February 1999

February 1, 1999
In Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1900, a fire destroyed the docks of two ocean steamship companies, burned down two ocean liners, and incinerated 326 people. (Dreamland: America At The Dawn Of The 20th Century)

February 2, 1999
In 1978, Dan White, a former policeman, shot and killed San FranciscoHarvey Milk. Whitepsychiatrists to originate what is now called the "Twinkie defense." The defense claimed that WhiteTwinkies, Coca-Cola and potato chips resulted in extreme blood sugar level variations exacerbating his manic depression which, in turn, led to his psychopathic behavior. He served only 4 years in prison for Manslaughter. Upon his parole, he committed suicide with a gun. (San Francisco Confidential).

February 3, 1999
On February 3, 1998, during a routine U.S. Marine training mission in the Italian Alps, a Prowler jet swooped low over the ski resort at Cavalese, severing a cable and sending a gondola filled with skiers plunging 320 feet to the ground, killing all 20 aboard. (People, 2/8/99)
Addendum courtesy Andrew Humes: "It was recently put in the paper that the Marine pilots were flying according to an incomplete map, something unacceptable in modern military. They were flying an apporoved low-altitude exercise according to the map provided."

February 4, 1999
Ryukai Matsushima, the chief monk at Kudokuin Buddhist Temple, glances around the group's small graveyard a few hundred feet from his office and surveys a jumble of graves crammed into every available square inch. With more than 125 million rapidly aging people packed into land the size of California, Japan is running out of more than just housing and living space. It's also running out of room for the dead. "Unless we try something new, all of Japan will turn into a graveyard," Matsushima says. And indeed, Japan is trying something new. The pressure to squeeze more and more human remains into less and less space has produced a blizzard of innovative burial options. Grieving Japanese are lining up to put their relatives in group graves and burial condominiums. The government is offering cheap lockers. For high-tech mourners, there are indoor revolving graveyards, and even virtual tombs on the Internet. Already, more than 97 percent of Japanese dead are cremated, most in free or heavily subsidized state-run crematoriums. And while many U.S. graves resemble beds -- reflecting the Christian focus on a symbolic rebirth of the entire body -- Japanese tombs can be tall and compact because Buddhists believe the ancestral spirit remains in the bone remnants. Even so, graveyard space is evaporating. The problem is exacerbated by the common practice of burying only first-born sons -- who also inherited most of the wealth -- and their wives in the Japanese ancestral tomb, with others left to start their own line. This rather rigid system has frayed as cities expand, nuclear families break down and more married women balk at spending eternity with the in-laws. (The Los Angeles Times)
Tharpa writes: Just for the record: It is not a Buddhist belief that, "the ancestral spirit remains in the bone remnants." This may be a Japanese belief, but there is no foundation for it in the teachings of the Buddha and I have never come across it before.

February 7, 1999
Dental Distress: In July, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated patient Frances Blanchard's lawsuit against Memphis dentist Arlene Kellum for allegedly committing battery by attempting to pull out all 32 of her teeth in one sitting. (Blanchard, who has a gum disease, said she thought it would be done over several visits.) Kellum was half done when Blanchard fainted and had to be hospitalized for six days. And a jury in Oklahoma City awarded $1.3 million to Mark Macsenti in June for brain damage he suffered when dentist Jon D. Becker went to sleep during an appointment and left Macsenti hooked up to nitrous oxide for about 10 hours. (News Of The Weird)

February 8, 1999
A Nigerian man was arrested under a bridge in Lagos in possession of roasted human limbs and the bones of former victims he had eaten, local newspapers said. The papers said Thursday police arrested the man Wednesday after residents heard the cries of a woman he was about to kill. "Some of the limbs and feet on the man's grill are believed to be those of a young woman, going by the size of the feet and the long black permed hair," the Guardian newspaper said. "The rest of the body... was said to have been eaten up before the arrest," it said. The papers said the man was mentally ill and had lived under the bridge for years. Papers quoted residents of the working class district as saying the man had long been suspected of murdering people to sell their body parts for use in ritual sacrifices. (Netcenter Offbeat News, donated by Michelle Moreno)

February 9, 1999
Two amputated human feet have been found in an alley-way in the southeast Ohio town of Pomeroy. Police Chief Jeff Miller says the victim was white... but he doesn't know the age, sex or circumstances involved. Miller says there was no blood at the scene... leading him to think the feet had not been severed recently. The Franklin County coroner's office is examining them.
Update: In reference to the February 9, 1999 Morbid fact the feet turned out to be that of a bear. A man from Athens somehow altered them to look like human feet. He was arrested and charged with causing a panic. - Kimberly Wieland (Yahoo! News, donated by Linda)

