November, 2000

November 1, 2000
In 1757, an idiot (in the medical sense of the term) called Robert Francois Damiens made a half-hearted attempt to murder Louis XV of France with a blunt knife, and was horribly executed, torn into four quarters while still alive by four horses. (The Mammoth Book Of True Crime)

November 2, 2000
In May, 2000 in England a 12-year-old boy threw petrol on a friend and set him alight as they played with home-made bombs. The boy laughed as he shouted "Have that", threw the fuel and set it alight before running off. The victim, 11-year-old Alfie Page, known as Podge, suffered horrific burns covering 70 per cent of his body, down to the full thickness of his skin, and was at "appreciable risk of death" for at least seven weeks. Two other boys tried to fight the flames and raised the alarm but the sight of Podge's clothes disintegrating in the conflagration made one of them repeatedly sick from shock. As adults raced from a nearby social club, one described seeing Podge "walking straight-legged, zombie style". The victim, amid the flames, told his friend he felt "all stiff" and could sense his skin "cracking". After repeated operations, Alfie will have permanent scarring over large parts of his body as well as serious internal injuries. (This Is London)

November 5, 2000
A 17-year-old girl in the small town of Ridgmont, Pennsylvania committed suicide on Halloween night, 2000. She had made large, deep cuts throughout her body and bled to death. Her father was the one who found her. According to police reports, she had taped all the windows in her room with electrical tape so no light could possibly seep through. She then continued to use a razor blade to imprint large and deep flesh wounds into her skin. Before bleeding could affect her state of mind, she scooped up her own blood with her fingers and proceeded to write on the walls the phrases "I'm Sorry" and "The sky has finally fallen". When her father found her she was sprawled out on her floor in crucifixion pose. "It was a total shock and there was an unbearable atmosphere inside the room, I couldn't take it," said the girl's father to the Ridgmont Record Newspaper. No signs of foul play have been investigated and the case has been dismissed as just another teenage suicide. (The Ridgmont Record, donated by Danielle)

November 6, 2000
While Dr. Guillotin and Dr. Antoine Louis (the king's physician) were busy examining sketches of the execution machine that would come to be known as the Guillotine, King Louis XVI knocked and entered the room. He asked Dr. Louis what he thought of the machine and looked at the drawing. Then he shook his head. "That curved blade wouldn't suit every kind of neck." The king picked up a pencil. "What you need is something more like this." He drew a straight, sloping line on the underside of the axe blade. Guillotin looked at the drawing. "Yes, of course, you're right..." A few weeks later, the first guillotine was tried out on three corpses. The king had been right: a curved blade failed to decapitate one of the corpses, but the sloping blade worked perfectly on the other two. Two years later, the king was decapitated by the machine he had helped perfect. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 7)

November 7, 2000
In October, 1814, English chemist James Marsh, working at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, south London, developed an accurate technique for revealing traces of arsenic. This poison was favored by criminals because arsenic actually already exists in small traces in the healthy human body. A victim of arsenic poisoning, however, has traces of the chemical in almost every part of the body as opposed to concentrations in particular organs such as the stomach or liver; these remain in the bones and hair even after death, whereas other poisons may be broken down by body chemistry. Marsh's test could reveal a trace as small as one-fiftieth of a milligram in a sample taken from the body of a victim of a suspicious death, and the principles of his technique are still in use today. (Hidden Evidence)

November 8, 2000
Caleb Adams was a "street youth" of Windham, Connecticut, where a five-year-old neighbor boy, Oliver Woodworth plagued Adams with too many questions and was in the habit of following him. One day the eighteen-year-old Adams took an axe to little Oliver, striking him on the head. Adams then produced a knife and slit the boy's throat because, as Adams later explained, "He annoyed me." Adams was promptly convicted and sentenced to hang. On the day of his hanging, November 29, 1803, the youth stood for close to an hour on the gallows before a great throng as the Rev. Elijah Waterman delivered a sermon pointing our Adams' dissolute life, recounting every crime the boy had confessed to over his brief life span, which included stealing twenty-five cents. After Adams' spirit had been properly cleansed by Waterman's sermon, he was hanged. (Bloodletters And Badmen)

November 9, 2000
In 1212, flames that started in the church of Saint Mary Southwark spread unchecked through London, destroying much of the city. A great crowd of people was trapped on the (at this time) wooden London Bridge when fire broke out at both ends. By the time the fire was extinguished, some three thousand people had been killed. This was the second fire to destroy London. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

November 13, 2000
In 1993, Gary Bellew visited the Moffitt Ranch, an exotic game preserve 55 miles northwest of San Antonio, with his son. He innocently stopped his car to pet a nilgai, a large species of antelope. At first, the meek missionary ruminant peacefully accepted the pair's attention. But suddenly it remembered it was a wild animal. With one efficient slash of its sharp, curved horns, the antelope tore open Bellew's leg and severed his femoral artery. As the horror stricken son frantically called for help, the triumphant antelope watched his prey bleed to death. (Murder Can Be Fun #16)

