January 1997

January 1, 1997
Andrei Maslich, a death row inmate in Siberia, strangled his cellmate after an argument. He then cut out the victim's liver and attempted to boil it in a metal mug on a makeshift fire. Allegedly, he did this in an attempt to be declared insane, so he would be sent to a psychiatric hospital and not be executed.

January 2, 1997
Violent thunderstorms resulted in a flash flood on the Big Thompson River in Colorado on July 31, 1976. Nearly 10 inches of rain fell during only four hours, resulting in the release of about 50 million tons of water down the canyon holding the river, which rose from its normal level of two to three feet to as high as 20 feet. Trees and boulders were carried along with the deluge as it smashed into houses below. A CB radio enthusiast, listening in to local frequencies, overheard a woman in the path of the flood cry out, "My God! It's the end of the world!" And indeed it was... for her and 144 other people unfortunate enough to be in its path.

January 3, 1997
A world-wide influenza epidemic broke out in 1918 and resulted in the deaths of approximately 20 million people. This particular strain of influenza, which became known as the "Spanish Flu," named after its country of origin, attacked its victims indiscriminately and violently. There were reported cases of people dropping dead on the street and cars and ships crashing because the drivers were ill.

January 4, 1997
In June of 1973, Bogden Delaurot, an 18-year-old Brooklyn resident, drowned while trying to swim across the Rivers of America at Disneyland. He and his 10-year-old brother had managed to stay on the island past closing time by climbing a fence that separated the burning cabin from the rest of the island. When they decided to leave the island a few hours later, they chose to swim across the river rather than call attention to their rule breaking by appealing to cast members for help. Because the younger brother did not know how to swim, Delaurot tried to carry him on his back as he swam to shore. Bogden went underwater about halfway across the river. The younger brother managed to stay afloat by dog paddling until a ride operator hauled him ashore, but Bogden was nowhere to be found. His body was located by searchers the next morning.

January 6, 1997
Maggots can be used to trace chemical causes of death in corpses if the corpse is too decayed to take a blood or stomach sample. Many different chemicals including cocaine, heroin, and different anti-depressants have been identified as the cause of death through analysis of maggots on the body.

January 7, 1997
One of the most tragic and senseless airline tragedies occurred in Saudi Arabia on August 19, 1980. Shortly after takeoff, a warning light came on in the cockpit of the Lockheed TriStar aircraft indicating a possible fire in one of the cargo holds. For several minutes, the crew tried to locate the appropriate part of the aircraft manual to see what action they should take. Checks were carried out to see if the instruments were faulty. Eventually, the captain decided to return to the airport. By now, toxic fumes from the cargo hold were beginning to seep into the cabin. Nobody instructed the passengers to pull the oxygen masks down. Instead, a message flashed informing the passengers to prepare for a possible crash landing, which caused much panic. After the aircraft landed safely, instead of deploying the emergency chutes and evacuating the passengers immediately, the captain taxied back to the terminal and left the engines idling for a further three minutes, at which point a flash fire caused by gases emitted by overheating furnishings engulfed the cabin. It took emergency services 26 minutes to break into the aircraft. By that time, all 301 people on board were dead. Senseless, eh?

January 8, 1997
One of the greatest known serial killers (if not THE greatest) was Pedro Alonso Lopez. In Peru during the late 70's, Lopez claimed to have already killed over a hundred young girls. After a brush with an angry mob, he moved to Columbia and Ecuador where he averaged about three kills a week. In 1980, a flash flood uncovered the first remains of his victims. When he was arrested he confessed to his prolific murder streak. Authorities were skeptical at first, but when he quickly produced more than 50 graves, all doubts were erased. It is believed that 300 murders may be a low estimate for this most prolific killer.

January 9, 1997
Utah and Idaho are the only states that still allow execution via firing squad.

January 10, 1997
Charles Lindbergh's baby, Chas. A. Lindbergh, Jr., was kidnapped from the second story nursery of his home on March 1, 1932. A ladder was found leading to the window and one of the rungs on the ladder was broken, which accounted for a loud crack that Lindbergh had heard that evening. After a few weeks of negotiation, $50,000 in ransom was paid out to the kidnappers, who gave false information on the whereabouts of the child. On May 12, the baby's body was discovered buried in a shallow grave in the woods a few miles from Lindbergh's home. It had died from severe head injuries which were suffered the night of the kidnapping. Eventually, the spent ransom money was traced to the kidnapper, but he always protested his innocence. The mystery remains: was the baby deliberately murdered on that night or did it suffer head injuries during a fall from the second story window when the ladder rung broke?

