June 1998

June 2, 1998
A woman drowned in a rafting accident while scattering her son's ashes on his favorite river near Wise River, Montana. Relatives of Craig Allan Nickels had come from around the country for the family observance Sunday on the Big Hole River. Nickels' mother, Cora Rader, 63, of Winnemucca, Nevada, and six others were thrown into the 36-degree water when their raft hit a bridge. The others were rescued but Mrs. Rader's life jacket got caught in a submerged tree. Nickels, 38, of Casper, Wyoming, had asked that his ashes be scattered on the river "because that was where he had floated and hunted since he was a little boy," said his sister, Tina Rader. Her brother, who grew up in Butte, died December 29. Ms Rader would not give the cause of death. (Associated Press)

June 3, 1998
Adolph Eichmann was the man responsible for the death of six million Jews in the gas chambers and furnaces of Dachau, Auschwitz, and Belsen. For fifteen years, since the end of the Second World War, he had been sought by the police of the world. Always he had avoided exposure and capture. Then, in 1959, a team of top Israeli intelligence agents had launched Operation Eichmann and had traced his progress across Europe to South America and Argentina. They captured him on May 11, 1960. He was extradited to Israel and put on trial where he was found guilty as charged and was hanged at Israel's Ramle Prison on May 31, 1962. By his standards, it was a humane death. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 3)

June 4, 1998
The Taiwanese take tug-of-war matches so seriously that they are willing to risk life and limb - particular limb - for victory. In a truly bizarre accident in Taipei on October 25, 1997 two men lost their arms and one had his hand torn off when a rope broke during a mammoth tug-a-thon between 780 men in two teams. Contestants, with the rope wound round their arms and wrists, were flung backwards, and the whiplash from the snapped rope was strong enough to sever their arms. The injured men were rushed to the hospital where surgeons were able to successfully re-attach their limbs. (Bizarre, May 1998)

June 4, 1998
Hanging is still a legal method of execution in Montana and Washington. The reason only two states still execute by hanging is that the gallows is widely regarded as inhumane. In Enlightenment France, a humanitarian physician and member of the Assembly made such an impassioned plea against the cruelty of hanging that his name -- Joseph Ignace Guillotin -- was given to the beheading machine that the French then adopted as more humane. (Atlantic Unbound)

June 5, 1998
From 1947 to 1953, the Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation buried at least 21,000 tons of industrial waste into an unfinished canal in upstate New York which was named for the man who'd tried to build it in 1892, William T. Love. In 1953, Hooker sold the land to the school board of Love Canal for $1.00. The town built a school and a children's playground on the land, oblivious to the toxic threat just below the ground. As early as 1958, children were burned by substances seeping up from the canal. The chemicals stayed near the canal until the mid-70's when heavy rains raised the groundwater level bringing the poisonous waste right into people's homes. In 1978, almost 30% of the pregnant women in Love Canal miscarried. Over 20% of the babies that survived their gestation had birth defects. Children began having seizures and kidney failure, babies were dying in their cribs, and adults were experiencing migraine headaches and other maladies. Finally, in 1980, President Carter declared Love Canal a disaster area and residents were evacuated. In 1990, the government declared Love Canal "clean". However, there were no real happy endings to this scandal: since 1978, at least 22 residents have taken their own lives. (The Big Book Of Scandals)

June 6, 1998
The last execution in the Tower of London took place on Thursday, August 14, 1941, when Josef Jakobs, a German spy, was shot by an eight-man firing squad. Because he had suffered a broken ankle when he had parachuted into England on the night of January 31, 1941, he could not stand before the firing squad and he was, instead, seated in an old Winsdsor Chair and tied up. Five of the eight shots pierced his heart. (The People's Almanac #2).

June 7, 1998
In the decades after World War II, medical experiments on prisoners were commonplace. By 1969, fully 85% of new drugs were tested on inmates in 42 prisons. Among the tests performed on inmates in a Philadelphia prison was the administration of Dioxin - a component of Agent Orange. Inmates were subjected to 7,500 micrograms of the toxic chemical - 468 times as much as Dow Chemicals wanted. Two inmates sued, settling for a few thousand dollars. (The Associated Press).

June 8, 1998
On December 6, 1997 a huge military cargo jet crashed into a Siberian town minutes after taking off, flattening an apartment block that houses 108 people, damaging at least three other buildings nearby and setting fire to a residential area in one of Russia's worst air disasters. The disaster is estimated to have killed 62 people. (LA Times-Washington Post News Service)

