August, 2001

August 1, 2001
Back in the 19th century when Australia was used as a British penal colony, a convict named Alexander Pierce escaped in a stolen boat from one of the island prisons, together with five other men. Hiding out in the hills, they began to starve, and one of them remarked that he could eat a man. The idea took root, and that night one of the men was killed; his heart was fried and eaten. A few days later, two more were killed, and their liver and hearts eaten. When one of the remaining three collapsed with exhaustion, he was killed with a blow from a hatchet, and partly eaten. The man who did the killing strapped the hatchet to his body in case Pierce attacked him with it in the night. Pierce decided to anticipate attack, and killed his companion, carrying off an arm and a thigh. Recaptured, he escaped again a year later with a man named Cox; Cox's dismembered body was found a few days later. When Pierce was captured, the meat and fish he had taken when he escaped were still intact - he admitted to preferring the taste of human flesh. (The Mammoth Book Of The History Of Murder)

August 6, 2001
Two German men were jailed for life in April, 1999 for murdering a prostitute to make a "snuff" movie. The woman was tied up, raped and tortured before being strangled and her ordeal captured on video. It was cheaper than employing actors and special effects, a court in Hagen, Germany, was told. Ernst Dieter Korzen, 37, and Stefan Michael Mahn, 30, picked up the 21-year-old Turkish prostitute in Cologne and took her to their isolated farm. Her body was later found on a rubbish tip, her hands and feet bound with metal and a rope round her neck. The court heard the crime was uncovered because the woman died too quickly and a second woman was abducted to complete the video, but managed to escape and alert police. It is the first time anyone has been convicted of a murder captured on film. Prosecutor Wolfgang Rahmer said: "From my experience, this represents a new depth in perversion. You see the victim begging for her life, pain being inflicted and massive sexual torture." Before this case, lack of evidence had led to scepticism over the existence of snuff movies. But Mr Rahmer said he had no doubt that an industry existed. "We know that there is no sexual perversion that cannot be marketed, and you would be amazed at the sums offered for such perverse videos." Frankfurt prosecutor Job Tilmann said the film would have fetched up to £10,000 in America. "People soon get bored and then the perversion escalates. There is no limit to the cruel fantasies that can be shown." Belgian private eye Andre Rogge, who specialises in missing children, said the German case was not an isolated one."I know from my experience that this is a thriving market. On some videos you can see children under four being tortured. But police have been unable to identify any of the victims." (LineOne and was generously donated by Kat)

August 7, 2001
In 1810, French physician Dominique Jean Larrey performed a mastectomy without anaesthetic on the novelist Fanny Burney. She later wrote a long account of the operation, recording the excruciating agony she had suffered:
"M. Dubois placed me upon the Mattress, & spread a cambric handkerchief upon my face. It was transparent, however, & I saw through it that the Bed stead was instantly surrounded by the 7 men and my nurse, I refused to be held; but when, bright through the cambric, I saw the glitter of polished steel - I closed my eyes...
Yet - when the dreadful steel was plunged into the breast - cutting through veins - arteries - flesh - nerves - I needed no injunctions not to restrain my cries. I began a scream that lasted unintermittingly during the whole time of the incision - & I almost marvel that it rings not in my Ears still! so excruciating was the agony. When the wound was made, & the instrument was withdrawn, the pain seemed undiminished, for the air that suddenly rushed into those delicate parts felt like a mass of minute but sharp & forked poniards, that were tearing the edges of the wound, - but when again I felt the instrument - describing a curve - cutting against the grain, if I may so say, while the flesh resisted in a manner so forcible as to oppose & tire the hand of the operator, who was forced to change from the right to the left - then, indeed, I thought I must have expired, I attempted no more to open my eyes... The instrument this second time withdrawn, I concluded the operation over - Oh no! presently the terrible cutting was renewed - & worse than ever, to separate the bottom, the foundation of this dreadful gland from the parts to which it adhered ... yet again all was not over."
The chilling account continued for several more pages. (
The Greatest Benefit To Mankind)

