November, 2001

November 4, 2001
Although the Rack was primarily intended as a means of extracting information from unwilling victims, it was also used as a means of execution. The Baron of Scanaw, in Bohemia, was sentenced to be racked for the crime of heresy in the sixteenth century. Knowing that he would be interrogated in order to make him divulge the names of other members of his faith, he cut out his own tongue, and wrote a message saying: 'I did this extraordinary act because I would not, under any torture, be forced to accuse myself or others, and I might, through the excruciating torment of the rack, be impelled to utter falsehoods.' Thus thwarted, the executioner carried out the sentence of the court, and racked him to death. (The Book Of Execution)

November 7, 2001
An ex-convict has been indicted in China for the gruesome murder of a woman who was beheaded, scalped and the skin from her face cooked in a pot. Ethnic Korean Piao Yongzhi is accused of murdering 29-year-old Shi Wanxia out of lust for her long hair, police officer Du Changqing told Reuters by telephone from Kaishantun, in the northeastern province of Jilin. The 40-year-old Piao took the victim's head back home after beheading her with an axe and seriously wounding her sister on September 16. He then peeled off the scalp and hair and cooked the facial skin with some pepper. The victim's hair and skull were discovered in his storage room. "We found out later that he had just been stir-frying the dish when we knocked on the door," Du said. Authorities found the victim's face boiling in a pot when they searched the house. The suspect had been sentenced to life in prison for a 1977 murder and was released in 1997. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Piao. (Reuters, generously donated by The Mourner)

November 10, 2001
A former slaughterhouse worker who murdered her partner, skinned his body and carved it up to serve to his children was sentenced Thursday to life in prison. Katherine Mary Knight, 45, is a "very dangerous person," Justice Barry O'Keefe said. He ordered that she never be released. Knight pleaded guilty last month to the February 2000 killing of John Price, 44, at his home near Newcastle, 120 miles north of Sydney. She stabbed Price at least 37 times, decapitated him, skinned his body and later included his flesh in meals for the son and daughter of the deceased, accompanied by vindictive notes. Prosecutors did not suggest to the court that the children ate the meal. Knight claimed she could not remember what happened in the house. But prosecutor Mark Macadam said Tuesday that Knight had told her brother five months earlier that she would murder Price and claim insanity. Price broke off the relationship shortly before the slaying. "In America she would have got the death penalty," Price's son, Jonathan told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television. "In Australia, I think the justice system is too lenient." Australia has no death penalty. (The Associated Press, donated by Bruce Townley)

November 20, 2001
In May, 1874 in New York City, a young nursemaid named Jennie Powell was arrested after dousing an infant boy in coal oil and setting him on fire. Under arrest for the outrage, Powell confssed that, over the years, she had tried to burn a number of babies in her charge, and had also torched several houses. When the police, seeking to fathom her motives, asked "why she had done such horrible things to the babies," the young nursemaid matter-of-factly replied, "I just wanted to burn them." (Fiend)

November 21, 2001
A 7-year-old French girl died after being crushed by a cross that fell from a tombstone as she and her family visited her brother's grave. The stone cross fell from an old tomb injuring the girl, whose brother died as a baby eight years ago, in the stomach. Her parents took her to a doctor, who sent her to hospital. She died Monday of the injuries. The couple, in their 30s, were taking flowers to decorate their baby's grave with their daughter and a second son aged 11. (Reuters, donated by Greg Schneider)

November 23, 2001
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) is principally remembered as one of the founder members of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which advocated a return to pre-Renaissance ideas about art. But Rossetti was also a poet of great distinction. In 1860 Rossetti married Elizabeth Siddal, the beautiful model of many of his paintings. Two years later Elizabeth, suffering from tuberculosis, took her own life with an overdose of laudanum. Rossetti was overcome with grief. As she lay in her open coffin, in a gesture of eternal love he placed, between her cheek and her famous golden-red hair, a book of manuscipt poems which he had written for her. Elizabeth was then buried at Highgate Cemetery. Alas, his need for secular fame as a poet began to cast coubts on the propriety of such a romantic, but futile, gesture. Rossetti wanted the poems back but agonized for seven years on how the retrieval might be brought about. Finally, in October 1869, with permission from the Home Secretary, a gang of neo-resurrectionists began digging in the Rossetti plot. The poet himself stayed at home, consumed with guilt, 'in a state of agitation and torturing suspense'. By the light of lanterns the coffin was opened and the poems reclaimed for the benefit of the living. After disinfecting and drying, they were taken to their author. They were published as "Poems" in 1870. When he enquired, the poet was told that Elizabeth's pale beauty remained unimpaired by seven years underground. One is tempted to observe that his informers were unlikely to report otherwise, in order not to upset the artist's sensibility. (Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions And Fears)

November 24, 2001
In August, 1885, Montgomery, Alabama resident S. H. McGowan killed and dressed a pig for a barbeque. His three children, aged 11, 9 and 4, saw the process of butchering the pig. The next day McGowan left home and the children agreed to repeat the process of the day before. Having no pig, the two older children proceeded to butcher the youngest. They cut his throat and hung it up by the heels as the pig had hung, and were proceeding to disembowel it when their mother discovered the horrible tragedy. (The Steele Scrapbook - a vintage collection of morbid newspaper clippings dating from 1885, donated by Alf)

November 26, 2001
The annual pre-Christmas swine slaughter in a south-western Hungarian village came to a shocking end today when a man was electrocuted while trying to stun a pig, whose owner then died of a heart attack. Celebrations at the pig-killing party in Darvaspuszta took a turn for the worse when an unnamed visiting Croatian man shocked himself to death while trying to knock out a pig with a homemade electric pig stunner. A local man ended up in hospital with an irregular heart rhythm after attempting a rescue by trying to unplug the device. The accident so upset the pig's owner that he suffered a heart attack and died. There was no word on the fate of the pig. (Reuters, donated by Elizabeth)

November 27, 2001
In the year 1204 or 1205, the Byzantine ex-Emperor Murzuphlus, who had murdered the Emperor Isaac's son, Alexius, was arrested and brought before the new Latin Emperor Baudouin, at Constantinople. When Baudouin asked 'his people' what he should do with a man 'who had so treacherously murdered his lord' the crowd consulted amongst themselves until, at last it was agreed that Murzuphlus should be punished by being forced to leap off a high column in the center of town in the full view of all the townspeople. Murzuphlus was led to the column and taken to the top, while all the people in the city flocked to the place to see that amazing sight. Then he was cast down, and fell from such a great height that every bone in his body was broken as soon as he reached the ground. (The Medieval Underground)

November 27, 2001
The Aztec civilization that the Spanish discovered in South America was surprisingly advanced, except for one particularly nasty religious ritual that called for human sacrifice. (Yeah, like the oft-torturing Spanish should talk!) While the actual number who died over the centuries as part of this grisly ritual is not known, the Aztecs usually chose victims for sacrifice among enemy soldiers taken as captives during war. But the ritual killing was a sacred rite, not considered punishment or humiliation. The Aztecs believed their victims traveled to the gods bearing messages from the Aztec nation. That was little comfort to the victims, however, as they were pinned down against a sacrificial stone by their hands, feet, and heads. A priest then sliced open the victim's chest, pulled out his heart, and raised it up in an offering to the gods. Arms and legs where then served at banquets, and wild animals got the rest.
(The Pessimist's Guide To History)