October, 2000

October 2, 2000
Nearly 136 years after Colorado Militia troops ambushed and massacred more than 150 American Indians on the banks of Sand Creek, a senator related to a survivor of the attack is sponsoring a plan to create a memorial at the site. At a hearing on the proposal in September, 2000, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell read from two recently discovered letters written by soldiers who objected to the 1864 atrocity. One, Capt. Silas Soule, detailed the gruesome scene where troops slaughtered Cheyenne and Arapaho women, children and elderly men. "It was hard to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized," wrote Soule, who was murdered in Denver shortly after testifying at a congressional inquiry. Campbell, a Northern Cheyenne whose great-grandfather's second wife survived the attack, said the descriptions brought tears to his eyes. The Colorado Republican is backing a bill to create a national historic site on more than 12,000 acres of "killing fields" on the plains of southeastern Colorado. "Can you imagine cutting open a pregnant woman and taking out the baby and then scalping the baby? My God!" Campbell said. "It's the worst atrocity I've ever heard of." The National Park Service supports Campbell's proposal to create the Sand Creek historic site, which would help protect the area from artifact poachers and allow Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members to create a burial ground there for the remains of victims. Steve Brady, president of the Northern Cheyenne Sand Creek Descendants, said the historic site would commemorate "the unspeakable horrors of ethnic cleansing." The massacre began at dawn on Nov. 29, 1864, when nearly 1,000 men under the command of Col. John M. Chivington surrounded hundreds of Indians camped on the banks of the creek. Soule and other witnesses said Chivington wanted to kill Indians and did not care that this group was peaceful and had been promised by other U.S. troops that they would be left alone if they flew an American flag. The troops opened fire on the mostly unarmed Indians with guns and howitzers, then chased down many who tried to flee. The soldiers mutilated the bodies, taking away scalps, ears, fingers and genitals as trophies. Although the congressional probe sparked by Soule and Lt. Joe Cramer condemned the massacre, those involved were never punished and the reparations promised in a treaty were never paid. Chivington has a town in the area named after him. (The Associated Press, donated by Neil Langdon Inglis)

October 3, 2000
Switzerland is known for its snow avalanches, but large rockfalls are a regular occurrence in the Alps. One of the worst in recent times happened in September 1881. The Plattenbergkopf is one of the outliers of the Glarner Alpen, and there was extensive slate-mining on the mountain in the 18th and 19th centuries. This activity must have steadily reduced the underlying stability of the hill, and a number of small rockfalls had taken place before 1881. The great avalanche may also have been precipitated by heavy rainfall in the preceding days. There were small rockfalls and these became so regular that people gathered to watch them. On September 11, a large fall brought rocks down almost to the valley where the watchers had gathered. Less than half an hour later, another, still greater fall detached a large amount of rock from the side of the mountain. [I think now's the time to run, people!! - despair] The top section of the Plattenbergkopf was by now resting precariously on a narrow base, much of its previous supporting rock having fallen. Before long the now alarmed watchers saw the whole top part of the mountain begin to move. Gathering speed and accumulating more mass as it came, the rockfall hurtled down the mountain towards Elm. By the time it reached the valley, the fall probably contained some 10 million cubic yards of rock and dust. Much of the mass hit another hill and ricocheted off. Accompanied by a thunderous roaring, groaning sound, the rock covered a mile in less than minute, burying much of the valley around Elm and the village itself. Where there had been green fields, houses and crops there was now a grey mass of rock, and the air was thick with dust. The village schoolmaster survived, and described what the experience was like. He talked of a great wind which uprooted trees and moved houses bodily. This 'air blast' is a common feature of all avalanches, and is often more destructive than the avalanche itself. The edge of the fall cut one house in two, slicing through it like a knife through butter. People were annihilated in an instant - 'just as an insect is crushed into a red streak under a man's foot' was the vivid analogy used. Elm lost 150 men, women and children, and all its productive land. (Catastrophes And Disasters)

