November 1998

November 1, 1998
Hrand Arakelian, a Brink's armored car guard in California, was crushed to death by coins in 1986. He was guarding the back of the truck. The driver braked suddenly and the load of boxed coins fell on him. (Trivial Trivia, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

November 2, 1998
In Cairo, Egypt, a woman, weighing 352 pounds, crushed her husband to death following a dispute over his will. Fawakih Ibrahim Abdel-Latif killed her husband, Sayed Ahmed, -- who weighed 121 pounds -- Saturday after discovering he had left more land in his will for his four children from his first wife than the three he had with her. Abdel-Latif, 32, pushed her 64-year-old husband to the ground and with his face down and sat on his head until he stopped struggling. She admitted to releasing her husband only after she believed he had suffocated. Officials said she then heard him moan. As he began to awaken she placed her foot on her husband's head and stepped down with her full weight crushing his skull and killing him. Ahmed was married to both Abdel-Latif and his first wife. Islam allows men to have up to four wives at the same time. Police arrested Abdel-Latif, who confessed to killing her husband. She could face the death penalty if convicted. (Associated Press, donated by KC)

November 4, 1998
The streets of Moscow have become a mine field due to decaying pipes which pump boiling water to heat buildings. When the pipes leak, hot water can saturate the soil so thoroughly that the weight of a person walking above is enough to turn the ground into a seething sinkhole. On March 11, 1998, Marina Yarovov was walking her two dogs in a field near her apartment when the earth opened beneath her and she fell into a pit of muddy, boiling water. In agony, she tried to climb out of the hole as a friend ran for help. But within minutes, the 43-year-old mother of two was dead -- boiled alive in the water that heats the homes and shops of her neighborhood through a vast subterranean network of pipes. Six weeks earlier, Artyom Mkrtumyan, 10, was walking to the store in his neighborhood when the ground dissolved under his feet and he fell into a boiling pit. His father, Vladimir, jumped into the 225-degree water to rescue him, but it was too late. Artyom died 11 days later, his father -- scalded from the waist down -- two weeks after that. "He was basically a living, swollen skeleton crying in pain and calling for his mother, calling for help, calling for someone to ease his intolerable pain," she said. Referring to the people responsible, she added: "I would not think twice before throwing them into a pit like we had here. They must feel what a child boiling alive feels like." City officials bluntly acknowledge that Moscow has become a "mine field" and predict that without a sudden infusion of cash to repair the pipes, more people will die in the same grisly fashion. (The Philadelphia Enquirer)

November 5, 1998
Miss Jessie Dobson, when she was Recorder of Britain's Royal College of Surgeons in 1951, stated in the respected medical journal The Lancet that "the procedure employed in judicial hanging has been, and maybe still is, an uncertain means of causing instantaneous death". She described how the bodies of 36 criminals were dissected after hanging, and how pathologists found that in 10 of them the heart was still beating. In two cases the heart-beats continued for five hours; in one case they continued for more than seven hours. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Vol. 5)

November 6, 1998
On October 8, 1871 fire broke out in the barn of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary at 137 De Koven Street, Chicago, and quickly spread throughout the city, which at that time consisted almost entirely of wooden structures. The holocaust claimed 300 lives, left 100,000 people homeless, and destroyed 17,500 buildings. (The People's Almanac #2)

November 7, 1998
In 1728 a woman was hanged in Edinburgh, and her body was taken away in a cart by relatives. The jolting of the vehicle over the rough roads was apparently sufficent stimulus to restore her, and by the time it had gone six miles she was 'almost well'. She was still living in 1753. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Vol. 5)

November 8, 1998
In just a week in August, 1914 during the first World War, the French army lost 40,000 men. Some 20,000 British soldiers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. Those were the bloodiest weeks in the history of France and Britain.(The Associated Press)
Adam Taggart adds: "Just to let you know, the entire Newfoundland regiment was killed at the battle of the sommes."

