January, 2001

January 1, 2001
Soon after America's favorite Psycho Ed Gein was sentenced to the mental institution, his farm went up for auction along with some of his other belongings. Thousands of curiosity seekers diverged on the small town to see what possessions of Eddie's would be auctioned. Some of the things to be auctioned off were his car, furniture and musical instruments. The company that handled the business of selling Eddie's goods planned to charge a fee of fifty cents to look at Eddie's property. The citizens of Plainfield were outraged. They believed Eddie's home was quickly becoming a "museum for the morbid" and the town demanded something be done to put it to an end. Although the company was later forbidden to charge an entrance fee to the auction, residents were still not satisfied. In the early morning of March 20, 1958 the Plainfield volunteer fire department was called to Eddie's farm. Gein's house was on fire. The house quickly burned to the ground, as onlookers watched in silent relief. Police believed that an arsonist was responsible for the blaze because there was no electrical wiring problems with the house. Although police carried out a thorough investigation, no suspect was ever found. When Eddie learned of the destruction to his house he simply said, "Just as well." Although the fire destroyed most of Eddie's belongings, there were still many things that were salvaged. What was left of Eddie's possessions would still be auctioned off, including farm equipment and his car. Eddie's 1949 Ford sedan, which was used to haul dead bodies, caused a bidding war and was eventually sold for seven hundred and sixty dollars. The man who purchased the car later put it on display at a county fair, where thousands paid a quarter to get a peek at the Gein "ghoul car." It seemed to the people of Plainfield that the public's fascination with Eddie would never end. (Crime Library, generously donated by Colleen O'Donnell).

January 2, 2001
Two killers who used their victim's sawn-off arm to perform hand signals from a car window have been jailed for life at the Old Bailey, England (December 18, 2000). James Lawlor, 26, and Brian Stead, 33, had carried out a "vicious murder" on defenceless Ray Brooker, 41, said Judge John Rogers. They used to guns to pump bullets into his body and then dismembered it, adding to the distress of his wife and family. "This was illustrated by using his severed arm as a hand signal on the journey to Essex," said the judge. Mr Brooker was shot twice in the mouth and repeatedly stabbed before his sawn-up body was placed in bin bags on December 17 last year. Mr Brooker had been due to attend his daughter's nativity play but spent the day drinking with Lawlor and Stead instead. Lawlor grabbed a gun when he heard Mr Brooker make a drunken remark about him. Brian Higgs QC said the men later bragged about the murder to another man after fleeing to Sunderland. Mr Brooker's clothes and a bloodstained sheet were found in a burned-out car which was linked to James Lawlor. They later disappeared to Tenerife but were arrested by May this year. Lawlor's brother Jason, 29, was accused of helping to dispose of the body. James Lawlor, of south-east London, and Stead of no fixed address had denied murder but were found guilty by the jury. Jason Lawlor was jailed for eight years after being convicted of perverting the course of justice. (NTLWorld , generously donated by Timedway)

January 3, 2001
An Egyptian sheep destined for sacrificial slaughter forestalled its owner's plans by pushing him to his death from a three-story building. Waheeb Hamoudah, 56, who worked in the police tax evasion department, had been feeding the sheep he had tethered on the rooftop when it butted him. Neighbors found Hamoudah lying bleeding and concussed on the ground below, with several broken bones, Monday (January 1, 2001). He died soon after reaching hospital. Hamoudah had been fattening the sheep for the past six weeks and planned to kill it for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice, in early March. Many Egyptian city-dwellers keep livestock on rooftops, balconies or in basements, especially in the run-up to Eid al-Adha. (Reuters, donated by A Cast Of Thousands)

January 4, 2001
Two members of a gang of Brazilian car thieves may have drank vials of HIV-infected blood -- thinking it was a yogurt drink -- found in a stolen car, officials said on Wednesday (January 3, 2001). Over the New Year's weekend, six armed bandits overpowered a worker at a medical laboratory in the remote western state of Rondonia, and stole his car while he was on the way to the airport to ship blood samples to a distant laboratory, a spokesman for Rondonia's security secretariat told Reuters. "The blood samples came from AIDS (news - web sites) patients and were being shipped for further tests,'' the spokesman said. The thieves sped out of town, but made a brief stop at a bar on their way. After a few stiff drinks, two members of the gang uncovered the vials and gulped them down, mistaking them for drinkable yogurt, the spokesman added. The two suspects apparently exposed themselves to the deadly, incurable disease. "I don't know how it happened, but the culprits told reporters here that they were drunk and confused and didn't know what they were doing,'' the spokesman said. The spokesman noted that the suspects had not told police about drinking the blood. Police caught four of the alleged robbers some 50 miles (80 km) down the road after the car broke down. (Reuters, donated by Bruce Townley)

