October 1997

October 1, 1997
Sulphuric acid - Oil of Vitriol - is one of the strongest corrosive poisons. It is used extensively in its most concentrated form for industrial purposes and also in laboratory work, but battery acid (30% sulphuric acid) is still sufficiently strong to cause corrosive poisoning. Sulphuric acid acts by extracting water from the tissues and, in the process, generates considerable heat. This has a charring and blackening effect. Perforation of the esophagus and stomach is likely to follow this method of poisoning.


October 2, 1997
When asked why he murdered John Lennon, Mark David Chapman replied "I understood the words but I didn't understand the meaning." When he was asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed he stood up and read a passage from The Catcher In The Rye, the novel he had told police was his statement. He talked of standing on "the edge of some crazy cliff" and of "seeing kids playing a game in a field of rye". Judge Dennis Edwards Jr then sentenced Chapman to twenty years to life and ordered that he should receive psychiatric treatment in prison.


October 3, 1997
Student Jaimie Rising of Indiana University of Pennsylvania filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in March against Prof. Gordon Thornton for his behavior in his psychology of death course. According to the lawsuit, Thornton asked in class whether any student had ever kissed a dead person, and Rising said she had kissed her father when he died, an action which Thornton then described aloud as "disgusting and gross." Thornton allegedly continued, asking Rising whether she had "stuck her tongue down her father's throat."


October 4, 1997
In June, Glynn "Scotty" Wolfe, 88, reported to be the world's most often-married man, passed away in Redlands, Calif., but none of his 29 wives claimed the body, and only two weeks later did his son (from wife number 14) do so.


October 5, 1997
Austria's first automobile, the Graf und Stift, was produced in 1897. While in this car Austria's heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914, a tragedy that precipitated WWI. In the next dozen years, this same car was owned by 15 private parties, and was involved in six major accidents that cost the lives of 13 people. After its last crack-up, in Romania in 1926, the Graf und Stift was retired to Vienna's Museum of War History, where it may still be seen.


October 6, 1997
In 1916, a British seaman saw a bottle bobbing in the north Atlantic. He fished it from the water, opened it, and read the final message sent from the Lusitania before it sank, taking with it some 1,198 passengers. "Still on deck with a few people. The last boats have left. We are sinking fast. Some men near me are praying with a priest. The end is near. Maybe this note will..." And there it ended.


October 10, 1997
In the city of Basel, in 1474, a rooster was accused of being a witch. Its heinous crime was to lay an egg! The trial was held in all seriousness by the citizens of Basel and the rooster was subsequently sentenced to be burned at the stake.


October 11, 1997
After 1736, no one was persecuted for being a witch in the American Colonies and witchcraft was removed as a capital offense.


October 12, 1997
Phillip Cross was an aging Lothario and a bungler. To dispose of the wife he no longer wanted, he used arsenic, the most detectable of all poisons. Then - only two weeks later - he married his mistress, a girl young enough to be his granddaughter. The gossip this started led to the exhumation of Mrs. Cross's body. The arsenic was traced to Cross and a jury took only 10 minutes to find him guilty. His young wife abandoned him, and he died on the gallows, a very bitter man, in 1888.


October 13, 1997
In 399 BC, Socrates stood accused of two crimes: impiety (not recognizing the gods recognized by the state) and corrupting the youth of Athens. Both charges were trumped up in an attempt to rid Athens of its most outspoken citizen. At the trial before 501 jurors, Socrates' three accusers testified that he continuously criticized established institutions and their leaders, and that he encouraged the youth of Athens to do the same. Socrates spoke in his own behalf, but instead of refuting the nebulous charges, he defended his position as a seeker of truth. By a margin of 60 votes he was convicted and sentenced to death. His friends provided for his escape, but Socrates refused - the death penalty offered an opportunity for martyrdom. He spent his last moments consoling friends, then drank the fabled hemlock potion.


October 14, 1997
The Italian author, lover, and military leader Gabriele D'Annunzio claimed that he had once eaten a roasted baby and drunk wine from the skull of a virgin. He died in 1938.


October 16, 1997
Alfred Lowenstein was one of the richest tycoons in Europe - an enigmatic and well-known character. However, a blackmailer caught on to his illegal and unethical dealings and threatened to publish a 5,000 word document which unearthed all the scandalous details. The threat of financial ruin and public humiliation was too much for Lowenstein. While his plane was flying over the English channel, Lowenstein retired to the lavatory. When one of his employees went to check on him, they found that he had disappeared through a door in the back of the plane. His body was found two weeks later with no signs that would indicate a struggle, so Lowenstein's death was ruled a suicide. Unfortunately for him, he hadn't died when he hit the water because the plane was (under his command) flying very low; Lowenstein had drowned.


October 17, 1997
Miami, FL motorist Alvin Sims didn't notice that his truck had smacked into a utility pole and his passenger was dead until the police stopped his car. Donna Richardson, 29, was hanging her head out of the window of her boyfriend's 1993 Chevrolet truck early Saturday - she was vomiting - when the truck suddenly veered. Her head slammed a pole and she died instantly, police said Monday. Sims, 36. kept driving. Metro-Dade police said when an officer stopped the truck several miles later - it's right mirror and antenna were damaged. Sims told police that he was looking for a hospital because his passenger was sick. "Apparently, he thought he hit a puddle and did not see that he had killed her."


October 19, 1997
Pope Leo VIII died of a stroke in 965 while committing adultery.