August 9, 2001
In July, 2001, police in Kolkata, India found a house stacked with human body parts including skeletons, skulls and bones, which led to the arrest of 50-year-old Vinesh Aron. Surprisingly, Aron had been carrying on the illegal trade for at least a decade-and-a-half, rode a chauffeur-driven Maruti Esteem and flaunted a Panasonic cell phone, but was never reported. Challans recovered from the single-storeyed house revealed that he was not only engaged in shipping the body parts to places as diverse as Karachi and New York. Even more surprisingly, Aron was running the business openly enough. He had employed dozens of people including three women who looked after 'billing and accounts'. The kitchen in the house was used to cook lunch for all of them and the vat used regularly to boil the bones and skulls. Several workers were engaged in polishing the bones when a team from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, led by MMIC (health) Javed Khan, swooped down on the nondescript house following a complaint of foul smell emanating from the building. A large number of skulls were being dried on the roof, visible from at least two adjoining buildings. Residents of a neighbouring flat on the third floor claimed that they had seen the activities and the skulls ever since they moved in two years ago. But somehow nobody in the neighbourhood thought of reporting this. The small office had three computers and a fax machine. Skeletons of all sizes and shapes, wrapped in transparent plastic, hung from hooks on the walls. Two almirahs stocked smaller bones and even the loft was full of bones, all packed in plastic. Aron tried to bluster his way out after being contacted over his cell phone. He offered to reach within the next 20 minutes, arrived an hour later and declared that he was carrying out a legitimate business. The 5'9'' tall Aron, dressed casually and nursing a paunch, fished out a trade license, which was found to have lapsed in March. Police said that the trade in human bodies was banned in the mid-1980. In any case, CMC officials pointed out, the license allowed him to trade in "models of human anatomy" and not parts of the human body. ( The Times Of India, generously donated by Susan Prendergast)

August 10, 2001
German police have detained a Berlin woman who screamed she was a vampire and thirsty as she attempted to bite people (March, 2001). She tried to bite the necks of three people within a few minutes," police spokesman Hansjoerg Draeger said. "She screamed out that she was a vampire and was thirsty." The 21-year-old woman, identified only as Laura E., was put under psychiatric observation after she also tried to bite her fingers off. She first tried to bite the neck of a 20-year-old woman at a doctor's surgery, however the victim managed to escape. She then went into a fast-food restaurant and bit the neck of a 40-year-old waiter. Police said she then ran out onto the street where she first cut the neck of an 88-year-old pensioner with a piece of broken glass and then bit the elderly woman's ear. Two police officers called to the scene managed to detain her, but she repeatedly bit their hands and arms. (Reuters, donated by Ladyfreud)

August 11, 2001
William Calcraft was the official hangman of London from 1829 to 1874, when he was forced to retire from old age. He began his career by flogging juvenile offenders in Newgate at ten shillings a week and hanged his first two men at Lincoln in 1828. In 1868 he hanged the last man to be executed in public, Michael Barrett. Calcraft's methods had not changed much since Tudor times. He favored the "short" drop, which gave a two or three foot drop but led to bungled and unnnecessarily brutal hangings. At the hanging of David Evans, the rope broke and he fell into the pit, through the open trapdoor. Evans staggered to his feet, his nerve completely gone, and screamed, "I claim my liberty. You have hanged me once, and you have no power or authority to hang me again." The crowd was shouting "Shame! Let him go!" Calcraft told him that he was wrong. "There is no such law as that - to let a man go if there is an accident and he is not properly hanged. My warrant and my order are to hang you by the neck until you are dead. So up you go, and hang you must until you are dead." Evans was still protesting when the trap fell for the second time. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encylopedia, Volume 11)

August 13, 2001
In October 1826 three large casks sat on the quay at St. George's Dock Passage, Liverpool, waiting to be loaded on the Latona for delivery to Edinburgh. The casks, labelled 'Bitter Salts', were addressed to Mr. G. H. Ironson. The crew complained about the noxious smell, until finally the captain pulled out a clump of hay which had been plugging a hole in the side of one of the casks. Immediately '... the stench became almost unbearable.' Undeterred, the captain put his hand through the hole and to his horror and surprise it sank deep into putrefying human flesh. When the police opened the casks, they found the bodies of four men and seven women carefully packed in salt. The police traced the origin of the cargo to a cellar beneath a school, where they discovered a further nine men, five women, five boys and three girls. The schoolchildren had ercently complained of the smell coming from the cellar but the Revd James Macgowan, headmaster and innocent dupe, had merely 'opened the windows and remarked that it was occasioned by the closeness'. In fact, the bodies were part of a 'Resurrectionist' supply - corpses stolen by grave robbers and sent to medical schools to supply anatomists. (Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions And Fears)