June 10, 1998
Deaths among men who took the wildly popular impotence pill Viagra have climbed to 16, including seven men who reportedly died during or after sex, a reminder that sexual exertion in older men can be risky with or without a pill. (Sexual intercourse increases the heart rate about as much as suddenly running up two flights of stairs.) The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday there is no evidence that Viagra itself is dangerous, although the agency did repeat warnings that heart patients who take nitroglycerin should never take the impotence pill because the drug mix can be deadly. Two deaths suggest that happened. Doctors say if there is any risk, some men don't care. "I've had a lot of patients say, 'If I have to go, that's the way I want to go out,"' said Dr. Ira Sharlip of San Francisco, an adviser on impotence to the American Urological Association. "I've taken prescriptions out of two patients' hands who lied about (using) nitroglycerin" because they wanted Viagra so badly, said Dr. William Steers, the University of Virginia's urology chairman. "Men value sexuality over general health ... They are going to have this regardless of the consequences." (Lynne Rutledge)

June 11, 1998
In Chico, California, a woman was killed recently when she struck a live electrical wire while fighting a grass fire that had broken out near her home. Betty Lou Anderson, 67, and her husband Richard, 70, were battling the small blaze, which was apparently started when a cross-arm on a power line snapped, allowed the 25,000 volt cable to sag into the ground. Betty was apparently electrocuted when her shovel touched the live wire while she was digging a fire break around the line. (Chico Enterprise-Record)

June 12, 1998
Following the recent fatal train crash in Germany, it seems appropriate to take stock of the most deadly train crashes of the 20th century:
Dec. 12, 1917 -- 543 killed in Modane, France.
March 2, 1944 -- 521 killed in Salerno, Italy.
June 6, 1981 -- 500-plus killed in Bihar, India.
Jan. 16, 1944 -- 500 killed in Leon Province in Spain.
Aug. 20, 1995 -- 300-plus killed in Firozabad, India.
Sept. 22, 1994 -- 300 killed in Tolunda, Angola.
April 3, 1955 -- 300 killed in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Sept. 29, 1957 -- 250 killed in Montgomery, West Pakistan (now known as Sahiwal, Pakistan).
Feb. 1, 1970 -- 236 killed in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
May 22, 1915 -- 227 killed outside Gretna, Scotland.
Jan. 4, 1990 -- 210-plus killed in Sindh Province, Pakistan.
Oct. 6, 1972 -- 208 killed in Saltillo, Mexico.
Oct. 22, 1949 -- 200-plus killed outside Dwor, Poland. (The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1998 - donated by Lynne Rutledge)

June 13, 1998
A Chicago couple is charged with allegedly killing their 16-month-old daughter, then dismembering her and dissolving her remains in battery acid. Joan Tribblet and Everett Johnson are accused of killing their daughter, Onowanique (Oh-nah-WAN-eek), on Dec. 19 because she would not sleep through the night. Police say they think she was either strangled or suffocated. The couple was arrested Thursday after an investigation that began Tuesday when the child's grandmother called police and said she suspected foul play because she had not seen her granddaughter for months. Police questioned the parents, who changed their stories several times before allegedly telling police they soaked the girl's body in battery acid before disposing of the remains in an alley. (Headline News.

June 14, 1998
Three white men, two of them parolees, were charged with murder Tuesday in the "racially motivated" killing of a black man who was beaten and dragged by a truck -- his injuries so severe he was decapitated. Two of the suspects have racist tattoos and authorities said they were investigating a possible link to white supremacist groups. The battered body of James Byrd Jr., 49, was found Sunday, the day after he was last seen apparently hitching a ride home from a party. "It was real brutal and real serious," said Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray. "The body came apart." Jasper County Sheriff Billy Rowles said Byrd's head, neck and right arm were found about a mile away from the rest of his body. "All evidence shows it will be racially motivated," Rowles told reporters, adding that it appeared that Byrd knew one of the suspects. Byrd's sister, however, said her brother did not know the men. The sheriff said Byrd appeared to have been beaten unconscious, chained to a pickup truck and dragged two miles down a road in the East Texas county, a timbering region about 100 miles northeast of Houston. "It's a very gruesome deal," the sheriff said. (CNN Online)

June 15, 1998
Some AIDS patients are developing a bizarre syndrome of disfiguring fat deposits on parts of their bodies as their faces and limbs shrink to skin and bones - possibly side effects of lifesaving drugs called protease inhibitors. Doctors' reports to the government paint a stark picture: Three women looked like "apples on a stick" from the mound of stomach and breast fat above birdlike legs. Another patient developed a large hump on the nape of his neck like a buffalo's. A woman jumped from size 4 to 12 as her waist barreled and her legs shrank. Dr. Harvey Abrams, a Los Angeles dermatologist, has surgically removed 14 humps so large that patients couldn't turn their heads. He discovered that the humps weren't typical squishy fat but dense, fibrous tissues. The FDA is worried that so-called "buffalo humps" and "protease paunches" are more than a cosmetic problem: some patients also are developing risks for heart disease such as skyrocketing cholesterol. (The Associated Press)

