May 1997

May 1, 1997
A village birthday party for a 100-year-old Italian ended in tragedy when the wind blew off his hat and he slipped and died chasing it.

May 2, 1997
Multi-talented singer Donny Hathaway hit the top of the charts in duets such as The Closer I Get to You and Where is the Love with his former classmate Roberta Flack. By the mid-1970s, though, his career had slumped because of personal problems. On January 13, 1979, Hathaway jumped 15 stories to his death.

May 3, 1997
Jeffrey Hunter is probably best known for his portrayal of Captain Pike, who commanded the USS Enterprise before a certain James T. Kirk. His life and career were cut tragically short when he died following brain surgery after an accidental fall.

May 4, 1997
The infamous Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 young men and cannibalized some of his victims. On November 28, 1994, he was beaten to death with a broomstick at the Columbia Correctional Institute. During the autopsy, his body was shackled at the feet. "Such was the fear of this man," revealed pathologist Robert Huntington.

May 5, 1997
Mr Bashucky, 46, said he was so traumatised when his father died of a stroke in Los Angeles that he could think of nothing but getting the body home to Toronto. He put the body on a bed behind the driver's seat in his recreational vehicle and set off on Friday morning. He drove through snow and battering wind, making frequent stops for ice to keep the body cold and sleeping next to it. The vehicle reached the Canada-US border at Niagara Falls by midnight on Monday and was waved through..

May 6, 1997
A Fiji fisherman was gravely wounded when a three-foot-long swordfish leapt from the ocean and speared him in the chest. (Beware the wrath of vengeful fish!)

Jennifer has an update for us:
"This letter is concerning the fact highlighted on May 6, 1997. I was perusing the archives (again) and read this fact. It is not a follow-up to your fact, but an interesting little related story about a woman who was Marlin fishing and consequently impaled through the chest. The woman's condition refused to improve over the weeks (months?) until an exploratory surgery was done that had discovered the contents of her silicon breast implant floating around in her lung-cavity. absurd the human creature!"

May 7, 1997
During the filming of a Disney comedy, which at that time was called Gone Fishin, a boat stunt went tragically wrong. Supposed to fly over a clump of mangroves, the boat hit the jump ramp at the wrong angle, flipped, and careened into a group of stunt people. Janet Wilder, 29, was killed while holding the hand of her stuntman husband scott. Four other people were hurt.

May 8, 1997
A tennis referee died during a tournament from a fractured skull he received when collapsing on the court surface after being struck in the testicles by a tennis ball.

May 9, 1997
A Brooklyn youth was mauled to death when he and two friends went swimming in the polar bear pool in Prospect Park Zoo.

May 10, 1997
Butterfly McQueen is best remembered for her portrayal of the half-wit Prissy in Gone with the Wind. On December 22, 1995, she was attempting to light a kerosene heater in her Atlanta home when a fire broke out. Neighbors dragged the badly-burned 84-year-old actress out of the house, but she died in a nearby hospital 10 hours later.

May 11, 1997
Shortly before he was shot, Abraham Lincoln had a dream. He told this dream to several members of his cabinet, as well as his wife, Mary. In his dream, Lincoln saw a soldier standing by a casket. He heard people weeping. "Who is dead in the White House?" Lincoln asked a soldier. "The President," he was told. In fact, Lincoln's dream was a prophecy and a warning.

May 12, 1997
Hurricane Camille, which struck the Mississippi and Louisiana coastline on August 16, 1969, left over 300 people dead and nearly 100,000 homeless.

May 13, 1997
On February 11, 1968, Mria Fuertes murdered her newborn baby because she was convinced that the child was fathered by Satan.

May 14, 1997
On January 15, 1947 Los Angeles police discovered the nude halves of a corpse of a young woman in a vacant lot. The body had been crudely cut in two at the waist and each half tied with ropes. Deep into one thigh the killer had carved the initials "BD". It was a sickening sight, but the repulsion which the hardened police officers felt was deepened when pathologists examined the body in detail and found that it had been revoltingly mutilated. What was even more hideous was the fact that most of the injuries had been inflicted before death - probably while the victim was suspended, head down, by ropes or wires. She might, indeed, have been still living when her murderer began the incisions to sever her body. The body was identified as Elizabeth Short, who will forever be remembered as the would-be starlet, the Black Dahlia. Her murderer was never found.

May 16, 1997
After 1736, no one was persecuted for being a witch in the American Colonies and witchcraft was removed as a capital offense.

May 17, 1997
On New Year's Eve, 1971, Peter Deuel, star of the Western series Alias Smith and Jones, was drinking heavily and fighting with his girlfriend, Diana Ray. She went to bed, and was awakened later in the night when he came in and said, "I'll see you later". Minutes later, a shot rang out. Ray found a nude Deuel beneath the Christmas tree, dead from a .38 caliber gunshot wound.

