April 1998

April 2, 1998
Mt. Tambora in Indonesia erupted on April 15, 1815, killing 92,000 people, most of whom died of starvation following the eruption.

April 3, 1998
Mt. Krakatoa in Indonesia erupted on August 26, 1883, killing 36,417 people, most of whom died from the Tsunami (tidal wave) following the eruption.

April 4, 1998
Mt. Pelee in Martinique erupted on August 30, 1902, killing 29,025, most of whom died in pyroclastic flows.

April 6, 1998
While excavating Ben Franklin's house in London, 10 skeletons were discovered buried in the basement. It is believed that the bodies were placed there by Franklin's friend Dr. William Hewson. Hewson was a pioneer anatomist and, because dissection of humans was prohibited, he had to get cadavers from grave robbers and dispose of them carefully - or face death or deportation. On April 23, 1774, Hewson, then 34, cut himself while dissecting a putrid corpse and later died of blood poisoning.

April 7, 1998
Telltale markings on human bones from around the world suggest that people really do have a penchant for cannibalism, say researchers in the United States. Dr Christy Turner, an anthropologist with Arizona State University in Tempe, has found identical patterns of cuts and abrasions on human remains unearthed at 40 different archaeological sites in south-west North America. The marks indicated that the bones were deliberately burned, broken, and cut to remove the nutritious bone marrow, New Scientist magazine reported. University of California anthropologist Dr Tim White has also discovered incriminating evidence on 2,106 bone fragments from 17 adults and 12 children of the Polacca Walsh tribe who died about 1,200 years ago in Arizona. Among the markings is a form of abrasion Dr White called "pot polish", distinctive scratches made when bones are stirred in a pot. "It's quite incredible," Dr White told New Scientist. "You suddenly catch your breath and think, my God, this must have been ghastly." According to Dr White, the findings suggest that people were deliberately captured, killed and eaten. Dr Turner agreed with Dr White that the Polacca Walsh people were devoured by their Anasazi neighbours, who used cannibalism as a weapon in inter-tribal disputes. The new evidence from Dr Turner and Dr White fuels the controversy about whether or not cannibalism was practised regularly. Most experts concluded that it was a rare, largely ritual act, for instance, to honour a dead relative or to celebrate the death of a foe. They assumed, as well, that in cases of starvation people chowed down on one another to survive. The work by Dr Turner and Dr White indicates that cannibalism was commonplace, and builds on earlier findings. For example, at Somerset in Britain, Dr Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum uncovered 12,000-year-old skeletons that had been scalped and beheaded, and had bones smashed and tongues cut out. Recently, Dr Yolanda Fernandez-Jalvo of the Natural History Museum in Madrid reported that the 800,000-year-old remains of ancestral humans discovered at Atapuerca in Spain were obviously cut and stripped of their flesh. All up, people have dined on one another for millennia, Dr White told New Scientist: "To say they didn't is the archaeological equivalent of saying Clinton lit up and didn't inhale."

April 8, 1998
In November 1995, home invaders broke into a suburban apartment, killed a little girl and then shot her mother in the head, slit her throat, ripped a fetus out of the pregnant woman's uterus and walked off with the infant.

April 10, 1998
On June 18, 1969 Senator Ted Kennedy left a party being held on a tiny Massachusetts island called Chappaquiddick. He generously offered to give a secretary named Mary Jo Kopechne, who was a little tipsy, a ride home. Ted was always an erratic driver, but this wrong turn was extreme even for him. Instead of the ferry, he headed in the exact opposite direction - toward the beach. About a half-mile down the road rose an old wooden bridge bending off slightly to the left. Ted didn't see the bend. The Oldsmobile plunged into the eight-foot-deep tidepool below. Somehow Ted escaped but Mary Jo was trapped. So what did Ted Kennedy do? Unfortunately, nothing. He didn't call police until 10 hours later - by that time Mary Jo was long dead. When the found Mary Jo, her face was pressed against the floor of the upside down vehicle, as if she'd been breathing from a small air pocket, hoping desperately for the rescue that never came. The subsequent scandal destroyed Ted Kennedy's hopes of following in his brother's presidential footsteps.

April 11, 1998
An autopsy on Elvis Presley showed that he died with 12 different drugs in his system.

April 13, 1998
On April 4, 1933, the American airship Akron was lost in a storm over the Atlantic with only three survivors from a crew of 76.

April 14, 1998
In October, a court in Darwin, Australia, sentenced Christopher Sean Payne, 34, to 54 months in prison for causing the drowning of a 25-year-old woman at a local beach. Justice Sir William Kearney found that, though the intoxicated woman (0.287 blood-alcohol reading) had voluntarily gone underwater to perform fellatio on Payne, he deliberately held the victim's head too long in a "selfish" desire to "gratify yourself, to prolong your pleasure" and showed a lack of remorse in the aftermath.

April 15, 1998
At precisely 12:13 p.m. on May 31, 1911, the Titanic was launched: the "largest moving object ever made by man" began her short 62 second journey down the greased slipway into her natural element. Unfortunately, the otherwise successful launch was marred by the death of a shipyard worker, James Dobbins, who was fatally injured by a collapsing timber support during the preparations - the unlikely Titanic claiming its second life as another worker had been killed during the reconstruction of the hull.