January 5, 2001
A convicted Brazilian rapist sliced off his own penis and flushed it down the toilet, saying the amputation would bring him closer to God. Prison guards said they found Flavio dos Santos Cruz, 23, screaming and profusely bleeding in his jail cell early Thursday (1/4/01) after he cut off his penis with a shaving razor. "He's alive. But since the penis was missing, he now will have to urinate through a tube," said urologist Aerton Barbosa Neves, who operated on Santos Cruz in the town of Andradina, about 410 miles from South America's biggest city of Sao Paulo. Santos Cruz said he was inspired by the Bible. "It is written in Bible that if a part of your body distances you from God, and makes you commit a sin, you should cut it off," he told local news wire Agencia Estado. Since Santos Cruz did not cut off his testicles, Neves said the rapist could still ejaculate -- possibly while dreaming -- and even impregnate someone, albeit only with medical assistance. Prison officials could not immediately say how many people Santos Cruz had raped and did not know the length of his jail sentence. (Reuters, donated by Stephen O'Rourke)

January 6, 2001
Putrefaction is the process which results in the gradual bacterial dissolution of the body into gases and liquids. The first sign of putrefaction is the appearance of a greenish discoloration of the skin in the lower right side of the abdomen (roughly in the region of the appendix). This is due to staining of the skin by blood seeping through the walls of vessels. The final stage of putrefaction is liquefication of the body organs. The eyes are affected first, followed by the brain, stomach and liver. The womb liquefies last — this fact often enables pathologists to tell the sex of a body long after death and subsequent putrefaction. ( Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions And Fears)

January 7, 2001
The mentally ill were subjected to horrid prejudice and mistreatment during the 19th century. An 1878 investigation of the New Jersey State Asylum revealed that in order to detect pretenders, the authorities customarily poured alcohol over epileptic patients and set them on fire. "Treatments" were cold baths and water punishment, which in the depths of winter involved tying a patient to the wall of his cell and dumping buckets of frigid water on him, which caused his head and shoulders to become partially frozen. A frequently applied cure, so called, was "dietary"; in other words, the hunger treatment. A description survives of patients at Ward's Island Asylum in New York City finally getting a meal after a period of applied starvation: "... diminutive, dirty bits of meat flanked by a ladleful of oatmeal, dark, nauseating in appearance... the women sunk their often dirty fingers into the mush and ate ravenously." (The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible!)

January 8, 2001
Donald Harvey was the most prolific killer nurse of the trade. When he was not offing his patients, Donny enjoyed hanging out in the morgue and studying tissue samples. An amateur Satanist, he would joke with the hospital staff about "getting rid of patients." Little did they know, it was no joke. Harvey murdered with abandon from the early seventies to 1987 when he was finally caught. He claimed that his killings were "mercy" killings even though he sometimes chose horrible substances to bring on death. He also did not limit his work to those hospitalized. He killed a neighbor out of spite by lacing her drink with hepatitis. He would also poison his male lover and then nurse him back to health to win his affection. On another occasion he poisoned his lover's family, killing the mother. He was convicted of thirty-four deaths but it is believed that he actually tallied eighty-seven kills. (Internet Crime Archives)

January 9, 2001
Behram, an Indian thug, holds the record for most murders by a single individual. He strangled 931 people between 1790-1840 with a piece of yellow and white cloth, called a ruhmal. The most by a woman is 610, by Countess Erzsebet Bathory of Hungary. (Useless Facts)

January 10, 2001
A major rockfall occurred in Switzerland on September 4, 1618. A vast amount of rock became detached from the mountainside above the town of Plurs, completely burying it and all its people. From a population of 1,500, none survived. Four of the townspeople were away on business elsewhere on that day; they returned to find nothing left of their houses or their families. (Catastrophes And Disasters)

January 11, 2001
A Hong Kong woman, enraged by her husband's alleged extra-marital affair, cut off one of his testicles. Police, confirming newspaper reports, said the woman, identified only by her surname Leung, cut off her husband's right testicle Tuesday (January 9, 2001). They gave no other details. The 57-year-old husband, identified as Mak, was also injured in the head and in stable condition in hospital, a police spokeswoman said. The couple's son was also injured in the incident. Leung, 56, was being detained by police.