August 14, 2001
A Vietnamese woman inflicted a hideous punishment on her ten-year-old stepson after he stole 200 dong (the equivalent of about one U.S. penny): she forced him to stitch his own mouth up. Phan Thi Hien, 31, handed the boy a needle and thread after beating him severely for stealing in Bac Ninh. An officer there said: "She forced the boy to it while she was watching." The People's Police newspaper said Hien would be prosecuted on a charge of ill-treating a child. (Bizarre Magazine)

August 15, 2001
A man's alleged suicide didn't work out as he had planned Wednesday morning (August 8, 2001), but was effective nonetheless. The man, possibly in his 60s, apparently fastened a 3-foot pole to the dashboard of his late-model American car and attempted to impale himself on it by driving into a pillar of the Orange (57) Freeway, said Sgt. Randy Lascuraim of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "We cannot account for a metal bar that was placed on top of the dashboard, through the steering wheel ... sticking out, pointing toward the driver's seat," Lascuraim said. "It kind of appears that this death was a little more than an accident." The metal bar, pointing at the man's neck, somehow missed as he was thrust into the steering wheel, which in itself caused enough injury to kill him, Lascuraim said. "It was a little bizarre," he said. "I don't think it quite worked out the way he intended." The man carried no identification and sheriff's homicide detectives are investigating his identity and a possible motive for the crash, which occurred at about 8:45 a.m. A witness told investigators the man was driving southbound on Brea Canyon Road and crossed the center median at about 40 mph to slam into the pillar. (Pasadena Star News, donated by Bruce Townley)

August 16, 2001
Karl Slover grew up to be a Munchkin. The Tampa resident played several of the little folks in The Wizard Of Oz and on special cinematic occasions relives his days with the stars. (Most of the film's principal actors are dead, but 10 of the munchkins are still alive.) In the movie, Slover played a trumpeter, a soldier, one of the babies who pops out of the eggs -- even a female Munchkin because of the shortage of midget women. He was 21 when the movie was made; he's 82 now. Slover is what is known as a pituitary dwarf, and he doesn't understand why he is one. His father stood 6'6" and was vice mayor of a small town in what is now the Czech Republic. By the time Slover was 8, he was still barely 2 feet tall. (He is 4'4" now.) And his father was most unpleased with Karl's short stature and tried several techniques to "stretch" his son: "He took me to a big hospital in Hungary, and there were eight doctors who examined me. They put stretchers on me. But one of the doctors said he thought they were going at it the wrong way. He said stretching is stupid; the best thing would be a different climate, different food. Get him away from here. But they put me on the stretcher and one of my bones made a noise. I let out a yell because it hurt. It was some kind of a darned contraption. They put it on my legs and arms and pulled both ways. [I was] 7 or 8. I didn't know what they were trying to do. After that, they tried to stretch me by just pulling me by my legs and arms. But when I hollered, that one doctor said if they continued, they're going to kill me before I know what's what. Later, my father had two other bright ideas. He got a big wooden barrel and filled it full of coconut leaves and boiled it, and they put me in it. I was as red as a lobster when they took me out. My mother had to put stuff on me so my skin wouldn't blister. Another idea was to put me in the sand in the backyard and leave me covered up to my neck. We had a Doberman pinscher named Luxy, and he loved us kids. My mother told the maid to bring me in at 4 o'clock. Well, the maid unhooked the dog but left me out there. Then it started to sprinkle. So I called Luxy, and he came and pulled me out. My mother and father really bawled the heck out of the maid when they got home. " (St. Petersburg Times and was generously donated by KSHOhio)

August 17, 2001
A Ghanaian man was shot dead by a fellow villager while testing a magic spell designed to make him bulletproof. Aleobiga Aberima, 23, and around 15 other men from Lambu village, northeast Ghana, had asked a jujuman, or witchdoctor, to make them invincible to bullets. After smearing his body with a concoction of herbs every day for two weeks, Aberima volunteered to be shot to check if the spell had worked. One of the others fetched a rifle and shot Aberima who died instantly from a single bullet. Angry Lambu residents seized the jujuman and beat him severely until a village elder rescued him. Tribal clashes are common in Ghana's far north, where people often resort to witchcraft in the hope of becoming invulnerable to bullets, swords and arrows. (Reuters, donated by Bruce Townley)

