Eight members of a religious group accused of using black magic to make a man's penis disappear were lynched by a mob in southwest Nigeria in April, 2001. The victims, all members of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star were killed in Ilesa, Osun State. The sect was holding a conference in the city when a resident, Kunle Eniola, suddenly claimed members of the brotherhood had caused his penis to disappear. Angry residents quickly pounced on the meeting and beat eight members to death and then burnt their bodies. Belief in magic is widespread in Nigeria, as are instances of people being killed for allegedly using their power to cause misfortune. (News24.Co.Za, donated by Bruce Townley)
A pastor drowned in Botswana while baptizing his followers in a river. The 40-year-old minister entered the river near Thamaga Village and invited two men into the water to be baptized. But he quickly got into difficulties and disappeared beneath the surface. His body was found downstream later. The victim, a pastor of the Botswana Babirwa New Jerusalem Church, has not been named. He went into the river, then called followers in one by one for the baptism ceremony of washing away original sin. Suddenly the pastor disappeared under the water together with the other two men, reports The Gazette. One man standing on the bank of the river jumped into the water to rescue the three men. Two managed to climb out of the river, but the pastor did not re-surface. The station commander Thamaga Police Station, Mr Albert Ntema, confirmed the incident. He urged church members to be careful when engaged in baptismal ceremonies. (Ananova.Com, donated by Kelley Knight)
A man who collected First World War memorabilia was killed by an explosive device dating from the war. Eric Foucher, 36, had been in a shed adjoining his house in the town of Very when the explosion occurred last night. Foucher collected items such as helmets and uniform buttons as well as explosives recovered from the nearby Verdun forest, in eastern France. Investigators ruled Foucher's death was an accident. Specialists from Metz will search Foucher's house to remove other bombs and munitions which could explode. The Verdun forest is the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Debris from the 1916 battle can still be unearthed from the area. However, collecting such objects is prohibited. (Ananova.Com, donated by Neko Nuriko)
Italian archaeologists have detailed the final moments of some of the victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. They say people sheltering in waterfront chambers were incinerated in a cloud of hot gases and ash that swept through the ancient town of Herculaneum. They died so quickly in the intense heat that they did not even have time to raise their hands in self-defence. They didn't suffer a lot - it was an instantaneous death. The researchers draw their conclusions from a study of 80 skeletons entombed in ash in boat chambers on the beach at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. All were in natural, relaxed postures, and showed no signs of distress, said Alberto Incoronato, of the University of Naples Federico II, and colleagues. "There was no time for displaying any defensive reaction," he told BBC News Online. "They didn't suffer a lot - it was an instantaneous death." The study reveals that the deadly eruption sent a fiery cloud of ash and gases racing through the town and into the shelters. But rather than suffocating the victims, the shock of the heatwave would have stopped their vital organs faster than they could react. "Contrary to what is believed so far, they died of heat exposure and not suffocation," Professor Incoronato told BBC News Online. The ancient city of Herculaneum lay at the foot of Vesuvius on a cliff overlooking the sea. When the mountain erupted, both it and Pompeii were buried by a succession of avalanches of volcanic ash. Many of the inhabitants of both towns were killed by suffocation. But those in the boat chambers died "in less than a fraction of a second" from the blasting heatwave. The patterns of tooth enamel cracks and bone colouration indicated that the victims were exposed to temperatures of about 500C. "Their life-like stance reflects their posture at the time when the first surge emplaced," the scientists write. "These individuals, who did not suffer mechanical impact, do not display any evidence of voluntary self-protective reaction or agony contortions, indicating that the activity of their vital organs must have stopped within a shorter time than the conscious reaction time, a state known as fulminant shock." (BBC News, donated by Bruce Townley)
