July, 2000

July 1, 2000
In late 1999, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore ventured into the tropical forest of Madidi National Park, Bolivia, and kept a diary of his experiences. The entry from December 4th contains a story told to Joel by his lead boat driver, Marcelo:
"We were hunting the chanchos [pigs] last year near the Rio Beni, not far from here. We saw a group of fifty. We killed ten. This made them mad. They charged us. We ran and climbed trees. One of my friends didn't get high enough, and the chanchos pulled him down. We heard screams for a while, then waited to come down. When we found him, we found only pieces. Many pieces. We took the pieces of him to his parents' house. We were sad our friend had died such a terrible death."
Another local told Joel the story of a man who survived a pig attack but now has no butt. He didn't get quite high enough in the tree, and the pigs bit it all off. Ouch!! (National Geographic)

July 2, 2000
Police have denied a cover-up after claims a South African teenager forced bystanders to kiss a severed human head he was carrying with him. Police in KwaMakhutha, south of Durban, deny the incident took place and say there was a thorough investigation. But residents claim police are too scared to arrest the 19-year-old they say is behind it reports South Africa's Daily News. They say the teenager beat one man who refused to kiss the head, that of an Indian man, which was still dripping with blood. One witness said: "Look, we are not surprised that the police are responding like this because they were once pursued by the same boy when they tried to arrest him." But KwaMakhutha inspector Jeremy Marten admitted police are looking for the youth who is described as "very dangerous". (Ananova, donated by The ShanMonster)

July 3, 2000
"I've got a problem," said the full-bearded young hippie. "I'm a cannibal." The policeman who had just arrested him looked at him incredulously. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a number of small bones. "These aren't chicken bones. They're human fingers." The conversation sounds like something out of a bad horror movie, but it took place on the afternoon of July 13, 1970, near Lucia, California, and the speaker was 23-year-old Stanley Dean Baker. The case had started two days earlier, when a fisherman saw a human body caught in the reeds of the Yellowstone River, north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana. When police waded into the river to recover the body, they realized this was no case of drowning. The corpse was clad only in underpants and it had neither head nor arms. The legs had been severed at the knees. Where the heart should have been there was an ugly hole in the chest. Later in the day a coroner established that the man had been stabbed 25 times. According to Stanley Dean Baker, the body was of Peter Schlosser, 22, who had offered Baker a lift a few days previously. In the middle of the night, Baker shot his companion twice in the head with a .22 then stabbed him numerous times with a hunting knife. He then cut up the body into six parts, severing the head, the arms and the legs. Baker alleged that he cut out the heart and ate it. Then, dropping a few severed fingers into his pocket, he threw the parts of the body into the river and drove off in the dead man's car. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 4)

July 4, 2000
An Ocean City, MD, man suffering the hiccups asked a friend to punch him in the chest to try to get rid of them. When his friend reluctantly obliged, Joshua Thomas Burchette collapsed on the sidewalk and died. An autopsy was to be performed on Burchette, 23, to determine the cause of death. Burchette had complained of hiccups after a couple of beers on Saturday. The friend was not identified by police. Burchette's mother, Jeri Ann Fisyer, said her family has a history of heart problems and her son often complained of chest pains, but had never been hospitalized or placed on medication. (Associated Press, donated by Bruce Townley

July 5, 2000
A particularly horrendous ancient Persian form of execution called Scaphismus, or "The Boats" and is described by the twelfth century historian Zonaras:
"Two boats are joined together, one on top of the other, with holes cut in them in such a way that only the victim's head, feet, and hands are left outside. within these boats the man to be punished is placed lying on his back and the boats are then nailed together with iron bolts. Food is given, and by prodding his eyes he is forced to eat, even against his will. Next they pour a mixture of milk and honey into the wretched man's mouth until he is filled to the point of nausea, smearing his face, feet and arms with the same mixture. And by turning the coupled boats about, they arrange that his eyes are always facing the sun. This is repeated every day, the effect being that flies, wasps, and bees, attracted by the sweetness, settle on his face and all such parts of him as project outside the boats, and miserably torment and sting him. Moreover, as he does inside the closed boats those things which men are bound of necessity to do after eating and drinking, the resulting corruption and putrefaction of the liquid excrement's give birth to swarms of worms of different sorts which, penetrating his clothes, eat away his flesh. Thus the victim, lying in the boats, his flesh rotting away in his own filth, is devoured by worms and dies a lingering and horrible death, for when the upper boat is removed, his body is seen to be all gnawed away, and all about his innards is found a multitude of these and the like insects, that grow denser every day." (The Book Of Execution, donated by Littleredrobot)

