June, 2001

June 1, 2001
A parachutist was killed instantly when she struck a plane's propeller while practicing a skydiving formation with 29 other jumpers. Michele Thibaudeau, 36, and eight other parachutists were in one airplane Sunday and the other 20 jumpers were on a second aircraft. After jumping, Thibaudeau hit the propeller of the other aircraft and was killed on impact. Thibaudeau's boyfriend, who was last in line to jump from the plane, followed her body 14,000 feet to its impact in Fentress, Texas. The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating. "I've never heard of anything like that before," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman John Clabes said. "You hear about fatalities when people jump out of planes and their chutes don't open, but not this." Thibaudeau, of Cartersville, Ga., had completed more than 850 jumps. All the parachutists had completed a minimum of 400 jumps -- double the number the U.S. Parachute Association uses to determine expert status. (Associated Press, donated by Vickie J. Woods)

June 3, 2001
In times of plague in ancient Greece, lunatics - forced to live on the outskirts of town - would be stoned to death as part of ritual purification for the city, called "pharmakos." (Hence our modern words pharmacy, pharmaceutical, etc.) (An Underground Education)

June 4, 2001
Police have determined a family pet ate off a woman's bottom lip while she was sleeping last week. Warner Robins, GA police detective Karen Stokes said Thursday there was no evidence of a crime committed against a 47-year-old woman who said she woke up last Friday to find her bottom lip gone. Police determined the woman's poodle chewed off her lip while she was in a drug-induced sleep. Although the woman's family members believe an unknown chemical caused the injury, the woman admitted to police that she frequently allowed her 1-year-old poodle, "Shorty," to lick her lips after she drank sweet tea. She also told them her dog had taken her false teeth out of her mouth several weeks earlier and chewed them up while she slept. "The (doctors) found no trace of chemicals on the tissues they looked at," Stokes said. "We have determined it was the dog that caused the injuries." The woman told police she took the pain medication Trazodone and drank sweet tea shortly after 10 p.m. May 24 and woke up at 9 a.m. May 25 to find her bottom lip was missing. While police officers searched the house for the woman's lip, they checked the dog and found traces of blood around the animal's mouth. The woman was treated and released from the Houston Medical Center. Stokes said the victim will have to have reconstructive surgery to reconstruct her lip, using skin from her buttocks area. (The Macon Telegraph , donated by lily)

June 5, 2001
A woman whose remains were found scattered on Interstate 95 in Norwalk, Conn. Monday (6/4/01) committed suicide, authorities said Tuesday. An autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined the cause of death was multiple blunt force trauma and the manner of death was suicide. The office has identified the body, but authorities were withholding the woman's name until the next of kin were notified. Police said vehicles had dragged parts of her body along the roadway several hundred feet. Her body initially landed under a bridge over the highway in Norwalk. State police Sgt. Dan Semosky said he was not sure why drivers who struck the body did not stop, but said because of the condition of the remains motorists may not have realized it was human. Several motorists called later to say they may have hit something, he said. "It's a real nasty thing," Semosky said. A trooper discovered the body parts shortly after 8 a.m., but authorities do not know what time the woman was first hit. It may have been dark, Semosky said. Police closed the left and center northbound lanes for five hours while they investigated and gathered evidence. Traffic backed up for 12 miles before all three lanes were reopened at 1:30 p.m. Less than a year ago, a 30-year-old man committed suicide by leaping into traffic on I-95 south from an overpass in Norwalk. His body was torn apart and dragged more than four miles by a passing car. (Associated Press, donated by Amos Quito)

June 8, 2001
Police in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal found 86 human skulls at a bus stand after complaints of a stench coming from an unclaimed bag. "All the skulls were neatly sawn off and some had some brain tissues sticking to them," Sanjay Chander, superintendent of police of the Darjeeling district, told Reuters Thursday (6/7/01). Police said they had no idea who the victims were, who had cut their heads off or why. No arrests had been made, they said. The skulls were found Wednesday in Siliguri city, some 600 km (375 miles) north of the state capital Calcutta. "Initial investigations indicate some of the skulls were cut from the body 5 to 6 months ago," Chander said. The skulls have been sent for forensic tests, he said. (Reuters)