Execution is a public spectacle in Saudi Arabia, where strict Islamic law mandates the death penalty for murder, rape, drug trafficking, sodomy and armed robbery. [Ummmm... like they say on Sesame Street, one of these things does not belong! - cd] On April 24, 2000, Himat Saeed Haroon, a Sudanese convicted of ax-murdering another man in his sleep, was led handcuffed and barefoot into a public square before the main mosque in the capital, Riyadh. His eyes were covered with cotton pads and his head wrapped with black cloth. Sedated, Haroon was made to kneel on a blue plastic sheet on the asphalt. An Interior Ministry official read his name and crime to a gathering crowd. A soldier handed a long, curved sword to the executioner. He jabbed the tip into Haroon's back, forcing reflexes to raise the neck. A single swing severed the head. Later, out of respect for the dead, the head was sown back onto the body for burial. Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia carried out at least 123 executions last year, making it second only to China - which has almost 100 times more people. Most were beheaded. Bodies of those convicted of particularly gruesome crimes are crucified following decapitation. Iran executed 75 people last year, by firing squads inside prisons or in public by hanging the condemned from a construction crane. The hangings draw large crowds, including friends and relatives of the condemned and the victim. Sometimes the crowds call out for mercy or justice. Iran's version of Islamic law gives the family of a murder victim the right to demand death, or grant mercy in the form of a prison term. In one famous case at the beginning of last year, 17-year-old Morteza Amini Moqaddam, hands cuffed, tears streaking his face, was already in the noose and seconds from death when the victim's father told authorities to call it off. He had been moved by pleas from the boy's family and many of the 4,000 onlookers. Afghanistan takes capital punishment a step further, allowing the victim's father or brother to machine-gun the condemned person in a sports stadium. Afghan women convicted of adultery are stoned to death. Men found guilty of sodomy are crushed under a wall that is made to collapse. Scholars say these punishments reflect ancient tribal traditions rather than Islamic law. (The Associated Press, donated by Neil Langdon Inglis)
A buyer at a Chicago estate sale made a gruesome discovery this week when he opened a footlocker he had bought and found the mummified body of a newborn girl inside. Peoria County authorities say the body is that of a full-term baby, with its umbilical cord still attached and remnants of a placenta inside a blanket around its body. The cord had not been cut or clamped, suggesting the baby died during or soon after an at-home birth--perhaps at the home where she was found in the small central Illinois town of Kickapoo. The baby may have been born 20 or 30 years ago, officials speculate. Examinations are scheduled to more closely determine the date, but forensic experts are pinning their hopes on police interviews to figure out how--and why--the baby died. The body was tightly sealed under several layers of coverings, preserving for years the tiny body, skin and wisps of reddish-blond hair. But as well-preserved as the corpse is, it offers few clues for investigators. The baby had no fractured bones and no wounds on her body. "The most certain knowledge we'll ever have will come if the Sheriff's Department finds someone who knows of this," said Heinz. "Other than that, we might never know." The estate sale came after the May death of 84-year-old William Searle, who had lived in the house since the 1960s. His wife died a few years earlier, as have some of the couple's children. Other family members have moved away. "This isn't something that was recent, something that happened a year or two ago," said Michael McCoy, chief deputy of the Peoria County Sheriff's Department. "That could hinder the investigation. The owner has passed away, his wife has passed away, several of his children have passed away. That makes it tough." No one at this point even knows if the body indicates any crime more serious than failing to report a death. The baby could have died naturally. (The Chicago Tribune, donated by KSHOhio)
A day after a gang shot Pedro da Silva Correa, 43, and threw him into a tomb in a cemetery in Campos, about 150 miles northwest of Rio, Brazil, Correa pushed the cement lid off and climbed out. "He walked all the way to the hospital covered in blood," said the hospital spokeswoman, Sandra Santos. "The whole incident has given people quite a fright." Correa told doctors he was kidnapped and tied up by drug traffickers as he was on his way home to a shantytown where a rival drug gang holds sway. The gang eventually shot Correa and left him for dead inside a closed tomb. One of the bullets was still lodged in his head when he stumbled into the hospital. "Obviously he is terrified that the gang will try to kill him again when they find out he is still alive," Santos said. Correa was not the only one shaken by the resurrection. "The town is terrified. People are superstitious and they're already talking about the walking dead," Santos said. (Reuters, donated by a flatworm named bdelloura)
