August 1996

August 1, 1996
On March 21, 1947 police were called to the home of New York City's most famous recluses, the Collyer brothers (Homer and Langley), to investigate a possible dead body. When there was no response they kicked open the front door to find an ocean of debris - old newspapers piled to the ceiling along with sundry other precious things - which made the downstairs impassable. They used a ladder to access the second floor and eventually came across the body of Homer Collyer, who was blind and paralysed and relied completely upon his brother Langley for support and subsistence. It turned out that the paranoid pack rat Langley had constructed many booby traps from his debris around the house and one day he had accidentally set one of them and buried himself under a huge pile of trash; Homer consequently starved to death. It took police three weeks to find his body - after removing 120 tons of trash from the house. (Another warning to pack rats!)

August 2, 1996
Walter Freeman, the father of the lobotomy, was (unsurprisingly, really) beaten to death by a deranged patient in his office in 1955.

August 3, 1996
A Michigan man died when a 14-pound bowling ball, thrown from a passing car, bounced through the window of his car and killed him.

August 4, 1996
In the autumn of 1874, Alferd Packer and five companions thought they could make it over the Rockies before the snows came. They were wrong. In the spring, Alferd returned but the other five were never seen again. Alferd was tried and convicted of cannibalism. At his sentencing, the judge condemned Packer with the following immortal words: "There was seven democrats in Hinsdale County, and you've ate five of them, God damn you!" Recently, some forensic scientists dug up the remains of Packer's companions to determine what had really happened. They examined the bones and concluded that Packer really had butchered and eaten the other men.

August 5, 1996
Charles Rogers reached to help a grave digger when the grave began caving in. Rogers fell in, followed by the headstone, which crushed him dead. It was originally his brother's grave.

August 6, 1996
A train coming out of Naples at the end of World War II became stuck on icy tracks inside of a tunnel and sat burning coal for hours. 521 people died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The only survivor was a man inside the caboose, which happened to hang just outside the tunnel.

August 7, 1996
When Mrs. Van Butchell died in 1775, her husband found an innovative way around the stipulations of her will, which stated that he could control her money only while she remained above the ground. He got a doctor to "preserve" her and he kept her and her money above ground for years and years.

August 8, 1996
Two United States presidents - Thomas Jefferson and James K. Polk - have died from diarrhea.

August 9, 1996
During an argument at a Maryland truck stop, an irate Fred Warren stuck a hunting knife into a tire. The escaping air from the punctured tire blew the knife back into his own throat and killed him.

August 10, 1996
During the French Revolution, 2,498 people were guillotined.

August 11, 1996
James Dean's last words before his fatal car crash were, "That guy's got to stop. He'll see us."

August 12, 1996
The Duke of Monmouth was beheaded in England in 1685 in one of history's messiest executions (it took five chops). The body and head were dispatched for burial, but at the last moment it was realized that no portrait existed of the Duke. Since he had been the illegitimate son of King Charles II, it was considered important to have a portrait, so the body and head were sewed back together, dressed, and painted.

August 13, 1996
Edward Mordrake was a handsome, talented man who was born with another face on the back of his head. It was said to be a girl's. Although it couldn't eat or speak, the face's eyes moved; it could also laugh and cry. Edward begged to have his "devil twin" removed but no doctor would attempt it. He committed suicide at the age of 23.

August 14, 1996
In Methuen, MA a child was attacked by a swan and drowned in 1938 - the only case of a killer swan on record.

August 15, 1996
The last words of convicted murderer Jimmy Glass, as he sat on the Electric Chair on June 12, 1987, were the highly appropriate, "I'd rather be fishing".

August 16, 1996
A 17-year-old boy in France committed suicide supposedly because his parents wouldn't let him have plastic surgery to look like Michael Jackson. Sounds like a mercy killing to me!

August 17, 1996
When George Del Vecchio, who was convicted of fatally slashing a 6-year-old boy and raping the boy's mother, was set to be executed via lethal injection in November, 1995 he argued that he was "too sick to be executed" due to a recent mild heart attack. Unsurprisingly, this plea was rejected by the state Supreme Court and he was put to death on schedule.