July 6, 2000
A woman who suffered a heart attack from the stress of lying awake but helpless during a hospital operation has won her legal battle for compensation (August 9, 1998). June Blacker, 45, said that she felt the scalpel cut into her during the operation to sterilize her. She was so terrified she suffered a cardiac arrest 15 minutes into the operation and watched as doctors fought to restart her heart. Mrs. Blacker, a mother of three from Aberdare, South Wales, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. (The British Weekly)

July 7, 2000
A 14-year-old girl who had squabbled with her mother for years wrote a will parceling out her possessions, then killed her mother with a hammer and hanged herself, authorities believe. Cheryl Andrews, 40, and her daughter, Reyna, were found dead on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 13, 2000. While the case is still under investigation, "everything leads that way" to a murder-suicide theory, Sheriff BJ Barnes said. Cheryl Andrews was struck nine times with a hammer from her husband's upholstery shop, which he operated out of an attached garage. Her daughter then hanged herself from a shower curtain rod. Andy Andrews told authorities he found his wife's and daughter's bodies about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after returning home with a younger son from elementary school graduation. Letters believed written by Reyna indicated she and her mother had battled for years. Barnes did not describe the disputes, other than to say they seemed to be typical parent-teen arguments. Reyna's will told which family members and friends should receive her savings account, clothes and other items. She asked that her bed be given away. (The Associated Press, donated by Satutta)

July 8, 2000
After hanging, "breaking with the wheel" was the most common means of execution throughout Germanic Europe from the early Middle Ages to the beginning of the 18th century. The executioner would first break the victim's limbs as the victim lay immobilized and naked on the ground. The shattered limbs were then "braided" into the spokes of a large wheel. The victim, on the wheel, would then be hoisted up on the top of a pole, where he was left to be devoured by birds. (San Diego Inquisition Exhibit, donated by Fiendish Freya)

July 9, 2000
A New York man was killed by a 4th of July fireworks shell that nearly decapitated him when he peered into the mouth of a launch tube to try to figure out why the device didn't go off. Keith Seymour, 34, had lit the fuse of the aerial bomb as part of the unlicensed neighborhood display on Long Island, Suffolk County Police said. When it failed to go off, he looked inside the 5-inch mortar tube. The blast tore off part of his head. A Des Moines, Iowa teenager was also killed during Independence day celebrations when a sport utility vehicle caught fire and crashed into a pole as some of its occupants were throwing firecrackers out the windows. One of the firecrackers had appearantly blown back into the vehicle, igniting other fireworks. A witness told police that all the windows were blown out and he interior of the car was immediately engulfed in flames. "These kids had very little chance to get out of the car, certainly not in one piece," Sgt. Bruce Elrod said. The girl died at the scene late Tuesday (July 4,2000). Four people were in critical condition Wednesday. (The Associated Press, donated by NightRaven)

July 10, 2000
A woman pushed from a car became tangled in her seat belt and was dragged for almost 20 blocks at speeds of up to 65 mph. She lost skin from 40 to 50 percent of her body, authorities said. In some places, flesh was torn from her body down to the bone. "It's just terrible; treacherous," police Sgt. Jim Rullamas said. The 37-year-old woman, whose name was not released, was listed in serious condition Monday but was conscious. Rullamas said the woman got into a car with Mitchell Smith, 40, of Oakland, on Sunday morning. Police were not sure what their relationship was, but said they may have been smoking some kind of narcotic and began to argue. The woman tried to get out of the car and Smith allegedly pushed her. She got tangled in her seat belt as Smith slammed the door shut and drove off with her hanging from the side of the car. Rullamas said the woman screamed for Smith to stop as the car weaved through traffic at up to 65 mph. After about 20 blocks, she was able to free herself. California Highway Patrol officers stopped Smith after a witness called 911. Smith was booked for investigation of attempted murder, driving under the influence and possession of drugs. (The Associated Press, donated by Neil Langdon Inglis)