August 18, 2001
The rundown house at 5520 North Marshall Street in Franklinville, Philadelphia - HQ of the United Church for the Ministries of God - had been under suspicion for weeks. It wasn't just the stench of burning flesh, which neighbors had reported: there were also tales of orgies, of blows and screams, of a power saw buzzing late at night. But, in the spring of 1987 in this grim part of town, screams were not uncommon. The police made a routine check but left with nothing to report. Weeks later, after a phone call from a hysterical woman, they returned at five in the morning to smash down the barred and bolted door. Only then was the full extent of the horror revealed. Deep in a grimy basement, officers found a scene of savagery. Two women, scarred and trembling, cowered beneath a filthy blanket. They were chained to each other, red weals around their wrists and ankles. A third lay naked in chains, curled up in the 'punishment pit' - a 4ft-deep hole in the earth covered by a plywood board held down with heavy bags. Freed from their bonds, the women, all black, were hysterical but identified themselves as Jacquelyn Askins, Lisa Thomas and Agnes Adams, the girl in the pit. As the women stumbled towards a waiting ambulance and freedom, Homicide Lieutenant James Hansen and his men continued their grisly search. Opening a refrigerator in the kitchen, officer Dave Savidge found a human arm. Beside it, labelled 'Dog Food', were 24lbs of frozen limbs packed in polythene bags - two forearms, one upper arm, two knees and pieces of thigh - all with skin, muscle and soft tissue still clinging to the bone. All had been cut with an electric saw. A food processor containing traces of human flesh stood on a bloodstained kitchen top. And, in an oven dish, they found what looked like the burnt remains of human ribs. The scorched cooking pot on the blackened stove contained a foul-smelling fatty substance. It was the boiled up remains of a human head. Hansen and his men felt ill. A dog wandered in chewing a human leg bone. This was far worse than the sickest porn video the men had ever confiscated. With their noses covered by handkerchiefs, they stumbled from room to room, finding more blood and bits of flesh and bone everywhere. The place was a charnel house, a sexual abattoir that had witnessed the most unspeakable things - murder, rape, torture, electrocution, savage beatings and cannibalism (the surviving women were fed dog food mixed with human flesh). Kept against their will as sex slaves to a monster, two women had died violently. Three more would have permanent damage to their hearing caused by their ears being deliberately gored by a screwdriver. Gary Heidnik - a self-described 'bishop' of the church he helped found - was convicted of 18 separate counts, ranging from murder, rape and kidnapping to aggravated assault and deviant sexual intercourse. He spent 11 years on Death Row before being executed by lethal injection on July 6, 1999. (Bizarre Magazine)

August 20, 2001
On July 30, 1945, after completing a top secret mission to deliver parts of the atom bomb "Little Boy," which would be dropped on Hiroshima, the battle cruiser USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated 300 men were killed upon impact; close to 900 sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they remained, undetected by the Navy for nearly five days. Battered by a savage sea, they struggled to survive, fighting off hypothermia, sharks, physical and mental exhaustion, and, finally, hallucinatory dementia. (By the time rescue - which was purely accidental - arrived, all but 321 men had lost their lives; 4 more would die in military hospitals shortly thereafter.) Around dawn on day two, the shark attacks began. In one group, where most were dressed only in their gray life vests, one sailor would wake from sleep, half stupefied and half dreaming , and give a buddy next to him a "good morning" shove. The guy didn't respond. When the sailor pushed again, the friend's body tipped over like a child's toy and bobbed away. He'd been eaten in half, right up to the hem of his life vest. (In Harm's Way)

August 21, 2001
A man opened fire just after his son's baseball game on July 16, 2001, killing his estranged wife and the 10-year-old boy as players and parents fled for cover. The man later killed himself. The woman, 31, was watching the game from her car at the park in north St. Louis when she spotted her husband. She yelled for her son, but the gunman began shooting before they could escape. The man killed his wife as she sat in the car, then turned the gun on his son, St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa said. No one else was injured. "He grabbed his son, took his son several feet away from the automobile ... and shot his son," Mokwa said. The suspect, 34, fled from the park. Police later found his car pulled over on Interstate 55. The man was inside, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. No names were immediately released. "You work hard and give so much of your time to these kids," said Warren Scott, the boy's Little League coach. "Then to have something like this happen .... It's just so hard to swallow." (ABC News, donated by Stephen O'rourke)

