October, 1999

October 1, 1999
An Independence Day celebration ended in death for a nine-year-old boy when he was struck in the head by a bullet fired into the air by a holiday reveller. The slug was travelling at an estimated speed of 700 feet per second as it fell to the earth and slammed into the skull of Brian Perez, who was playing in his front yard. The shot made Brian the 39th person in Los Angeles since 1985 to die from a bullet that was shot into the air in celebration. (Note to self: When in L.A. on July 4th, stay indoors!!) (Bizarre)

October 2, 1999
William Prince Davis, who killed a man for $712, praised the Dallas Cowboys professional football team Tuesday before he was executed here. "I'd like to say in closing: What about those Cowboys?," Davis said just before the lethal injection took effect and he was pronounced dead. The Cowboys, of the National Football League, came from behind to tie the Washington Redskins 35-35 in the final quarter last Sunday, then won the game in overtime, 41-35. Davis, 42, was sentenced to death for the June 1978 murder of a Houston ice cream company manager, whom he shot in the chest with a pistol as he robbed him of $712 in receipts. He was the 24th person executed in Texas this year and the 188th since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982 after the lifting of a national ban by the U.S. Supreme Court. Before he died, Davis apologized to his victim's family and his own. No members of either family attended the execution as witnesses. Davis also said he was donating his body to science and that he hoped that this would help someone. (Reuters, donated by Shala)

October 3, 1999
Horror writer Stephen King has obtained a macrabre souvenier from the accident that left him seriously injured: He bought the minivan that struck him. "Yes, we've got the van, and I'm going to take a sledgehammer and beat... it!" King told Thursday's editions of the The Bridgton News. The driver, Bryan Smith, 42, said in an earlier interview that King's lawyer and two other men paid $1,500 for the 1985 Dodge Caravan that he was driving when he hit King. Smith has said he was distracted by his Rottweiler when he hit King, who was walking on the shoulder of a road in North Lovell. King, 52, has kept his sense of humor throughout the ordeal. He joked that he must wear wide-bottomed skateboard pants to cover a metal device that surrounds his injured leg. If he still has the contraption on his leg at Halloween, he said he plans to decorate it with jack o' lanterns. (The Associated Press, donated by Shala)

October 4, 1999
At the age of 40, Italian poet Petrarch died and was laid out for mourners to visit. Under local law, corpses had to lie in public view for 24 hours before burial. After 20 hours a sudden change of temperature made him sit up in bed, complain about the draft, and scold his attendants for not looking after him properly. Thus instead of being buried alive, Petrarch went on to live for 30 more years, finally dying for "good" in 1374. (The People's Almanac #2)

October 5, 1999
A morbidly obese man, who had to be removed from his apartment by Los Angeles firefighters last August, has died. John Swaney, a former radio news anchor and talk show host, hadn't left his home in three years. He weighed about 800 pounds when firefighters had to break through walls and use a forklift to take him to the hospital. He died at Los Angeles County U-S-C medical center from pulmonary problems related to obesity. (ABC Newswire, donated by Bruce Townley)

October 6, 1999
Police are looking for a "butcher" with no medical training who, while posing as a plastic surgeon, mutilated at least three people, including a former male champion bodybuilder who received women's breasts instead of pectoral implants. The impostor, Reinaldo Silvestre, and two accomplices used an animal tranquilizer in botched operations on the bodybuilder, Mr. Mexico of 1975; a former model, who is unable to get modeling jobs because she is so disfigured from breast implant surgery; and a woman who allegedly went to Cuba to get a mastectomy after Silvestre surgically maimed her, said Miami Beach police Capt. Charles Press. The case came to light last month when the 27-year-old former model went to police with a videotape she took of the surgery on the bodybuilder and a tape her husband made showing her disfigured breasts. Press said, "Her left breast is bigger than her right one, and visibly so. The nipple is off-center. And when he finally redid the left breast, he forgot to attach the implant to anything, so it's free-floating." Press also spoke about the videotape of the bodybuilder's surgery: "... it was obscene. I've been [a police officer] for almost 25 years, and I was repulsed. The guy kept waking up. They told him to lie down and not worry about it. He was in obvious pain." The videotape showed that Silvestre used an instrument that resembled a spatula during the surgery. It also showed him jamming the implants into the man's chest with his fingers. "Pain is not the word for it," Press said. Amen to that!! (APBNews.Com)