January 12, 2001
In his masterpiece of forensic science, Practical Homicide Investigation, Vernon J. Geberth relates a startling tale of self-mutilation. A young man under the influence of PCP ("angel dust") peeled his face from his skull with pieces of a mirror and fed the flesh to his pet dogs. He survived due to the large amount of drugs anesthetizing his system. The dogs were removed by police to the animal shelter and Geberth directed veterinarians at the shelter to pump the dogs' stomachs. This procedure resulted in the recovery of pieces of the man's face, lips, and nose. (If you've a strong stomach, here's the image of the man's face: Ghastly! ) (Practical Homicide Investigation)

January 15, 2001
Doctors were unable to reattach the tip of an inmate's finger after he reportedly bit most of it off and pulled out a tendon in his arm Saturday at the Butte County Jail. John Ball, 43, of Chico, California, is currently being held "for his own safety" at a county mental health facility, according to Jail Lt. Bryan Flicker. Ball was reportedly wearing women's clothing and a blonde wig when he was arrested Dec. 13 for allegedly stealing some camera equipment out of the Chico News and Review office and scuffling with two employees for the newspaper. During his arraignment in Superior Court late last week, bailiffs reported seeing the shackled inmate attempting to remove his fingernail polish with his teeth. He was being held in a single cell at the county jail in Oroville early Saturday afternoon (December 16, 2000) when Flicker said an inmate in an adjoining cell heard Ball say something about "blood." When jailers opened his cell door, they found Ball with his back to them holding a bloody hand. "We thought initially that he had cut his hand," the jail lieutenant said. While attempting to handcuff him after he began to resist, jailers discovered that he had nearly bitten off the tip of his right index finger down to the first knuckle. Apparently in an attempt to pull the severed digit free, he had also pulled out about 14 inches of an attached tendon to his right arm. Despite losing "a substantial amount of blood," the injured inmate did not cry out. "About the only coherent thing he said was when he was asked if it hurt, he told one of the paramedics: 'You bite your finger off without Novacane and tell me if it hurts.'" Jail medical staff wrapped the severed portion of the finger and tendon in ice before transporting Ball by ambulance to Oroville Hospital. But Flicker said that doctors determined that the digit was "too badly damaged" to reattach it. After stitching up the wound, Ball was taken to a Butte County Mental Health unit in Chico for a 72-hour observation period. (The Chico Enterprise-Record)

January 16, 2001
On June 10, 1942, German cameramen set up their cameras in the small village of Lidice, ten miles northwest of Prague. They were there to film its total destruction. The five hundred or so inhabitants of Lidice were made to assemble in the main square; then the men were separated from the families, and the shooting began. Nearly two hundred were thrown into a mass grave. The women and children were sent to concentration camps in Germany and less than a hundred survived. The village itself was burned down, and then blown up with explosives, and the ruins ground to powder. Lidice was destroyed in retaliation for the death of Reinhart Heydrich, deputy chief of the Nazi secret police, who had been killed by a bomb thrown by Czech resistance fighters in Prague. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 17)

January 17, 2001
In 1692, during the Salem witch panic, resident Giles Cory was accused of sorcery by one of his neighbors. Scornful of the charge and his judges, Cory refused to enter a plea before the court, whereupon it was ordered he "be pressed to death in the manner prescribed in the mother country, England." Staked to the ground on September 19, with a wooden pallet on his abdomen, Cory still refused to plead as heavy stones were heaped on top of him. This would be the first and only time the US would use pressing as a means of legal coercion. England was not, in fact, the mother country of pressing, a method of extracting pleas from reluctant criminal defendants. In ancient Rome, Christian martyrs were tortured with the same presses used to crush grapes for wine and olives for oil. British practitioners "refined" the method, often placing a sharp rock or wooden wedge beneath the victim's back to increase suffering, sometimes protracting the torture for days. Making the practice particularly unjust was the fact that even those physically unable to enter a plea ran the risk of pressing, as in the case of a Nottingham murder suspect pressed to death in 1735, despite testimony from several neighbors that he could neither hear nor speak. Pressing remained on Britain's statute books until 1827, when a more humane rule was finally adopted. Rather than torturing defendants until they admitted their guilt, an automatic plea of "not guilty" was entered for those unwilling or physically unable to plead for themselves. As for Giles Cory, the only American on record to suffer interrogation and death by pressing, it is reported that his only spoken words, before the burden crushed his chest, was a defiant call for "more weight." ( Zooba.Com, donated by Lynne Rutledge)

