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A balloon, a camera and a mystery

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Update: Benn Jordan of Chicago, a local artist, has confirmed it is his camera and we're in the process of interviewing him.

His identity was revealed after he linked back to this article via Twitter.


Benn Jordan is an accomplished modern jazz musician.

Some of his work is used by the Adler Planetarium.

In the early evening of Sunday, Sept. 16, Jordan set out to snap aerial photos for a music video.

So, he attached his $350 GoPro Hero 2 digital camera to six large white balloons over the park near Armour Elementary School in Bridgeport and launched it with his girlfriend, Kara Czaplicki, and a few other friends, looking on.

“We were trying to get the sunset,” Jordan told WBEZ on Friday. "There was enough space to take 10,000 photos."

But the string Jordan was using to hold onto the balloons snapped.

“We had a big spool of 25-pound thick line and it was supposed to go 600 yards and it ended up out east,” Jordan said. “I was freaking out and getting into my car and following it. I got to the lake and said 'that's over.'”

Jordan thought the balloons would end up making it to the Atlantic Ocean.

"I thought there was an off chance that someone could find it and post the pictures and someone would recognize me from being a musician," Jordan said. "It landed much closer than I thought it would."

The balloons did manage to make it more than 70 miles to the east in LaPorte County, Indiana.

It was found in the small town of Rolling Prairie in northern LaPorte County.

A farmer found the items a day later and contacted the local sheriff.

Police didn't have much to go on except photos of Jordan launching the balloons.  

By Friday, Jordan, a lifelong Chicagoan who lives in Bridgeport, had been located by WBEZ.

“I’m really, really happy. I cannot wait to see the pictures even if they are blurry and there’s nothing wrong just to see the journey that it took,” Jordan said. "I'm really happy I'm getting it back. It wasn't in water-proof housing. I figured it was going to get destroyed."

He's already made plans to pick up the camera and photos from the LaPorte County Sheriff's Department.

Jordan has been taken aback by all the media fuss.

"It's kind of funny of how a big deal it is," he said.



Original story from morning of Sept. 21, 2012.

It’s being called the Great Balloon Mystery.

An unidentified flying object was set off from Chicago’s South Side and ended up miles away in a northern Indiana town and onto Robert Tibbs' farm.

“We thought it was a snowman. I thought someone pulled a prank on us. But then me and my wife went out and looked and it had a camera on the bottom,” said Tibbs, who lives in Rolling Prairie, Ind., about 70 miles east of Chicago in northern LaPorte County.

Tibbs says his horses actually first noticed the object that fell on a fence on Monday morning.

“It was about 25 yards away from my back door. My horses went up to it and started snorting, trying to figure out what it was,” Tibbs told WBEZ on Thursday by phone. “I just thought someone was playing a joke on us.”

It turned out to be a digital camera attached to several big white balloons. The camera had been wrapped in a box and plastic to protect it. But now the question is, who launched it?

LaPorte County police detective Pat Cicero is trying to find out. Cicero said the camera took thousands of photos during its flight.

“It took beautiful shots of the Chicagoland area going into Indiana. You can see Lake Michigan and obviously where it landed in LaPorte County, Indiana,” Cicero said. “It got real high above the cloud line.

A few of the photos snapped is that of a man and woman. Cicero believes the balloon was setting off near a park in Bridgeport.

“We’re trying to establish who these people are that did this,” Cicero said.

Cicero said his department contacted a school in the neighborhood but they school had no knowledge of the balloon, camera or who the couple was in the photos. He wants to find the couple not because they’re in trouble, but to return the items.

“We just want to return their stuff to them,” he said.

Cicero says the department has a Facebook page for people to send them information.


Here's the story of how we found the balloon guy:

The mystery of the balloon and the camera

Storified by · Fri, Sep 21 2012 13:40:58

In response to police reports of a balloon and camera recovered in Northwest Indiana WBEZ reporter Mike Puente did this story:
A balloon, a camera and a mysteryIt’s being called the Great Balloon Mystery. An unidentified flying object was set off from Chicago’s South Side and ended up...
The camera included thousands of photos from high above Chicago, Lake Michigan and this man:
WBEZ attempted to reach the camera's owner by sharing the story on social media:
Who wants to help... | Facebookundefined
Within 5 hours, the camera's owner revealed himself via Twitter:
Well this is the most LOL I've had in a while, and my Gopro is coming back! Jordan
It's Benn Jordan, a film composer who also performs as The Flashbulb:
The Universe: Original Score, by Benn JordanThe Universe: Original Score by Benn Jordan, released 09 July 2012 1. Welcome To The Universe 2. Deep Space 3. An Uncertain Destiny A por...
It looks like he didn't intend to set the balloon loose on the region:
Flight #2. The line snapped and my Gopro + 64gb SD card are somewhere in the upper stratosphere.Benn Jordan
He was gathering distinctive aerial photos to use on his next album: 
Sending a camera over a mile high tonight, and that's just for inside album artwork.Benn Jordan
Benn Jordan's Twitter PhotoBenn Jordan
Hopefully the album artwork can be completed now that he's got his camera back. Here's a new photo he might want to include from WBEZ's Mike Puente:
We found Balloon Man! Benn Jordan lost his balloons and camera on Sunday. It was found in LaPorte County, Indiana.puentecom

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