July 11, 2000
A Nicaraguan couple in Sweetwater, Florida tortured their 12-year-old son because they were embarrassed about health problems that caused him to vomit repeatedly, police said. The parents, Josefa and Ricardo Jose Davila were arrested after they admitted to beating their son with electrical cords, belts, ropes and sledgehammers. The child had recently been locked in a bathroom for a week, tied up and blindfolded with a bucket taped to his head, said Detective Carmen Molina. The boy escaped, running to a neighbor's house. The parents, who were arrested Sunday, admitted to forcing the boy to eat his own vomit, beating his hands with wooden spoons and dropping a sledgehammer on his feet causing swelling and loss of toe nails, police said. The police found two sledgehammers in the boy's bedroom. The boy, who escaped Friday, and two siblings had come from Nicaragua to be with their parents in February. The parents had been in the United States for 11 years, and had an ice cream truck business. Both parents were charged with eight counts of aggravated child abuse and two counts of false imprisonment. They were being held Monday on $10,000 bail each. The victim's siblings, ages 6 and 13, were placed in the state's custody pending further investigation. (The Associated Press, donated by Yvonne The Amazon)

July 12, 2000
The body of an elderly woman who had been dead for days was found in her Akron, Ohio home along with remains of her husband, who died 11 years ago, police said. Their son was in custody. Delia Carlone, 77, was found slumped in a living room chair Saturday. She had been dead since June 24, Maj. Paul Callahan said. Police found some remains of her husband, Armando, in a plastic bag below the basement stairs. Police searched the house in Akron after getting a tip from authorities who found the couple's son wandering a highway near Grafton, about 50 miles away. Ralph Carlone, 47, was carrying his parents' birth certificates and $140,000 in a brown paper bag, and said he was walking to western Ohio to look for farm work. He had started his journey in June. Carlone has pleaded innocent to failing to provide for a functionally impaired person in his mother's death. Police say he knew his mother was ill and had a broken hip, but didn't seek medical treatment for her. Carlone is being held on $1 million bond. Detectives planned to return to the home with a cadaver-sniffing dog to search for Armando Carlone's missing remains. After he died in 1989, his body was kept in an attic bedroom. When the house caught on fire in the mid-1990s, his wife and son put his remains in two garbage bags and carried him to the basement so fire inspectors wouldn't find him. The county medical examiner's office said it could take a long time to determine how the parents died. "This is a case that will take intensive investigation," medical examiner Marvin Platt said. "It's unusual in that we're dealing with people who have been dead quite a while." (The Associated Press, donated by Kali Nichta and KSHOhio)

July 13, 2000
A crowd of 200 villagers burned to death eight men they accused of running guns and drugs in western Guatemala's mostly-Indian highlands. In what authorities described as a carefully planned attack late Saturday (July 8, 2000), roads were blocked to trap the men, and the crowd pulled them from their trucks, doused them with gasoline and set them on fire. "This was a well-planned attack by a few people that grew into a huge crime," said De Mateo Sanchez, a spokesman for Guatemala's national police force. "The excitement attracted so many people to join. The family and its associates had lots of enemies in town, that is now very clear. Neighbors and those who committed the crime said they were criminals." Five of the victims were members of a family that operated trucks that carried people and supplies through the region. The victims were all men, including a 60-year-old and his four sons ages 26, 23, 18 and 17. Two of the remaining victims were drivers who worked for the family. The eighth man's body was burned so badly police had not determined his identity or age. Sanchez said local authorities had "absolutely no evidence" that the family and its employees were involved in any crime. "When you have a small and lonely, isolated village like this one, outsiders can be scary to many of the people that live there," he said. "The victims were locals, but they came and left so much it could have seemed suspicious." Police spokesman Faustino Sanchez said that authorities had identified three men thought to be ringleaders of the attack. (The Associated Press and was generously donated by Neil Langdon Inglis)