October 5, 2000
Spain was a great power in the New World in the 16th Century. It held Cuba, Puerto Rico, Santa Domingo, and parts of the mainland, known as the Spanish Main. The Spaniards were determined to retain their new empire at all costs. A French settlement in Florida was wiped out in 1562; in 1604, two British ships were captured in the West Indies, and the Spaniards cut off the hands, feet, noses and ears of the men, smeared them with honey, then left them tied to trees to be bitten by flies and ants. (The Mammoth Book Of The History Of Murder)

October 6, 2000
In Turkey, honor crimes against women are commonly committed in poor regions such as the Kurdish-dominated eastern and southeastern provinces, where tribal structures remain intact and illiteracy is widespread. What is honor? "It is a virtue that only a man can possess and that can only be soiled by a female body," says Vildan Yirmbesoglu, a Turkish lawyer who campaigns against honor crimes. "It is a notion that was concocted by men to ensure their continued domination over tribe and society long before Islam was ever introduced." Sanliurfa, a sunbaked city of 500,000 people about 40 miles north of the Syrian border, is notorious for the frequency of such crimes, and none quite so chilling perhaps as that of Hacer Felhan. The teenager's throat was slit in the town square in broad daylight by her 11-year-old brother because someone dedicated a love ballad to her over the radio. The girl was a virgin and didn't have a boyfriend. Then there was 12-year-old Hatice. Her throat was cut by her 17-year-old husband because she had gone to the movies without his permission. Adultery, elopement, even rumors of unchaste behavior are common reasons for such killings. (The LA Times, donated by Stephen O'Rourke)

October 8, 2000
Murad IV ruled Turkey from the age of 11 until his death in 1640 at age 27. Murad was an uncultivated, strong-willed, dark-eyed giant and he was immensely cruel. Sometimes Murad disguised himself and, accompanied by his executioner, he wandered the streets incognito, personally carrying out inspections. When he came across some 'troublemaker', Murad would turn to the executioner and select the tool he thought most suited to the job. Thus Murad had many people mercilessly executed and corpses hung at every street corner. Once, he forced one of his doctors to swallow an overdose of his own opium. He impaled a courier for informing him mistakenly that he had become father of a boy, whereas in fact it was a daughter. Murad's cruelty became legendary and his approach created everywhere a terrified silence. He cut off the head of every man who came under the slightest suspicion; in 5 years time he executed some 25,000 subjects. His musician, for example, was beheaded for playing a Persian melody. In 1633 coffee houses, wine shops and taverns were closed, because they were meeting places, where people could spend their time criticising the government. Murad passed a law prohibiting smoking and the consumption of alcohol or coffee throughout the Ottoman Empire on pain of death. When he caught anyone with a pipe or a cup of coffee, Murad had the offender executed on the spot, although he himself abused both habits - often in the company of some favoured Persians. Knowing the strife among the harem women, the sultana Kösem had tried to encourage her son to homosexual love, showing him only beautiful boys and keeping him away from girls. During the rest of his life Murad was to show both feelings of lust and hate for women. Once Murad encountered a group of women singing in a meadow and ordered all of them to be drowned for disturbing his peace. When a boat with ladies came too close to the harem walls, Murad ordered his gunners to open fire, sinking the boat and drowning them all. Other times, he forced his harem women to jump naked into a pool. He liked to fire harmless pellets at their bodies or fill the pool with so much water that they had to jump up and down to take a breath. Murad was also intensely jealous. A man who added a room to the top of his house was hanged, because Murad thought he had done it to peer over the palace walls into his harem. During the last years of his life Murad became addicted to alcohol. It turned him into a homicidal maniac. Dimitrie Cantemir of Moldavia (1678-1723) wrote: "Very often at midnight he stole out of the women's quarters through the private gate of the palace with his drawn sword, and running through the streets barefooted with only a loose gown around him, like a madman, killed whoever came his way." He took particular pleasure in beheading men with fat necks. Murad practised his powers with the arquebus from the palace walls on passers by - in case they were intending to look into the harem. While riding out, armed with his bow, he used to practise his aim on any passing woman. In 1640 the sultan who had prohibited drinking died from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 27. (The Mad Monarchs Series, suggested by Andy M)