April 17, 1998
On March 3, 1991, a speeding young black man named Rodney King was pulled over on an LA freeway. No less than 23 LAPD officers were on the scene. Most of them showed up after King stopped. At least 10 drew their guns and aimed at King. The sergeant in charge was 15-year veteran of the LA streets - Stacey Koons. He shot the fallen King with a taser - 50,000 volts rocked his body. And then it began. King heard Sgt. Koons shout, "You better run, nigger! We're gonna kill you!" King made a pathetic attempt to rise and a two-pound solid metal police baton greeted him. By the time the beating ended, the cops had landed nearly 100 crushing blows on Rodney King. Of course, little did they know that their activities were being videotaped by a horrified onlooker... and you know the rest.

April 18, 1998
During World War I, influenza killed more soldiers than mustard gas and machine guns.

April 19, 1998
Andre Isoardo had to shoot himself five times before finally managing to kill himself. Along with a suicide note, police in Marseilles found 9mm bullets lodged in his stomach, groin, wrist, throat and brain.

April 20, 1998
A man in Savannah, Georgia, killed his daughter with an axe after her phone bill from calling psychic hotlines hit $20,000. He cut her up with a chainsaw and paid someone to bury the parts and repaint the bathroom where he'd killed her. The man turned him in.

April 21, 1998
In 1987, infamous Nazi Rudolph Hess, the last surviving member of Hitler's inner circle, strangled himself to death with a cord at age 93, in Spandau Prison.

April 22, 1998
Zip, the popular circus sideshow pinhead, died in 1926 at the age of 84. His honorary pallbearers were the Fat Girl, the Tattooed Lady, the Human Skeleton, and Cliko the Bushman.

April 23, 1998
George Boyer had "wanted to be one-legged since I was a child". Therapists convinced him that this desire was irrational, but at the age of 68, his bizarre desire became too urgent to ignore any longer. He planned the amputation carefully, and when the big day arrived he sat down in his back yard, stuck his leg out, and pulled the trigger. The shot only partially severed the limb, and with blood spurting everywhere, he had to struggle to fasten a tourniquet to his shattered leg, then call for an ambulance. Even after making it to the hospital alive, the Florida man had to persuade his doctors to amputate the leg rather than save it. After 12 days, they agreed to remove it... and the one-legged George lived happily ever after. (Don't you just love these "feel good" facts?)

April 25, 1998
Six years ago, Brian T. Stewart deliberately injected his 11-month-old son with AIDS-tainted blood to avoid child payments. He allegedly told the boy's mother not to worry about trying to collect child support because the boy would not live that long. The boy suffered a long series of serious illnesses and was near death at one time. The boy, now 7, was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS in 1996.

April 27, 1998
On April 28, 1996, a lone gunman in the sleepy Tasmanian town of Port Arthur went on one of history's greatest shooting rampages. At about 1:30pm, the Michael Bryant entered the Broad Arrow Cafe and pulled a high-powered rifle from a tennis bag, and began shooting at adults and children. He then moved into a car park, setting fire to several cars, possibly with people inside them. He then left the site, shooting people as they arrived at the toll booth. His next stop was the Fox and Hounds Hotel, where he shot several people before moving up the road to the Seascape Lodge, where he took hostages at about 3:30pm. He fired at helicopters taking his victims to the hospital and exchanged fire with the police surrounding his position. By the time Bryant was captured, 35 people were dead.

April 28, 1998
When police in Key West, Florida, discovered yhat the body of William Everett Delaney, 43, had been lying dead on his kitchen floor for two months, his 78 year-old roommate told them that he did recall Delaney falling two to three months earlier, and since then had often asked if he wanted something to eat or drink or to be taken to the hospital. "He said the guy was very stubborn," Detective Duke Yannacone explained, "and wouldn't answer him." Police said that for at least two months the roommate went about his business, routinely stepping over the body, which was facedown in the doorway between the kitchen and bathroom. He also told police that he thought Delaney was alive because he seemed to change positions and stretch his legs. Police said that the body had decomposed to the point that it "seemed to be melting into the floor."

April 29, 1998
One of the many horrific forms of torture utilized in the past was the ever-wicked water torture. In this particularly evil variation on a popular theme, prisoners were bound with their legs angled toward the floor. Once in this vulnerable state, a funnel was placed into their mouths, and their noses covered, so they would have no choice but to drink all of the liquid before they were able to breathe again. After this was repeated enough times to fill the stomach to a state of maximum distension, the angle at which the prisoners were held was changed. As their bodies were tilted, and their head pointed toward the floor, the full weight of the stomach and its contents began to press on their lungs and heart. Not only the incredible pain of this, but the feeling of suffocation that accompanies it would surely make anyone confess. Though if the prisoner could not be swayed so easily, they would then beat upon the bloated stomach with a mallet almost to the point of rupture. A most disturbing concept, to be certain.

April 30, 1998
In the 19th century, craftsmen who made hats were known to be excitable and irrational, as well as to tremble with palsy and mix up their words. Such behavior gave rise to the familiar expression "mad as a hatter". The disorder, called hatter's shakes, was caused by chronic mercury poisoning from the solution used to treat the felt. Attacking the central nervous system, the toxin led to behavioral symptoms.