July 16, 2000
The most notable case of necrophilia recorded in literature is that of Victor Ardisson, who was born in 1872. Ardisson was a pervert extraordinaire! He masturbated and consumed his own semen. He licked up the urine of women from the ground, masturbating at the same time. He acted in his native village as a paid fellator. Sucking was his principal method of obtaining sexual satisfaction. He also had a predilection for sucking at the breasts and genitals of women and was a breast fetishist. He also performed normal coitus, but he selected a mistress with huge breasts. As he was a gravedigger by profession, he soon developed necromania. He disinterred female corpses, from little girls of 3 to women of 60, sucked their breasts and performed cunnilinctus on them, and in rare cases also coitus. He ate cats and rats, and drank their blood. He repeatedly deserted from the army. He desecrated a large number of female corpses in the manner described, and in each case sucking was the principal act. He took the corpse of a 3 year old child with him and abused the corpse, even when genitals and intestines were already a decaying, stinking mass. The head of a 13 year old girl, which he had cut off and taken home, he mummified in some manner and kept it for a long time. He used to kiss it and call it "my fiancee". (Sexual Anomalies (1948, Magnus Hirschfeld), Rotten.Com, donated by IIJNS01II)

July 17, 2000
French scientists are baffled by the disappearance of Mata Hari's head from a collection of the remains of notorious French criminals. The loss came to light this month after a threat by the government to close the Museum of Anatomy in Paris, which houses the mummified heads of about 100 victims of the firing squad and guillotine. The items are among 5,802 conserved body parts used by 19th and early 20th century medical professors as teaching aids. (The Vancouver Sun, donated by tasiia)

July 18, 2000
A father trying to humiliate his wife nearly killed his 19-month-old son when he heaved a large rock at the car the woman was driving. Peter Molina Sota, 33, has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. His son, also named Peter, is in critical condition at a local hospital with serious head injuries. The dispute between Sota and his estranged wife began on Sunday afternoon (July 16, 2000). Sota told police that he went to a "party house" and asked the partyers to not allow his wife to attend because "he didn't want his children in that environment". His wife pulled up at the house with a 9-month-old child in the front seat and 19-month-old Peter in the back. An argument ensued between Sota and his wife, and she tried to drive away. "He said he knew that the car did not belong to her, and he thought if he dinged the car up, whoever loaned it to her wouldn't loan it again," Smith said. Sota allegedly threw small rocks and plastic bottles at the car, while his wife repeatedly stopped and sped up on the street. Then she drove away. Sota went to a local convenience store and began walking back. "She drove by him, and according to an independent witness, she started laughing at him as she got close," police Lt. Bill Smith said. Sota was enraged, he said. "He picked up a football-sized rock and heaved it at the car, intending to hit the car. It passed through the window and struck his son in the head." The child was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where a metal plate was inserted into his skull. The child remains in critical condition. Sota is in jail with his bail set at $500,000, Smith said. His wife had filed two domestic violence reports against him earlier this year. (APB News)

July 19, 2000
The paranoia of tyrannical Russian Tsar Ivan The Terrible reached a climax in the destruction of the city of Novgorod. Ivan had an idea that Novgorod intended treason, so he marched there with an army, burning, raping and looting along the way. He arrived at the city in early 1570, and had a timber wall built around it to prevent any inhabitants from fleeing. Then, for the next five weeks, he directed an orgy of sadism worthy of Dracula. Every day several thousand inhabitants were tortured to death in the presence of the Tsar and his depraved son Ivan. All kinds of refinements were invented: husbands and wives were roasted or beaten to death in one another's presence; children were murdered in front of their mothers. More than 60,000 people were murdered - more than in any one of Dracula's orgies of violence. (The Mammoth Book Of The History Of Murder)

July 20, 2000
Police believe skeletal remains found lodged in the chimney of an out-of-business store may be those of a serial burglar who got stuck when trying to rob the place years ago. Ironically, the man was attempting to burglarize a theft-prevention business in North Philadelphia, Detective Ramonita King said. "Workers had been knocking down the chimney Saturday when they smelled a foul odor. When they got closer, they noticed a pair of sneakers, jeans and a Philly's cap and what looked to be human remains," King said. "It appears that he got stuck trying to enter the place through the chimney to rob it." Police found a welfare card in the man's wallet and suspect he was a wanted burglar with many aliases. The medical examiner's office tentatively listed the cause of death as accidental compression asphyxia. King said the store had been closed for many years, and a construction crew had been renovating the property for its new owners. She said the remains may be as many as 5 years old. Exactly when the business was closed is unknown. (APB News)