January 18, 2001
A circus performer, trying to shoot an apple off his wife's head with a crossbow, hit her under the eye instead, piercing her skull. She was hospitalized in serious condition. The husband-and-wife team was performing in front of 5,000 spectators at the World Circus Festival in Paris. (USA Today (1/16/01), donated by Nina)

January 19, 2001
On April 1, 1983, Danell Pepson purchased a solid copper casket for the burial of his grandmother, Bertha. For the next 7 years, he tended her mausoleum, planting flowers in front of it and keeping the area tidy. In April of 1990, he noticed a brown thickened "fluid" was beginning to collect on the sidewalk at the base of the mausoleum. Pepson believed this fluid to be decayed grass clippings, and scraped it away from the sidewalk with a hand spade. By the fall of 1990, the fluid had leaked onto the chrysanthemums that Pepson had planted, and in the process of removing the finished flowers, he carried them against his body to the garbage receptacle. At this point, he noticed that the air around the mausoleum was malodorous and he contacted the undertaker who informed him that the "fluid" was actually the liquified rotting remains of his grandmother which had been leaking from her casket. At the first sign of leakage, the undertaker had disinterred Bertha and placed an absorption powder in the interior of the casket and along the front of the mausoleum door but the leakage had continued unabated. Pepson discovered that his grandmother's remains had leaked into the adjoining vault and under the steel casket of his grandfather, causing rust damage and Pepson decided to have his grandparents cremated rather than risking another burial ordeal. Understandably tormented by this ordeal, Pepson ended up testifying before a committee of the U.S. Senate: "I have been violated. What torment knowing that you have had the rotting remains of your loved ones on your hands and clothes. I cannot forget what it looks and smells like when you rot in your grave. I have no peaceful place to visit and memorialize my loved ones any longer." For more information on this not uncommon problem, including photographs, see Mausoleum Problems. (Donated by George Wagner)

January 20, 2001
Louis XIV was king of France from 1643 until his death on September 1, 1715. He practically invented the concept of absolute monarchy, and thus he was absolutely despised by the Jacobins of the French Revolution. Grave robbers raided his tomb at St. Denis and stole his embalmed heart. An English nobleman, Lord Harcourt, bought it. Later he sold it to the dean of Westminster Cathedral, the scientifically minded Reverend William Buckland, and it passed by inheritance to his equally scientific but decidedly eccentric son, Francis Buckland. Among his many enthusiasms, Frank Buckland routinely feasted on strange delicacies, regarding anything organic as a possible meal, and the more unusual the better. He was known to have consumed delicacies ranging from sea slugs to garden slugs, from bluebottle flies to earwigs, from moles to porpoise heads. When you dined at Frank Buckland's house, you could never be sure what might turn up on your plate. Thus, it should come as no surprise what one startled visitor reported about one of these repasts. Frank told him: "I have eaten many strange things in my lifetime, but never before have I eaten the heart of a king." Buckland then calmly proceeded to consume the contents of his plate, which consisted of the heart of Louis XIV. He had withdrawn it from his immense collection of curiosities and put it to practical use. (After the Funeral)

January 21, 2001
An English tradition during Shakespeare's time and later was to place the heads of traitors on long spikes, and leave them on display as a warning to other would-be traitors. A Quaker named Thomas Ellwood in Newgate Prison described in 1660 how the jailers and prisoners handled the severed heads of traitors: "They took them by the hair, flouting, jeering and laughing at them; and then giving them some ill names box'd them on the ears and cheeks. Which done, the hangman put them in a kettle and parboiled them with baysalt and cumin-seed; that to keep them from putrefaction, and this to keep off the Fowls from seizing on them." (An Underground Education)

January 23, 2001
Holland's susceptibility to severe flooding was well-known early in its history, and by the thirteenth century it became apparent that dikes were necessary to protect the low-lying towns from the sea. In 1277 a terrible storm flooded the country surrounding the Zuider Zee, submerging the towns and enabling enemy troops to capture the flooded cities by boat. In 1421 another serious flood decimated the area when dikes near the city of Dort burst without warning. The resulting deluge swept away 72 villages, claimed more than 100,000 lives, and caused the city of Dordrecht to be permanently separated from the mainland. In 1530 and 1570 two more devastating floods raged through Holland as the dikes again burst without warning. In both cases the raging waters were driven by high winds, claiming 400,000 lives in 1530 and another 50,000 in 1570. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