October 9, 2000
Secondary flaccidity is an unusual variation of rigor mortis in which muscles which were already clenched at the point of death stay clenched and do not exhibit the initial flaccidity that most bodies have prior to the development of rigor mortis. It is for this reason that people who shoot themselves are found with their fingers tightly clutching a revolver. The same phenomenon is seen when drowning men die clutching weeds, or murder victims grasp the hair or clothing of their assailant in their clenched hands. On occasions the whole body becomes 'frozen' immediately after death, and cases are recorded of soldiers killed in action being found fixed in the act of sighting their rifles. At Balaclava a cavalry officer charged on for some time, erect in the saddle, sword drawn and levelled, despite the fact that he was quite dead -- and decapitated. (Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions And Fears)

October 11, 2000
A debate has long raged about whether a decapitated head retains consciousness for a time after death. In 1905 in France, Dr. Beaurieux was able to investigate the head instantly after a guillotine beheading. He described his experience as follows: "... immediately after the decapitation, the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. The face relaxed, the lids half-closed on the eyeballs, leaving only the white of the conjuctiva visible, exactly as in the dying whom we have occasion to see every day... It was then that I called in a strong sharp voice: 'Languille!' I then saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contraction -- I insist advisedly on this peculiarity -- but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts. Next, Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with a vague dull look without any expression that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me." (An Underground Education)

October 12, 2000
In 1942, residents of the Rue Le Sueur in Paris were assaulted by an overpowering stench issuing from a neighborhood building. When firemen broke in, they were horrified to discover a stack of dismembered bodies decomposing in the basement. The building, it turned out, belonged to Dr. Marcel Petiot, who claimed that the corpses were those of Nazi collaborators killed by the Resistance. It wasn't until the war ended that the appalling truth emerged: the victims were actually wealthy French Jews, desperate to flee Nazi-occupied France. Posing as a Resistance member who would smuggle them to freedom -- for a fee -- Petiot arranged to have the unsuspecting victims arrive at his house with all their valuables. Then he would administer an "immunization shot" - actually a lethal injection of strychnine -- lock them in a chamber (where, through a peephole, he could watch them die in agony), appropriate their belongings, and dispose of their remains in his furnace. Unrepentent to the end, Dr. Petiot went to the guillotine with a smile in 1946. (The A To Z Encyclopedia Of Serial Killers)

October 13, 2000
British politician Henry John Temple, the third Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865) was either mistakenly optimistic or irrepressibly witty till the last. His last words were, "Die, my dear doctor! That's the last thing I shall do." (Weird Wills And Eccentric Last Wishes)

October 14, 2000
When American writer Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908) was asked how he was feeling on his death bed, he uttered the immortal line, "I am about the extent of a tenth of a gnat's eyebrow better." He died shortly afterwards. (Weird Wills And Eccentric Last Wishes)

October 15, 2000
A man who had been arrested after a series of rapes was attacked by a mob of women who cut off his penis, put it through a meat mincer and then served it to him on a plate. Rin Bros, 23, was hauled from the police station in Batambang, Cambodia, where he was being questioned. Local women had lived in fear after three rapes and a kidnapping in the area and so tortured Bros before hacking him to death with axes and knives. A policeman said: "As soon as word got out that Bros was being questioned, the police station was surrounded by hundreds of women. We locked the doors but they broke all the windows and finally smashed down the door. We were powerless." No-one has been arrested for the murder, reports The Sun newspaper. (Ananova, generously donated by Bill)

October 16, 2000
In 73 B.C., Spartacus, a Thracian soldier of noble birth, broke out of a training camp for gladiators in Capua with about seventy followers and began a general uprising among gladiators and slaves. By the following year Spartacus had organized a ragtag army of over one hundred thousand escaped gladiators, slaves, and outlaws that rampaged through what is now Italy. Spartacus's men fought well in battle, defeating Roman armies sent to recapture them. They avenged themselves by pillaging and raping their former Roman captors. Any prisoners they took were crucified, or forced to slaughter each other in combat, just as the gladiators themselves had been compelled to do. Though Spartacus apparently hoped to lead his men back to their homelands, he was ultimately unsuccessful in persuading them to lay down their swords. After many victories, Spartacus was finally trapped in a desperate battle in southern Italy. Thousands of his men were killed in battle by armies under the Roman consul Crassus, who devised a cruel mass punishment for the thousands of rebels he took prisoner. Crassus lined both sides of the road from Capua to Rome with some six thousand crucifixes, binding a captured rebel on each one of them. The sight of so many crucifixes stretching into the distance, a man slowly dying on each, satisfied the Romans that their slaves would not dare revolt again. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

