December 1998

December 1, 1998
Michael Fresquez of Austin, Texas, came home very drunk on the night of May 7, 1983. He tripped on a garden hose, became tangled in it, and strangled to death trying to free himself. (Trivial Trivia, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

December 2, 1998
A 47-year-old man was killed in Arjay, Kentucky, in June when his lifelong friend, Silas Caldwell, 47, "missed low" after he agreed to try to shoot a beer can off the man's head. (News Of The Weird)

December 3, 1998
On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau, 39, tiptoed out of the men's room of a Washington train station, gripped the white bone handle of a five-shot British bulldog gun, and fired twice into the back of President James A. Garfield. Although he undoubtedly would have been judged insane by today's standards, the law of 1881 sent the deluded religious zealot (who claimed to be the "premier of England" and an agent of God) to the gallows. Facing the crowd of 4,000 spectators, who sipped lemonade and munched cakes while waiting to see the first execution of a presidential assassin, Guiteau, schizophrenic to the end, raised his voice to a falsetto and sang his swan song: "I am going to the Lordy, I am so glad". (The People's Almanac #2)

December 4, 1998
David Grundman died in 1982 when he fired two shotgun blasts at a giant saguaro cactus outside of Phoenix, Arizona. A twenty three foot section of the plant fell on him and crushed him to death. (Trivial Trivia, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

December 5, 1998
On May 29th, 1914, the British ocean liner The Empress Of Ireland set sail from Quebec Harbour on her way to Liverpool, England. Only hours into the voyage, she collided with the Norwegian collier Storstad in a deep fog and received fatal damage. Within three minutes the ship had lost power and it sank beneath the surface of the sea in only 13 minutes. After the collision, the crew of the Storstad made valiant rescue efforts. Many of the 465 dazed survivors were pulled from the icy water as only seven lifeboats left the doomed vessel (unlike the Titanic, there were more than enough lifeboats to go around on The Empress). The ship sank so quickly, a single S.O.S. cry escaped. The wireless operator at the Father Point Station received and reacted to the plea. The mail carriers, The Lady Evelyn and the Eureka, arrived too late. Only debris and lifeless bodies remained. One thousand 78 lives were lost, less than 300 bodies were found. Most of the dead were entombed in the stricken vessel. The hysterical next of kin fought over the barely identifiable remains. (The Empress Of Ireland, donated by Adam Taggart)

December 6, 1998
In Paris in 1869, a restaurant owner in the Rue Princesse noticed that the water from the well tasted foul. He investigated and found a parcel floating in it which proved to contain the lower half of a human leg. The police found a second parcel in the well which contained another leg, encased in a stocking. The police had no strong leads to go on but they noticed that the stitches in the parcel looked professionally done. Police interviewed a tailoress who once lived in the upstairs part of the house and she told them about M. Voirbo, a man who she did occasional work for who was frequently seen in the restaurant and often fetched water from the well. She explained to them that M. Voirbo had a special friend named M. Bodasse who had gone missing near to the time that the body parts had been discovered. They arrested Voirbo on suspicion of murder but they had no solid evidence that he committed the crime. No blood was found in Voirbo's room but police theorized that it had just been well-cleaned after the murder. They took Voirbo to the room for questioning and a police detective poured some water onto the floor... and watched as it trickled into a pool underneath the bed on the uneven floor. He demanded that the tiles be removed... and ample dried blood was found underneath them. At this, Voirbo confessed to having murdered Bodasse and was guillotined for the crime. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Vol. 6)

December 7, 1998
James Lick's remains rest in a pillar on which is mounted the telescope at Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, in California. He financed the observatory's construction. (Trivial Trivia, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

December 9, 1998
On August 6, 1890 at Auburn State Prison in New York, convicted murderer William Kemmler became the first man to be executed in the electric chair. Kemmler lingered eight minutes after the switch was pulled. (The People's Almanac #2)

December 10, 1998
On February 12, 1898, Henry Lindfield became the first automobile fatality when he lost control of his Imperial electric carriage on the road from London to Brighton. He survived the impact, only to die from shock following the amputation of his crushed leg. (The People's Almanac #2)