January 12, 1997
The Swamp Angels were a gang of thieves that lived in one of New York City's worst tenements, the Gotham Court, in the 1800's. They made their headquarters in the sewers under the slums and gained access to it from a manhole in the basement of the building. They would travel the sewers to the boat docks where they would rob at night, and then they would hide their loot in niches in the walls of the sewers. The frequently used a basement entrance to the sewers which allowed frightful vapors to seep up into the residences above, making Gotham Court one of the unhealthiest places in the city. The death rate was incredibly high: out of 182 babies born in the court over a three-year period, 61 died in the first few weeks of life. Eventually, the police began nightly watches of manholes on the docks, which put an end to the reign of the Swamp Angels.

January 13, 1997
Chicago sex killer William Heirens, a brilliant 18-year-old student, blamed his murderous tendencies on another part of his personality which he called "George". When he murdered Francis Brown in 1945, "George" scrawled in lipstick on the wall, "For God's sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself." Eventually, he was caught and sentenced to three consecutive life terms.

January 14, 1997
Here's a word of advice: death via ingestion of corrosive chemicals is an ill-advised manner of suicide. Whatever tissues come in contact with the swallowed acid will be destroyed, leading to a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, followed by intense stomach pain; this is followed by vomiting shreds of blood-stained material, accompanied by intense thirst. Choking is common, and the air passages will probably be congested, especially if such volatile poisons as ammonia or fuming acids are used. There will be signs of corrosion around the mouth and lips - grey or brownish stains. Consciousness is usually maintained, but the victim is drained of color as respiration breaks down, and death usually follows within a few hours of a fatal dose, and results from a combination of shock, extensive tissue damage and respiratory failure. Ouch!!!

January 15, 1997
The largest single-aircraft disaster occurred on August 12, 1985 when a ruptured bulkhead resulted in total loss of hydraulics for a Japan Air Lines 747. The pilot managed to fly the jet by using engine power to control the direction, but the plane was losing altitude. Although the pilot managed to avoid Mount Fuji, he could not avoid Mount Osutaka, where the jet crashed into the mountainside at a altitude of 5,000 feet. Only four people survived the crash, which killed 520 people.

January 16, 1997
A vapor detector is a probe-like instrument that can detect the presence of body gases formed as a result of decomposition. It can be used to locate a cadaver prior to any excavation. Its value is quite evident when several suspected areas must be checked. It can also be used under concrete (roadways, patios, floors) after a small hole is bored through the concrete.

January 17, 1997
When serial killer Ted Bundy went to the electric chair on January 24, 1989 he gave a nod and grin to his lawyer before being strapped down and fried. When the mask was removed it was discovered that he had died with a smirk on his face.

January 18, 1997
On June 12, 1955 tragedy struck the Le Mans 24-hour race in France. A car driven by Lance Macklin was struck by Pierre Levegh's Mercedes as it pulled over to avoid another slowing car. The Mercedes flew through the air, turning over and over. It jumped the barrier and plunged into the crowd before bouncing back onto the protective barrier and bursting into flames, throwing out more wreckage as it did so. Levegh was killed instantly; Macklin was unharmed. Emergency services rushed to the stands to find 82 people mortally wounded. This remains motor sport's worst single accident.

January 19, 1997
Portland, Oregon resident Troy Harding found out the hard way how dangerous a seemingly innocuous car antenna can be. He was turning away from his car when about 3-1/4" of the antenna from his 1984 Fiero poked its way up his nose, pierced his sinus, entered his brain, and hit his pituitary gland. He lost about a pint of blood but survived his ordeal with only a headache.

January 20, 1997
A serious avalanche occurred in Leukerbad, Switzerland on January 17, 1718. Over 50 structures were destroyed and 55 people were killed. The body of the final victim, a young girl, was not found until the snows melted weeks later - still in her bed, yards away from her house in a meadow.

January 21, 1997
In a case of involuntary acupuncture, condemned Texan Stephen Peter Morin had to endure 45 minutes of probing with needles before they found a suitable vein with which to execute him.