October 18, 2000
A group of French pirates inhabited the island of Tortuga in the West Indies during the late-1500's. One of the most brutal and vicious pirates of Tortuga was Jean-David Nau, known as Lolonais, an ex-slave, who seems to have been motivated by a desire for revenge on the Spaniards. One chronicler describes how he became so enraged with one of his Spanish captives that he slashed open his chest with a cutlass, tore out his heart, and began to gnaw it with his teeth. (The Mammoth Book Of The History Of Murder)

October 19, 2000
A spurned lover in Birmingham, England tricked his ex-girlfriend into drinking sulphuric acid then callously watched as she died screaming in agony. Andrew Gardner, 40, waited 23 minutes before calling an ambulance, a murder jury was told (in October, 2000). By then his young doctor victim Nina Longe had suffered the "torments of hell" as the acid burned its way through her stomach, the prosecution said on the first day of Gardner's trial. A harrowing tape of his 999 call which revealed 27-year-old Dr Longe's horrific death throes was played to the jury. At the start of his four-and-a-half minute conversation with an ambulance service operator, the doomed doctor could be heard coughing and spluttering in the background. Then her continuous moans and screams were heard becoming louder. Some of Dr Longe's family and friends left the public gallery in tears. Gardner sat impassively in the dock. Prosecutor Stephen Linehan QC told the jury: "Gardner said he didn't send for an ambulance because it would damage her career if it was thought she tried to harm herself. What was he thinking in those 23 minutes? She was suffering in agony. Nobody, not even a stranger, would have listened to those cries and not called an ambulance. Nobody but her killer." Before finally making his 999 call Gardner had telephoned plumbers and hardware stores for advice on what to do for someone who had swallowed drain cleaner, the court heard. Gardner probably duped her into taking the lethal drink - 93-96 proof acid contained in drain cleaner - Mr Lineham said, perhaps as "a last toast before we part." He went on: "That acid was burning its way through the walls of her stomach and burning its way into her internal organs. It's almost impossible to imagine. But if you had seen or heard her, you would not need to imagine." Doctor Collins, who performed emergency surgery on Longe, discovered that her stomach had blackened and perforated and there was extensive damage and discoloration to almost all of her internal and vital organs. "I felt without a shadow of doubt that she had no prospect of survival," he added. (The Mirror, donated by Sage Nagai)

October 23, 2000
The most famous slaves' revolt took place in Virginia in 1831. A 28-year-old slave, Nat Turner, had a dream in which a voice told him that "the last shall be first". He took this to mean that the slaves were to become the masters. They planned their revolt for three years until an eclipse of the sun in February 1831 was taken as a sign from heaven. On the night of August 21, 1831, Turner and seven other slaves entered the house of his master, Joseph Travers, and went into the bedroom. They killed Travers, three other white adults, and a male child, hacking them with tremendous violence with knives and hatchets. Then Turner sent out word to other slaves in the area to join the revolt, and about 60 joined him. For the next 48 hours the slaves terrorized the area, sweeping through the plantations on horseback, killing every white they found, hunting women and children in the cotton fields, killing or savagely beating the blacks who refused to support them. Eventually, troops were sent in against them, and the slaves panicked and scattered. The troops hunted them down in the brush. The slaves had murdered 24 children, 18 women, and 13 men, and the hatred against them was tremendous; they were killed like vermin, some were drawn and quartered, and their bodies nailed on the doors of slave huts as a warning. More than 100 slaves died - the additional 40 or so being suspected sympathizers of the original rebels. Finally, Turner himself was captured, two months after the insurrection began, in a cave. In jail he made a confession and was hanged, together with 19 of his associates. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 23)