October 9, 1999
A man who severed his left arm at the elbow with a guillotine he constructed from plans found on the Internet has refused to have the limb reattached, police said on Thursday. "Doctors were going to reattach the arm but he refused and told them if they did, he would cut it off again and sue them," Milwaukee Police spokeswoman Karen Pride Garvin said. Thomas Rollo, 53, appeared calm when police arrived on Tuesday as he received treatment from paramedics. He initially told officers he accidentally severed his left arm with tools while working in his garage. But police found the guillotine along with Rollo's severed left arm in a plastic bag in a refrigerator, and he admitted to building the homemade amputation device from plans he found on the Internet. Police said Rollo is undergoing psychological testing. (Reuters, donated by Art)

October 10, 1999
MGM wanted to turn plump teenage vaudeville singer Frances Gumm into slender movie star Judy Garland. She was given amphetamines to curb her appetite; when those left her wired, she was given barbiturates to help her sleep; then more amphetamines to get her up for early-morning filming. She soon grew dependent on the pills, and alcohol as well. She tried detox hospitals, shock treatment, and hypnotism, but the pressures of work, weight, and her own insecurities caused repeated relapses. Still in her twenties, she began losing jobs; her finances became precarious. Though she made several brief, triumphant comebacks, the downward slide continued. She died of an overdose of sleeping pills in 1969. (The Big Book Of Vice)

October 15, 1999
Amazing But True Fact #298087: most ancient religions smiled upon sexuality. Prostitutes often served in temples and were an important source of income, and it is believed that the erotic sculptures on many Indian temples were in part ads for the sacred prostitutes awaiting within. However, not all religions blessed sex. In the late Roman Empire, chastity marked a woman named Lucia as a member of a banned sect (namely, Christianity). She was sent to work in a brothel as punishment for her celibate ways. However, when she refused to serve her sentence, she was executed. She is now known as St. Lucia, the patron of reformed prostitutes. (The Big Book Of Vice)

October 16, 1999
A woman was found starved to death near a remote Scottish loch after following a spiritual cleansing ritual advocated by a guru who believes that people can survive on air alone. The partially clothed body of Verity Linn, an Australian who moved to Scotland eight years ago, was discovered by a passing fisherman next to her tent on the shores of Loch Cam in Sutherland. She was wearing a cagoule pulled over her head and was lying in the foetal position. It is believed that she had been dead for several days. Her diary, which was found inside the small tent, revealed that she had embarked on a fast as part of a "spiritual cleansing" which she believed would recharge her physically and mentally. She died before she reached the end of the 21-day programme advocated by Jasmuheen, the Australian cult leader and self-proclaimed prophet. Ms Linn, 48, was a follower of Jasmuheen's "Living with Light" philosophy, which claims that people do not need food or drink. According to Jasmuheen, a former financier previously known as Ellen Greve, the elements contained in air - nitrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen and hydrogen - can sustain a body. She claims to have survived on air for five years although she also allows herself cups of herbal tea and chocolate biscuits. (The London Times, donated by Eric McCaughrin)

October 17, 1999
In the 12th century, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa punished whores caught with his soldiers by cutting off their noses. (The Big Book Of Vice)

October 18, 1999
A flock of sheep charged a well-meaning British farmer's wife and pushed her over a cliff to her death. Betty Stobbs, 67, was charged by dozens of sheep as she brought them a bale of hay on the back of a power bike. The sheep rushed forward and rammed the vehicle, knocking Betty and her bike over the edge of a vacant 100' quarry near Durham, in northeastern England. "I saw the sheep surround the bike. The next thing she was tumbling down the incline," neighbor Alan Renfry told reporters. Her husband is being comforted by friends. (The Darwin Awards)

October 19, 1999
In 1953 a middle-aged sex offender named Carl Folk "hi-jacked" a trailer containing a man and his wife - Raymond and Betty Allen - tied up the husband, then spent a whole night raping and torturing the wife, who finally died. Folk was so preoccupied that he did not notice the husband's escape, and was startled when Raymond Allen pulled open the door and shot him in the stomach. But it was too late to save Betty Allen. When Raymond Allen shot him, Folk was about to drench the caravan with petrol, to burn the Allens and their baby. (Crimes and Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Vol. 19)

