HBO Max announced on Wednesday that Colin Firth is set to star in an adaptation of the true-crime series The Staircase, a 2004 French mini-series following the chaotic murder trial of novelist Michael Peterson whose wife Kathleen was found dead at the bottom of a staircase. But my question is, who will play the owl?
If you’ve watched The Staircase and its subsequent sequels, you might be familiar with the case’s infamous “Owl theory.” When Michael Peterson called authorities in 2001 to report his wife dead at the bottom of the staircase of their Durham, North Carolina home, authorities didn’t buy his theory that Kathleen had fallen by accident due to evidence of foul play present at the crime scene. But in the midst of dueling theories about whether or not Peterson was guilty of murder emerged what became known as “the Owl theory,” written by the Peterson’s next door neighbor Larry Pollard, alleging that, well, an owl killed her.
Pollard insisted that an owl must have swooped into the Petersons’ home, striking her in the head, leaving her to go up the stairs injured and eventually falling backwards down the staircase. The theory was flimsily backed up by the fact that microscopic feathers were found on Peterson’s body at the scene of the crime, The News & Observer reports. In a lengthy piece examining the probability of such a theory, Audubon Magazine also noted that Peterson’s autopsy “revealed seven lacerations, including very deep ones in the back of her scalp, and pine needles stuck to one of her hands, which both held clumps of her own hair.”
It’s a ridiculous theory. You know what else is sort of ridiculous? Making a TV series about The Staircase when it was already a docuseries, with two sequels, a Lifetime movie, and a podcast. But if you’re going to squeeze one last drop of content from this horrific crime, I better see some owls as potential suspects.