November 14, 2000
In 1241 a novel form of death was devised especially for a pirate called William Maurice. His crimes were considered too severe for any style of execution or mutilation which had been used up until that date, so he was subjected to what was later known as "hanging, drawing and quartering". He was cut down after being half-hanged. Then his entrails were ripped from his body and burned before his eyes. Only then was he allowed the merciful oblivion of having his head chopped off. His body was finally quartered and, along with his head, was displayed as a peep-show attraction -- with the official intention of providing a warning to others. Maurice's punishment was regarded as such a spectacular success that it was adopted as one of the standard forms of execution and, indeed, it was technically possible for a man to die this way under Scottish law until 1950. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 14)

November 15, 2000
For many centuries in most of Europe through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it was considered "immodest" to hang women -- since, given the billowy nature of skirts and lack of bifurcal underwear, their legs if not more would be visible from below the gallows. "For as the decency due to their sex forbids the exposing and publicly mangling of their bodies, their sentence is, to be drawn to the gallows and there to be burnt alive." So stated "Blackstone Commentaries", England's authoritative early law book. On the European continent, this sense of modesty gave rise to a different approach for performing capital punishment on females. "The burning of a woman provided a spectacle not only terrifying but terribly indecent, one that would be intolerable to the modesty of Northern Europe," writes historian Jules Michelet in "Wars Of Religion" (1856). "During the execution of Joan of Arc, the first flame that flared up burned off her clothes and cruelly revealed her poor trembling nudity." No instead, in Northern Europe as late as 1545, the authorities -- out of respect for women's modesty -- buried them alive. Michelet describes the process: "The uncovered coffin is lowered into the ground with three iron bars closing in the victim. Dirt is then thrown on the living person. Sometimes -- out of mercy -- the executioner, to limit the suffering, strangles the victim in advance." (An Underground Education)

November 15, 2000
In Providence, RI in 1921, while playing in the backyard, John B., 3, wrapped one end of a cord around the neck of a 3-year-old girl and the other around a grindstone axle. He then turned the handle until the little girl was throttled to death. He later explained his actions to the police in a childish lisp: "I don't like her anymore." (Murder Can Be Fun #17)

November 17, 2000
In the year 1206 A.D. a powerful and savage army set out to conquer the world. It was led by a man who was known as "The Wide Ruler" - in Mongolian, "Genghis Khan". With his Mongol hordes, he swept across China, and burned Peking to the ground. Then he turned his attention to the vast Persian empire, and conquered that just as easily; his reputation for cruelty was so terrifying that many cities surrendered without resistance. In one town, some inhabitants escaped by lying down among the dead; when Genghis Khan found out, he ordered that all corpses were to be decapitated in the future, and the heads arranged in three piles: one each for men, women and children. (Crimes and Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 17)

November 18, 2000
John Schild, a farmer in Reading, Berks County, PA, seemed obviously insane when, on August 12, 1812, he accused his wife of putting poison in his tea and, moments later, dashed to the barnyard where he wildly pursued chickens with an axe. Failing to catch any of the hurrying hens, the madman ran to his house and, wielding the axe, bashed in his father's skull and cut off his mother's head. Schild then took to the house furniture with a vengeance, whopping it to pieces. He concluded his murderous tantrum by setting fire to his home. Naturally, his defense was that of insanity, but this was thrown out and he was ordered to hang. Schild was executed on January 20, 1813. (Bloodletters And Badmen)

November 19, 2000
On September 14, 1899 Henry H. Bliss, a 68-year-old New York City real estate broker, became the first person in America to die in an automobile accident. The fatal encounter had taken place the evening before as Bliss was helping his companion, a Miss Lee, to alight from a streetcar at 74th Street and Central Park West. At that same moment a taxicab swerved to avoid a truck. Bliss, who was somewhat hard of hearing, evidently did not hear the cab - which, being electric, would have been rather quiet in any case - and was run over. The occupant of the cab, a doctor, did what he could to help Bliss until an ambulance arrived, but since "his brain substance [was] escaping from the compound fracture of his skull," it was too late. The victim died in a hospital early the next morning. (American Heritage)

November 22, 2000
In October, 1931, at the Southern Pacific station in Los Angeles, a baggageman noticed a strong smell emanating from two trunks which had been sent from Phoenix, Arizona. Blood was dripping from one. When a young man and woman came to claim the trunks, they were asked to open them; they said they didn't have the keys, and went off to get them. When they failed to return, the baggageman forced open the trunks - and found the bodies of two women, one dismembered. By now, Mrs. Winnie Judd, to whom the trunks were addressed, had vanished. The young man, her brother, had simply been asked to accompany her to the station - although it appeared she had finally admitted to him that the trunks contained bodies, and asked him to help her throw them in the sea. Her husband, a doctor, knew nothing whatsoever about the murders. It transpired that Mrs. Judd had been in Phoenix for her health, and the two victims were her ex-flatmates, Hedwig Samuelson, 23, and Agnes LeRoi, 30. When Mrs. Judd finally gave herself up, after a nationwide hunt, she alleged that they had quarrelled about men friends, and that Hedwig had tried to kill her with a gun, wounding her in the hand. She had grabbed the gun, shot Miss Samuelson, then shot Agnes LeRoi when she attacked her, after which she dismembered Hedwig, packed both bodies in the trunks, and sent them by rail to Los Angeles. If Mrs. Judd had left them where they were, she would probably never have been suspected. As it was, she was found guilty but insane, and was not freed until December 1971. (The Mammoth Book Of True Crime)

