October, 2001

October 1, 2001
King Soopers has pulled a potency fruit drink from shelves across Colorado after a Commerce City man found what authorities believe is a severed human penis inside a bottle. "I thought somebody was joking at first, but it's not a joke," said Juan Sanchez-Marchez, 41, a machine operator. Sanchez-Marchez bought six 20-ounce bottles of Ora Potency Fruit Punch at King Soopers at 6040 E. 64th Ave. in Commerce City on Wednesday. On Thursday, when he was halfway through the fourth bottle of the reddish-colored drink, he made the discovery. He immediately called police. "He found what appears to be a human penis in the bottle," Commerce City police spokeswoman Elaine Rowe said. "It's a good drink, but I'm not going to drink it anymore," Sanchez-Marchez said. King Soopers said it removed the Ora Potency drink, which it has carried for about a year, from its shelves as a precautionary measure, vice president of sales Donna Giordano said. Police are investigating the possibility of a hoax. But they said Sanchez-Marchez isn't missing any of his own body parts and appears to be an innocent victim. "He seems very credible," Rowe said. Sanchez-Marchez went to the doctor's office Friday for some blood tests, but results for HIV, hepatitis and other illnesses won't be back for months. Police asked the Adams County coroner's office to run pathology tests on the tissue to determine whether it is human. Coroner Rich Amend said the tissue is most likely a human penis, although his office is still awaiting final lab results. Rowe said police had a pretty good idea of what the body part was even before they took it to the coroner. "There's about 3 inches there," Rowe said. "It's identifiable, and it's not just a hunk of skin." Police said the Pittsburgh-based bottling company told them that the bottling process is highly automated and that adding body parts to beverages would be difficult. Police also intend to talk with the distributing company. Where the penis came from is a key question, police said. "This isn't just a matter of a dead animal," Rowe said, citing the 1988 case of a prankster putting a dead mouse in a Coors can in Jacksonville, Fla. "Where did this come from? This is a human body part," Rowe said. (The Denver Post.)
Update (10/4): It turns out the "Penis" was actually MOLD! (We knew it was too good to be true, huh?) So, how do you suppose the medical experts mistook a penis for mold? Doesn't instill a great deal of confidence, does it?

October 2, 2001
It is a mystery why anyone would dive head first into a Yellowstone hot spring merely to save a dog, but that is precisely what happened on July 20, 1981. David Allen Kirwan, 24, of La Canada, California and his friend Ronald Ratliff, 25, of Thousand Oaks, parked their truck at Yellowstone's Fountain Pain Pot parking lot at around one o'clock that afternoon. While the men looked at the hot springs, Ratliff's dog "Moosie," a large mastiff or great dane, escaped from the vehicle and jumped into nearby Celestine Pool, a hot spring later measured at 202 degrees F. The dog began yelping, and someone nearby quipped, "Oh, look, the poor thing!" Kirwan and Ratliff rushed to the spring and stood on the edge of it. Ratliff and another bystander both saw that Kirwan was preparing to go into the spring, and the bystander yelled, "Don't go in there!" Kirwan yelled back, "Like hell I won't!". Several more people yelled not to go in, but Kirwan took two steps into the pool then dove head first into the boiling water. One witness described it as a flying, swimming-pool-type dive. Visitor Earl Welch of Anniston, Alabama, saw Kirwan actually swim to the dog and attempt to take it to shore, go completely under water again, then release the dog, and begin trying to climb out. Ronald Ratliff pulled Kirwan from the spring, sustaining second degree burns to his feet. Welch saw Kirwan appear to stagger backwards, so the visitor hastened to him and said, "Give me your hand." Kirwan offered his hand, and Welch directed, "Come to the sidewalk." As they moved slowly toward the walk, Kirwan managed to say, "That was stupid. How bad am I?" Welch tried to reassure him, and before they reached the walkway Kirwan again spoke softly, "That was a stupid thing I did." Welch was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that he walking with a corpse. He could see that Kirwan's entire body was badly burned as the skin was already peeling off. It seemed to Welch that Kirwan was blind, for his eyes appeared totally white. Another man ran up, began to remove one of Kirwan's shoes, and the men watched horrified as the skin came off with it. "Don't do that!" said Welch, and Kirwan responded very tiredly, "It doesn't matter." Near the spring, rangers found two large pieces of skin shaped like human hands. Kirwan experienced third degree burns over one hundred per cent of his body, including his entire head. He was taken to the clinic at Old Faithful, where a burn specialist who was coincidentally on duty could do little for him other than to pump in IV fluids at a high rate. Bob Carnes, a ranger who saw him at the clinic, remembers thinking that Kirwan did not have a chance for survival. "He was blind and most of his skin was coming off." Ratliff's dog died in the pool and was not rescued. Oils from its body later made the hot spring have small eruptions. Kirwan died the following morning in a Salt Lake City hospital. In the men's truck, rangers found the park's warning literature and pamphlets. Kirwan and Ratliff had not read any of them. (Death in Yellowstone, Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park, generously donated by Joseph F. Mann)