January 22, 1997
Fatty Arbuckle was a massive, blubber-lipped, hugely popular comedian of the silent era. He was also an extreme womanizer who had acquired the reputation as a "rape artist". On September 4, 1921 he commandeered a luxurious, three-room suite in the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. After the party had reached and passed its peak, Arbuckle rang up Virginia Rappe, an attractive aspiring actress who he had lusted after for several years without success. Virginia arrived at the party, hoping to convince Arbuckle to star her in one of his feature films. After a while, the comedian tired of business talk. He grabbed Virginia by the arm, hustled her across the drawing-room, and pushed her into an adjacent bedroom. He was overheard to bellow, "I've waited for you for five years - and now I've got you!" Screams were then heard from the room and Virginia was found lying nude in agony on the bedroom floor. A few days later, she died of complications from a ruptured bladder. Although acquitted of murder charges, Arbuckle's career was destroyed by the scandal.

January 23, 1997
In 1994, Mildred Clarke of Albany, N.Y. was found on the floor of her apartment - blue, cold, stiff, and unconscious. Emergency medical technicians and the county coroner pronounced her dead. She was taken to the hospital morgue and placed in the 40-degree cooler, where she stayed for over an hour until a technician noticed she was breathing and had her transferred to the intensive care unit. The next time Ms. Clarke died, the doctors confirmed it with an EKG.

January 24, 1997
Convicted murderess Frances Creighton was paralysed with fear for three days prior to her execution in March of 1936. In fact, she had to be wheeled to the death house and was unconscious when the executioner pulled the switch. Talk about going out with a whimper...

January 25, 1997
According to contemporary records, an earthquake in China on January 23, 1556 killed 830,000 people in 212 districts. There is no way to know if this figure is correct, but since the Chinese were excellent record keepers, this may well be the greatest natural disaster ever.

January 26, 1997
When a body enters a funeral home, the mortician prepares it for viewing by utilizing the following techniques: "The embalmer cleans the body surface with a disinfectant spray or solution by sponging it onto the body. Next, the embalmer positions the body. He relieves rigor mortis by flexing, bending and massaging the arms and legs. The he or she will move the limbs to a suitable position, usually with the legs extended and arms at the sides. Once embalming fluid enters the hands, they will be placed in their final position over the chest or abdomen. The fingers are often kept together using an adhesive glue. The embalmer elevates the head above the chest so that the blood in the heart will not gravitate and discolor the head and neck tissues. He or she then tilts it slighly to the right (facing the viewers in most funeral homes) and lifts the chest above the abdomen. This final position makes the body appear comfortable and restful in later repose in the casket." - from Introduction To Medical School Embalming.

January 27, 1997
The most severe earthquake of this century, reading 8.3 on the Richter scale, struck Japan on September 1, 1923. It hit at lunchtime, when thousands of Japanese were preparing food on charcoal braziers. Many of these overturned and started horrible fires which engulfed the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama, burning or asphyxiating thousands of people to death. The earth shook violently for over five minutes, causing massive structural damage - but the fires caused greater damage than the quake. Vast numbers of people sought refuge from the flames in an open area in the grounds of a large clothing depot during the afternoon and ended up trapped when a "fire tornado" swept into the area. Eyewitness reports say that whole groups of people were flung up into the air, coming down charred beyond recognition. When the flames finally burned out, 60% of Tokyo and 80% of Yokohama was destroyed and the quake had become Japan's greatest single catastrophe with 143,000 dead.

January 28, 1997
While locked in solitary confinement at Alcatraz, a counterfeiter named John Stadig bent a prong on a fork, pried a vein out of one wrist and bit it in half. He was stopped in the midst of digging out a vein on his other wrist.

January 29, 1997
The last words of doomed space shuttle Challenger pilot Mike Smith, as recorded on a crew cabin recorder, was the incredibly poetic and profound, "Uh oh!"

January 30, 1997
Dr. Geza de Kaplany and his wife, a 25-year-old model named Hajna, lived in San Jose, CA. On August 28, 1962 horrible wails were heard emanating from their apartment. An ambulance was called and when Hajna was brought to the hospital, the surgeons were shocked to find the appalling state she was in. Her husband had used nitric acid to produce third-degree corrosive burns over 60% of her body. Her eyes were so burned that the pupils could not be seen; her breasts and thighs in particular had been subjected to the terrible corrosive action of the acid. Hajna died after 33 days of agonized suffering. Her husband told the police that he had attacked his wife to take away her beauty and to warn her against adultery. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

January 31, 1997
Darwin Award recipient Ken Charles Barger, 47, accidentally shot himself to death in December, 1992 in Newton, N. C., when, awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone but grabbed instead a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear.