Interview: Bryan Carberry And Clay Tweel, Directors Of 'Finders Keepers' When a North Carolina man found a human leg in a grill, he tried to extend his 15 minutes of fame. Directors Clay Tweel and Bryan Carberry capture the wild tale in their documentary Finders Keepers.

The Deeper Meanings Of A Leg, Lost And Found — And Fought Over

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Years ago, in the small town of Maiden, N.C., a man bought an abandoned storage locker. There he found a used grill. He took it home, opened it up and - well, surprise is kind of an understatement.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FINDERS KEEPERS")

SHANNON WHISNANT: It sort of looked like driftwood, you know, shaped odd. And - but it's kind of heavy, so I know it wasn't driftwood.

RATH: It was a human leg - a desiccated, mummified human leg. The leg's original owner found out, and he wanted it back. The battle was on.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FINDERS KEEPERS")

WHISNANT: Yeah, he is its birth owner, but I still felt I own it.

RATH: The new documentary "Finders Keepers" gets at the story behind this bizarre battle. It's directed by Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel.

CLAY TWEEL: Yes, there's this moment of hilarity of two guys fighting over a leg. But then how does the rest of it play out, and where do their lives really go after the media attention perhaps dies down? And that's kind of, for us, where things started to fill out and really feel like we had a feature film on our hand.

RATH: Your film introduces us to these two main characters, and character is really a good word for them. Clay, tell us about Shannon Whisnant. He's the finder here in the "Finders Keepers."

TWEEL: Indeed, Shannon is a kind of self-made man, entrepreneur of sorts. He deals in kind of found goods and trying to resell them for a profit. And he is always looking for a way to turn a buck.

RATH: And gets this foot through this auction and kind of seizes his moment.

TWEEL: Yeah. I think what happened was he saw that the local media took to the story so quickly, and it gave him this kind of sense of fame and sort of energy around being on camera that he had so longed for. He did a very good job, and it started getting on nationally-syndicated radio shows and then eventually, like, international and national TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A smoker grill is now a tourist attraction of sorts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It's a regular P.T. Barnum.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: An unbelievable character, isn't he?

RATH: And Bryan, tell us about the other main character here, John Wood, who is the man who was the original owner of this leg.

BRYAN CARBERRY: Yeah, so John Wood was - is kind of the rich kid of this small town. Everybody knew John. He was the cool kid. He was the rebel. He's had 13 near-death experiences.

RATH: He runs through this list, it's almost like a country song.

CARBERRY: Yeah, electrocuted twice, a couple out-of-body experiences.

RATH: And he lost this leg in a plane crash.

CARBERRY: John lost his leg in the same plane crash where he lost his father's life. And John was the co-pilot that day, kind of took home some guilt from that, even if it wasn't his fault. And so I think all of that kind of got tied up in his wanting to hold onto this leg.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FINDERS KEEPERS")

JOHN WOOD: After the crash, my thinking was I wanted to keep my skeletal remains and make a memorial to my - you know, my father and this turning point in my life.

RATH: And how did the leg end up in this smoker in storage?

CARBERRY: Well, that's a bit of a story. And there's a...

RATH: Yes, as much as you can (laughter)...

CARBERRY: There's a scene to that. But - so he tried a few things. Number one was putting it in the freezer. When his power got cut off, he even took it to his - a friend who worked at a Hardees. They put it in their freezer 'til the manager found it. His buddy worked at the mortuary so he borrowed some embalming fluid and did it himself at home. He soaked it in the embalming fluid, put it in a possum trap and put the trap in the tree in his front yard to sun dry. And after six months, it was mummified. When he got evicted, it went into his grill in his storage unit.

RATH: Obviously, this is a bizarre and intriguing enough story even just with those details. But, Clay, talk about at what point, you realized that this was - there was more to this than just this kind of carnival aspect.

TWEEL: Sure. I think our job was then to kind of continually to dig deeper and get to the kind of heart of what makes these people tick. And they were unbelievably trusting of us and more honest than I feel like a lot of people are on camera, so that allowed us to go to these places that we didn't initially expect.

RATH: And of course, we're not going to give away spoilers about what happens to the foot, anything like that. But let me ask you guys, have the guys seen the documentary now?

CARBERRY: They have, yes. So Shannon had two notes. One was that it could've been a little longer. And B, he thought there should've been a little more of him in it.

RATH: (Laughter) And, Clay, what was John's reaction?

TWEEL: John has seen the film now many, many times. He really likes it. He says he cries at a different part at almost every screening. And...

RATH: Some very emotional parts there with his family.

TWEEL: Yeah. My favorite thing that I've heard as a reaction was Marion, John's sister - she felt like she's been watching this story through a knothole in a fence, and she feels that we knocked the fence down for her. And so for us, as documentarians, like, that's such a great compliment.

RATH: Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel's new documentary is called "Finders Keepers." It is out this weekend. Gentlemen, it's been great speaking with you. Thank you.

CARBERRY: Likewise, thank you.

TWEEL: Yeah, thanks.

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