May 1998

May 2, 1998
In England in the late 1800's, so called "baby farmers", women who provided board for other people's children in return for money, were rife and some had required an evil reputation. 57-year-old Amelia Dyer, the notorious Reading Baby Farmer was hanged for the murder of seven children placed in her care. She had dumped some in the River Thames, their bodies wrapped in brown paper parcels and weighed down by bricks. When arrested, she had remarked coldly: "You'll know all mine by the tape around their necks". Her motive had been simple greed - after killing the children, she had continued to draw the boarding fees.

May 3, 1998
Between 1969 and 1973, the United States military dropped 25 Hiroshimas' worth of bombs on Cambodia, killing 150,000 civilians or more.

May 4, 1998
The United States exploded the first hydrogen bomb in November 1952 at the Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific. Twenty-three fishermen aboard the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon were sailing eighty miles east of the Bravo shot when it was fired. Within days they were tormented by symptoms of acute radiation exposure--itching skin, nausea, vomiting. When they arrived back in Japan two weeks after the Bravo test, the entire crew remained sick; a Geiger counter revealed their bodies contained radiation from the hydrogen bomb sixteen days after it had exploded. The boat's rear crew compartment gave off readings of one tenth roentgen per hour. Seven months after the Bravo test one of the Lucky Dragon's twenty-three crew members died; the rest were still being hospitalized.

May 5, 1998
In the movie "The Man With The Iron Mask", good twin Philippe languishes in his cast-iron disguise for six years - yet suffers not so much as a zit. What would really have happened to his face? Even royal genes couldn't have saved Philippe's skin from permanent scarring, says San Francisco-based dermatologist Dr. Vail Reese. Just a few months in an iron mask would lead to a severe infection, thanks to trapped moisture and a lack of air - think red, raw, inflamed skin marked with ingrown hairs from his beard. Recovery would be possible, but only with antibiotics. In the end, says Reese, "the twins would not look alike, but that would ruin the whole movie". (Entertainment Weekly)

May 7, 1998
Ronald Gene Simmons, the hillbilly from hell, allegedly was the father of his daughter's son. In Christmas, 1987, he killed his whole family after his wife threatened him with divorce. Gene killed fourteen members of his inbred clan making him one of the most efficient family annihilators. When he was arrested for two other unrelated murders, the police sensed something suspicious about the way he talked about his family. When they went to his property they discovered the bunch of them dead. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia)

May 9, 1998
In 1867, three young Irishmen were hung following the murder of a police sergeant. The crowd watching the execution saw the men fall as the trap door sprung open and they saw the quivering ropes that remained. However, the officials saw something quite different. One of the young men had died instantly of a broken neck, but the other two were still very much alive. Through the hoods which covered their heads, they could be heard gasping for breath. William Calcroft, the executioner, climbed on to the shoulders of one of the men, where he squatted like some evil succubi, until the boy died. The priest held the hands of the other and whispered prayers for the dying through the hood, until he strangled to death some minutes later. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia)

May 10, 1998
In 1786 a Scottish crofter and his wife came home to their cottage after a day in the fields and found their teenage daughter murdered. Suspicion fell upon a young man named Richardson but for some time there was no evidence on which he could be arrested. Even when there was judged to be enough, he promptly produced what seemed to be a perfect alibi. Then, the police took plaster-casts of some footprints near the cottage, and found that the pattern of the hobnails was exactly the same as that on Richardsons' boots. Then further and similar "forensic" evidence began to accumulate. Stains on the stockings he had worn on the day of the murder were found to be bloodstains (though they could not, in those days, be identified as belonging to any particular blood-group). Mud and sand on the stockings could, however, be proved to be mud and sand from the cottage garden. It was largely on this evidence that Richardson was convicted at Dumfries in 1787. This was one of the first cases of forensic investigation being put to use. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia)

May 12, 1998
The last American pirate to be hanged was Capt. Nathaniel Gordon in New York City on March 8, 1862. The chief trade for American pirates in the mid-19th century was the smuggling of slaves; in 1859 alone, at least 15,000 Africans were brought to the U.S. On Gordon's fourth voyage aboard the 500-ton Erie, he was captured by the American ship Mohican. A search revealed 967 blacks aboard. Conditions were so appalling that 300 had died on the journey from Africa. Charged with piracy, Gordon stood trial in New York; he was found guilty and sentenced to death. (The People's Almanac)