E.J. Halley of Memphis, Tennessee had used a huge sum bequeathed to him by his foster mother to drink himself into an early grave. When he died in 1910, he left money in his will to sheriffs, favourite baseball players and orphanages, and also to those who had apparently performed great services for him during his last delirious days: "To the nurse who kindly removed a pink monkey from the foot of my bed, $5000. To the cook at the hospital who removed snakes from my broth, $5000." Needless to say, the will was contested by his relatives. (Weird Wills & Eccentric Last Wishes)
One of the worst-ever lycanthropes was the Werewolf of Chalons, otherwise known as the Demon Tailor. He was arraigned in Paris on 14 December 1598 on murder charges which were so appalling that the court ordered all documents of the hearing to be destroyed. Even his real name has become lost in history. Burnt to death for his crimes, he was believed to decoy children of both sexes into his shop, and having abused them he would slice their throats and then powder and dress their bodies, jointing them as a butcher cuts up meat. In the twilight, under the shape of a wolf, he roamed the woods to leap out on stray passers-by and tear their throats to shreds. Barrels of bleached bones were found concealed in his cellars as well as other foul and hideous things. He died (it was said) unrepentant and blaspheming. (The Witching Hours, donated by Rebecca King)
A repairman at a Frito-Lay Inc. snack food plant in Lubbock, Texas died in February, 2001 when he fell into a 15-foot vat of unheated vegetable oil and drowned. Donald Boone, 34, fell through a 2-foot hole in the top of the tank while working to repair a float inside it, said Robert Byers, chief investigator for the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office. "The tank is just real tall and I think he went in head first. The preliminary ruling is an accidental drowning. We're waiting on toxicology reports, but we don't expect to find anything that will change" the ruling, Byers said. Frito-Lay spokeswoman Lynn Markley said the oil, used to cook Fritos corn chips and other snacks, was not heated because it was in a storage tank, not a cooking vat. Lubbock Police Department spokesman Bill Morgan said Boone and another man were working on the tank when the accident happened. "There were two men on the roof of the tank making repairs. One went down to pick up something on the ground, he heard a noise and he said he looked up only to see the guy's legs disappearing through the opening," Morgan told Reuters. The oil was drained from the tank and a fireman sent in to retrieve Boone, who died later at a local hospital. (Reuters, donated by KSHOhio)
Before a young man of the Mandan tribe of Native Americans could become a fully fledged warrior, he had to undergo one of the world's most painful initiation rituals: O-Kee-Pa. First, the young man had to go without food, drink, and sleep for four days and nights. Then, wearing ornate clothes and with his body painted, he entered a ceremonial hut. The chief medicine man carved slices from the chest and shoulders of the warrior-to-be with a jagged knife and thrust wooden skewers through the bleeding flesh behind the muscles. Stout thongs, secured to the rafters of the hut, were then tied to both ends of the skewers and the initiate was hoisted from the floor. To increase the agony, heavy weights were attached to his legs, and he was twirled around and around until he fell unconscious. When - and if - he recovered from this treatment, the young brave was given a hatchet, with which he had to chop off the little finger of his left hand. In the final stage his stamina was tested by tying ropes to his wrists and making him run in a circle, like a horse being broken in, until he dropped unconscious from exhaustion. If he survived all this, he was then able to return to his family in triumph as a fully fledged warrior. No one knows how many braves died undergoing O-Kee-Pa. In the end, bravery alone was not enough to save the Mandans. In the 1840's they were almost wiped out by an enemy too small to see - the terrible scourge of smallpox. And the few survivors joined other tribes. (Strange Stories, Amazing Facts)
On Hainan Island, China, a food-stall owner known for his special snake dishes was killed by two snakes he'd just beheaded. As he went to pick up the just-severed heads, they both sank their fangs into his hand and he died of the poisonous bites. ( Bizarre Magazine)
