August 1997

August 1, 1997
British novelist Arnold Bennett died in Paris in 1931 of typhoid contracted from a glass of local water - which he drank to demonstrate that the water in Paris was perfectly safe.

August 2, 1997
On June 29, 1967, sexpot Jayne Mansfield was killed when a car driven by her lover Sam Brody slammed into a parked truck, shearing the roof off his car and killing both instantly. Her three children who were also in the car, were safely cushioned in the back seat. Contrary to vicious rumors started by the press then, Jayne Mansfield was not decapitated in the accident. A large blonde bouffant wig which was on her head had flown off, and a reporter reported it was her head. This was verified by the New York Times who had contacted her undertaker, James Roberts who verified that yes her body was completely intact. (Special thanks to Lead Salad)

August 3, 1997
A drunk security man asked a colleague at the Moscow bank they were guarding to stab his bullet-proof vest to see if it protected him against the knife..... It didn't and the 25-year-old guard died of a heart wound.

August 4, 1997
In February, Avi Kostner, 52, pleaded guilty in Newark, N. J., to the murders of his kids, aged 10 and 12, which he said he committed because he feared his ex-wife would not raise them as Jews. (In arguing successfully against the death penalty, Kostner's lawyer continually referred to Kostner in front of the jury as merely "less than perfect.")

August 6, 1997
English historian Thomas May (1595-1650) suffered from a weight problem all his life. As he grew fatter and fatter, May found it expedient to tie up his drooping chins with strips of cloth. This arrangement finished him off one day when he swallowed too much and choked to death.

August 7, 1997
Marlon Brando's son Christian shot and killed his sister Cheyenne's abusive boyfriend, Dag Drollet, on May 16, 1990. He claimed that the shooting had been an accident, resulting from a struggle between himself and Drollet. However, evidence at the crime scene suggested otherwise. The gunshot wound to Drollet's left cheek was a black circle about the size of a 10p coin. The powder burns indicated that Drollet had been shot from as close as an inch away. The bullet had exited at the base of the neck, leaving a small trickle of blood on the armrest of the white couch. This red stain was the only sign of violence in the luxurious room. The television was still on. The remote control was by his right hand. In his left hand he still clutched a cigarette lighter, a tobacco pouch and a packet of cigarette papers. If a struggle had really taken place, it is unlikely that Drollet would still be holding these items. Despite the evidence of first-degree murder, the District Attorney's office plea bargained the charges down to manslaughter, for which he was sentenced to ten years in prison.

August 8, 1997
The last words of convicted murderer John Spenkelink, electrocuted on May 25, 1979, were the rather amusing and sadly quite valid, "Capital punishment -- Them without the capital get the punishment."

August 9, 1997
In April, Mary Durante, the inheritor of a house in Newark, N. J., found 133 neatly stacked boxes upon her first visit to the attic, each with the remains of a cat wrapped in newspapers that dated back to 1945. She was startled by the discovery but said she knew the house once belonged to the late Newark Star-Ledger pet columnist, William H. Hendrix.

August 10, 1997
On the night of December 7, 1946 a fire broke out at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. The building was a death trap - there was only one staircase, located centrally and designed so it carried the flames up through the floors of the building, and the windows were shuttered for privacy (preventing easy escape through them). Most people who did escape, escaped through their windows, but Fire Department ladders were not long enough to reach the upper floors, so guests used sheet ropes to lower themselves, sometimes successfully, sometimes to fall to their deaths when the ropes burned in two. Many guests jumped, and even those who landed in Fire Department nets were often killed or horribly injured by the fall. On the eighth floor a woman stood on a window ledge and called out for someone, anyone, to save her four-year-old son. As a great tongue of flame shot up her back she hurled the boy outward into space. ‘My God,' said spectator, who noticed no firemen beneath the child's line of fall and ran to the spot. Miraculously, he caught the boy in midair; the child was saved without injury. The mother came down seconds later, killing herself in the fall. Guests died in their beds, crouched at the windows, and on roofs and the ground where they fell. When the fire was finally extinguished six hours later, the building was gutted, doorknobs melted, corpses throughout. In all 119 innocent guests died for the crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

August 11, 1997
In Slidell, La., in December, Jason Jinks, 20, decided to open his car door and back up at 25 mph in order to look for his hat that had just fallen off; when he hit the brakes, he fell out on his head and, three days later, died.