May 14, 1998
A 1 1/2-year-old boy was accidentally smothered on a couch by a fat woman who had spent the night drinking with his mother. Linda Parsons, 21, had placed her son, Chance Goforth, on the couch while she and five friends drank in her apartment. One by one, her friends either left or found a place to sleep. One of the guests - a heavyset young woman who apparently was drunk - picked the couch. On Friday morning, Chance was found dead, his air supply apparently cut off by the woman's thigh. (Chico Enterprise-Record)

May 15, 1998

More evidence that the Good Old Days were extraordinarily horrible:
In the 11th century in England, unfaithful wives had their noses and ears cut off and all their possessions confiscated. That was when they still had possessions. Church and state decided that everything a woman owned belonged to her husband and sons and she couldn't inherit from them or anyone else, either, since even dresses and earrings could descend only in the male line. By the 14th century women in England had all but vanished, legally speaking. Their deaths were no longer recorded and their names were even erased from genealogies. (Smithsonian magazine, March 1998).

May 16, 1998
The last soldiers killed in the Civil War died on May 22, 1865. A Virginian named Bordunix and two Confederate comrades refused to accept Lee's surrender and marched out to attack 500 Federal troopers at the courthouse in Floyd, Va. The disbelieving Federals were taken completely by surprise when the men started firing at them. Two Union soldiers fell wounded. A 6-mi. chase ended with the Confederates making a stand in a graveyard. Although the Federals wanted to take the three rebels alive, an angry volley told them it was a fight to the death. Patience completely exhausted, the Federal troops fired one synchronized round of over 300 shots. The last three Confederates to be killed were buried where they fell. (The People's Almanac #2)

May 17, 1998
Trapped in blazing shopping malls, hundreds of looters burned to death Friday (May 15, 1998) in rioting that laid smoking waste to Indonesia's capital Jakarta. The rioting broke out Tuesday after police shot and killed six anti-government protesters at a student rally. Public anger already had been building for months over an Asian economic crisis that has impoverished ordinary Indonesians; sharp price increases last week heightened their suffering and their grievances. On Friday, mobs set fire to four shopping malls citywide, killing at least 230 people trapped inside. Many corpses were little more than burned skeletons. Some victims were found still clinging to the items they had stolen. (The Associated Press)

May 18, 1998
The last public execution in America was the hanging of a 22-year-old black man named Rainey Bethea at Owensboro, Ky, in 1936. Bethea had been convicted of the slaying of a 70-year-old white woman. The hanging was organized by the county sheriff, a woman named Florence Thompson. She deliberately had the scaffold erected in a field so that thousands could witness the execution, which she set for sunrise. So many people invaded Owensboro for the spectacle that terrifeid local blacks fled the town, especially after receiving lynching threats from drunken white revelers. By five o'clock the following morning, 20,000 people were in the field, including over 200 sheriffs and deputies from various parts of the U.S. When the hangman pulled the bolt, there was a loud cheer. The still-warm body was attacked by souvenir hunters. They tore off pieces of clothing; some even attempted to cut pieces of flesh from Bethea's dangling body. Hundreds of spectators thronged around the scaffold while two doctors examined the body with stethoscopes. There was a large groan when the doctors detected heartbeats. At 5:45 a.m., Bethea was pronounced dead. At that moment, several people began fighting over the hood that covered his head (The People's Almanac #2)

May 19, 1998
The wealthy and cultivated Baron de Retz, marshal of France, was Joan of Arc's chief supporter. Disillusioned after her execution in 1431, he murdered well over 100 boys, mostly refugees and orphans. He would mutilate and sexually abuse them as he observed their death throes. The baron was burned at the stake in 1440, after a sensational confession and repentance. (The People's Almanac #2).

