May 1999

May 1, 1999
August 12, 1997 was a warm, sunny day in the picturesque Lake District in northern England. A group of amateur scuba divers from the town of Kendal was taking advantage of the good weather to perform a training exercise in the nearby lake of Coniston Water. One of the diving party was submerged to a depth of about 70 ft when he noticed something sticking out of the silty bottom of the lake. He approached the object and immediately realized that it was a human body wrapped in plastic. He and his shocked fellow divers surfaced and alerted the local police. Later that same afternoon, a team of police divers retrieved the body. It had been completely wrapped in plastic sheeting and weighted down with chunks of metal. Though badly decomposed, the deceased was clearly a young woman, probably in her early 30's, who had been in the water for several years. She was dressed only in a 1970s-style baby doll nightdress. It appeared that she had been battered to death and then dumped in the lake. Police used dental records to identify her as Carol Park, a 30-year-old schoolteacher who had disappeared from her home 21 years earlier. Police suspected Park's husband Gordon in the murder, but it was decided that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction. "I must have sailed over her body dozens of times," Park sorrowfully said after learning that charges against him had been dropped. "I cannot see that I will ever enjoy the place again." (The Crimes And Punishment Yearbook - 1999)

May 2, 1999
An amphibious tourist boat sank in Hot Springs, Arkansas Saturday (May 1, 1999), drowning 12 people in a lake as panicked passengers scrambled for life preservers and nearby residents rushed to their boats to pluck victims from the choppy water. The open-air, World War II-vintage boat sank quickly on Lake Hamilton near this popular tourist town. A cloth canopy may have trapped the victims as the wheeled craft went down less than a mile offshore, Mayor Bob Mathis said. Eleven victims were found yesterday, and a twelfth, formerly unaccounted for, only this morning. A survivor, Gary Ledin, said there was little time to react. "You can’t believe how fast that thing sank," he said. He was on the boat with his wife, Diann, who also survived. Three children were among the dead, including a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. Nine of 20 people on board survived, including the driver. Only one person was hospitalized and remained on life support later Saturday. The Coast Guard was investigating and authorities had no explanation at a news conference for why the boat took on water. The boat had not been recovered from the lake by late Saturday. Strong wind made the water rough when the accident occurred on the lake lined by hotels and restaurants. (The Associated Press)

May 3, 1999
Members of an expedition seeking to determine whether Englishmen George Mallory and Andrew Irvine were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest say they have located Mallory’s body near the top of the world’s highest peak. "They found a name tag sewn into his clothing," said Peter Potterfield, editor of, a Seattle-based Internet company relaying dispatches from the climbers. Eight climbers have been looking for the bodies of the men (who disappeared in 1924) and a camera that could contain pictures proving they reached the summit 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. They found the body Saturday but haven’t yet found the camera or evidence to prove they had reached the summit, Potterfield said. Expedition leader Eric Simonson and fellow climber Dave Hahn, who was the first to come across the body, described their excitement over the Internet. "... when we realized that it was George Mallory, we were really blown away by that," Hahn said. "We didn’t want to disturb him, he’d been lying there for 75 years, but at the same time we thought what better tribute to the man than to try and find out if he had summitted Mt. Everest in 1924." The body was found about 2,000 feet from the windblown 29,028-foot summit not far from that of a Chinese climber, whose accounts were used by the NOVA crew to try to locate Mallory and Irvine. Jochen Hemmleb, a 28-year-old German climber and Mallory historian, chose a location for the team to search based largely on a report from the climber, Wang Hongbao, of a body on the North Ridge route Mallory and Irvine would have taken. Hongbao described the body as "English Dead," and indicated its vintage clothing broke to pieces when he touched it. The body was found on a snow terrace, just below the spot where an ice ax believed to be Irvine’s was found in 1933. The ax had three notches on the handle, which was how Irvine marked his equipment. Two days after Hongbao told his story in 1975, he died in an avalanche on Everest’s North Face. (The Associated Press)