May 18, 1997
Seventeen-year-old Joseph M., an aspiring race car driver, ended his racing career before it really got started. The high school senior suffered fatal head injuries when he leaned out of a school bus to talk to a girl on the ground. Joseph's head hit a telephone pole as the bus was pulling away from the curb.

May 19, 1997
An artist in New York jumped from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in an attempt to kill himself. A 50-mile-an-hour wind blew him onto a ledge one story below. After lying stunned for half an hour, he opened a window and entered an office.

May 20, 1997
In one of the more bizarre cases of mutilation, Emile Marek allowed his wife Martha to chop off his leg in order to collect on $30,000 in accident insurance he had taken out. (Why isn't this guy in The Big Book Of Losers?) However, the doctor's didn't buy his story that it was an accident incurred while cutting down a tree, since three separate wounds were found in the severing of the limb. Their claim was, understandably, denied. Emile died, apparently from tuberculosis, in July 1932 and their baby daughter died a month later. Martha went to live with an aged relative who also died soon afterwards, and Martha inherited her money and her house. She began running a lodging house but when one of her lodgers died mysteriously, relatives became suspicious and police ordered exhumations of the bodies. It was found that all four victims had been poisoned with a compound of thallium. Ironically, Martha was beheaded by the executioner's axe in 1938.

May 21, 1997
Teresa, a 12-year-old street urchin in Brazil, wandered into a local hospital "carrying a stinking bundle in her arms. She asked the doctors what was wrong with her child. They unwrapped the bundle and found a tiny, decomposing corpse. The baby was a month old: she had died of infections around her anus and her vagina. The acid of urine and feces had corroded the flesh to such an extent that the bones stuck out" ("Street Children in Brazil," Betrayal). Teresa's story might help demolish the essentialist belief that women are "born mothers": She hadn't known that a real baby was any different than a doll, and had never changed her daughter's diapers.

May 24, 1997
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A man's hand was ripped off at the wrist Friday during a game of tug-of-war at a company picnic. Stanley Harris, 21, had rope wrapped around his wrist during the tug-of-war between teams of 25 adults each. A hard tug by the other team severed his hand. Harris was his team's anchor, last in the line. Paramedics stopped the bleeding and he was rushed to Erlanger Medical Center, where doctors were attempting to reattach the hand Friday night. Hospital spokeswoman Deborah Goad said Harris was in fair condition. The picnic was held by Gold Bond, which makes pencils and other office supplies.

May 25, 1997
In Milwaukee, Wis., the family of Robert Senz demanded shortly after his burial last July that Borgwardt Funeral Home dig up the body because his wallet was missing. Sure enough, the wallet containing $64 and credit cards was still in Senz's pocket. In February 1997, Borgwardt sent the family a reburial bill for $2,149, but then decided the whole thing was the county medical examiner's fault and sent the bill there, but that office has denied responsibility.

May 26, 1997
In the spring of 1978, a German laboratory technician was convicted of attempting to murder his wife by administering cancer cells to her. He had smuggled a cancer culture from the research laboratory in which he worked and mixed it into her food. Although she became ill, she did not die for the culture was not in itself dangerous in that form.

May 27, 1997
Japanese playwright and novelist Yukio Mishima was obsessed with Japan's samurai tradition. He imagined himself leading a return to the glorious past. With $200,000, he funded his own private army, the Shield Society, whom he trained in the bushido tradition, hoping they would inspire Japan's army to rediscover its destiny. On November 25, 1970, Mishima entered the office of Lt. General Mashita and took him hostage. He demanded permission to speak to the troops. A thousand or so were quickly assembled. Mishima delivered a rousing speech he had painstakingly written. Instead of inspiring the army, his speech was greeted with heckling and ridicule. He left the stage and then, in the tradition of hara-kiri, he plunged a dagger into his intestines. His followers then lopped off his head. It took them three strokes.

May 28, 1997
A Louisville, KY man left his 5-month-old daughter in his car for eight hours on a sweltering July day. He apparently had forgotten that he had the child in the backseat and was supposed to drop her off at daycare on his way to the office. When he returned to his car after work, he found his daughter, dead from the heat.

May 30, 1997
On New Year's Day, Vince J., a 20-year-old professional snowboarder, died in his own backyard. Vince was performing tricks for his friends when he slammed chest first into his patio railing. Vince died of a massive heart failure.

May 31, 1997
28-year-old Denise Graves put a plastic bag over her 3-month-old daughter's head because the baby woke Denise up with her crying. Denise then went back to sleep.