June 16, 1998
Angered by the death of a close friend at Pearl Harbour, the five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo, Iowa (George, 28; Francis, 27; Joseph, 24; Madison, 23; and Albert, 20) enlisted in the Navy and requested that they be allowed to serve together. The brothers were assigned to the USS Juneau and sent to join the battle of Guadalcanal. In the early morning hours of November 13, 1942, Juneau was struck by a torpedo on the port side, devastating the forward fireroom and killing all who had been stationed there. Juneau tried to escape to safe waters but they were targeted by a Japanese submarine, whose torpedo literally blew up the ship. She went down in less than one minute, killing four of the Sullivan brothers immediately. There were estimated to be ten survivors from the initial blast, George Sullivan among them, but he was apparently killed in a shark attack while bathing in the sea awaiting rescue. ... And then there were none. Following this tragedy, the military adopted a policy of not allowing family members to serve together. (USS The Sullivans)

June 18, 1998
Marie Antoinette was guillotined on October 16, 1793 at the age of 38. Dressed in a thin, white negligee, a cap over her shorn head, she was taken to the scaffold riding backwards in a common cart, her hands tied behind (Louis XVI had ridden to his execution in a coach). On reaching the platform, she stepped on the executioner's foot. Her last words were "Pardon, sir. I did not do it on purpose." (The People's Almanac)

June 19, 1998
Kip Kinkel, the troubled teenager who shot up his school cafeteria in Springfield, Oregon, killing two classmates and injuring 22, had been expelled from school the day before his fatal outburst for possession of a handgun. His father Bill, ever-supportive of Kip despite his morbid, violent leanings, took him out for a burger after bringing him home from the police station. The two sat in a booth and talked for 45 minutes with no outward sign of anger. Once home, Bill made a series of phone calls in an attempt to find a way to help his son out of his latest jam. The last person he talked to said Bill sounded optimistic. Then the bullet struck him in the back of the head. After murdering his father, Kip waited for his mother, Faith, to arrive home while he chatted with some friends. Faith pulled into the driveway a little while later and walked into her house to find Kip with a gun. "I love you, Mom," he said. And then pulled the trigger. (The Eugene Register-Guard)

June 20, 1998
It normally takes three years to learn how to swallow a sword: Tim Ekelman tired it in one evening, with the help of too much beer. The meter-long blade sliced his throat, damaged his voice box and collapsed one of his lungs. "It was an incredibly stupid thing to do. I mean, I love him with all my heart, but what a jerk," commented his long-suffering girlfriend. (Bizarre magazine, July 1998)

June 22, 1998
Scott Wisner Jr. was on his final run before retirement from his job as a Greyhound bus driver on Saturday, June 20, 1998 when his bus veered off the rain-slick Pennsylvania Turnpike and slammed into a tractor-trailer parked on a wide shoulder. Seven people were killed and 18 injured in Greyhound's deadliest accident since the 1970s. Wisner, his wife, Marcia, and their ward, 8-year-old Christian Jorgenson were all killed in the accident. (Associated Press)

June 23, 1998
Among the chilling incidents recorded within a week before or after the Jonesboro, Ark., shootings in March, according to police: Covington, La. (boy, 12, and others, planting bombs in school); Cleveland, Ohio (boy, 4, brought loaded gun to day-care); Daly City, Calif. (boy, 13, fired a shot at the principal); Queens, N.Y. (boy, 8, took loaded gun to school); Indianapolis (2 boys, each 8, took loaded guns to school); Kennewick, Wash. (boy, 12, had a hit list of teachers and students to kill); Millersville, Md. (3 boys left 3 unrelated bomb threats, and a fourth was arrested for plotting to kill a classmate); Greenville, N.C. (boy, 11, threatened to shoot several classmates); West Lafayette, Ohio (boy, 15, had a hit list of teachers and students to kill); Fond du Lac, Wis. (boy, 14, shot up a school door because of a bad report card). Also, when the Jonesboro Two were jailed, their neighbor was a 13-year-old boy accused of shooting a classmate in the face. Oh, what a wonderful world! (News Of The Weird,donated by Lynne Rutledge)

June 24, 1998
Soon to be a Darwin Award nominee:
A man police say told his best friend to shoot a beer can off the top of his head has died and his friend has been charged with murder. Larry Slusher, 47, died Tuesday at the University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville. He was shot in the head Sunday night by his life-long friend Silas Caldwell, 47. Caldwell is being held in the Bell County Jail. Police say the two men had been drinking and an altercation did not prompt the shooting in a parking lot. (Associated Press).

June 29, 1998
On January 18, 1778, Capt. James Cook in the Resolution, attempting on his third and final world-circling voyage to discover a northern sea route from the Pacific to the Atlantic, became the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands. At Kealakekua Bay the following year, a crowd of irate Hawaiian natives, whom he had tried to subdue by threats of force, brutally murdered the 50-year-old explorer. (The People's Almanac #2)

June 30, 1998
In March, a 24-year-old man was struck and killed in the fast lane of I-80 in Vallejo, California, when he ran across the highway to retrieve a baseball cap that had blown off his head. Two weeks earlier, a 20-year-old Guatemalan sailor, riding on a crewboat on the Mississippi River near New Orleans, drowned after jumping into treacherous waters to retrieve his baseball cap. (News Of The Weird)