January 24, 2001
The fully-clothed skeletal remains of a man found in the chimney of a historic Mississippi building were those of a bungling burglar missing for more than 15 years. The remains of Calvin Wilson, 27, were found on Friday (January 19, 2001) by masons renovating a building in the historic part of Natchez, Miss. Wilson disappeared in 1985. At that time, there was a gift shop in the building, which dates from before the Civil War. "His criminal record shows he was a burglar, so the suspicion is that he was crawling down the chimney to burglarize the business at that period of time, became lodged and died,'' Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell said. Ferrell, who said police identified the remains from a wallet found with them, speculated that breezes from a nearby river may have kept neighbors from noticing signs that a body was decomposing in the chimney. "There is no suspicion of foul play,'' Ferrell said. (Associated Press, donated by Christine)

January 25, 2001
A Pennsylvania construction worker accidentally cut off his hand with a power saw and then shot himself in the head with a nail gun several times, apparently hoping to end his pain. William Bartron, 25, had at least a dozen 1-inch nails protruding from his scalp. He underwent surgery to reattach the hand and was hospitalized in stable condition Wednesday, said his employer Greg Soltis. Bartron severed his hand Tuesday while using a miter saw in the basement of another man's home. After finding Bartron, the man called emergency. Soltis arrived a short time later. Soltis said Bartron had shot several nails into his head with a pneumatic gun "because he could not stand the pain from the amputation". (The Associated Press, donated by Jason Whitehead)

January 26, 2001
Hollywood legend John Barrymore had left specific instructions in his will that his body be cremated and his ashes be laid to rest next to his father and mother in the family cemetery in Philadelphia. However, due to the fact that his brother Lionel and sister Ethel were Catholic and cremation had not at that time been sanctioned by the Catholic Church, the executors (Lionel and Mervyn Leroy) pulled some fancy judicial manipulations and Barrymore's remains were entombed at Calvary Cemetery, in Los Angeles after his death in 1942. In 1980 John Barrymore, Jr., decided - after hearing a rendition of "The Cremation Of Sam McGee" - that it was high time to have his Dad cremated. He recruited his son John Blyth Barrymore to help. The gravediggers removed the "Good Night, Sweet Prince" marble monument from the front of the crypt and the smell assaulted them. Barrymore had been dead for thirty-eight years, and the body was still decomposing. The casket was solid bronze, and although it had a glass liner, it must have cracked or something, because the fluids from the body had leaked out and had formed a kind of glue between the casket and the floor of the crypt. They muscled the coffin up on the hand truck and wheeled it down a long ramp to a van they had waiting outside. The body fluids were leaking out all the way. They cruised over to the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which had the nearest crematorium, and made the cremation preparations. John Jr. insisted on having a look inside the casket before they left. After viewing the body, he came out white as a sheet and crying. He got in the car and said to his son, "Thank God I'm drunk, I'll never remember it." John Blyth Barrymore got a graphic description later from one of the eye-witnesses. Apparently all the bouncing around during the move had sort of busted the jaw apart from what was left of the head. They were convinced it was John Barrymore by the very high quality dental work, and because although most of the flesh on the nose had decomposed, an incredibly long nose cartilage remained. (Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, generously donated by George Wagner)

January 28, 2001
After John Barrymore's death on May 29, 1942, his corpse was taken to the Pierce Brothers' mortuary on Sunset Boulevard. Barrymore had been staying with his friend Errol Flynn for several weeks prior to his death and Errol and some other friends, including the madcap director Raoul Walsh, gathered at a bar to commiserate on John's passing. Walsh, claiming he was too upset to socialize, pretended to go home. Instead, he and two friends went to the funeral home and bribed the caretaker, giving him $200 to lend them Barrymore's body for awhile. Transporting it to Flynn's house in Walsh's station wagon, they propped it in Errol's favorite living room chair, which they positioned to face the door. Flynn arrived late and described his reaction in his autobiography: "I walked in, sad and alone. As I opened the door I pressed the button. The lights went on and — I stared into the face of Barrymore. His eyes were closed. He looked puffed, white, bloodless. They hadn't embalmed him yet. I let out a delirious scream." Errol bolted from the house, intending to flee in his car. His friends caught up with him on the porch and convinced him it was only a gag. "I went back in, still shaking. I retired to my room upstairs shaken and sober. My heart pounded. I couldn't sleep the rest of the night." (After The Funeral)