August 12, 1997
Horace Wells was a pioneer of anesthesia in the 1840's. While experimenting with various gases during his anesthesia research, Wells became addicted to chloroform. In 1848 he was arrested for spraying two women with sulfuric acid. In a letter he wrote from jail, he blamed chloroform for his problems, claiming that he'd gotten high before the attack. Four days later he was found dead in his cell. He'd anaesthetized himself with chloroform and slashed open his thigh with a razor.

August 13, 1997
Yousouf Ishmaelo was a Turkish wrestler who came to the U.S. in 1897, defeated former wrestling champion Evan Lewis easily, and then won over Greco-Roman champion Ernest Roeber. Ishmaelo converted all his winnings into gold coins, which he kept - day and night - in a belt around his waist. Returning home on Le Bourgogne in 1898, his ship collided with a British vessel off Nova Scotia and began to sink. Ishmaelo refused to discard his money belt and, still wearing it, he went overboard. Although a good swimmer, he was too weighted by gold coins to stay afloat. He sank to his death at the bottom of the sea.

August 15, 1997
Sawney Beane was a 15th century Scottish cannibal who lived with his wife in a cave on the Galloway coast where they grew fat on the flesh of travelers unfortunate enough to pass within earshot of their home. Over the course of 25 years, the Beane clan grew to include 8 sons, 6 daughters, 18 grandsons, and 14 granddaughters - who would often hunt as a unit. By the time the law caught up with them in 1435, the Beanes had slaughtered and devoured over 1,000 people.

August 16, 1997
In 1882, George Henry Lamson poisoned his nephew (a cripple away at boarding school) by injecting a raisin with aconitine, inserting it in a slice of cake, and giving it to the boy under the eye of the headmaster. Sentenced to die on April 2, his execution was postponed on receipt of a cable from U.S. president Chester A. Arthur, but the execution was carried out 26 days later.

August 17, 1997
Disgusting Fact Du Jour: Operators of the Casino Niagara in Niagara Falls, Ontario, told the Ottawa Citizen in April that customers' urinating around slot machines has become a severe problem. (Reluctant to leave a machine that they are certain will soon pay off, some customers urinate into the plastic coin cups supplied by the casino, some wear adult diapers into the casino, and some merely urinate on the floor beside the machines.) Now, that's what I call addiction...

August 18, 1997
A man accidentally shot himself while explaining gun safety to his wife. Robert Shovestall, 37, thought the .45-caliber pistol was unloaded when he placed it under his chin and pulled the trigger. Shovestall's wife was complaining about her husband's guns (he had over 100 in the house). She had found the weapon laying on the bedroom floor. When he tried proving to her they were safe, he shot himself.

August 19, 1997
Albert Fish was an innocuous-looking house painter in New York City who killed and ate at least 15 children. The last victim was a 10-year-old girl. After murdering her, he cooked her as a stew - with onions and carrots - and took nine days to consume her. Fish was arrested in 1934, tried, found guilty, an executed.

August 20, 1997
Henry Grey, the Duke of Suffolk, father of England's nine-day queen, Lady Jane Grey, was beheaded in 1554. His mummified head can be seen in a glass-topped box in the vestry of St. Botolph Aldgate in London.

August 21, 1997
On August 19, 1987, 27-year-old Michael Ryan shot to death 16 people and wounded 14 others in the small farming community of Hungerford, approximately 60 miles west of London. After a "Rambo style" blood fest through the streets of Hungerford, he entrenched himself in a school building where he ended his life with a gunshot to his head. The gunman, a loner who lived with his elderly mother, loved guns and television violence. The killing spree started in a forest outside of Hungerford. Wearing combat fatigues Ryan killed a woman who was preparing a picnic for her two children. Then he drove back to his house and killed his mother and the dog and torched the place. For the next two hours Ryan moved through the town, randomly killing or wounding everyone he met. Ryan's rampage ended at the John O'Gaunt High School. Despondent over having killed his mom and his dog, Ryan commented "I wish I had stayed in bed". After 4 hours and several talks with the police Michael ended his life with the last round in his 9-mm. pistol.