November 9, 1998
A massive, coordinated attack on Jews throughout the German Reich on the night of November 9, 1938, into the next day, has come to be known as Kristallnacht or The Night of Broken Glass. The attack came after Herschel Grynszpan, a 17 year old Jew living in Paris, shot and killed a member of the German Embassy staff there in retaliation for the poor treatment his father and his family suffered at the hands of the Nazis in Germany. On November 9, mob violence broke out as the regular German police stood by and crowds of spectators watched. Nazi storm troopers along with members of the SS and Hitler Youth beat and murdered Jews, broke into and wrecked Jewish homes, and brutalized Jewish women and children. All over Germany, Austria and other Nazi controlled areas, Jewish shops and department stores had their windows smashed and contents destroyed. Synagogues were especially targeted for vandalism, including desecration of sacred Torah scrolls. Hundreds of synagogues were systematically burned while local fire departments stood by or simply prevented the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings. About 25,000 Jewish men were rounded up and later sent to concentration camps where they were often brutalized by SS guards and in some cases randomly chosen to be beaten to death. SS leader Reinhard Heydrich reported 7500 businesses destroyed, 267 synagogues burned (with 177 totally destroyed) and 91 Jews killed. (The History Place)

November 10, 1998
Singer Jackie Wilson collapsed of a stroke and a heart attack onstage in 1967 while singing "Lonely Teardrops". He never regained consciousness and died eight years later. (Unusual Deaths)

November 11, 1998
On August 24 and 25, 1875, Capt. Matthew Webb, 27, swam the English Channel from Dover to Calais, the first human to do so without a life jacket. For 22 hours the hero of Shropshire breaststroked the high seas. Although Webb lived to tell about it, he was not so lucky on another occasion eight years later. He drowned trying to swim the Niagara River below the falls. (The People's Almanac #2)

November 13, 1998
A man who allegedly slashed the throats of at least four homeless people, killing one, has told police he is a 2,000-year-old vampire who thrives on drinking blood. Joshua Rudiger, 21, was in custody Wednesday on charges of slashing the throat of a homeless man in San Francisco's Chinatown. The victim, who survived the attack, pointed Rudiger out to police, who arrested him and found a bloody knife stuck in his belt. Police sources told reporters that Rudiger claimed to be a vampire and in at least three cases had apparently used his victims' blood to scrawl the Chinese character for "death" on the pavement near the scenes of the attacks. "He talked for a long time and said a lot of weird things," one police source told the San Francisco Examiner, noting that none of the slashing victims had reported that their attacker attempted to drink their blood. "We'll never know if he really drank the victims' blood, but we're sure he's the guy who slashed their throats." Prosecutors have charged Rudiger with one murder -- that of 48-year-old Shirley Dillahunty, who was found with her throat slit on Oct. 29. More charges of attempted murder are expected to be lodged later in the week, and Rudiger is scheduled to undergo a full psychiatric evaluation. San Francisco Police Chief Fred Lau said the case, which had sent shivers through the city's large homeless population, could grow stranger as police continue their investigation. "It's unique," Lau said. "I'm sure as we gather more facts we'll probably come up with a lot of information that is probably going to reveal a lot of things about the suspect." (The Associated Press, donated by Darren King)

November 14, 1998
In March in Fullerton, California, a man in his early 20's accidentally shot himself to death in the course of pistol-whipping the manager of a computer store he was robbing. (News of the Weird)

November 15, 1998
In 1985, James A. Cooley, a cancer patient, was found dead in his home. Cause of death: 32 blows to the head with a claw hammer. Hobart, Indiana, police classified the death as suicide. They noted that Cooley had been despondent because of his illness. (Trivial Trivia, donated by Freya Harris)

