Customs officials at O'Hare International Airport were held up by something quite unusual recently: a shipment of 18 human heads.
According to FOX 32 News, the heads were bound for a cremation service in Chicago after they had been used for medical research in Europe.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said the heads were sent from Chicago to Italy for medical research and were being returned.
A paperwork problem is what held up the heads at the airport in mid-December.
While authorities investigated, the heads were sent to Cook County morgue for storage.
The reason for the hold up was an ongoing investigation with the suburban facility where the specimens were headed, but the investigation has nothing to do with the 18 heads.
Tony Brucci, chief investigator for the medical examiner's office, said the heads were properly preserved and tagged as human specimens.
Brian Bell, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the heads were legitimate medical samples and the occurrence is not as uncommon as many believe.
"There's no issue with the transportation of body parts for medical purposes," Bell said. "There's nothing against the law that says you cannot ship them. Everybody here is 'Oh my gosh, you got a box of heads' and everybody thinks that it's unheard of."
"It is a potentially legitimate medical shipment. We've seen it at various ports in the nation."
Paul Dudek of the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois agrees that body part shipment is more commonplace than people think.
"Last week we did send out ten brains to the University of Texas," he said.
Once the FBI releases the heads, they will be cremated at the Schiller Park Facility.