July 21, 2000
Police found a dead man in a chimney this week and may have solved a 4-year-old mystery. A local doctor contacted authorities after he detected a strange odor in a home he recently purchased that had been vacant for nearly 10 years. The doctor planned to convert the residence into professional offices. Police Chief Richard Parker said the smell grew stronger as the weather got hotter this summer, prompting the owner to investigate the source. The odor came from the chimney. When the owner looked up inside, he saw a foot. When police arrived at the residence on Monday, they climbed the roof of the brick house and looked down the chute, where they could make out the head of a man who appeared to be deceased. Rescue crews spent the next morning prying the corpse out. The body has been sent to the Dallas medical examiner's office for identification, but Parker said he's pretty sure it is the remains of a man who disappeared in January 1996 without a trace. Clothing and hair from the victim appear to match the description of the missing man, who was in his early 20s at the time he was last seen. There are no signs of foul play, Parker said, and speculation is wide open as to what motivated the man to shimmy down the chute four years ago. But he probably wasn't a thief, the chief said. "This is Mt. Pleasant; we don't have cat burglars," Parker said of the town of 14,000 residents. [Altogether everyone: "Yeah, right!" - despair] Parker said the missing man was last seen in an inebriated condition. He allegedly had argued with family members gathered in a small park that sits next to the house where the body was discovered, and then stomped off in anger. The man was never seen again. "There was a lot of speculation since there was absolutely no trace of him, no contact whatsoever," Parker said. "In retrospect, when you're in a chimney you can't make a whole lot of contact." (APB News)

July 22, 2000
For almost 5,000 years of human history, public executions have been an excuse to party. While many liberals would like to believe that the crowds who jammed into public squares to watch their fellow humans die were mostly uneducated rabble, that's simply not true. Casanova writes of aristocrats renting expensive suites to watch the torture-execution of Damiens in 1768; Thackeray writes of "quiet fat family parties of simple honest tradesmen and their wives looking on with the greatest imaginable calmness and sipping their tea." As another observer pointed out about British attendees: The booming sales of the piemen indicate how few stomachs were turned by the events. Charles Dickens observed a hanging on November 3, 1849, and noted "fightings, faintings, whistling ... brutal jokes" and "indecent delight when swooning women were dragged out of the crowd by police with their dresses disordered." America, of course, was not exempt. Back in 1693 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a bargeman convicted of murder was scheduled to be hanged on July 3. The Colonial Records of Pennsylvania matter-of-factly state, "There were too few people there to make the affair enjoyable." (An Underground Education)

July 23, 2000
When the Median ruler Astyages (circa 600 B.C.) dreamed that his grandson would one day take over his throne, he ordered his servant Harpagus to kill the boy. (It would appear that Astyages was a little lacking in self-confidence.) Harpagus took pity, however, and gave the child to a herdsman whose own son had just died; he brought to the king the corpse of the herdsman's son as proof that the deed had been done. But at the age of ten, the king's grandson was seen taking part in a game with other children in which he play-acted the part of a king. He was noticed and brought to his grandfather, who recognized him immediately. Practiced in the art of swift judgement, the king punished Harpagus in the most horrific way he could imagine. He invited the servant to dinner at the palace and, unknown to Harpagus, had Harpagus's own thirteen-year-old son killed and cooked. The king then served Harpagus his son for dinner. When the meal ended, the king presented Harpagus with a basket containing the boy's hands, feet, and head. One can easily imagine the shock, horror, and anger the servant must have felt. But so absolute was the obedience commanded by this king that Harpagus merely bowed, saying that whatever the king did must be right. Astyages could have given Attila the Hun lessons in management by intimidation. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