November 16, 1998
A pickup truck driver says his trip to a grocery store for flowers, candy and a birthday card for his girlfriend accidentally ended with the death of a woman he offered to drive home. The man told police he didn't know that the woman had become entangled in the truck's seat belt after he pushed her out of his cab following an argument. Police found 39-year-old Faye Smith on Wednesday dumped along a highway in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She had been dragged nine miles through city streets, leaving a trail of blood and clothing. Authorities were waiting for the coroner to determine the cause and time of Smith's death before deciding on possible charges against the 29-year-old driver. The driver said he offered to drive Smith home after he was unable to give her money for a telephone call. Smith told the driver she was drunk and had just used cocaine, and again asked for money. An argument followed and the driver shoved her out of the truck, the man told police. The driver drove to his rural home in nearby Brazito, then panicked when he found the woman was entangled in the seat belt. He placed her in the truck's cab, drove a couple of miles from home and dumped her body along Route 228. (The Associated Press)

November 17, 1998
Peshtigo, Wisconsin, is the site of "America's Most Disastrous Forest Fire," memorialized in the Peshtigo Fire Museum. Peshtigo was completely consumed in a fiery hell on October 8, 1871, the same night as the unrelated and overpublicized Great Chicago Fire. Peshtigo's fire destroyed every one of the town's 800 buildings and killed 1,200 people. Most fled toward the river, choking on gases or exploding into pyres. A painted tryptych in the museum gives before-during-after snapshots of Peshtigo life- and death-styles. Surviving artifacts could fit into a lunchbox. Outside is the well-marked mass grave for 350 victims. A garden hose hangs coiled and ready. (Roadside America, donated by Andrew Thompson)

November 18, 1998
During the filming of a Mountain Dew commercial on December 14, 1995, sky surfer Rob Harris' parachute failed to open and he plunged to his death. Despite rumours to the contrary, though the finished commercial contains some footage of Harris, none comes from his final jump.(The Urban Legends Reference Pages, donated by Pete23)

November 19, 1998
63-year-old tenor Richard Versalle died onstage at New York's Metropolitan Opera immediately after delivering the line: "Too bad you can only live so long" in Janacek's The Makropulos Case. It was the first performance and Versalle, who was playing the legal clerk Vitek alongside Jessye Norman, climbed a 20 ft ladder to file a legal brief, but had a heart attack and plunged to the ground. Janacek's opera is about the secret of eternal life. (The Urban Legends Reference Pages, donated by Pete23)

November 20, 1998
Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus (161-192), Roman emperor, collected all the dwarfs, cripples, and freaks he could find in the city of Rome and had them brought to the Coliseum, where they were ordered to fight each other to the death with meat cleavers. (Trivial Trivia, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

November 21, 1998
In 1879, British colonial forces destroyed the Zulu army in South Africa at a cost of f5.25 million and over 1,300 in British casualties. British high commissioner of South Africa, Sir Bartle Frere, goaded Zulu chief Cetewayo into armed conflict with the ultimatum that he unilaterally diarm his warriors. The British South African field force marched into Zululand confident of easy victory over the spear-throwing natives. They soon learned they had underestimated their foe. On January 22, when the British force had been lured far enough away from their camp, over 20,000 Zulus poured down on the garrison, crying, "Gwas umhlongo! Gwas inglubi!" ("Stab the white men! Stab the pigs!") This they did in what was one of the most humiliating defeats in British miltary history. Although the Zulus also suffered heavy casualties, 52 British officers and 1,277 of lesser rank were killed and disemboweled. Inevitably, the superior firepower of the colonial forces prevailed in the end. The Zulu leader was captured and imprisoned and the Zulu nation was splintered into tiny principalities, each with their own chief, to ensure subjugation. (The People's Almanac #2)

November 22, 1998
In 1763, British Captain Simon Ecuyer, serving in the American Colonies in defense of Fort Pitt, ordered blankets to be distributed to the hostile Indians who were attacking the fort. The blankets were infested with the small pox virus and mercilessly wiped out the enemy. [And you thought germ warfare was a 20th century idea! - FEH] (Trivial Trivia, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

