January, 2000

January 3, 2000
A prison inmate who feared the new year sewed his eyes and lips shut with dental floss, officials said. New Hampshire State Prison guards found the inmate, who was serving time for cocaine possession, covered in baby powder and clutching a Bible on Friday night, said Mark Wefers, chief of internal investigations at the prison. "The inmate told corrections officers he was in fear of the new year," Wefers said. The prisoner, whose name wasn't released, used needles that guards found in his cell. It was not clear where he got the needles. The inmate suffered some blood loss, but not enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. He was being held at the prison for psychological and medical evaluation. (The Nando Times, donated by Bruce Townley)

January 4, 2000
A German chef was given life imprisonment in Namibia for murdering his wife, dismembering her body and cooking her bones before hiding them in the roof of their house. Namibia's High Court sentenced Thomas Florin, a 32-year-old unemployed chef and carpenter, after convicting him of killing his 30-year-old wife Monika last year in their home in the coastal resort of Swakopmund. The judge said Florin should spend at least 15 years behind bars before being eligible for parole and added eight weeks to the sentence for violating a human corpse. "You removed the flesh from the bones and discarded it together with the internal organs," the newspaper The Namibian reported the judge as saying when sentencing Florin on Wednesday. "Then you cooked the skeletal remains to minimize the rotting and concealed them in the ceiling of your house," the judge said. Prosecutors told the court that Florin killed his wife after she threatened to leave him and take their two infant children back to Germany. Friends tipped off police after her disappearance and Florin was arrested in the capital, Windhoek, on his way to the airport. He was initially charged with wrongfully transporting 10 live tortoises, and the judge added a further four weeks to his sentence for the illegal possession of wildlife products. (Reuters, donated by Bruce Townley)

January 5, 2000
Taiwan doctors operating on a 76-year old woman discovered a "fossilized" fetus in her abdomen conceived 49 years ago -- a phenomenon recorded only three times in history, hospital sources said Wednesday. The Veterans General Hospital said doctors on December 31 found a 20 gram (0.7 ounce) lithopaedion, the rocklike remains of a fetus hardened by calcium buildup, in the abdominal cavity of a woman surnamed Wu. The baby appeared to have died in the 20th week of Wu's pregnancy when the fetus moved from her womb to her abdomen. The hospital said their research yielded only three known lithopaedions, and the earliest case dated back to 1582, when a 28-year old fetus was found in French woman. (Reuters, donated by Bruce Townley)

January 6, 2000
The burning of a witch was usually a great public occasion. The execution took place shortly after the sentencing, just long enough to hire an executioner, construct the execution site and gather the fuel. In Scotland, a witch burning was preceded by days of fasting and solemn preaching. The witch was strangled first, and then her corpse--or sometimes her unconscious or semiconscious body--was tied to a stake or dumped into a tar barrel and set afire. If the witch was not dead and managed to get out of the flames, onlookers shoved her back in. Records of trials in Scotland report that burning a witch consumed 16 loads of peat plus wood and coal. (Punishment, Torture And Ordeal)

January 7, 2000
A court jailed four people in the western Russian town of Pskov for killing one of their friends, chopping him into pieces and trying to sell his flesh as stewed meat. Interfax news agency quoted the Pskov city court as saying the four beat up their friend and then killed him in a drunken brawl. His body was cut up and his flesh boiled before being handed over as fresh meat to another friend for canning. The four killers were given sentences ranging from five-and-a-half to 18 years while the receiver of the "meat" went free as the court was not convinced she knew where it came from. (Reuters, donated by Kat)

January 9, 2000
The small town of Wigtown, England became a Royal burgh in 1341 and was granted the unusual privilege of having its own hangman. However, certain conditions were attached to the appointment, one of which was that the hangman should always be a man who was himself under sentence of death. Sentence was to be deferred until he became too old or incapable of carrying out his job, at which time he would be hanged. There was also an interesting penalty clause for the town. They were to lose the right to have their own hangman if this man died of natural causes, therefore they always had to judge to a nicety whether to hang the hangman or to let him carry on. This barbaric custom continued until the beginning of the 18th century. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 9)

January 10, 2000
Thomas Jefferson's sister Elizabeth was seriously retarded, and remained a responsibility for Jefferson and his mother until she wandered into the woods one day and died at the age of 30. (The People's Almanac #2)