October 21, 1999
Despite the conservative moral tone of the times, prostitution flourished during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Because they were relieving their wives of the 'burden' of sex by turning to prostitutes many men felt they were doing their wives a favor. The trade grew tremendously. In 1839 there were perhaps 50,000 prostitutes among London's 2 million people. Perhaps some men did feel a pang of guilt - many brothels in London specialized in flagellation. Some bordellos even provided young girls, due to a mistaken belief that having sex with a virgin would cure syphilis. Poor girls... (The Big Book Of Vice)

October 22, 1999
One of the grimmest cases of "compulsion" on record was the murder of Alice Porter by Donald Fearn near Pueblo, Colorado in 1942. Fearn was a 23-year old railway mechanic, a mild-looking , bespectacled little married man. He was fascinated by stories of the Pueblo Indians and their capacity to bear pain. In an adobe church out in the desert members of an Indian sect called the Penitentes had tortured, and sometimes crucified, one another. Fearn began to spend a great deal of time in the adobe church, 50 miles outside Pueblo. He was particularly obsessed by the bloodstained altar. He brooded on his thoughts of torture and dreamt of kidnapping a girl and taking her to the adobe church. He put his fantasy into practice on April 22, 1942, when his wife was in the hospital, having their second baby. Seventeen-year-old Alice Porter, a pretty student nurse, was walking home from evening classes at 9:30 p.m. Fearn jumped out of his car, pointed a gun at her and ordered her to get in. Fearn drove Alice Porter to the adobe church and then proceeded to put his sadistic fantasies into practice. He bound her, undressed her, then placed her on the altar and tortured her in a manner that has never been fully reported; it involved binding her with red-hot wires. Fortunately she lost consciousness long before Fearn had finished. Finally, he raped her and threw her body down a well. He was executed in the gas chamber for his ghastly crime on October 22, 1942. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 19)

October 23, 1999
In November, 1957, Laika, a female Samoyed husky, was the first animal ever put into orbit around the earth (by the USSR). She was conditioned for many months before flight. Traveling in a cylindrical chamber which was maintained at room temperature and supplied with fresh air, she was fed a nutritional paste, was confined with metal straps, and was covered with electrodes which monitored her pulse, respiration, and body movements. The purpose of the flight was to study life support systems and the effects of prolonged weightlessness. Laika adapted well and experienced no apparent ill effects from weightlessness. The "reentry problem" had not yet been solved, and no provisions were made to return Laika to Earth. She died after 10 days, when her oxygen ran out. (The People's Almanac #2)

October 24, 1999
A veteran parachutist plunged to her death off one of Yosemite Park's most spectacular granite monoliths during a protest intended to show that such jumps can be done safely. Jan Davis, 60, was one of five jumpers who planned to leap from the top of 3,200-foot El Capitan in the Friday protest, organized in response to the June 9 death of a man who parachuted off the same peak, only to drown in the river below while fleeing park rangers. Davis, the fourth jumper, hit a pile of rocks at the base of El Capitan after her parachute failed to open. Davis fell for 20 seconds; the first jumper took about four minutes to float down into Yosemite Valley. Witnesses said her husband, photographer Tom Sanders, who was shooting the jump, slumped onto his camera in grief after watching her fall around 2 p.m. "If only she had used her own gear; if she had only had her own gear," he said repeatedly, according to friends. Davis was using borrowed gear because she didn't want hers to be confiscated by rangers waiting to arrest her on the valley floor, witnesses said. The borrowed parachute and gear had a rip cord on the leg, unlike her usual gear where the cord was on her back, Sanders told friends. "She was the fourth jumper, the first three were beautiful. And then she jumped. Everybody thought it was OK, and then people said 'Open up! Open up!' Then we heard this splat and the whole place turned quiet," said Paul Sakuma, an Associated Press photographer. (Fox News, donated by janders3)

October 25, 1999
New Orleans, with its bustling port, became a notorious haven for vice in the early 1800's - especially a section called "The Swamp". From 1820 to 1850, at least 800 murders were committed in this area of half a dozen blocks - in part because the authorities were afraid to go there! (The Big Book Of Vice)

October 26, 1999
The Boots, also known as bootikens or as cashielaws in Scotland, were cruel implements of torture that were frequently used on suspected witches. They consisted of wedges that fitted the legs from ankles to knees. The torturer used a large, heavy hammer to pound the wedges, driving them closer together. At each strike, the inquisitor repeated the question. The wedges lacerated flesh and crushed bone, sometimes so thoroughly that marrow gushed out and the legs were rendered useless. (The Witching Hours)