October 3, 2001
One of the more wicked forms of torture inflicted during medieval times was the Wheel. The use of the Wheel was reserved as punishment for the most serious of crimes. This kind of torture consisted of two different stages. The first stage was carried out in public, in front of an audience, and it consisted of breaking the bones of the victim's arms and legs. In order to break the bones more easily, the outer part of the instrument was fitted with a reinforcement consisting of dull blades which were attached to the wheel of an ordinary cart. Once the public portion of the torture was over the victim was bound hand and foot to the spokes of the wheel and hoisted onto a pole, to initate the second stage of the process, which was more horrible yet. During this phase, the victim's body lay prey to birds and rodents, who gnawed on the soft tissues of the defenseless victims. To prolong their agony, the victims of this kind of torture were fed and given something to drink daily. The wheel was mostly used in Germany and in France. (Here is a photograph of a wheel and an illustration of the torture technique, from the Criminal Medieval Museum of San Gimignano Italy.) (Tortura Inquisizione Pena Di Morte (Torture - Inquisition - Death Penalty)

October 5, 2001
Five-foot-tall Bonnie Parker (1910-1934) didn't look a bit like Faye Dunaway; she was never a hero to the poor people of Texas and Oklahoma; their penny-ante robberies never netted more than $1,500; she probably never even had a great romance with Clyde Barrow, who, some reports say, was a homicidal homosexual who preferred men ever since his reformatory days. Here's how Ray Hamilton, a Barrow gang member, described them: "Bonnie & Clyde? They loved to kill people, see blood run. That's how they got their kicks. They were dirty people. Her breath was awful and Clyde never took a bath." Bonnie's family, who buried the twenty-four-year-old girl's bullet-pocked corpse in Crown Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas, had a slightly different view of Bonnie. Her tombstone reads: "As the flowers are all made sweeter/by the sunshine and the dew,/So this old world is made brighter/By the lives of folks like you." (An Underground Education)

October 10, 2001
A Christchurch (New Zealand) arts student survived a car crash, only to die a short time later when he answered a call of nature. Joshua Grant, 22, plunged 60m to his death over a bush-covered bluff into the Otira Gorge. The bizarre accident happened near Arthurs Pass on Sunday, abruptly ending the promising career of the photographer and painter in his final week of work towards his art degree. Mr Grant lost his footing while attempting to go to the toilet in the steep terrain. His body was recovered later that day. West Coast police, well used to dealing with car crashes in the gorge area, were stunned by the freakish nature of the accident. "It was a terrible, terrible accident," said Constable Terry Beatson, of Hokitika. "It is extremely steep, almost a vertical drop. In an endeavour to conceal himself, he has gone a bit too far and gone straight over." About an hour earlier Mr Grant's car hit a guard rail at Candys Bend, about 150m west of the Otira Viaduct. He walked away from the crash without injury and hitched a ride to Arthurs Pass village to arrange for a tow truck to retrieve his car. Mr Grant knocked on the door of Arthurs Pass policeman Senior Constable Niall Shepherd, who helped him organise a tow. On returning to the accident scene with the tow truck driver, Mr Grant decided to relieve himself at the Candys Bend lookout. In order not to be seen, police say he stepped beyond a car park guard rail and fell over the edge. "He has probably taken more measures to make sure he was out of view of people at the carpark and gone that extra step," said Mr Beatson. "The area is treacherous, so if you lose balance ... chances are you are going to end up going over the cliff." (Stuff, donated by Stephen O'Rourke)

October 11, 2001
Benzene is a highly volatile liquid, which can cause irreparable damage to internal organs, and in excess can cause narcosis and death. It is not uncommon to find sniffing among industrial workers with access to benzene. Like glue, it affects the cerebral and nervous system, causing incoherency and excitement. From the same chemical family is nitrobenzene ("oil of mirbane") which is a most dangerous aromatic so that forensic workers are among the first to pray that it will not be used for sniffing-parties. It was the pathologist Professor Keith Simpson who drew attention to a case of a man who spilt a little oil of mirbane on his trousers while he was carrying a five-gallon can of the fluid. He became shaky, collapsed, and spilled more on his clothing. The danger was not realized, so his clothes were not removed until he arrived in hospital, where he was found to be unconscious - with slow, irregular breathing, small fixed pupils, and pale grey-blue skin. Blood withdrawn from a vein was said to be "as brown as chocolate". He died an hour after admission. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 10)

October 12, 2001
A driver in Manchester, England decapitated himself by tying a long rope from his neck to a lamp-post and then accelerating away. The grisly suicide was discovered when his head was found on the pavement by a passer-by at around 4am yesterday (October 10, 2001). Police found the rest of his body at the wheel of his Citroen Saxo which had crashed through a fence a short distance away. A source said it was believed the man had attached the rope to the lamp-post through the open window of his car. He then drove away causing the rope to go taut and cut through his neck. Last night the man had not been formally identified following the bizarre incident in the Lancashire Hill area of Stockport, Greater Manchester. A police spokesman said: "Investigations are continuing and a post mortem will be held." A senior police source added later: "It is looking like a suicide. "We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident." (The Sun, generously donated by Louise Henley)