October 20, 1997
Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Rooney died together on Christmas Eve, 1885. Mrs. Rooney allegedly spontaneously combusted and Mr. Rooney, a Seneca, Illinois, farmer, died of asphyxiation from the smoke in the air.


October 21, 1997
In 1789, a man whom police termed a "monster" and "ripper" terrorized London. The difference between this man and subsequent "rippers" was that he didn't murder his victims. He was a sexual attacker whose preference was to slash women in the buttocks or to offer a beautiful bouquet of flowers for them to smell and then slash their faces with a sharp object strategically inserted in the bouquet. When he was finally identified by one of his victims and taken to trial, the judge did not know what crime to charge him with, since slashing women's buttocks was not a listed offense. Therefore, he was charged with damaging the ladies' clothing and sentenced to six years in prison and a f400 fine.


October 22, 1997
Betty Lou Williams was the daughter of poor black sharecroppers. She looked very pretty and shapely in her two-piece bathing suit on the sideshow stage - but growing out of her left side was the bottom half of a body, with two legs and one misplaced arm. Betty, who died at the age of 21, made a lot of money during the depression. Her friends say she died of a broken heart, jilted by a man she loved.


October 23, 1997
In 1980, Dr. Herman Tarnower, the founder of the Scarsdale Diet, made the fatal mistake of dumping his long-term lover, headmistress Jean Harris, for a younger mistress. Ms. Harris was overwhelmed by jealousy and the pain of rejection and she drove to Tarnower's home with a loaded gun. They argued and Harris ended up pumping five bullets into the fatally injured Tarnower. In one of the more unsuccessful defenses in the history of crime, Harris claimed that she had been trying to commit suicide, when Tarnower had struggled with the gun, which resulted in her accidentally discharging the bullets into him. The jury was unconvinced and sentenced her to life imprisonment. She was released from prison on the grounds of clemency in by New York Governor Cuomo in 1993.


October 23, 1997
In 1980, Dr. Herman Tarnower, the founder of the Scarsdale Diet, made the fatal mistake of dumping his long-term lover, headmistress Jean Harris, for a younger mistress. Ms. Harris was overwhelmed by jealousy and the pain of rejection and she drove to Tarnower's home with a loaded gun. They argued and Harris ended up pumping five bullets into the fatally injured Tarnower. In one of the more unsuccessful defenses in the history of crime, Harris claimed that she had been trying to commit suicide, when Tarnower had struggled with the gun, which resulted in her accidentally discharging the bullets into him. The jury was unconvinced and sentenced her to life imprisonment. She was released from prison on the grounds of clemency in by New York Governor Cuomo in 1993.


October 25, 1997
James Van Gorder, 31, filed a lawsuit in August against the Parkway Chiropractic Center in Detroit, Mich., for negligence during his recent treatment for back pain. According to Van Gorder, the chiropractor had him take off his clothes and lie face down on the two-part examining table. The way he was lying, his genitals fell between the parts, and when the chiropractor adjusted the table, Van Gorder got caught. He claims extreme pain, suffering, disfigurement, and loss of sexual desire.


October 26, 1997
In June, a Scripps Howard News Service reporter examined Consumer Product Safety Commission records recently made public and found that 1,823 serious injuries caused by "electronic air-fresheners" had been reported to the agency. Though the records were short on details, they included 50 cases of amputation, 46 burns, 48 scaldings, 68 poisonings, 56 "foreign-body" penetrations, and 69 "drownings."


October 27, 1997
On June 29, 1955, the reign of King Haakon VII, who had ruled Norway from the time of its independence in 1905, effectively came to an end when the beloved monarch fell in the royal bathtub at his palace in Oslo. The elderly king lingered on for over two years before succumbing on Setpember 21, 1957, to complications resulting from his fall.


October 28, 1997
During the witch hunt hysteria at Neisse, in Silesia, the executioner made an oven in which he roasted witches. In 1651, 42 women and young girls were roasted to death in it, and in nine years he roasted over two thousand, including two babies.


October 29, 1997
Speaking to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) Hospital in April, where he was recuperating after being shot in the leg by a stray bullet during a police-robber shootout, 16-year-old Mohd Zulkhairi Khalid said it was both a shock and a rush to be hit. Although he had seen such things on television, he told The Star newspaper, he felt thrilled to experience for himself the excruciating pain.


October 30, 1997
Jennifer Lee RoGala, 30, was arrested in March in Anthony, Ala., and charged with aggravated child abuse after she playfully chased and wounded three neighborhood children by shooting them with an air-powered pellet gun. According to the neighbor who called the police, RoGala was unremorseful: "She said they used to do it all the time up North and couldn't understand what the big deal was about shooting kids with pellets."


October 31, 1997
The real-life Dracula was born in 1431 in Transylvania and was given the name Prince Vlad Tepes. His father was called Dracul -- meaning "the devil" -- because he was a fearsome warrior. His son adopted the name "Dracula" -- meaning "son of Dracul". Vlad's usual method of killing was impalement with a spear or large stake. Typically, he preferred that the victim be impaled through the rectum and out the mouth. His victims were then hoisted high into the air so all could see. But Vlad added variations and specialized in his sadistic art form. He impaled from the front, back and side . . . through the stomach, navel, breast and groin. He impaled from above while his victims hung upside down . . . and with rounded-off stakes to prolong the torture. He had the stakes arranged in geometric patterns and at different heights. The Bishop of Erlau, a papal legate who had no reason to exaggerate, reported that Vlad Tepes authorized the killing of over 100,000 people in his lifetime.



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