May 4, 1999
The recent tornadoes in Oklahoma, which have resulted in 38 deaths, are the deadliest since April 9, 1947 when a 1.8 mile wide tornado destroyed Woodward, killing 113 people. (The Associated Press)

May 6, 1999
An elderly Frenchman who could only breathe with the help of a respirator died when the electric company cut off power to his home after he failed to pay his bills, the company acknowledged Friday. The local electricity firm in the southeastern town of Nice said Friday it had been totally unaware of the man's precarious health when it cut off power after the non-payment of $200. "Everyone here is shocked, this runs totally against the grain of what we try to do in such cases," said Philippe Lenoir, director at Electricite de France in Nice. (Netscape Offbeat News, donated by Damien Despair)

May 9, 1999
Infamous and unscrupulous Old West Judge Roy Bean's brand of justice was governed by greed, prejudice and a dash of common sense. One day a railroad bridge in the Pecos River Canyon collapsed, and ten workers fell 300 feet to the canyon floor. The judge, who earned five dollars for each coroner's inquest, soon rode up on a mule. Three of the victims were still alive, but Bean pronounced all ten deceased, picking up an extra 15 dollars in the process. Of the injured he said, "Them three fellers is bound to die." (Smithsonian)

May 10, 1999
In February, a 17-year-old, 300-lb. girl in Baltimore, Md., had a benign ovarian tumor the size of a beach ball and weighing 80 pounds removed at Franklin Square Hospital Center. Four people were needed to carry the tumor out of the operating room. Three weeks later in nearby Lancaster, Pa., a 52-year-old woman had a 75-pound benign tumor removed. The largest ever reported, which made News of the Weird in 1991, was the 303-lb. cyst taken from a 34-year-old, 513-lb. woman at Stanford University Medical Center. (News Of The Weird)

May 11, 1999
A young Mexican couple sneaked into a back of a hearse to have sex but died from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping off their tryst because they left the motor running in order to have air conditioning, authorities said Monday. The deaths occurred in the provincial state capital Campeche, about 550 miles east of Mexico City on the Gulf of Mexico, the state-owned news agency Notimex reported, citing Campeche state prosecutors. Jose Agustin Noh, 23, an employee of the Perez Diaz funeral home in Campeche, and Ana Maria Camara Suarez, of unknown age, met in the hearse parked in a warehouse Saturday. Their bodies were found by a funeral home employee a day later, Notimex said, after the woman's mother initiated a search because her daughter was missing. (Reuters, donated by Devyn Olson-Sawyer)

May 17, 1999
Rumors have long been circulating suggesting that Catherine the Great died while engaging in sex with a horse. However, the truth of her death is far more mundane. Catherine suffered a stroke at the age of 67, inside her water closet. She was discovered by her maid, lying on the carpet against her commode. The door had prevented her from stretching out her legs. Her eyes were closed, her face congested. There was foam on her lips and a rattle in her throat. Others rushed in when they heard the cries of her maid. They combined their many efforts to lift her heavy body, but staggered. They pulled a leather mattress from a sofa to the floor. There she stayed while doctors tried to bleed her. But they knew it was the end. She died several hours later without regaining consciousness, stretched out by now in her canopied bed. (Catherine The Great FAQ)