May 20, 1998
In 1916, a circus elephant named Mary ran amok and killed a man in Erwin, Tennessee. Demanding justice, the enraged townspeople dragged the pachyderm to a railroad derrick, bent on hanging her. Before a crowd of 5,000 curiosity seekers, the mob spent two hours stringing their victim up, only to have her fall to the ground when the steel cable holding her snapped. On their second attempt, however, the cable held and the prisoner was hanged. (Poor Mary...) (The People's Almanac #2)

May 21, 1998
On the evening of Wednesday, July 17, 1996, 39 pupils, aged 13 and 14 years old, from Launceston College in Cornwall, England were on a field trip in Pleine-Fougeres, France. At around 11:00 p.m., the children headed off to their rooms for the night. 13-year-old Caroline Dickinson asked to sleep in the same room with her four friends, so a mattress was put on the floor between the two bunks in the tiny 12-sq-foot space. The five girls chatted and giggled before falling asleep. At 8:00 a.m. the next morning, the girls awoke to discover that Caroline was cold and her face was discolored. Caroline had been savagely raped and suffocated to death with a pillow while the other girls slept. Despite several strong leads, the French police muddled the murder investigation and the killer has never been found. (Crimes And Punishment Yearbook 1998)

May 22, 1998
In Clearfield, Pa, a 15-year-old girl was strung up in a tree and a friend clubbed her to death with a rock for threatening to reveal plans by a group of teens to run away to Florida. "Snitches get hurt," the friend told the victim. Kimberly Jo Dotts' body was found by hikers on May 20, 1998 in a clearing called Gallows Harbor - named after a hanging there in the 19th century. A group of eleven people were together on the afternoon of May 10 at a popular partying and camping spot. The group was planning to run away to Florida but got angry at Kimberly Jo when she backed out and threatened to reveal their plans. The group toyed with Kimberly Jo by putting the noose around her neck, then removing it. At one point, she was dragged around the wooded clearing by her neck. The third time the rope was put around her neck, Kimberly Jo was hung from a tree for several minutes until she lost consciousness, then taken down. "That's when they got afraid and they started covering her up with branches," said local police. They noticed she started to move and her head was bashed in with a 4-inch-thick rock. (The Associated Press)

May 23, 1998
When police raided Jeffrey Dahmer's Milwaukee apartment on July 22, 1991, they found the body parts of 11 victims. There were four male torsos stuffed into a metal barrel, two heads in the refrigerator, two heads in a freezer, and seven skulls. There were boxes of bones and severed hands, a man's genitals in a lobster pot, a freezer packed with lungs, intestines, a kidney, a liver, and a human heart that Dahmer told police he was "saving to eat later". (Practical Homicide Investigation)

May 24, 1998
Another in our continuing series of America's Fine Young Cannibals: One of the more bizarre serial killers was Richard Trenton Chase, otherwise known as "The Vampire Killer". Chase was convicted of murdering six individuals in Sacramento, California in 1977-1978. He would eviscerate his female victims, drink their blood, and perform bizarre acts such as placing feces in their mouths or removing certain organs. When police detectives confronted Chase as a suspect for the series of murders, he came running out of his apartment carrying a box which contained bloody rags, fast-food containers with blood and other body parts enclosed, and other evidence of the crimes. When the detectives searched him, they found a gun in a shoulder holster. This was the same .22-caliber automatic he had used to kill his victims prior to mutilating their bodies. The apartment revealed extensive evidence of the murders, including three blenders containing blood and human entrails. A diaper from a baby that had been abducted from the scene of one of his earlier murders was also found in the apartment. (The baby's body was found 3 months later in a mummified condition. The body had been drained of blood and was beheaded.) There was dried blood caked on the suspect's mouth and hands, and additional evidence indicated that he had cooked, eaten, and drunk his victim's blood and body parts. In the refrigerator was a can containing brain matter. According to the suspect, the reason for his vampire-like activity and grisly behavior was that flying saucers were drying up his blood through some sort of radiation and in order to survive he had to replenish his supply. The suspect was eventually convicted and committed suicide in jail. (Practical Homicide Investigation)

