Someone spiked the chowder with PCP on the set of 'Titanic' in 1996 — and we might finally find out how it happened

Someone spiked the chowder with PCP on the set of 'Titanic' in 1996 — and we might finally find out how it happened
  • In 1996, 80 "Titanic" cast and crew members unknowingly ate PCP-laced chowder, sparking chaos.

  • The case was closed after two years and police have never named a suspect.

  • A Nova Scotia official requested the 10-page report to be made public. It could be released in May.

Twenty-eight years after authorities say someone on the set of "Titanic" laced the cast and crew's chowder with PCP on the last day of shooting in Canada, the public might finally get some answers in one of the longest-running mysteries in movie history.

The Halifax police closed the case in 1999 but never made the findings public. Now, the information and privacy commissioner of the Halifax Police Department, Tricia Ralph, ordered that the unredacted report be released to the public, The Guardian reported.

If Ralph succeeds, the report could be available in mid-May and might finally shed some light on the incident that's baffled and intrigued movie lovers for almost 30 years.

Here's what we know about the incident, which temporarily shut down the set of what would become a multi-billion-dollar phenomenon.

On the last day of shooting in Canada, 80 people from the set of 'Titanic' were hospitalized after ingesting PCP

titanic staircase stairway water jack rose
A still from "Titanic."20th Century Fox

According to a 2017 oral history of the incident by Vanity Fair, it was the last day of shooting "Titanic" in Nova Scotia before the production moved to Mexico to shoot most of the ship-sinking scenes in water tanks.

Director James Cameron told Vanity Fair he felt "suddenly and very distinctly woozy" after eating chowder provided by a local caterer — though the exact type of chowder is unknown. A police report from the time describes lobster chowder, while Cameron claimed it contained mussels, and star Bill Paxton told Larry King in 2015 it was clam chowder.

After feeling sick, Cameron made himself vomit in case the shellfish contained what he called a "paralytic shellfish neurotoxin."

He was wrong. Instead, the chowder had been laced with phencyclidine, a hallucinogenic also known as PCP or angel dust.

According to The California Journal of Emergency Medicine, PCP can "induce the illusion of euphoria, omnipotence, superhuman strength, and social and sexual prowess."

Paxton told Entertainment Weekly soon after the 1996 incident that within 15 minutes of eating, "some people were laughing, some people were crying, some people were throwing up." He added, "One minute, I felt okay, the next minute I felt so goddamn anxious I wanted to breathe in a paper bag."

Marilyn McAvoy, a set painter, spoke to Vice in 2017 about her experience. After everyone affected was sent to the local hospital, it became a free-for-all. "People had a lot of energy," she said. "Some were in wheelchairs, flying down the hallways. I mean, everyone was high!"

Cameron told Vanity Fair that, in his memory, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (father of actors Zooey and Emily Deschanel) started a conga line down the hospital hallway.

Eventually, the crew was given liquid charcoal to counteract the effects, and everyone was sent home the next day.

And no, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were not affected. They didn't film any scenes in Nova Scotia and only joined production when it moved to Mexico.

So, who did it? James Cameron has his theories.

James Cameron wearing a black shirt and smiling
James Cameron.Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty

Here's what Cameron thinks happened, per his Vanity Fair interview: "We had fired a crew member the day before because they were creating trouble with the caterers. So we believe the poisoning was this idiot's plan to get back at the caterers, whom of course we promptly fired the next day. So it worked."

McAvoy heard a similar story, although it pointed the finger at someone from the catering company: "Among the crew, there were rumors that it had been a disgruntled chef that had been let go, but nothing ever came of that."

The catering company denied this. In the 1996 Entertainment Weekly story, Earle Scott, the CEO of UNAD Quality Foods Ltd., denied any of his employees were behind the incident. Instead, he blamed "the Hollywood crowd."

"It was done like a party thing that got carried away," Scott said.

The Halifax Police Department investigated for over two years before closing the case in February 1999 due to a lack of suspects, Vanity Fair reported.

Then what will the police report tell us?

flashlights titanic
"Titanic."Paramount Pictures

We don't officially know yet. We do know that the local authorities interviewed every person on set that day, but portions of witness testimony had been redacted — until now.

If the police comply, the full report might be available as soon as mid-May.

This means that one of the longest-running mysteries in movie history could be solved after almost 30 years.

We'll be waiting.

Read the original article on Business Insider