More mysterious bottles filled with blue liquid turned up early Tuesday at locations in downtown Schenectady, including outside City Hall and Proctors Theatre.
Assistant Fire Chief Michael DellaRocco said the grounds crew at Union College found a third bottle near Memorial Chapel on the campus. All three of the plastic 2-liter bottles found there contained a non-toxic blue liquid and displayed hand-written messages alluding to the title of a movie that was filmed around Schenectady County in 2007.
DellaRocco said the bottles bore a resemblance to five that were dropped off at The Daily Gazette’s front entrance Monday morning and two others that were collected by security guards at the Times Union’s building in Colonie over the weekend. Another bottle was discovered on Tuesday by a Times Union employee near the Engel farm off Albany-Shaker Road, just a short distance away from the newspaper.
All of the bottles found in Schenectady drew a response from the city Fire Department’s hazardous materials teams because of the unknown nature of the liquid. Samples taken from the bottles found in Colonie proved to be non-toxic but were sent for testing to the state Department of Health’s labs at the Wadsworth Center in Albany.
“At this point we’re just trying to identify why someone is doing this,” said Detective Sgt. Kenneth Fuchs of the Colonie Police Department.
The sudden appearance of the bottles seems to coincide with the debut of the film, “Winter of Frozen Dreams,” during the Wisconsin Film Festival earlier this month. The movie is based on a book by Karl Harter about convicted Wisconsin killer Barbara Hoffman.
Actress Thora Birch plays the role of Hoffman, a brilliant University of Wisconsin biochemistry student leading a double life as a massage parlor prostitute. Hoffman is later convicted of poisoning one of her former clients in what prosecutors portrayed as a plot to collect his insurance policy.
Scenes from the film were shot at Mike’s Hot Dogs on Erie Boulevard, Rolling Greens Bowling Lanes in Scotia and Schenectady City Hall, among other places throughout the county. Filmmakers were drawn to the area in part because of the city’s 1970s-era buildings.
The movie was well-attended during its debut at the festival but later received scathing reviews from critics. Proctors is scheduled to show the movie in mid-May, shortly after it is scheduled to be released on DVD, according to Monterey Media, the California-based company that owns the rights to the film.
Jenny Manocchio, Monterey Media’s publicity director, was equally perplexed by the bizarre appearance of bottles. She was unaware of any promotions for the film that would involve such a marketing tack.
“We know nothing about it,” she said of the bottles. “So we’re dying to find out about it, too.”
Likewise, Proctors CEO Philip Morris had no knowledge of where the bottles may have originated. One of the bottles was discovered in Stratton Plaza near the theater’s entrance early Tuesday morning.
“It has nothing to do with us,” he said.
Schenectady Police Sgt. Eric Clifford said investigators are still trying to determine the significance of the bottles and are unsure of the motives behind their placement. He was uncertain if the deliberate placement of the bottles rose to the level of a crime.
“That’s something we need to determine,” he said. “We need to know who is doing it and if there is criminal intent.”
Fire officials aren’t taking the mysterious bottles lightly, either. Schenectady Fire Chief Robert Farstad declined to say whether his department would seek compensation for hazardous materials calls prompted by the bottles if someone is eventually caught but said there would certainly be consequences.
“If they do catch these guys … I’m sure there are going to be ramifications,” he said.
DellaRocco warned anyone finding similar bottles to report them to authorities immediately. He said there is no guarantee that any additional bottles will contain the same harmless liquid.
“So far, these have not proved to be toxic or dangerous,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean this will be the case the next time one of these is discovered.”