November 23, 1998
On April 27, 1936, at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, convict Joe Bowers was pulling incinerator duty when he decided to climb the fence. The Bureau of Prisons believed he was trying to escape. Some prisoners claimed he was crazy and only trying to feed the birds. Still others suggest he was depressed and committing suicide. Whatever the reason, the road tower guard saw him and fired three times. Bowers fell sixty feet from the fence top to the water's edge. The island's doctor determined that he had died before he hit the ground. (Alcatraz Island Circumnavigational Tour)

November 24, 1998
On December 14, 1931, a railroad mechanic near London found what he thought was the body of a young man near the tracks. When an ambulance crew arrived they found signs of life, but the injuries were grave indeed. Some of the man's ribs were broken, and his right leg mangled. He was rushed to the hospital, where his leg was amputated. By morning, there was a grave criminal development. A young woman, Margaret Organ, had reported that she had been attacked by a man while travelling to Charing Cross in a train leaving Bromley at 6:49 p.m. He went berserk, opened the carriage door, but she struggled and held on to the frame of the window until she fainted. William Charles Greensmith was identified in the hospital by Miss Organ and, when his injuries were healed, faced a Central Criminal Court jury who found him guilty on two charges. He was sentenced to four year's penal servitude and a concurrent 15 months' hard labour. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia Vol XXIII)

November 25, 1998
Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield on July 2, 1881. Garfield lay dying for 2 months, mostly because surgeons had no way of operating unless they could find the bullet imbedded in his body. The inventor Alexander Graham Bell came to the White House with a new machine that he had developed, a magnetometer. He planned to use the new device to locate the position of the bullet in the president's body. To Graham's frustration, however, his new magnetometer yielded bizarre and inconclusive results and the bullet remained unfound. Unknown to Bell or the president's physicians, Garfield was also making use of another brand new invention, a metal-spring mattress! (KC)

November 26, 1998
On August 6th, 1945, the city of Hiroshima was atom bombed. Thousands of survivors fled the city as individuals or with their families. Many were horribly wounded, but nonetheless, they tried to reach the homes of relatives in other cities. A number of these individuals and families survived the 3-day trek to Nagasaki, where they were atom bombed again. (KC)

November 27, 1998
A beautiful case of poetic justice:
A man hunting pheasants near Sacramento, California apparently shot a high-voltage power line that fell into standing water and electrocuted him Tuesday (11/24/98). He was missing until shortly after midnight Wednesday, when the voltage also killed a sheriff's search-and-rescue bloodhound. (The Sacramento Bee)

November 28, 1998
Many visitors traveled great distances to see the Columbian Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago. Weary from their train rides, visitors sought the first affordable room they could find. Because the demand was so great for accommodation, they often had to accept the first (seemingly) reasonable offer. The unfortunates who took a room with Dr. H.H. Holmes, just outside the gates of the Fair, were more than reminded of the risks of city life. Holmes, born Herman Webster Mudgett, began his career as a medical student in Michigan. Having been kicked out of the university for "unusual activities," Holmes moved to Chicago and started a drugstore empire. With his fortune, he built a one hundred-room mansion, but it was no ordinary wealthy businessman's manse: he outfitted it with gas chambers, trap doors, acid vats, lime pits, fake walls, and secret entrances. During the Fair, he rented rooms to visitors, and killed most of them and then experimented with their corpses. Some say he killed over 200 people during his career, before he was caught and hanged in 1896. (The World's Columbian Exposition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath, donated by Cedric).

November 29, 1998
Bruce Barron, a 47-year-old lawyer, killed himself by carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage in 1996. He had just learned that his bank was foreclosing on his home in Derry because the IRS had placed a lien on it. In a suicide note, he blamed the IRS and the bank, saying they are "bigger than me. One sits, does nothing, and watches you die. One needs to clear its books." (Dead Lawyers)

November 30, 1998
1998 was the deadliest hurricane season in two centuries. The death toll for Hurricane Mitch alone, which stalled over Honduras and Nicaragua with torrents of rain which caused severe flooding, storm surge and mudslides, is estimated to be more than 10,000. (The Associated Press)