August 22, 2001
Doberman guard dogs ate the lower half of a homeless man who sought shelter in the grounds of a Chilean factory. A post mortem has been carried out on the man's body which confirmed he'd been attacked by dogs. He was identified by his brother who said the dogs had eaten everything below his waist leaving only the leg bones. The dogs now face being destroyed, while the man's family have announced legal proceedings against the Santiago furniture company that owns the seven dogs. It's thought Josť Manuel Urra, 35, climbed the fence around the factory to shelter from the rain. His brother Carlos told Chilean daily, Las Ultimas Noticias: "I had to go and identify his remains. I couldn't believe the state of his body. The dogs had eaten everything below his waist, only his leg bones were left." His mother, who hasn't been named, added: "My son had nowhere to live, and he had no job or anything. Guarding a property is one thing, but eating people alive is much too much." Veterinary scientist Luis Tello said under Chilean law the owner is responsible for the actions of his or her dog. "Dobermans are guard dogs, and in this case they saw the tramp as their legitimate prey," he said. "It is normal behavior for them to eat their victim. These dogs were deliberately bred to be aggressive and to protect their territory." (Ananova, donated by Bruce Townley)

August 23, 2001
One of the oldest forms of appeals to divine judgement utilized during medieval times was the ordeal by fire, which had its roots in the belief that, if the gods so desired it, humans could withstand the normal physiological effects of fire. The preliminaries to the ordeal by fire were fasting, prayer, the taking of the sacraments and the exorcism or blessing of all the paraphernalia involved. Similarly, too, the member or members that had been exposed to the fire were bound up and sealed to await inspection three days later. In certain cases, the accused was blindfolded and made to hazard a walk over red-hot ploughshares, six, nine or twelve of them, laid out before him on the ground; in others, without a blindfold, he (or very often she, this being considered an excellent way of testing a lady's chastity) was actually made to press the naked foot against each ploughshare; but the most usual form of trial by fire compelled the subject to hold in his hand or to carry for a specified distance, usually nine feet, a lump of red-hot iron, the weight of which was fixed by law in proportion to the magnitude of the alleged crime. In England, for the 'simple' ordeal, the iron weighed one pound while for the 'triple' ordeal, which the Laws of Henry I prescribed for plotting aginst the King's life, false-coining, secret murder, robbery, arson and felonies in general, it weighed three pounds. (The Medieval Underworld)

August 24, 2001
The French revolutionary leader Jacquest Danton (1759-94), who ordered thousands of guillotinings during the French Revolution, was finally sentenced to a taste of his own medicine. He told the executioner: "Be sure to show the mob my head. It will be a long time before they see its like." (Weird Wills & Eccentric Last Wishes)

August 25, 2001
A woman accused of putting a steak knife through her boyfriend's heart after he brought home the wrong fast-food order has been charged with murder. Khante "Kiki" Johnson, 20, was arraigned Tuesday (March 27, 2001) in Contra Costa Superior Court in Richmond in connection with the fatal stabbing of 25-year-old Japaicka "Pecka" Colon. Johnson reportedly told police she stabbed her boyfriend Sunday morning because she was upset that he brought her a ham, egg and cheese bagel and coffee instead of the two sausage McMuffins and orange juice she requested. The couple, who lived together in the Crescent Park Apartments on Hartnett Avenue, attended a birthday party in the complex Saturday night and came home about 1 a.m. to sleep. They were in an upstairs bedroom when a fight outside the unit woke them about 5 a.m.. They decided they wanted breakfast, and Colon headed to McDonald's. "He usually returned with the wrong order," a witness in the apartment told police. "But she said if he came with the wrong order this time, there was going to be a fight." When Colon returned the two began arguing. Johnson threw the ham bagel on the ground and her coffee at Colon. Johnson told police Colon became violent, throwing a broom and a chair in her direction. Witnesses said she ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife and then went back upstairs, where she allegedly stabbed Colon in the chest before running out of the apartment. Police arrived to find Colon bleeding on the couple's bed, breathing heavily. He died shortly after he was taken to Doctors Medical Center San Pablo. An autopsy showed the knife had passed through his heart. Johnson walked into the Hall of Justice and surrendered that afternoon. (Contra Costa Times, donated by Bruce Townley)