January 11, 2000
The Taipei mayor's tour of the murky river Tanshui Monday was supposed to yield hard-won evidence of a long-needed cleanup. But instead it turned up the corpse of what red-faced police quickly determined to be a 56-year-old Taipei man. Undaunted, Mayor Ma Ying-jeou carried on, ladling up cups of brackish water and administering his own informal sniff tests. "It smells much better than it used to," Ma was quoted by the Taipei Times as saying. "But we can't develop water tourism until the river smells normal." Taipei's sweeping Tanshui and Keelung riverfronts should be a haven for boat tours and waterside recreation, but with much of the Taiwan capital's sewage dumped in untreated, Ma said much more needs to be done. Officials said as many as 10 bodies are dredged each year from the two rivers -- attributed to suicides, murders and accidental deaths -- along with about 600 tons of garbage. (Reuters, donated by Steve Sharp)

January 12, 2000
Immigration officials in Seattle found three dead Chinese stowaways and another 15 dehydrated and starving on a container ship originating from Hong Kong. Investigators said the dead -- two men and an elderly woman -- did not appear to have any infectious diseases and were not injured during the two-week trip. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted that the deaths are the first recorded in 13 cases of Chinese immigrants smuggled in containers to West Coast ports. The Seattle stowaways had lived in a box 12 meters by 3 meters and had to live with the dead bodies for three to seven days before the ship landed. (CNN)

January 13, 2000
The Hsi-yuan-li ("Records of the Redressing of Wrongs" or "Instructions to Coroners") is a collection of ancient Chinese forensic science manuscripts that was written in the 1200's. In this book, one of the important places a coroner is advised to examine when presented with a dead body is the top of the head. A favourite method of murder was to hammer a nail into the top of the victim's head, where the hair would hide the nail head, particularly if the nail head was touched with a little black stain. This theme was something of a favorite in Chinese crime novels as far back as the middle of the seventeenth century, one such novel depicting the "investigator" being baffled by the way a man met his death until he notices flies congregating about the head of the corpse, parts the hair and discovers an inserted nail. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 13)

January 16, 2000
When Ramchandra Kolluru, a cardiologist working in Texas, filled out a prescription for Ramon Vasquez in 1995, he intended to write "Isordil 20 mg". Isordil is used to treat heart pains caused by valve problems. But the chemist read the prescription as "Plendil", which is for high blood pressure and is taken at no more than 10 mg a day. Vasquez had been instructed to take 20 mg of Isordil four times a day. Two weeks later, he died from heart complications. (Bizarre Magazine)

January 17, 2000
One of the most morbid of death relics, and one which is rarely found outside museums today, is the legendary "Hand of Glory". This was the hand of a hanged man, dried and used either as a five-branched candle itself or as a candle-holder for a candle made from the fat of the hanged man's body. It was supposed to have magical powers to make its possessor either invisible or to help him to carry out robberies by hypnotizing everyone in the house or building that was being burgled. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 17)
cupid_in_hell writes: "The so-called hands of glory in museums and private collections today are in fact fakes manufactured from medical cadavers in the late 19th century for sale to rich and gullible collectors of occult gear. I have seen no evidence to date that authentic hands of glory ever existed outside of literature and the fevered imaginations of a few antiquarians."
Zaldimar writes: "Apparently there was only one original 'Hand of Glory'. It was used in several robberies and served it's master well until one day the theives that had been using it left it sitting on the pew in church! Well, naturally it was discovered by a priest who was quite surprised to see such a horrific thing in a holy place. The thieves were caught and imprisoned several days later and no one is certain what became of the original hand."

January 18, 2000
In Tanzania, fourteen-year-old Leo Kimwegile-Swile had taken his cows grazing on a normal sunny afternoon in June when he was kidnapped. His captors injected him with a drug that numbed him, then cut off his hands and skinned him alive. Leo's death was one of four bizarre and grisly deaths in the Mbeya region this year which sent a chilling message to the sleepy east African country. The ancient practice of witchcraft was still very much alive. "It is a shame and embarrassment to the country," Mbeya Regional Police Commissioner Laurian Sanya told Reuters. "Those who did it said they were going to sell the skins for witchcraft purposes," he said. Sanya said police had arrested nine people so far in connection with the crime, and added the killers had been hired by foreign witchdoctors from neighbouring Malawi and Zambia. Their mission was to obtain human skin -- removed while the victim was still alive -- for a fee of between four million shillings ($5,000) and 40 million shillings ($50,000). According to the suspects, the witchdoctors claimed they had markets for the skins as far afield as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa and Cameroon where the buyers use it in pagan rituals. (Reuters, donated by JOCELYN1PA)

January 20, 2000
A U.S. Army Air Force plane crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building in heavy fog on July 28, 1945. Lt. Col. William Franklin Smith Jr., the pilot, became disoriented while trying to land at Newark Airport. Lt. Smith was told he had a 3 hour wait to land at Newark. Impatient to get his plane on the ground, he falsely declared he had official business at La Guardia Airport with the intention of diverting to Newark as soon as he was cleared. The 12 ton plane smashed a 20 ft. hole in the building. Fuel from the ruptured gas tanks poured out and set two floors ablaze killing 10 people. One engine exited the south side of the building and plunged into a penthouse below. The second engine entered an elevator shaft and severed the cables plunging the car and the elevator operator 1,000 feet into a sub basement. Despite suffering a broken back and legs, she survived. (PlaneCrashInfo.Com, donated by Tresmoov)

