Last week, movie fans held their faces in their hands and screamed – just like young Macaulay Culkin did in the 1990 film Home Alone – when news broke that the northern Illinois Georgian mansion used for many of the film’s scenes was heavily damaged in a fire authorities are calling ‘suspicious.’
Sold in 2012 for nearly $1.6 million dollars, the house has its share of “drive by fans” – movie lovers who stop by to take a picture, just to say they were there. “One of those fans, we think,” said fire chief Bill Carrey, “got carried away and wanted to leave his mark. There was evidence left behind that suggested the fire was deliberately set.”
Nevertheless, conspiracy theories are popping up across the internet. SuperTriviaFanTed suggested in a blog post that actor Joe Pesci, irritated that he could not use his usual foul-mouthed vocabulary in the family oriented film, used his so-called “connections to the mob” to exact his revenge by torching the house. The Chicago Tribune has received anonymous emails saying that because Macaulay Culkin mimicked Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream,” the restless spirit of the distressed Norwegian artist set the house ablaze. The most popular theory, though, is that Daniel Stern, the actor who played Marv, one of the ‘Wet Bandits’ alongside Joe Pesci, got bored and set the fire himself. Stern hasn’t been relevant in films in over a decade, and the fire could have been his way of making a name for himself once more.
Several other famous ‘movie set’ houses have fallen victim to sudden “fame” once more. The famous Amityville Horror house was besieged with visitors after an article appearing in Good Housekeeping magazine renewed interest in the property. Even after changes in the landscape and modifications to doors and windows were made, crowds still flocked to the house, causing problems for the new homeowners and their neighbors.
“Yes, I’ve heard the theories and funny jokes,” said Carrey, “but we’re going to go with arson. We detected traces of kerosene on the premises. We’ve gotten all sorts of prank calls from people who ask ‘Was the little boy home alone during the fire? Was he hurt? Did he set the house on fire?’ Things like that. I guess it’s all fun and games, but it takes up a lot of the department’s time. We deal in facts and this is a crime scene, not a reality show.”
Carrey is confident that the perpetrators will be identified and apprehended soon. “Everybody’s got security cameras now. These dumb vandals don’t stop and think everything they do, someone’s got them on camera. Also, there are only a few gas stations nearby that sell kerosene, so we’ll have this wrapped up soon.”
Winnetka police are reviewing neighbors’ security camera data and expect to release images of persons of interest to local media by the end of the week.