February 1998

February 2, 1998
On October 31, 1968, actor Ramon Novarro was found on his bed, nude and bludgeoned to death. His wrists and ankles had been bound with electrical cord, and he had choked to death on his own blood. His killers were brothers Paul and Tom Ferguson, a pair of hustlers who thought Novarro had $5,000 hidden in his house. He didn't.

February 3, 1998
Irene Gibbon was one of Tinseltown's most admired costume designers. So well-known did she become that she was known simply as Irene, and stars boasted that they were wearing Irene. Though married, she was secretly in love with actor Gary Cooper, who died in 1961. Distraught, she checked into a room at LA's Knickerbocker Hotel. She slashed her wrists, but when this didn't accomplish what she set out to do, she jumped out of her 14th floor window.

February 4, 1998
Sergei Grinkov was one half of the Russian skating pair that took gold at the 1988 and 1994 Winter Olympics. He and his wife Katcha Gordeeva wowed the skating world with their graceful, ballet-like performances. On November 20, 1995, they were on tour with an ice show when Grinkov collapsed on the ice during a routine practice. At 28 and with no history of heart trouble, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

February 5, 1998
Claudius, the Emperor of Rome, choked to death on a feather.

February 7, 1998
Allan Pinkerton, the founder of the detective agency, stumbled during his morning walk, bit his tongue and died of gangrene.

February 8, 1998
The poet, Walter de la Mare, lay very ill. His daughter asked if she could get him anything - fruit perhaps, or flowers? "No," he muttered, "Too late for fruit, too soon for flowers".

February 10, 1998
The Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head.

February 12, 1998
Surgeons successfully reattached the scalp of a 32-year-old Ohio woman after it was completely torn off in an industrial accident. Teresa Lasko of Millbury, Ohio, had her scalp ripped off from the eyebrows to the base of her neck after her hair was caught in a dye press she was cleaning Jan. 23. Lasko was first taken to St. Luke's Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. Still conscious, she was transferred to the University of Michigan Hospital later Friday. Doctors placed her scalp and the attached hair in an ice bath for the trip. Doctors worked for 10 hours, using blood vessels from Lasko's scalp and one of her legs, to reattach the scalp. Dr. Kevin Chung, assistant professor of surgery who led the medical team, said the reattachment has so far been a success, noting the scalp is receiving nourishment. He said Lasko's hair should grow back because the follicles were never separated from her scalp.

February 13, 1998
On September 19, 1902, a fight broke out in a crowded baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama. Among the crowd of over 2,000, one person made the mistake of yelling, "A fight!" Some crowd members thought he had yelled "Fire!" and began a fatal mad rush to the doors. Unfortunately, 2,000 people can't all fit through the doors at the same time, so many people were trampled to death or suffocated in the crowd. In the end, a total of 115 people were killed in this sad and pointless occurrence.

February 14, 1998
A romantic Valentine's Day fact:
Peter the Great had his wife executed for infidelity, but he still loved her enough to have her head preserved in a jar.

February 16, 1998
The government of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu announced in August that it would offer stepped-up welfare benefits to poor women who give birth to female babies, in exchange for the mother's promise not to kill the baby, which is an increasing problem as males are more economically valuable. Also, the government will require 30-day hospital stays for mothers with baby girls, to increase the bonding, which it believes will decrease the murders.

February 20, 1998
The crusaders used to scare beseiged towns into surrender by cutting off the heads of fellow crusaders and promptly catapulting the heads over the town walls.

February 21, 1998
Japanese troops invaded the Chinese capital city of Nanking 1937-38 and afflicted some of the greatest atrocities in history. Between December 1937 and March 1938 at least 369,366 Chinese civilians and prisoners of war were slaughtered and an estimated 80,000 women and girls were raped; many of them were then mutilated or murdered.

February 22, 1998
In August, the New York Times reported on a movement in Montana to declare as a national historical park the decaying city of Butte (described as "one of the worst industrial crimes against nature" in history). In the center of Butte is the Berkeley Pit, "a Grand Canyon of open-pit mining," wrote the Times, "an 874-foot-deep chasm filled with 26 billion gallons" of "toxic stew" that grows by three million gallons a day. In 1995, 300 snow geese landed by mistake in The Pit, believing at night that it was a normal lake, and were killed when their stomachs corroded.

February 24, 1998
Shane Thomas was a 15-year-old Nirvana fan who killed himself with a shotgun in 1995, allegedly in imitation of Kurt Cobain's suicide. However, the coroner returned an open verdict, saying there was not enough evidence to support the "copycat" theory and that Shane had been drinking and may not have intended to kill himself. The night of his death, Thomas drank ten bottles of lager before joining his girlfriend to meet friends. He stormed off in a temper when Gregory's ex-boyfriend arrived later that evening. She raced to his home but was too late. She found his father in the street outside, screaming for help.

February 25, 1998
On the bitterly cold Sunday, January 26, 1936, a woman around E. 20th and Central Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio asked her neighborhood butcher if she could have the "meat in the baskets" outside of his shop. Inside the baskets, wrapped in newspaper and burlap bags, were the lower half of a woman's torso, two thighs, and a right arm. Almost two weeks later, the rest of the woman's body, except for her head, was found behind an abandoned house a few blocks away. The coroner determined that the woman (identified as a prostitute named Florence Polillo) had died from decapitation. This was the third of a series of murders that came to be known as The Kingsbury Run Murders.

February 26, 1998
Army Regulations No. 633-15 (Procedure For Military Execution By Electrocution):
"At the designated time, the prisoner, accompanied by the chaplain, will proceed under guard from the prisoner's cell into the execution chamber. The officer charged with carrying out the execution will notify the chaplain and the prisoner that a brief time will be allowed the prisoner for any last statement. After a reasonable time, he will order the guards to place the prisoner in the electric chair according to the instructions of the executioner. Following the placing of the prisoner in the electric chair, the officer charged with carrying out the execution, the guards, the chaplain, and the medical officer will move to designated positions in the execution chamber. The executioner will then perform final preparations. Upon signal from the executioner that all final preparations have been completed and he is ready to proceed, the officer charged with carrying out the execution will signal the executioner to perform the execution.

February 28, 1998
In order to test how pilots who have to eject from their planes will fare, SS doctors in the Dachau concentration camp simulated high-altitude conditions in a chamber, and exposed people to these conditions. Many prisoners died during such experiments. In order for the simulation to be as real as possible, the prisoner is hung by parachute straps.