Peter Kurten, the Düsseldorf sadist, often grabbed women in dark streets and throttled them until he achieved a sexual climax. If he achieved the climax while the victim was still alive, he left her, and, strangely enough, some girls who went out with him more than once actually allowed him to throttle them as they had intercourse; Kurten told one who protested: "That's what love's all about." (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 24)
Nina Housden, who lived near Detroit, was a passionate, violent and neurotic woman who was pathologically jealous of her bus-driver husband Charles. In 1947 he left her. Just before Christmas that year, she invited him over for a drink "for old times' sake," got him drunk, then strangled him with a clothes line. The next day, she dismembered him and wrapped the parts of the body in newspaper. But from then on, luck was against her. She set out with the parts of the body in the car, intending to dispose of them in the Kentucky Hills. The car broke down in Toledo, Ohio, and the garage proprietor was surprised when the woman said she would wait in the car, even if it took a week to repair. A garage mechanic looked into one of the evil-smelling parcels in the back seat while Nina slept, and discovered a human leg. She was sentenced to life imprisonment. ( Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 24)
On an August day in 1867, horrified villagers in Hampshire, England, discovered a 7-year-old girl in the following pieces:
Her bloody head stuck on a hop-pole with the eyes gouged out and one ear torn off.
Her chest, severed at the diaphragm, with the heart scooped out.
Her arms, deposited separately, with two copper ha'pence pieces clutched in one hand.
One foot, dropped in a field of clover.
Her eyes, recovered from the nearby River Wey.
Her heart, lying on its own.
It was assumed that the river had taken all other remains. Her missing lower abdomen made it impossible to determine whether she had actually been "interfered with". The man responsible was a solicitor's clerk named Frederick Baker. He used his tea-break on a Saturday to walk through the meadows near the hop-field, and finding little Fanny Adams playing with two friends, gave the girls ha'pence to run races for him; then sent the other two home while he took Fanny into the hop-field. He appeared to have battered the child with a large stone, and then cut her apart with his pen-knife. After which he went and had some beer and returned to his office where he wrote in his diary: "Killed a young girl. It was fine and hot." He was unable to explain bloodstains on his cuffs. His suggestion that his knife was too small for butchering the child was countered with the observation that Fanny was a very small child. He was hanged at Winchester. (The Chronicle Of Crime)
Many women who kill do so out of a brutality which is due to a harsh and difficult background. In 1969, tipped off by an anonymous letter, gendarmes in the little French village of Pierre-les-Nemours called at the home of André Lelièvre and his 41-year-old wife, Yvette. They had five children - but in the garden, police found the corpses of seven new-born babies. The Lelièvres had decided they could afford no more children after number five, but they were too lazy - or ignorant - to investigate the possibilities of birth control. So after each baby was born, it was drowned in the bath, after which the husband buried it in the garden. A photograph of the couple shows them as stocky peasant types. (Crimes and Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 28)
Deliberately shocking pictures in a "lads' magazine" were blamed by a father yesterday for triggering his daughter's fainting fit, which led to her falling to her death from a cricket pavilion. Odette Coulson, described by her father as "a squeamish girl", fractured her skull after collapsing when the copy of FHM was passed round a group of 14-year-olds at Ripon grammar school in North Yorkshire. Four teenage witnesses were given anonymity by North Yorkshire coroner John Sleightholme at the inquest in Harrogate. The court heard that the pupils had been looking at a supplement called The Carnival of the Grotesque, advertised as "the men, women and beasts of Freakdom". Odette's father, Andrew Coulson, 48, a vet, said he was concerned the pictures of mutilation and deformity had been compiled purely with the intention of shocking people. "I can't see how anyone's life is improved by seeing this range of degenerative pictures." He was speaking after the coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death, with a rider noting that shock from the images could not be ruled out as contributing to the tragedy. David Davies, the editor of FHM, declined to comment on the images but described Odette's death as "a terrible tragedy and utterly regrettable". (The Guardian, donated by KSHOhio)