July 24, 2000
A small-town police officer, despondent over the suicide of his girlfriend, apparently caused his own death Saturday (July 22, 2000) when police officers shot him after he aimed a pistol at them. Investigators said Pittsboro reserve Officer Darian Gipson, 28, may have wanted the officers to shoot him -- a situation known as police-assisted suicide, or "suicide by cop." "He didn't leave a note or anything like that," Indianapolis police Sgt. Paul Ciesielski said. "But all indications would lead us to believe that yes, this was a suicide by cop. "He had every opportunity to put the weapon down." Indianapolis police pleaded with Gipson to drop his weapon after he held it to his head several times and fired several shots into the air outside a nightclub on the city's west side about 12:20 a.m. "He did at one point threaten the officers, saying he was going to take them with him," Ciesielski said. Gipson become depressed and was put on leave after he discovered his live-in girlfriend had used his gun to kill herself in the couple's apartment on Father's Day. Authorities took Gipson's gun after that incident, but it was returned to him Thursday. Gipson had been counseled by clergymen and doctors and was taking an anti-depressant, and seemed to be feeling better until Friday night. "I think he told a lot of us what we wanted to hear -- that he was fine, when in actuality he wasn't," his chief Christi Patterson said. (APB News)

July 25, 2000
A wheelchair-bound nursing home resident is charged with killing his roommate by hitting him over the head with a dresser drawer and a cane. Jose Amador, 45, is accused of murdering 54-year-old Elzie Callahan on Saturday in their room at the Professional Care Center in northwest Dallas, homicide Sgt. Gary Kirkpatrick said. Investigators are unsure what precipitated the dispute that led to Callahan's death. Amador also is charged with assaulting a nurse's aide who went to help Callahan. She was hit over the head with Amador's cane, but was not seriously injured. Other nursing home employees rushed into the bloodied room to subdue Amador around 7:30 a.m. Saturday (July 22, 2000). Callahan died of head wounds six hours later at Parkland hospital. The two men had been roommates for less than two months. Nursing home officials refused to comment. Amador is being held on $150,000 bond at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center. (APBNews)

July 26, 2000
A California winery worker was found dead after apparently slipping into a gigantic stainless steel vat of red wine. San Joaquin County Deputy Coroner Al Ortiz said the body of Mario Flores, 31, was found on Wednesday at the Bear Creek Winery near Lodi. "Officially the cause of death is pending a microscopic exam of tissues and toxicology report," Ortiz said Friday (July 22, 2000). "Drowning would look like the most likely cause." Flores apparently fell into the 23,000-gallon vat while taking liquid level measurements through a hatch at the top of the container. The incident is under investigation. (Reuters, donated by KSHOhio)

July 27, 2000
In 430 B.C., a plague (probably good old Typhoid Fever) struck Athens. Crowded conditions and poor sanitation helped spread the infection. According to historian Thucydides, the sickness began with "violent heats in the head, and redness and inflammation of the eyes; and the internal parts, both the throat and the tongue, immediately assumed a bloody tinge, and emitted an unnatural and fetid breath." The plague moved through the victim's body, working its way into the lungs and finally to the stomach. In the seven to nine days it took to kill, the plague tormented its victims. Deep despair accompanied the beginning of the illness, so that the sick lost all desire to recover. Then came the burning fever; the sick often could not bear to wear any clothing and threw themselves into fountains "in the agony of their unquenchable thirst, yet it was the same whether they drank much or little." As the plague reached victims' lungs, they coughed violently and retched uncontrollably. Sores broke out on their bodies. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

July 28, 2000
The plague (probably Typhoid fever) ravaged the city of Athens for two years, between 430-427 B.C. Historian Thucydides described the bodies "lying on one another in the death agony, and half-dead creatures rolling about in the streets and round all the fountains, in their longing for water." Not even birds of prey would go near the corpses; the few dogs that fed on the corpses supposedly died almost immediately. Funeral pyres for the dead burned throughout the city; in the haste to dispose of infected corpses, some people dumped the bodies onto other families' pyres and ran away. Most of those who became sick died, while the few survivors often lost use of their fingers, toes, or eyes, or suffered complete amnesia. Those who recovered were immune to a second infection, however, and became the only nurses for the thousands of sick. Amid all this tragedy, those who had not yet been infected became determined to spend their last days in wild revelry before the plague struck them. By the time the plague ended in 427 B.C., it had killed as many as a third of the one hundred thousand people living in Athens. Among the many dead was the great Athenian leader Pericles. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