August 26, 2001
By 1700 the demand for slaves to work the plantations of South, Central and North America was enormous, and slave traders carried gold, cloth, and rum to barter with African chiefs who wilingly rounded up and traded away their own countrymen. The captured men and women were chained together and forced to walk as far as nine hundred miles to the coast. One trader wrote of the slaves' despair at having to leave their countries: "They often leap'd out of the canoes, boat and ship into the sea, and kept under water till they were drowned, to avoid being taken..." The voyages of slave ships across the Atlantic were, quite literally, deadly. Hundreds of slaves were forced to lie together in wretchedly confined spaces in the lower decks of the ships, with such poor sanitation that their quarters quickly became overwhelmingly foul-smelling. Disease was a constant problem, sometimes even striking the ship's crew, as well as their shackled cargo. Though these conditions were bad enough, storms during the voyage often proved fatal for many of the slaves. With the hatches battened down for days on end, the misery of those confined below was more than they could survive. There were dangers during calm weather , too. When slave ships were becalmed, the voyage took longer, making food and water scarce. One slave ship captain cited a water shortage as sufficient reason for throwing fifty-four ailing slaves overboard during their long voyage. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

August 27, 2001
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the idea of trading body parts for cash on accident policies had just one name among insurance investigators around the country: Vernon, Florida. For a time, losing limbs, fingers, arms, or legs in freak accidents became the town fashion. More than fifty such cases came out of Vernon in just a few years, a number that becomes all the more unusual when it is understood that the town's total population was less than 500. Investigators refused to name the town at the time, telling newspaper reporters only that they referred to it as Nub City. Self-amputees from the city, investigators said, were casually referred to as members of the Nub Club. "Somehow they always shoot off the parts they seem to need least," one investigator remarked of the disproportionate number of left hands claimed lost as compared with right ones. To sit in your car on a sweltering summer evening on the main street of Nub City, watching anywhere from eight to a dozen cripples walking along the street, gives the place a ghoulish, eerie atmosphere." Most of the limbs lost in Nub City were shot off at close range with hunting rifles. The contrived accidents were all similar: triggers pulled unexpectedly as victims climbed fences; guns misfiring in the middle of being cleaned or after being dropped. And all of the mishaps involved men. ("Women never do dismemberments," investigator John J. Healy later observed.) In the late 1950s, when the first claims came out of Nub City, a typical dismemberment was worth $1,500; by the early 1970s, the average claim was bringing tens of thousands of dollars. (Accidentally, On Purpose: The Making Of A Personal Injury Underworld In America, donated by Greg Schneider)

August 28, 2001
The British police didn't know how long the body had been there, but it was clear the man was dead. Tucked under a tree, just inside the railings of a hardware store car park, the prone figure was spotted by one of the store's staff as she arrived just before 7am. She assumed he was a drunk who had tumbled over the railings and fallen asleep while staggering home along the road. It was only as she edged over for a closer look that she noticed that his limbs were grotesquely misshapen, and the pool of lumpy liquid in which he was lying was not vomit, but the man's spilt brains. The area was hastily screened off and police launched an immediate murder investigation. But it soon emerged that a witness had seen the dead man a few minutes before his body was found. A workman at nearby London Heathrow airport had glanced upwards to see him plummeting from the sky like a stone, his black jeans and T-shirt picked out against the washed blue early morning sky. At Bahrain airport the night before, about 1am local time, the 21-year-old Ayaz somehow broke through a security cordon and sprinted through the dark towards a British Airways Boeing 777 that was preparing for take-off. As the ground crew backed away and the enormous aircraft dragged itself towards the runway, he ran under the wings and hauled himself into the cavernous opening above the wheels. Getting into the wheelbay of a Boeing 777 is not easy. It involves climbing four metres up one of the aircraft's 12 enormous wheels, then finding somewhere to crouch or cling as the plane makes its way to the end of the runway and starts its deafening engines. Ayaz had to contort himself around the huge pieces of articulated steel while the tarmac slipped by beneath him, the engine accelerating to 290km/h. But it was probably only when the wheels left the ground and began to retract into the bay that he realised how much trouble he was in. "There certainly used to be a belief that there was a secret hatch from the wheelbay into the cargo bay, and then into the passenger cabin, as if it were a castle with a dungeon and a series of secret passageways," says Goodyear. In fact, the undercarriage compartment has no oxygen, no heating, no pressure - and no secret hatch. Ten minutes into the ascent, the temperature in the wheelbay would have been freezing. At 18,000ft, minutes later, while passengers only a few metres away were being served drinks and settling back to watch in-flight movies, Ayaz would have begun to hallucinate from lack of oxygen. At 30,000ft the temperature is minus 56 degrees. Even if he had managed to escape being crushed by the retracting wheel mechanism, he was as good as dead from the moment his feet left the runway. "He didn't have a chance," says Paul Jackson, editor of the specialist magazine Jane's All the World's Aircraft. "At that temperature you're a block of ice - there's no way you're going to get away with it, unless the plane is forced for some reason to fly at an unusually low altitude." By the time the plane reached British airspace, Ayaz was almost certainly long dead. Just after 6am, between 20 and 30 kilometres from Heathrow, the plane locked onto its approach path and began to descend. Between 2,000 and 3,000ft, the captain opened the undercarriage and lowered the wheels; the young man was tipped out into the early morning sky. (The Guardian, donated by Lynne Rutledge)