October 13, 2001
In the town of Nantes during the French revolution mass execution took on a sinister efficiency. Ships were built with portholes and trap doors on the hull below the waterline. Prisoners were loaed into the ships and then sent out into the harbour. After nightfall parties of men would row up to the boats and, using their oars, punch out the trap doors and such thus allowing water to flood the ship and sink it. Anyone lucky enough to escpae the death barge was then bludgeoned to death by the men in the boats. Prisoners sent out on these ships came to be known as "bathing parties". There are no accurate counts of the number of people drowned in this manner because, among other things, there were so many sunken boats that the same one was often counted two and three times. Unfortunately for the citizens of Nantes these drownings were done in the same place that supplied their drinking water. Needless to say the multitude of decomposing swimmers finally occassioned a plague and the drownings were stopped. (The Reign Of Terror by Cleveland Moffett, donated by Winston Smith)

October 15, 2001
Resurrectionists was the name given to grave robbers of the 19th century, who supplied medical school anatomists with the all-important cadavers with which to perform their dissections. The most common method utilized by resurrectionists to procure the bodies was to use dig vertically down to the head end of the coffin. They would then move enough of the coffin lid to expose only the head of the corpse. Deftly they would slip a rope noose over the head and draw the body out of the coffin and up to the surface. An account of what it was like to be on the 'receiving end' was provided by John Macintire, buried alive in a state of trance in 1824: 'All was silent ... I heard a low sound in the earth and fancied that the worms and reptiles were coming ... The sound continued to grow louder and nearer ... Can it be possible, thought I, that my friends suspect they have buried me too soon? ... They dragged me out of the coffin by the head ... I was thrown down like a clod ... Being rudely stripped of my shroud I was placed naked on a table ... the demonstrator took his knife and pierced my bosom ... a convulsive shudder instantly followed ... my trance was at an end.' (Death:A History Of Man's Obsessions And Fears)

October 16, 2001
Elizabeth Brownrigg was the wife of a well-to-do plumber who lived in London and who would employ destitute women as servants. In 1767, Mary Clifford was sent to her from the Foundling Hospital, despite warnings that Brownrigg was given to extreme cruelty to her charges. Wtihin weeks of her arrival, Clifford was to find herself in a nightmare straight from the pages of de Sade, as Brownrigg, her husband and son subjected her to the most degrading and painful tortures. Clifford was regularly tied up and whipped until barely conscious. She was forced to sleep on a sack in the coal cellar and was often ordered to remain naked for days on end. On one occasion, she was kept bound and naked on the end of a choke chain in her coal cellar. Brownrigg would regularly hang her by her wrists from a water pipe in the kitchen and whip her until she bled from every stroke. When Clifford informed a neighbour of the brutalities inflicted on her, Brownrigg slit her tongue with a pair of scissors. Eventually, Clifford's mother-in-law came from the country to visit her, and discovered another cowed and maltreated woman. Brownrigg was reported to the Parish authorities and, after some legal arguments with her son, her charges were released. This came to late for poor Mary Clifford. She died within a few days of her release, after which Brownrigg was sentenced to death for her murder. Her son and husband were each sentenced to a whopping six months in prison. After the execution, Brownrigg's body was sent to the Surgeons' Hall, where it was dissected and her skeleton displayed. (Bizarre Magazine)

October 17, 2001
A 24-year-old Pietermaritzburg (South Africa) woman is to appear in the local magistrate's court for allegedly beheading her own five-month-old daughter with a meat cleaver in July, 2001. The woman allegedly confessed to neighbours in the Sinathing area, after being confronted about blood on her hands. After being questioned, she allegedly fetched the baby's corpse. The baby's throat was slit, and then it was decapitated with a meat cleaver in front of the neighbours. The horrified neighbours called police, who arrested the woman. Her boyfriend, the father of the child, was killed last year. This is the second child to be decapitated in Pietermaritzburg - a 19-month-old toddler was decapitated with a kitchen knife earlier in July in Copesville. Sipho Zuma, 24, the baby's uncle, was arrested and subsequently sent for mental observation after claiming he heard voices telling him to cut off the baby's head. (Independent Online, donated by Andrew)

October 19, 2001
The origin of a sudden virulent epidemic of syphilis which broke out in Europe in the 1490s is unknown. The disease first appeared in Italy, and by 1495 was reported in France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and Greece. By 1497 it had appeared in England and Scotland, and two years later was reported in Hungary and Russia. Syphilis did not discriminate; people from all walks of life and all classes were infected. Doctors were mystified by the horrible disease, marked by pustules, skin eruptions, leg ulcers, and finally madness. Treatments were unusual and extreme: boiled vulture broth with sarsaparilla, or serpent's blood. One army doctor claimed to have amputated the genitalia of five thousand infected soldiers. The disease raged on for much of the next century until immunity began to develop and the severity of the epidemic abated. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)