July 29, 2000
An experienced skydiver plunged 15,000ft to his death after his emergency parachute became tangled with a surfboard to which he was strapped. Nigel Thomas, 36, who was demonstrating the dangerous sport of sky surfing, which allows parachutists to perform snowboard-syle stunts, was sent twisting through the air before hitting the ground at about 60mph, watched by dozens of spectators. The dead man, a member of the Headcorn Parachute Club, near Maidstone, Kent (England), had completed more than 200 jumps and was described by friends as "a very proficient jumper". He had recently visited Spain to learn sky surfing. Mr Thomas and 13 others were jumping from a Turbolet 410 aeroplane when the accident happened on Friday. Miranda Capper, 26, a witness to it, said: "After he had been free-falling for a while it became obvious he was in distress. He was tugging at his cord. When his normal parachute didn't open he managed to open his reserve. Everything seemed fine for a few seconds but then we could see his surfboard had got tangled in the reserve parachute. He was twisting very fast in the air and he hit the ground at some horrific speed." The club's chief instructor, Peter Sizer, who was on the plane with Mr Thomas, said that the dead man had done more than 200 parachute jumps, four with a surfboard.He said: "We try to make the sport as safe as possible but unfortunately tragic accidents do happen." (The Times, donated by Stephen O'rourke)

July 30, 2000
On the evening of May 2, 1863, during the key Civil War battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, legendary Confederate general Stonewall Jackson and an entourage of staffers rode out in the woods before their front line to scout the terrain for the next morning's battle. When the cavalcade headed back toward Confederate lines, it came across two North Carolina brigades. The noise of the horses prompted one of the brigades to fire a wild volley. An officer with the general shouted a desperate plea to cease firing. "You are firing into your own men!" he yelled. The major of the 18th North Carolina, just north of the road, bellowed: "It's a lie! Pour it into them, boys!" The volley mortally injured four of the party. Three bullets hit Stonewall Jackson. Two shattered his left arm; the third pierced his right hand. Horrified subordinates gathered around the stricken leader, bound his wounds, and laboriously carried him from the field. Twice men carrying a corner of the litter went down. The second time Jackson fell squarely on his mangled shoulder, renewing the arterial bleeding that had already cost him much of his vitality. Eventually the general arrived at a field hospital and had his savaged arm amputated just below the shoulder early on May 3. Jackson was moved to a house twenty-five miles to the southeast to recuperate. At first he seemed to be recovering favorably from his amputation. Then, early on the morning of May 7, Jackson awakened with a sharp pain in his side that his medical staff readily and worriedly diagnosed as pneumonia. The disease made rapid inroads on the general's weakened system, and doctors hinted that he may not recover. The grim news spread through the ranks, transforming Chancellorsville from a glorious Confederate victory to the blackest of blots. Mrs. Jackson reached her husband's bedside on May 7, and three days later it was she who had to rouse him from his delirium to warn him he was dying. Jackson's response was, "My wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on a Sunday." In the early afternoon of Sunday, May 10, Jackson spoke quietly from the bed: "Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees." And then, as he so often had done during the year just past, Stonewall led the way. (American Heritage)

July 31, 2000
Since the psychology of serial killers is such an unholy blend of derangement and cunning, it's hard to know when their weird courtroom behavior is genuine and when they are just putting on an act. The latter may well have been the case in the trial of Andrei Chikatilo, the Russian "Mad Beast" who murdered, raped, and cannibalized over fifty young women and children. Chained inside an iron-barred cage - which was installed in the courtroom to protect him from the vengeful relatives of his victims - Chikatilo spent his time swaying autistically, spewing obscenities, baying at the judge, and shouting out insane remarks (at one point, he began yelling about his one-man battle against the Assyrian Mafia; at another, he claimed he was pregnant and lactating). If Chikatilo's behavior was a calculated act, designed to persuade observers of his legal insanity, it did not meet with success. He received the ultimate pan for his performance - a bullet to the back of the skull from a Russian executioner. (The A to Z Encylopedia Of Serial Killers)