August 18, 1996
On July 6, 1944 a fire broke out at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus in Hartford, Conn. before a crowd of 7,000 people. 168 people died in the blaze and 487 were injured. One of the dead, a small girl thought to be six years old, was unidentified. Since her face was unmarred, she was photographed and the photo was distributed across the U.S. but no one came forward to identify her. She remained unidentified for 47 years until retired Fire Lt. Rick Davey undertook an exhaustive nine-year investigation which culminated in her identification as Eleanor Emily Cook. Her death certificate was officially changed from the previous identification of "1565" in 1992. Eleanor's mother, Mildred Parsons, died in 1997 at the age of 91.(Special thanks to Earl for information on the fate of "Little Miss 1565")

August 19, 1996
A carpenter in Dusseldorf, Germany was killed in 1951 when he was speared by a six-foot-long icicle.
"This was blue ice from an airplane." - Rodney Moorhead

August 20, 1996
Ted Bundy's last words, as he headed towards his execution, were the typically pragmatic, "Let's do it!" And so they did...

August 21, 1996
During the Black Death, people thought that cats and dogs were the carriers of the plague and they killed them by the thousands accordingly. Of course, this only served to increase the population of the REAL culprits of doom: flea-ridden rats. Irony, huh?

August 22, 1996
Analysis of the "Black Box" recordings from airline crashes shows that the most common last words are the ever-poetic, "Oh, Shit!!!" You'd say it too if it happened to you!

August 23, 1996
313 Union Army soldiers died of sunstroke during the Civil War.

August 24, 1996
James P. Riva of Massachusetts was convicted in 1980 of shooting his grandmother with gold-tipped bullets and trying to drink her blood. At his trial, he testified that he had been a vampire for four years.

August 25, 1996
Mark Maples has the distinction of being the first person killed at the Happiest Place on Earth (aka Disneyland). In May, 1964, Maples, a 15-year-old Long Beach resident, took off his protective harness and attempted to stand on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. He lost his balance and was thrown to the track below, fracturing his skull and causing internal injuries. He died three days later.

August 26, 1996
Robert George Clements was an English doctor whose first wealthy wife died of "sleeping sickness" in 1929, the second of "endocarditis" in 1935, the third of "cancer" in 1939, and the fourth of "myeloid leukemia" in 1947. He had signed the first three death certificates himself, but the fourth was signed by Dr. James Houston, a colleague who had accepted Clements' diagnosis. However, other doctors suspected morphine and it was found in an autopsy. Both Clements and Houston committed suicide after writing notes: Clements' was a declaration of guilt, Houston's was an admission of his error.

August 27, 1996
One of the favored methods of capital punishment employed in the first century A.D. in the Near East was stoning. First the prisoner's hands would be tied behind his back so as to not be able to defend himself from the stones. Then, everyone in the crowd would get their own stone and the accuser would be the first to start the barrage. The point was to not hit him in the head, so as to extend the agony - after all, if he's unconscious, where's the fun? Finally, he would be crushed to death under a pile of rocks.

August 28, 1996
Between 1876 and 1879, drought resulted in a famine that affected a total of 70 million people in Northern China. The populace turned to slavery, murder, and cannibalism: children were sold as food in marketplaces. Mass graves, known as "10,000-man holes" were created to house the carcasses. The tragedy took the lives of between 9.5 and 13 million people.

August 29, 1996
In Edmond Oklahoma in 1986, postal worker Patrick Sherrill received terrible performance reviews before he shot and killed 14 co-workers and injured 7 others. I guess some people just can't take any criticism, huh?

August 30, 1996
Englishman William Hall committed suicide in 1971 by drilling 8 holes into his own head.

August 31, 1996
Dairy delivery driver Joseph LaRose was killed when 500 pounds of ice cream treats fell on him in Tampa, FL.