June 20, 2001
In the last years of World War II, the Japanese military turned to increasingly desperate (and suicidal) attack methods. One such method was the kaiten: a kamikaze-like torpedo piloted by a crew member grateful for the honor. The sacrificial warriors would climb into 48-foot metal tubes, seat themselves in canvas chairs before a steering wheel and guidance instruments - a compass, Swiss clock, and radio - and wait to hear the fatal word: Fire! Released from the metal bands clamping it to the submarine, the kaiten began rocketing towards eternity. With a top speed of twenty knots and a range of 27 miles, it was quite a sight, although it regularly missed its target as the pilot struggled to keep the speeding missile on course. When he was successful - the kaiten was tipped with a magnetic warhead designed to explode within 25 feet of any metal hull - the pilot was vaporized upon impact, often in mid-prayer. (It was impossible for a submerged "mother" sub to retrieve a kaiten, and if the pilot missed his target, he eventually ran out of fuel, and, gliding to the ocean bottom, was fatally crushed by the immense pressure.) (In Harm's Way)

June 21, 2001
Albert Pierrepont was one of the last hangmen in England. As a Master Executioner, as he preferred to be called, he ensured that, by the time of his retirement in 1956, he had personally executed well over 400 people, establishing himself as the most famous and prolific public executioner ever. Pierrepont took immense pride in his work. He was a public servant, his job ensuring that the last moments of the condemned were as untraumatic as possible and that they were dispatched swiftly and with dignity. He worked with precision and professional detachment. The whole process - leading the hooded prisoner from the cell, walking him up to the steps and into place, strapping him around the ankles and wrists, fitting the noose and tripping the trapdoor - took Pierrepoint an incredible average of eight seconds. This was all the more remarkable when looked at historically. In 1885, the executioner James Berry botched a hanging, miscalculating the drop in the length of rope so badly that the prisoner was left hanging, slowly strangling to death. The hangman had to swing on his legs to kill him. As a result, the Home Office issued official guidelines stipulating the length of the drop in relation to the weight of the prisoner. Too short and the condemned slowly choked to death, too long and he was decapitated. Pierrepoint all but ignored these guidelines, preferring to stick to his own table of calculations. He was never once wrong. (Bizarre)

June 23, 2001
A Texas mother who confessed to killing her five children got a court-appointed lawyer on Friday (6/22/01), after reportedly telling investigators she drowned her kids one-by-one and had to chase down her frightened eldest son to finish the job. Andrea Yates, 36, gave short answers in a brief hearing before State District Judge Belinda Hill. Yates killed her children on Wednesday, making her heart-rending confession to police just moments after drowning the oldest of her five children. A report in Friday's Houston Chronicle said Yates drowned her youngest children one by one in a bathtub, but had to chase her frightened oldest son through the house and drag him to the bathroom after he saw what she was doing. "This is the most horrendous thing I have ever seen," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Joe Owmby said after the hearing. The newspaper, citing an unnamed police officer who watched Yates' videotaped statement to investigators, said the mother and former registered nurse recounted the events in a "zombie-like fashion." "What's wrong with Mary?" 7-year-old Noah Yates asked his mother when he saw her placing 6-month-old Mary in the tub. Yates said her son ran from her, but she chased him through the house, dragged him back to the bathroom and drowned him alongside his infant sister. Before that, Yates said she killed, in order, Luke, 2, Paul, 3, and John, 5. After each child was drowned, she carried their bodies onto a bed and covered them with a sheet, where police said all but one body, Noah's, was found. She left Noah in the tub before calling police and her husband. The Harris County Medical Examiner's Office ruled on Thursday night that the children died of asphyxia from drowning. No motive for the killings was reported, but Russell Yates on Thursday blamed the tragedy on his wife's severe case of postpartum depression, for which she had been taking medication. (Reuters, generously donated by Fiendish Freya)

