certificate and piece of paper was individually cleaned and vacuumed. The grueling process continued with DTCC staff matching, sorting and filing each certificate against a complete vault inventory.
So here’s what I’m left with in the end: 1) Kaleidoscope isn’t based on a true story after all; 2) (no surprise here) content farm sites like Seventeen and whatever this is just blindly repeat nonsense to get clicks; 3) if you try hard enough, you can save even the most waterlogged paper (as a bookseller, Sarah can probably speak to this one1). In the end, there isn’t any true-crime there, there, so the show isn’t a Best Evidence problem — but if you want to watch it and have some fun, why the hell not? Go for it, just remember to roll your eyes at any- and everyone who claims the show is based in a real case. — EB
I am extremely surprised by your faith in whoever is left investigating the Zodiac! Last week, I posted the above poll, and I honestly thought more of you would pick Natalie Wood as the case most likely to be well and truly solved within the next couple decades. But look at the Zodiac there on top…and poor DB Cooper there at the bottom!
We trust all your judgement, of course, but would love to hear more. If you voted, why did you pick the case you picked? Explain yourselves. — EB
And while we’re talking…while most of us were enjoying the waning days of the ostensible break between Christmas and New Year’s, one of the year’s most confounding homicide cases reached a possible conclusion. Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old criminal justice Ph.D. student at nearby Washington State University, was arrested at his parents’ Pennsylvania home on December 30.
According to federal investigators, forensic DNA techniques led them to Kohberger by way of his relatives’ use of a public DNA testing database; they say his genetic material was found at the scene of the November 13 mass stabbing near the University of Idaho.
Because I was lazing around, I haven’t followed his arrest and subsequent law enforcement statements as closely as I might have; how about you? Instead, I’ve relied mainly on the New York Times, which has a handy “University of Idaho Killings” link list running at the top of its pages on the subject that details what has happened in recent days. If you’re following the story, and have in-depth coverage or analysis you’d like to share, please do comment with the links — I think we’d all find them helpful.
(There’s also sooo much garbage out there: fun example is this Radar — I know — piece that quotes one of Kohberger’s classmates as saying that in late November, he “was starting to show up really tired …He'd always have a cup of coffee in his hand, and he kind of looked like he was riding the knife edge between worn out and completely exhausted.” No shit, a student — edit, a person in the world who looks worn out late in the year? Guess we’re all going to jail!)
The one thing that no one has been able to report, so far, is the thing we all want to know the most: why? Was there a connection between Kohberger and the victims? Was this a random thing? How related were his alleged Reddit posts on criminal demeanor and motivation to his alleged crimes? Those details are what will make up the inevitable in-depth longreads and true-crime coverage we’ll see likely later this year. But for now, we’d love to see where you’re getting your information and discussion on this extremely high-profile case, as we’ll likely be following this as an actual property as the story unfolds. — EB
Oxygen is doubling down on Florida crime. The network that brought us Blumhouse-powered series The Florida Man Murders back in 2021 is now dedicating an entire series to homicides committed along the Florida-Alabama state line. Apparently, per its logline, the region has “hidden dangers,” though the series also claims the area is “paradise.”
The series feels like kind of an afterthought: it had to share a press release and announcement post with Manifesto of a Serial Killer; even then its seeming justification for existence appears to be the unfounded claim that it will detail “bizarre homicide cases that could only come out of this unique place.” If you hadn’t picked it up from my tone, I am quite skeptical about this entire endeavor, but as it’s one of the first actual true-crime properties released this year, I feel obligated to note it.
It drops on Saturday at 9 PM, with an episode in which “Investigators from three separate counties along the Floribama border team up with the daughter of a missing Jackson County, Florida, man to uncover how the fireworks at a 4th of July celebration ended in murder.” OK, so I did chuckle a little at this. — EB
This week on Best Evidence: Madoff and the Boston Strangler.
“the length/interest ratio doesn’t favor B.E. readers here, so: it depends (the definition of ‘usable’ is different re: legal tender” - SDB