August 22, 1997
From the Some People Is Soooo Stupid! Department: Randy Farmer of a Houston, Texas, suburb was one of the millions of people around the world who felt compelled to welcome in 1997 by firing off a few gunshots just after midnight. Farmer shot at a backyard tree, but then the gun jammed, and he went back inside to unjam it. He mishandled his gun and accidentally shot and killed his 7-year-old daughter. Said Farmer, "God had a hand in this. He had to. It was like God called my baby home to be with him, and God used me as a tool to bring her to him."

August 23, 1997
Mary Ann Cotton was the Victorian era's most prolific murderer, poisoning three husbands and more than a dozen children. She killed so many that historians are unsure of the tally: 16 or 21. The motive was often insurance payouts. People were appalled and she became a bogey-woman as news of the "West Auckland Case" spread in the 1870s. It had everything to chill the Victorian heart and fill the Illustrated Police News. After her execution in 1873 children in the North East would chant:

Mary Ann Cotton
She's dead and she's rotten
She lies in her bed
With her eyes wide open
Sing, sing, oh, what can I sing?
Mary Ann Cotton is tied up wi' string
Where, where? Up in the air

August 24, 1997
Spanish leader in the war against the Moors, he established the independent kingdom of Valencia. Wounded in battle in 1099 and dying, El Cid's last wish was that his body be embalmed, and then seated on his horse, Babieca, during the next battle. When the next battle came - an attack on Valencia by King Bucar of Morocco - and the Spanish were on the verge of defeat, the preserved corpse of El Cid, mounted on his horse, appeared at the head of the troops. Heartened, the Spanish troops rallied, and were victorious.

August 25, 1997
A 21-year-old Prince William County man died on a Hatteras Island, N.C., beach after he was swallowed by a nine-foot-deep hole he had dug in the sand. About 50 tourists, rescue workers and residents rushed to the aid of Daniel Raymond Jones, digging with shovels, their hands and a backhoe. He had been sitting at the bottom of the hole when it collapsed. It took nearly an hour for them to reach Jones and pull him out, and he could not be revived. Jones was digging about 25 feet above the high-tide mark, and the hole apparently collapsed as it started to fill with water seeping through the deep sand, authorities said. Residents and tourists were at a loss to understand why Jones was digging such a gaping hole - one that required a bulldozer to close. "We can't imagine anyone digging a hole that deep," said Carol Dillon, owner of the Outer Banks Motel, where Jones had been staying. "I guess its like a small child building sand castles, except he dug holes."

August 26, 1997
In 1913, a one-legged black hobo died after falling off a moving freight train in Marlin, Texas. Anderson McCrew was dead, but he did not rest in peace for 60 years. The morning after his death, he was taken to a funeral parlor and embalmed. When no one appeared to claim the body, a traveling carnival purchased it and displayed McCrew as "The Amazing Petrified Man - The Eighth Wonder of the World". When the troupe disbanded 55 years later, McCrew remained in storage until a Dallas widow, Elgie Pace, discovered him. She wanted to give him a decent burial but she couldn't afford it, so she nicknamed him "Sam" and kept him in the basement. Eventualy, a local black undertaker volunteered to give McCrew a funeral.

August 27, 1997
Anne Boleyn is proof that having an extra finger on one hand (and three breasts) is no handicap. She became a queen, the second wife of King Henry VIII. But when she failed to give him a male heir (producing only Elizabeth I), he got rid of her. He charged her with adultery - with her own brother among others - and had her beheaded in 1536, three years after the marriage. Her uncle and father concurred in the sentence. If the king's charges against her of adultery and incest had failed, he had intended to use the sixth finger and third breast to accuse her of being a witch.

August 28, 1997
In 1348 the Black Death (bubonic plague) killed half the population of London.

August 29, 1997
Russia's most industrious cannibal, Nikolai Dzhurmongaliev is believed to have killed up to 100 women, and served many of them to his dinner guests. Nikolai used at least 47 of his victims to make ethnic dishes for his neighbors in the Russian republic of Kyargyzstan. When arrested Nikolai pointed out that two women could provide enough delicate meat to keep him going for a week.

August 31, 1997
Jerome Irving Rodale, was the founding father of the organic food movement, creator of "Organic Farming and Gardening" magazine, and founder of Rodale Press, a major publishing corporation. Rodale, who bragged "I'm going to live to be 100 unless I'm run down by a sugar-crazed taxi driver," was only 72 when he appeared on the "Dick Cavett Show" in January 1971. Part way through the interview, he dropped dead in his chair. Cause of death: heart attack. The show was never aired.