February 10, 1999
The Benders were German immigrants who came to America to carve themselves a piece of the American dream. Trouble was, they took the carving part literally and became notorious as America's first serial-killer family. William John "Pa" Bender moved his bizarre little family from parts unknown to Mound Valley, Kansas in 1871 and opened a dingy little saloon. Ma Bender spoke only German and suckled two unusual children, the elder being John Bender, whose IQ was in the idiot range and who had a tendency to cackle like a lunatic. Daughter Kate Bender was a well-rounded specimen of young womanhood. A self-described Mentalist, Kate wasn't without earthly talents either: she was a regular Annie Oakley with a carving knife. In Mound Valley, the Benders built their dream business, a little saloon that beckoned locals - and more important, lonely wayfarers - with food, drink, and ... well, Kate Bender's ample hospitality. The Bender brand of hospitality was so overwhelming, some guests never left. But in March of 1873, after three years of uninterrupted "business", the Bender fortunes were about to change. Dr. William H. York, a prominent Kansas politician returning to his home in Independence after visiting his brother, rode into the Benders' lives one mild evening. As was their routine, the Benders knocked York unconscious and quickly dispatched him to a secret 6-foot-by-5-foot pit under the floorboards where Kate finished the job, slitting the customer's throat, and within moments, the Benders had returned order to their respectable little saloon. But Dr. York was hardly the sort of itinerant loner the Benders had become accustomed to "detouring". Troubled by his brother's mysterious disappearance, Col. A.M. York gathered a posse and retraced Dr. York's path which took him directly to the Benders. They admitted having seen the doctor and said they sent him on his way, and the York posse believed them. However, the Benders soon vanished and were never seen or heard from again. A search of the garden behind the Bender Saloon turned up eleven corpses, one of them a little girl. Their skulls had been crushed by a blunt object. And all for less than $1,000 which the Benders had lifted from their victims. (The Big Book Of The Weird Wild West)

February 11, 1999
In 1904, a huge fire in Baltimore burned for thirty hours and destroyed 2,600 buildings in an eighty-block area of the city's business district. The fire was the worst thing to happen to an American city since the Chicago Fire of 1871. Two months later, a similar fire destroyed much of Toronto, Canada. (Dreamland: America At The Dawn Of The Twentieth Century)

February 13, 1999
Crowned Tsar of Russia at the age of 14, Ivan IV (1530-84) instigated 'the Terror' against the fuedal aristocracy, during which thousands were killed. He took pleasure in torturing his foes, was married five times (his wives had a strange habit of dying young) and was renowned for his practice of sexual indulgence of every conceivable kind. Cheerful Ivan celebrated his inauguration by hanging 30 men on the Moscow highway, had Prince Shuisky eaten alive by his own hunting dogs and even accidentally killed his own son. (Bizarre)

February 15, 1999
In what may be one of the most heinous examples of police corruption and cover-up, Haj Muhammad Mustapha Tabet, a 54-year-old police chief of Morocco, was charged with rape, deflowering virgins, inciting debauchery, abduction, and assault of 518 women in his flat over a seven-year period. Tabet secretly recorded the encounters on some 118 videotapes, said to be "not only pornographic but also horror films". His supervisor and ten other senior police officers were also charged with obstruction of justice and destroying evidence. At his trial Tabet, who was married with two wives and five children, claimed that the women were willing sexual partners. He suffered from sexual obsessions, he said, and claimed to have had sex with 1,600 women in the past three years. The court didn't buy it. On March 15, 1993 he was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to death. Five months later he was executed before a firing squad. Tabet got off relatively

easy: had he been tried under Islamic law, as many were calling for in the predominately Muslim country, he would have faced either crucifixion or being stoned to death. (Criminal and Deviant Sexuality)

February 16, 1999
Since 1960, some 300 divers have died while exploring Florida's underwater caves. (National Geographic)

February 17, 1999
In January, 1998, devastating El Nino rains (the second worst in history) struck Peru, causing deadly mudslides and flooding. Even the dead were displaced: flooding from a ruptured earthen dam destroyed a cemetery, floating caskets and skeletons through the streets of Mampuesto. (National Geographic)

February 20, 1999
In separate incidents over a three-day period in July, three cousins in Shasta County in northern California lay down on or dove onto Highway 89 directly in front of approaching cars, apparently on purpose, resulting in the death of one and serious injuries to the other two. There was no evidence of suicidal intent, and according to the Redding Record Searchlight newspaper, "Authorities are baffled . . . and fear more members of the large family may partake in [this] odd behavior." Killed was Lance Wilson, 19; injured were Mark Wilson, 20, and Lee Alex Gonzalez, 18. (News Of The Weird)

February 21, 1999
During World War II, the Japanese procured numerous jugun ianfu ("comfort women"), females imported from Korea, the Philippines, Burma, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Netherlands to cool the jets of the rank and file. Not that the women had much choice in the matter. More than 200,000 girls and women were forcibly inducted in the program, half of them dying as a direct result of the treatment they endured. Many were detained in the program 3 to 5 years, and were raped 5-20 times a day. At an average of 10 rapes a day, 5 days every week, each girl was violated at least 7,500 times during their 3 years of service. (Criminal And Deviant Sexuality)

February 23, 1999
On October 12, 1915 Edith Cavell, 49, a British nurse tending to the war wounded at a Red Cross hospital in Brussels, was executed by a German firing squad for her part in helping some 200 Allied POWs escape to the Dutch border. The Allied governments denounced the action as murder. German officials defended it as necessary "to frighten those who might presume on their sex to take part in enterprises punishable with death." (The People's Almanac #2)

February 25, 1999
Undoubtedly the most dangerous singular sexual activity would be autoerotic asphyxiation. Usually performed by adolescent males, this technique is the deliberate constriction of blood flowing to the brain while masturbating. The lack of oxygen produces lightheadedness, supposedly enhancing the sexual experience. As you can imagine, squeezing the blood out of your brain isn't the healthiest of activities. On occasion, the carotid artery collapses, producing unconsciousness in seconds, and eventually death. One researcher estimates 500 to 1000 deaths annually nationwide, so this is not something you should approach offhandedly. Not only do you run the risk of dying, you also risk looking incredibly stupid when they find you! (Criminal And Deviant Sexuality)

February 28, 1999
An entire soccer team was killed by lightning during a match in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the home team escaped untouched. The 11 dead were aged between 20 and 35 and 30 other people received burns at the match at Basanga, in eastern Kasai province. (Bizarre)