December 12, 1998
John Adams represented Massachusetts as a delegate at both the first and second Constitutional Conventions and played a significant role garnering European support for the American Revolution. He represented the United States during peace negotiations with Britain, served as George Washington's Vice-President, and was elected as the second United States President. Following his presidency, he retired to his farm in Quincy and began a lengthy correspondence with Thomas Jefferson that would last over twenty-five years. Although in his nineties and gravely ill, he resolved to live until the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1826. That morning he was awakened by his servant who inquired if he knew what day it was. "Oh, yes," Adams replied, "it is the glorious fourth of July. God bless it. God bless you all." He then lapsed into unconsciousness. Later that afternoon, he awakened briefly to mumble "Thomas Jefferson still surv. . . ." before dying. Actually, Thomas Jefferson had died earlier that day. (Last Words)

December 13, 1998
Ivan McGuire, an experienced parachutist, was videotaping parachuting students in 1988. He jumped from the plane to film the students on the way down, and realized that he had forgotten his own parachute. His video records his last words: "Uh-oh". (Trivial Trivia, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

December 14, 1998
Queho, the renegade Indian, was Nevada's first serial killer. Born around 1880, Queho was raised on a reservation near Las Vegas. As a child, he was cruelly ridiculed by the other children because he was lame. Perhaps he was repaying some of that cruelty when in 1910 he committed his first murder, snuffing a Paiute Indian named Harry Bismark. Queho fled the reservation and killed his second victim: a white man whom he beat to death with a piece of lumber. Shortly after that, he attacked and wounded a Las Vegas merchant. To the white lawmen, killing an Indian was one thing, but attacking white men quite another. A posse set off in the hills to find the elusive Queho. At the Gold Bug Mine, the posse discovered the body of the mine's night watchman. His killer had ripped the victim's special deputy badge - No. 896 - from his shirt. Try as they might, the posse could not locate Queho. The next few years brought more mysterious murders which locals believed were the work of Queho. Despite a large "dead or alive" reward on Queho's head, he remained elusive for another 20 years. In 1940, two prospectors working the El Dorado mountains discovered a sealed cave high above the Colorado River. Inside the cave, the prospectors found Queho - more precisely his shriveled, mummified remains. He had been dead for at least six months and he still wore his special deputy badge no 896. (The Big Book Of The Weird Wild West)

December 15, 1998
On December 26, 1846, the surviving members of the 14 person Donner Party expedition - which had left the main camp to attempt to walk out of the Sierra snowfall and get help for their starving families - were huddling under blankets for warmth in the midst of a severe snowstorm. They had been under the shelter of the blankets for 30 hours straight and several members of the party had already been driven mad from hunger, snow blindness, and fatigue. To light a fire in the brunt of the storm outside was still impossible, but William Eddy attempted to get one started beneath the shelter of the blankets. He used some gun-powder for tinder, and by some accident blew up the whole powderhorn. He was badly burned about the face and hands and two of the women in the party also suffered. (Ordeal By Hunger)

December 17, 1998
When Paul Hughes' Ford Sierra skidded into a ditch near Selby, North Yorkshire he clambered out to warn on-coming drivers about ice on the road. Too late: a Jaguar went out of control on the same patch of ice and killed him. (Bizarre magazine, 8/98