June 25, 2001
The worst maritime disaster in the New York City area occurred on June 15, 1904. On a day cruise up the East River with 1350 passengers - mostly women and children - the steamboat General Slocum caught fire at 83rd street, and by the time it reach 110th Street it was a funeral pyre. Children "rushed blazing like torches to their mothers." Many jumped overboard, clothes aflame. Passengers with their clothes on fire vainly sought safety. Some tried to pull loose the wire mesh holding life preservers to the ceilings. "Some of them we could not budge, and others pulled to pieces and spilled the crumbs of cork all over our heads," recalled Annie Weber, who escaped over the side on a rope. The Slocum grounded on a rocky ledge with its stern still in deep water. The captain, his hat on fire, scrambled over the rails along with passengers. Anna Frese, 14, would remember that "my father told me to jump, but I could not get my hand off -- it was baked on the rail with the paint." When she managed to free herself, "I had to be careful to clear the paddlewheel, as people were being caught [in it] and died; so I tried to jump out far enough, and I struck a rock and broke all my front teeth." The death toll was ultimately set at 1,021. An inquest determined the fire was started by a cigarette or match tossed into one of the barrels. (The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible! and The General Slocum Disaster)

June 26, 2001
In May, 2001, a python swallowed a baby minutes after it was born near the central Zambian town of Serenje. Heavily pregnant Joyce Mibenge was on her way to plough fields one mile from her home when she went into labor. Halfway home, she was overwhelmed by labor pains and retreated into a nearby bush to rest. "She gave birth there on her own. After a few moments when she had recovered enough to hold her baby she saw a happy python licking the legs of the baby with the rest already swallowed," state television station ZNBC reported. The traumatized Mibenge pulled herself to her feet, fled to her home and raised the alarm, but searching villagers were unable to find the snake. She did not even know whether she had had a boy or girl. (Reuters, donated by The Mourner)

June 27, 2001
A four-year-old boy has been given rabies injections and had his stomach pumped after reportedly eating his pet cat. Robert Radu from Comanesti, County Bacau, in Romania is said to have strangled the cat and then pulled off the raw meat. He had eaten most of the cat, apart from the bones and fur, by the time he was spotted. Doctors refused to believe his mother's story until they found pieces of cat hair in his mouth and ordered his stomach to be pumped out. After being given anti-rabies jabs he is now under observation in hospital. (Ananova , donated by lily)

June 29, 2001
A case of cannibalism was registered last week in the city of Belev, in Tula region, Russia. A single man living in a flat of a many-stored house in Belev met on local depot a young man without a definite place of residence and invited him in his flat, to live together. After some time spent together they squabbled – the question was about who had to go for vodka. As a result, the guest grasped a metal rod and killed the host. As he explained it later to the investigator, he did not like anybody to shout at him. Though the young killer did not have money to buy food and place to live, so he decided to stay in the flat of his victim and was eating his killed friend’s flesh. One of these meals was interrupted by policemen. People next door who have noticed their neighbour not leaving his flat called the police, and besides, the smell coming from the flat has become too heavy. The policemen could not penetrate the flat through door, because the cannibal has refused to open it, and had to use window for this aim. ( Pravda Online,donated by Chris Kench)

June 30, 2001
In 1540, during the reign of Henry VIII, an act of parliament was passed creating 'The United Company of Barbers and Surgeons'. To this company was given the exclusive right to dissect the 'bodyes of ffoure condemned persons yerely for anatomies'. Four bodies each year could never satisfy the needs of the surgeons - nor the six allowed in the reign of Charles II. The beadle of the Barbers' Company, whose duty it was to collect the bodies from the Tyburn gallows, often had to run the gauntlet of an angry mob, whipped up by the deceased's relatives, intent on preventing the corpse from being taken for dissection. In 1752 Parliament passed an act whereby all those found guilty of murder were to be hanged and then handed over to the surgeons for dissection: 'In no case whatsoever the body of any murderer shall be suffered to be buried.' (Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions And Fears)