October 25, 2000
The dead didn't rest in Guanajuato, Mexico. Because of limited space at the Panteón Santa Paula cemetery, the bodies of the poor stayed buried just five years unless relatives paid a grave tax. Corpses with accounts in arrears -- perhaps mummified by the region's dry climate -- were disinterred and hung on pegs, and their old graves were filled with new occupants. National Geographic writer Frank H. Probert reported on the practice in his July 1916 article on Guanajuato. "A winding stair leads to the crypt, where ghastly, mummified remains are placed in a ghostly row, grinning resentment at the curious." (See this for yourself Here.) (National Geographic)

October 29, 2000
A particularly bizarre method for confirming death by analyzing the sphincter muscles was described by John Snart in his Thesaurus Of Horror published in 1817: "The test used by the Turkish physicians seems very simple and natural, for they never think a subject dead, or even hopeless, while there is any irritability or contractile power in the sphincter ani muscle. The test may be easily performed by taking an ox or pig's bladder, with a tube attached to its orifice, and inflating it in the usual way, by blowing air into it from the mouth. In cold weather the bladder may be moderately heated by immersion in hot water or by holding it in front of a fire. The tube is then inserted into the mouth of the patient, and air forced down the throat by compressing the bladder, while an assistant holds the nose and lips closed." Death would be diagnosed by flatus passed through an anus whose sphincter muscle had lost its contractility. Snart continues, "It is scarcely requisite to say, that the subject (for obvious reasons) should not be laid on a bed or other soft surface while this experiment is made. This appears so simple a test that it ought never to be omitted, even if all other trials have failed. It is within everyone's power to try it." So convinced was Snart of the infallibility of this test that he extracted a solemn promise from his daughter to carry it out in order to be sure he was dead: "And upon the discharge of this paramount duty alone depends his future blessing and your welfare! And dreadful would it be to reflect that you had violated your father's dying injunction." (Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions And Fears)

October 30, 2000
A deadly four-month plague epidemic devastated the Byzantine capital of Constantinople in the spring and summer of 542. At the height of the outbreak, some 10,000 people died each day of the disease, which was characterized by sudden fever and mysterious swellings on the thighs or the armpits, followed by coma, delirium, and death. The historian Procopius wrote that those in delirium often "suspected that men were coming upon them to destroy them, and they would... rush off in flight, crying at the tops of their voices." In any event, the disease -- probably the Black Plague -- proved deadly. Burial grounds in the city filled quickly, and eventually city officials tore the roofs off towers of a nearby fort and filled the towers to the top with corpses. By the time the plague began to abate in August, half the people in Constantinople had died. The other half had to live with the stench. The plague killed about 300,000 people out of a total population of 500,000, and was the cause of Constantinople's decline. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

October 31, 2000
A 14-year-old boy remained on life support today (10/31/00) after a Halloween stunt went wrong. Michael Markley, 14, was in critical condition at Children's Hospital in Columbus. The teenager was deprived of oxygen for several minutes as he hanged accidentally from a tree, said Detective Sgt. Ken Hinkle of the Newark Police Department. Markley and a friend were setting up a prank in which he was to appear to be hanging from the branch of a maple tree. The other youth apparently did not realize Markley's feet were no longer being supported and that he was dangling by his neck, Hinkle said. "I'm not a doctor, but based on my experience as a homicide detective, it doesn't look like this is going to have a happy ending," Hinkle said. The night before Halloween is known as Beggar's Night locally. By Ohio custom, municipalities usually sponsor Halloween events, and children go trick-or-treating. Newark usually holds its celebration the night before Halloween to give children a chance to go to events in neighboring communities. Markley and a friend decided to scare trick-or-treaters by rigging the phony hanging. If the prank had gone right, Markley would have been standing on an overturned laundry basket covered in leaves, occasionally moving and groaning. But the boy either slipped or the basket collapsed, leaving Markley suspended, Hinkle said. Hinkle said the results of his investigation will be turned over to the district attorney but that criminal charges look unlikely. "This seems to be just a tragic accident," he said. (APBNews.Com)