December 19, 1998
This is long, but it's just too mesmerizing to edit. A tale that must be told: The True Definition Of "Trailer Trash":
Nov. 12, 1998, Paoli, Indiana: Less than two months ago, Forrest Mills Jr. moved into a small, white-and-blue trailer with his wife, her three children, a family friend and the friend's girlfriend. It wasn't long before the family's guns and arguments scared neighbor Regina Green so much that she wouldn't let her children play in the front yard. "They were just really strange people," Green said Wednesday. Police say the family was involved in something even more unsettling -- Mills' slaying and an effort to cover it up. Green remembers the family shooting and killing several wild pigs. Once, she said, she saw Leilani Mills' 13-year-old son dragging a rotting pig corpse from the woods behind her home toward the Mills' trailer. She said she had to persuade Leilani Mills not to eat it. Leilani Mills kept her children out of school and claimed to be home-schooling them, though Green said she saw little evidence of that. And then there were the arguments between Forrest Mills, 39, and his 38-year-old wife. "She yelled at him, hit him, abused him," Green said. "She was really mean to him." The climax to the family's story came Oct. 29, police say, when Mills was killed outside the trailer by a shotgun blast that blew off part of his jaw. Prosecutor Steve Owen said a witness reported that Leilani Mills caressed and kissed the blown-off portion of her husband's jaw before eating part of it. A motorist found Forrest Mills' body in a lake Sunday, and authorities charged his stepson, Dallas Mayberry, 18, with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Leilani Mills and the family friend, Albert Apple, 19, were both charged with aiding, inducing or causing murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Leilani Mills' other two sons, ages 15 and 13, were being held for their alleged role in cleaning up after the killing, Owen said. Investigators said they believe Mayberry shot Mills after Apple had lured him outside his residence. Tiffany Stull, 22, Apple's girlfriend, told investigators she was inside the mobile home when she heard gunshots from outside. She said she looked out a window and saw Mayberry with a shotgun, standing over Mills. (APB Online)

December 21, 1998
Yuri Popov, an officer in Russia's intelligence service, the GRU, in the late 1950's was discovered to be a double agent. His punishment: he was tossed alive into a furnace in front of his GRU co-workers. (Trivial Trivia, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

December 22, 1998
Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks otherwise it will digest itself. (Useless Facts, donated by Art Aiello)

December 26, 1998
Paul Revere is documented as the first Forensic Dentist: He was called upon to identify a former patient's remains by his teeth. (Useless Facts, donated by Art Aiello)

December 27, 1998
A hurricane with 120-mile-an-hour winds followed by a tidal wave swept over Galveston, Texas on September 8-9, 1900, and killed 5,000 people. Stereographic "view" companies sent photographic crews to record the disaster and sell pictures of it to the public, making it one of the earliest well-documented disasters. (Dreamland: America At The Dawn Of The Twentieth Century)

December 28, 1998
Luan Phi Dawson was killed at Disneyland on Christmas Eve when a mooring rope tore a foot-long metal cleat from the hull of the Columbia, the park's sailing ship, and whipped it into a crowd. His skull was crushed by the chunk of flying metal, which caused major injuries to his brain and to a major blood vessel in his head. Dawson's wife, Lieu Vuong, was also struck in the head by the cleat and had to undergo plastic surgery for cuts to the right side of her face. Additionally, Disneyland worker Chrsitine Carpenter suffered major injuries to her legs. (The Associated Press)

December 29, 1998
Gian Luigi Ferri was a 55-year-old mortgage broker who had run into some financial difficulties in his San Francisco-based company, money problems he blamed on poor legal advice from the firm of Pettit & Martin. On July 1, 1983, Ferri decided to get his revenge and walked into a skyscraper at 101 California Street with a black canvas bag containing various firearms. He rode up to the 34th floor, entered the law offices of Pettit & Martin, and opened fire. First to die were Jack Berman, 35, a conscientious labor specialist, and his cient, 30-year-old Jody Sposato. Ferri strode into the next office and murdered attorney Allen J. Berk, who was sitting at his desk, and critically wounded his partner, Brian Berger, who had been trying to warn Berk of the danger. Ferri then ran down to the 33rd floor and killed David Sutcliffe, 30, a law student. Spotting married couple John and Michelle Scully in the hallway, the gunman chased them into an adjoining office and murdered John, while the husband used his own body to shield his wife from harm. Down another flight of stairs, Ferri dispatched the lives of Shirley Mooser, 64, Donald Merrill, 48, and Deborah Fogel, 33, who died asking people to take care of her dog. After wounding several more people, the crazed mortgage broker found himself surrounded by approaching cadres of police, turned a gun on himself, and blew his brains out. (San Francisco Confidential)