August 29, 2001
A month after the deadly attack on Pearl Harbor Navy teams were salvaging guns and usable hardware from the sunken battleship Arizona. Divers wearing heavy copper helmets were bringing up safes, record books, and live ordnance. Metalsmith 1st Class Edward Raymer was first to penetrate the Arizona. In his recent war memoir, Descent Into Darkness, he writes how "viscous oil thickly layered everything in the harbor." When he dived to the battleship, "the dense floating mass of oil blotted out all daylight. I was submerged in total blackness." Lights were useless because they reflected directly back into the diver's eyes. Instructed to find and disarm an unexploded torpedo, Raymer groped his way through the spaces of the Arizona's third deck, trailing an air hose connected to a pump topside. "I got the eerie feeling again that I wasn't alone. Something was near. I felt the body floating above me." Raymer's movement through the water had created a suction that drew floating corpses to him, bodies with heads and hands picked clean by scavenger crabs. "Their skeletal fingers brushed across my copper helmet," he remembers in horror. "The sound reminded me of the tinkle of oriental windchimes." Medics wearing gas masks against nausea gathered only 229 of the 1,177 Arizona dead from the waters before the Navy reluctantly decided to leave the rest untouched. (National Geographic)

August 30, 2001
In 1775 surgeon William Hunter was particularly excited by the physical development of the body of one of the criminals brought to the Royal College of Surgeons from the Tyburn gallows. He thought the body would make ideal teaching material for students at the Royal Academy of Arts. While it was still warm and before rigor mortis had set in, Hunter posed the body in such a position as to show the muscular development to its maximum effect. He then allowed the body to stiffen, removed the skin from the corpse and made a mold. The Academy still has the cast of such a flayed criminal, 'Smugglerius'. (Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions And Fears)

August 31, 2001
Towards the end of the 19th century some French prisoners were confined in the souriere, a cell about three feet square, so small that sitting or lying down was a physical impossibility. The Times of February 22, 1893 reported the case of a suspected murderer who was held in the souriere for many weeks before eventually being acquitted. The experience is described in all its horror by a prisoner in a French jail in the 1920s. He said: "The solitary confinement cells were underground, in the very foundations of the prison. They were damp and pitch dark. The diet consists of bread and water only for two days, and full diet every third day. For forty days I was confined to the blackness of the underground pit. My only exercise was a walk to the end of the solitary confinement corridor to empty my latrine bucket into the moat. But the bucket was not emptied every day, for sometimes I sat for a week without being able to move my legs. Worse than the diet, dampness and darkness was the monotony, the indescribable loneliness. Go into a small room, so small that your back is against a wall and your hands can touch the other three. Block up your ears with cotton wool so that you can hear nothing. Tightly close your eyes. Try it for just five minutes. Then multiply those five minutes until they make the 57,600 minutes of forty days." (Rack, Rope and Red-Hot Pincers)



Vulgarities...