November 23, 2000
As white settlers and prospectors pushed westward in the latter half of the 19th century, displacement of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands became commonplace. One of the most tragic episodes of exile was the Long Walk in 1864, when Kit Carson rounded up 8,000 Navajos and forced them to walk more than 300 miles from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo, a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico. Intended to be a reservation "to tame the savages," the ill-planned site, named for a grove of cottonwoods by the river, turned into a virtual prison camp for the Navajos. The brackish Pecos water caused severe intestinal problems, and diseases, including dysentery, measles and sexual diseases, were rampant. Armyworm destroyed the corn crop, and the wood supply at the Bosque was soon depleted. The Navajos endured the wretched camp for four years, when the government relented and returned them to their homeland. (Smithsonian Magazine)

November 24, 2000
Henry Heepe, 50, told police he beat his mother to death and cut out her organs because "she was a vampire devil". Heepe, 50, was found face down in bed next to pieces of his mother's corpse as some of her body parts bubbled on a pot on the stove. He was found innocent by reason of insanity of beating his mother to death in 1994, stabbing her repeatedly, then removing her organs and possibly eating some of them. (Police said their search of the house did not locate all her organs.) "I killed my mother," Heepe said. "She was a vampire devil. I cut out both of her hearts. It took her five hours to die." Police found 77-year old Barbara Heepe dead in a bedroom of the house she shared with her son. They had received a call from a neighbor who had been unable to reach her. Heepe has been unstable since his younger brother committed suicide in 1970 and he followed his brother's lead by committing suicide while in police custody. (USA Today, donated by Troy)

November 25, 2000
Nineteen-year-old Ann Webb moved to London from the country in the early 1800's. Finding difficulty making an honest living, she took up a life of prostitution, changed her name to Elizabeth Winterflood, and fell under the "protection" of a carpenter named Thomas Greenaway, who went under the assumed named of "Weeping Billy" White. Greenaway's cruelty and infidelities had already driven one of his women to suicide, and in 1807 Winterflood decided to dispense with his protection. Dressed in virginal white, she stood at her "beat" on the corner of Higglers' Lane and Dirty Lane, where she was seen quarrelling with Greenaway shortly before midnight. At 2:00 a.m. she was found lying on the ground, her legs indecently exposed and parted. She was dead, and her external genitals had been chopped off and thrown under a cart. The horrible mutilation was so extraordinary that the doctor summoned to examine the body failed to observe it until the mangled organs were handed to him. Greenaway was charged with the murder, but Miss Winterflood's landlady and other women friends were so vehemently hostile to him that the judge warned the jury against their prejudice. Consequently "Weeping Billy" was acquitted, and the legacy of unavenged London prostitute murders (which would culminate later in the century with "Jack The Ripper") was set in motion. (The Chronicle Of Crime)

November 26, 2000
Blood dripping through the floor of a family's apartment alerted authorities to the decomposing bodies of two adults and an infant. The unidentified bodies of a 23-year-old male, a 22-year-old female and their approximately 1-year-old baby appeared to have died from gunshot wounds, police spokesman Sgt. Gary Kirkpatrick said Monday (October 16, 2000). He said they may have been dead for up to five days. Neighbors in the apartment below where the bodies were found called police after noticing blood seep through the ceiling and a foul smell. Kirkpatrick said robbery may have been a motive. No arrests have been made. (The Associated Press, donated by Sara and Neil Langdon Inglis)

November 27, 2000
One of the more artistic and innovative torture machines was the brazen bull designed for the Greek tyrant Phalaris by a man named Perilaus. The bull was lifesize; its interior was hollow, with a trapdoor at the rear for entry. The inventor explained to Phalaris how an offender was to be shut inside the bull's body, while a fire was lit beneath its belly, and, by means of an ingenious arrangement of musical pipes within the bull's head, the victim's screams of pain would be converted into a mellifluous lowing. However, rather than being appreciative of Perilaus' imaginative and wicked contraption, Phalaris asked Perilaus to climb into the bull so that he could hear the 'charming music' for himself - and immediately had the door shut and a fire set beneath the bull. After leaving him to suffer awhile, Phalaris had Perilaus pulled out while still alive and thrown down from a summit, where his body was left unburied. (The History Of Torture)