May 18, 1999
As the century turned, one of the biggest attractions at Coney Island's "Luna Park" was its private herd of elephants, which roamed freely. A favorite was Topsy, a three-ton tusker whose great strength had been put to use building the attractions that made Coney Island so much fun. But Topsy had a temper. She killed three men in three years, the last a drunk who had fed her a lit cigarette. Topsy had to go. But how? The authorities fed her carrots laced with cyanide. She wolfed them down without effect. Topsy was one tough elephant. Thompson & Dundee, who owned Luna Park, decided to turn Topsy into a moral issue -- and to make a profit at the same time. They announced that man-killer Topsy would be publically hanged for her crimes. The ASPCA protested: Hanging was cruel and inhuman punishment. After all, hadn't New York State just replaced the gallows with a modern electric chair? All right, said Thompson and Dundee. Coney Island has a powerful electrical plant -- we'll FRY Topsy! But to pull it off, they needed top-shelf technical support. And that's where Thomas Edison came in. Edison at the time was engaged in his own free-for-all, battling George Westinghouse for control of America's electric infrastructure. Edison had declared that his direct current system was safe, but that Westinghouse's alternating current was a deadly menace. To prove it, Edison had been publically electrocuting dogs and cats for years. And it was Edison who had convinced New York to use Westinghouse's "deadly" AC for their electric chair. Topsy offered an opportunity that Edison couldn't resist. What better way to demonstrate the horrible consequences of alternating current than to roast a full-grown elephant? Edison sent over a crack team of technicians -- and a film crew. Topsy was led to a special platform, the cameras were set rolling, the switch was thrown. It took only ten seconds. Edison later showed the film to audiences across the country to prove his point. In the end, it made no difference. AC beat out DC, but both Edison and Westinghouse prospered. In fact, Westinghouse was awarded the Edison Medal for "meritorious achievements in the development of the alternating current system." That wasn't much consolation to Topsy, who was dead, nor to Luna Park, which was eventually destroyed in a horrible fire. Today, nothing remains of either except for Edison's film. If you ask the folks at the Coney Island Museum, they'll show it to you. (Roadside Pet Cemetery)

May 24, 1999
A 22-year-old woman in an automobile collision in Pendleton, Ore., in January was placed in an ambulance, but seconds later a tractor-trailer skidded into it, crushing it and killing the woman. (News Of The Weird)

May 25, 1999
A 36-year-old man survived a head-on crash into a utility pole in Miami Beach, Florida, in January, and was waiting to be picked up when the pole fell on top of him, killing him. (News Of The Weird)

May 26, 1999
A 72-year-old man was slightly injured when his car went off the road near Penicton, British Columbia, in December, resting on a ledge; when a rescuer attempted to reach him, the car slipped off and fell 30 feet, killing the man. (News Of The Weird)

May 29, 1999
There is yet another museum being dedicated in Washington, D.C., area. The Drug Enforcement Administration has established a "museum on addiction" at its Arlington, Va., headquarters. In includes displays of weapons used on both sides of the drug wars and historical documents dating back as far as the Civil War, such as early autopsy reports of people who died of overdoses. (AP)

May 30, 1999
Doctors in east China have successfully removed a dead deformed foetus from a Chinese woman's chest where it had lain undetected for 39 years, state media reported Saturday. The 39-year-old rural woman, Jin Xiaoning, from Zhejiang Province's Longyou County, suffered palpitations and shortness of breath a month ago and went to see a doctor, Xinhua said. A group of surgeons at the Jinhua People's Hospital found a dead foetus, weighing about 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds), in her thoracic cavity and operated to remove it, the report said. The foetus which had hair, bones and teeth was very likely Jin's twin, said Wu Kangkang, one of the surgeons, in the report. (LookSmart)

May 31, 1999
A British couple on a safari holiday in Africa and seven other tourists experienced a moment of sheer terror as they saw their guide eaten alive by a lion, a London newspaper reported on Saturday. British judge Richard Groves and his wife Patricia, both 65, from Colchester, in eastern England, were in a tour group that witnessed the attack at a private lodge outside Namibia's capital Windhoek, said the Daily Mail. "It was the most horrific thing we've ever seen in our lives," Judge Groves told the newspaper. "He was in charge of the group and he warned us very strongly not to do this or that because the lions were dangerous. My wife and I were deeply shocked. I had to turn away as the lion grabbed him, but his screams as he was dragged away will stay with us for the rest of our lives." Game warden Steyn Lusse, 28, who had worked at the lodge for two years, was attacked on Thursday inside the lions' enclosure on the popular Okapuka game farm as he tried to free a mechanism used to feed the lions, said the Daily Mail. According to the newspaper, witnesses said Lusse had ignored warnings from the group of tourists that one of the lions was stalking him. The lion grabbed him by the throat and dragged him into the bush where four other lions from the same pride appeared to join in the attack. Judge Groves said: "Some of the group were given counselling but we feel we just have to put it behind us." (Agence France Presse, donated by Walt Horlick)