October 27, 1999
In Berlin, a 24-year-old victim of the last eclipse of the millennium was hospitalized with severe burns after he climbed a power pylon to get a good view and touched a 20,000-volt electricity cable. (The Darwin Awards)

October 28, 1999
A circus turned into a horror show for hundreds of spectators in Colombia when an elephant gored and trampled her trainer to death, authorities said on Tuesday. Police said the bloody spectacle occurred on Sunday night in the northern city of Valledupar, where the Mexico-based Modelo Circus was putting on a show before a crowd of about 400 people. Maggy, one of three elephants performing under the big top, had just gone through her nightly routine when she suddenly turned on her whip-wielding trainer, Elias Mitrobich Garcia, and wrapped her trunk around him. After tossing the trainer into the air, Maggy, who weighs about four tons, impaled him with her tusks and then proceeded to stomp all over him on the ground. Police said circus workers shot Maggy six times in a bid to stop her attack against Mitrobich Garcia. But the 50-year-old trainer, dressed in black and lying in a pool of blood, died with his skull crushed on the circus tent floor. A report in Tuesday's editions of Bogota's El Tiempo newspaper said Maggy was recovering from her gunshot wounds and had been heavily sedated in the aftermath of the attack. The daily quoted Modelo spokesman Luis Alberto Bustos as saying the thick-skinned elephant would probably continue to perform in the near future. "The gunshots she has, in such a large body, are like a few pricks made to a person with a sewing needle," he said. (Reuters, donated by Peter & Karen Exel)

October 29, 1999
Two women were killed by a bolt of lightning in London's Hyde Park when their underwired bras acted as conductors, a coroner said Wednesday. "I think this was a tragic case, a pure act of God," coroner Paul Knapman told an inquest into the deaths. He recorded a verdict of death by misadventure. "This is only the second time in my experience of 50,000 deaths where lightning has struck the metal in a bra causing death, but I do not wish to over emphasize any significance," the coroner said. The two women, Anuban Bell, 24, and Sunee Whitworth, 39, had been sheltering under a tree in the park during a thunderstorm on September 22. Pathologist Dr Iain West said both women were wearing underwired bras and had been left with burn marks on their chests from the electrical current that passed through their bodies. Death would have been instant, he said. Both women were originally from Thailand but were living in London and had been on a shopping trip when the storm struck. The bodies were not discovered until the following day because passers-by thought they were vagrants. (Reuters, donated by Bruce Townley)

October 30, 1999
In the early hours of June 1, 1997, the New York emergency services received a 911 call reporting a fire at an apartment building in Yonkers, NY. By the time they arrived, the apartment was engulfed in flames and the occupant, an old black woman, was lying in the passageway outside the apartment. She was terribly burned with her nightdress seared to her skin. The victim was Dr. Betty Shabazz, the 62-year-old widow of Malcolm X, one-time leader of the Black Muslims. Although barely conscious, Betty managed to whisper: "My grandson, my grandson... the bedroom." Figrefighters presumed that she meant there was someone left in the room, but they soon found her 12-year-old grandson Malcom wandering the streets a few blocks from the apartment. He was in a state of considerable distress and reeked of gasoline, and he later confessed to setting the fire. Betty died three weeks later from her injuries and Malcolm was charged with murder and sentenced to a minimum of 18 months in a juvenile facility. (Crimes And Punishment Yearbook 1999)

October 31, 1999
A 13-year-old girl was killed and another youth injured when an actor on a Halloween hayride, who was supposed to fire a pistol loaded with blanks instead fired a live shot at riders, authorities said. Tawyna Key of Ashville, Alabama died of a gunshot wound to the head about two hours after the Friday night shooting on the Horror Woods hayride in rural St. Clair County. Amber Urbahns, 8, was listed in critical condition at a Birmingham hospital. Garrett Allmon, 22, of Springville, was charged with reckless murder Saturday in connection with the shooting. Police said he likely didn't mean to hurt anyone. "He realizes he made bad judgment," said St. Clair County Sheriff Terry Surles. "We've never had a problem (with him)." Allmon was playing the role of a gravedigger on the hayride route. The scenario included his turning toward the roughly 10 riders and firing a pistol into the air, said Surles. The sheriff didn't know why live ammunition was in the clip. (The Nando Times, donated by Bruce Townley)