May 25, 1998
England was terror-stricken in the autumn of 1888. A mysterious killer, self-styled as "Jack the Ripper," roamed the East End of London, murdering women and mutilating their bodies in a hideous fashion. Indignant at the failure of the police to apprehend the murderer, citizens of London took the law into their own hands and formed themselves into vigilance committees responsible for patrolling the streets after dark. On October 16, 1888, Mr. George Lusk, chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, received a sealed cardboard box through the post. When he opened it, he found to his horror that it contained a portion of a human kidney and a letter that read as follows:
"From hell, Mr Lusk, sir, I send you half the kidney I took from one woman, preserved it for you, t'other piece I fried and ate it; was very nice. I may send you the bloody knife that took it out if you only wait a while longer. Catch me when you can, Mr. Lusk."
The identity of the fiendish murderer who sent this grisly package remains unknown to this day. (The People's Almanac #2)

May 26, 1998
The last soldier killed in World War I was Pvt. Henry Gunther of Baltimore, MD. The official end of the shooting was supposed to coincide with the signing of the armistice at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918. Pvt. Gunther was with Company A, 313th Infantry, 79th Division of the U.S. Army as it advanced upon Metz near the German border. Gunther's platoon ran into an ambush. Enraged by the enemy machine-gun fire, Gunther charged the German position with fixed bayonet. At the very moment that a messenger arrived with word that the war was ending at 11:00 a.m., Gunther was shot through the left temple and left side, at 11:01. General Pershing's order of the day named him as the last American killed in the war. Posthumously, he received the Distinguished Service Cross. (The People's Almanac #2)

May 27, 1998
Historical accounts of the Black Death in Florence, Italy in 1348 indicate that many people "died of hunger because when someone took to bed sick, another in the house, terrified, said to him: 'I'm going for the doctor.' Calmly walking out the door, the other left and did not return again. Abandoned by people, without food, but accompanied by fever, they weakened. Many died unseen. So they remained in their beds until they stank. And the neighbors, if there were any, having smelled the stench, placed them in a shroud and sent them for burial. The house remained open and yet there was no one daring enough to touch anything because it seemed that things remained poisoned and that whoever used them picked up the illness." (The Florentine Chronicle)

May 28, 1998
The first bomb dropped on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 at 7:49 a.m. pierced the roof of a 3,200-man barracks complex and exploded in the dining hall, killing 35 men at breakfast. (December 1991 National Geographic)

May 29, 1998
In Burma, a violent civil war has raged for the last 46 years and survivors tell horrible tales of rape, mutilation and murder at the hands of the State Law and Order Restoration Council, Burma's military junta who took power in 1988. Among the horrible stories: Slorc officers had accused Thao Rain, a teacher, of helping a defector cross rebel lines. As punishment they doused him in petrol and set him alight. He survived with horrible burns. One woman of 48 said she and her daughter had been raped by six Slorc soldiers. Afterwards they cut her daughter's throat and threw the body in a well. Another woman said she had watched as Slorc soldiers maimed three men in her village by cutting off their ears, noses and toes with machetes. All were suspected of collaborating with the rebels. (Burma's Generals Wage War Of Rape And Mutilation)

May 30, 1998
An Australian woman has been sentenced to three years in jail for biting off her best friend's nose in a drunken brawl. Sylvana Badek, 38, grappled Annette Graham in a New South Wales hostelry last September, chomping off the end of Graham's nose and washing it down with a glass of sparkling wine, saying, "This is a souvenir." Sylvana pleaded not guilty, stating, "I'm not a cannibal." But Judge Phelan of Port Kembla was unimpressed, pointing out she was 10 times over the legal drinking limit when the attack took place. The court was told Badek had been sober since the incident. Just as well, as there isn't much sparkling wine in Cell Block H. (May, 1998 Bizarre magazine

May 31, 1998
George Gipp was a star halfback for Notre Dame from 1917-1920. Knute Rockne once called him "the greatest football player Notre Dame ever produced". George Gipp did not finish the 1920 season. He became ill with a throat infection before the second-to-last game and was hospitalized. Released in time for the game, he suited up, but Rockne planned not to use him. Finally, however, the coach bowed to the fans' clamor and sent Gipp in for a few plays. Soon the streptococcal infection got worse, and he was back in the hospital. Antibiotic drugs were not yet in use, and pneumonia set in. Within three weeks, on December 14, 1920, he was dead. On his deathbed, he told his coach, "Rock, some day when things look real tough for Notre Dame, ask the boys to go out there and win one for the Gipper." (The People's Almanac #2)