January 22, 2000
Benjamin Rush's 'medical' practice thrived during the mid-18th century as the craze for heroic medicine seized the imagination of aristrocratic patients in Europe and the U.S. His specialty was purging - using bloodletting and toxic chemicals to induce vomiting and violent diarrhea - the more explosive the results, the more confident the doctor's prognosis. Historians now believe that, by heeding such advice, George Washington actually bled to death rather than expiring from disease during his final days in December 1799. (Bizarre)

January 23, 2000
Japanese police said on Friday they found two mummified bodies of children in a house suspected of being used by a fringe religious group in western Japan. The body of a 6-year-old boy was found lying on a bed, while another body of an infant, whose sex has not been identified, was found in a wooden box near the boy, said a spokesman for Miyazaki Prefectural Police in southwestern Japan. Authorities arrested two occupants of the house, Junichiro Higashi, 55, and Akemi Togashi, 49, on suspicion of abandoning the corpses of the two children, believed to have been dead for over a year. Higashi headed a group called "Kaieda-juku" which media reports described as a quasi-religious group treating children with illnesses as well as those with problems in school. Higashi was quoted in the media as telling investigators that he was "the representative of the Creator" and that he was "sending energy to the bodies to revive them." Police inspected the house on Thursday after a 35-year-old man reported earlier this month that his 6-year-old son was sent to the group to receive treatment for his kidney ailment two years ago but never allowed back to his home. The body was identified as the missing son. (Reuters, donated by Bruce Townley)

January 29, 2000
A Japanese woman suffered a fatal skull fracture after toppling from her 5 inch platform shoes. Misayo Shimizu, a 25-year-old nursery school worker, was found dead in her car after complaining to a male friend that her head had hurt since she took the tumble. Platforms are a big fashion item in Tokyo and have inspired an academic study. Professor Teruko Ishii surveyed her female students and found that 23 percent had fallen off their platforms. Half had suffered fractures or other injuries. (Bizarre)

January 30, 2000
A small-town police officer discovered the mutilated body of a woman strapped into the passenger's seat of a car when he arrested an Ohio man for allegedly trying to kill two strangers. The officer from Valley Head, a community not far from the Georgia state line, found the slain woman's body in the car driven by Hayward Bissell, 37, of Norwalk, Ohio, on Sunday afternoon, DeKalb County Sheriff Cecil Reed said. The eyes and heart of the woman, 25-year-old Patricia Ann Booher of Norwalk, had been cut out, and one hand and one leg had been severed. Bissell and Booher had been dating. The body was found after Bissell tried to kill two local men and stabbed two dogs to death during an almost hour-long rampage Sunday afternoon. The spree began in the town of Mentone when Bissell allegedly drove his car into the rear of a stranger's vehicle. The driver of the other car got out and was approaching Bissell's vehicle when Bissell slammed into the motorist, Donald Pirch of Mentone, and knocked him onto the hood of his car. The impact broke the windshield of Bissell's car, and he drove about 100 yards with Pirch on the hood. Pirch was treated at a local hospital and released. Bissell then drove off and stopped his car outside of a home in Mentone. A resident of the home, James Pumphrey, came outside to see what was going on, and, without provocation, Bissell stabbed him in the stomach. Pumphrey ran back into his house to escape the attack. Bissell then cut the throats of Pumphrey's two dogs and killed them. Pumphrey is being treated at DeKalb Baptist Medical Center for his stab wounds. After killing the dogs and stabbing Pumphrey, Bissell drove a few miles down the road and finally was stopped and arrested in Valley Head. (APBNews.Com, donated by Nina)

January 31, 2000
On June 10, 1999, 10 year-old Wade King and his friend, Stephen Tsiorvas (also 10), scrambled down a trail to play beside pristine Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Washington. They began to play with a fireplace lighter they found, unaware that the creek was filled with 277,000 gallons of gasoline from a burst pipeline. Suddenly they burst into flames as the gasoline erupted into an inferno, which reached temperatures as high as 2000 degrees (f). With his entire body except the soles of his feet badly burned, Wade somehow made his way back toward home along a dirt trail, where his frantic father (who had seen the smoke from the inferno from his nearby home) found him. His father said, "I thought everything was going to be okay, just because they were conscious and talking. But the EMTs' mouths just dropped open when they saw them." The boys were airlifted to a Seattle burn center, where Wade died at 2 a.m. and Stephen five hours later. (People)