Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 22, 2014

Today’s Fierce Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

About 2:00 p.m. on May 7, 1840, a fierce wind came up from the southwest as a dark cloud approached the riverfront town of Natchez, Mississippi.  Another cloud formation moved from the opposite direction, and the collision of the two fronts at Natchez apparently unleashed both a tornado and torrential rains, which amounted to nine inches before the storm ended.  Tornado winds ripped through Natchez, peeling off roofs and crushing whole buildings.  The air became a swirling mass of shingles, bricks, timbers, and even heavy ox carts, scattering debris from wrecked buildings everywhere.  Meanwhile, out on the Mississippi River, the tornado tore away the superstructure of one steamboat and capsized another, with great loss of life.  The Natchez ferry and sixty other flatboats were also sunk.  In all, the tornado killed 317 people at Natchez, many of them by drowning in the Mississippi.

Culled from: The Pessimist’s Guide To History

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 21, 2014

Today’s Devastating Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Lebanon had been torn by civil war since the mid-1970′s, and the violence had escalated when Israel invaded in 1982. A multinational peacekeeping force was in place but to no avail.

At 6:22 A.M. local time on Sunday morning, October 23, 1983, an Iranian national working for a jihadist terror organization drove a hijacked yellow stake-sided truck onto Beirut International Airport property, heading for the four-story barracks housing the 1st Battalion, 8th US Marines. At first guards assumed that the truck was the regular water truck and let it pass.  But driver Ismail Ascari suddenly sped up, tore through a concertina-wire fence and plowed full-speed into the lobby of the barracks. The truck was loaded with the equivalent of 21,000 pounds of TNT, arranged atop a slab of marble so as to channel its explosive force upward for maximum devastation.

beirutSentries were operating under “rules of engagement,” which required them to keep their weapons in Condition 4, no magazine loaded, no round in the chamber. Only one managed to ready his gun before the truck exploded, but investigators later said that the explosives were so powerful that the loss of life would have been no different even if the truck had not made it into the building.  The four-story concrete-and-steel building was lifted into the air by the blast, then collapsed onto itself and the Marines, sailors and soldiers inside, most of whom were still asleep. 220 Marines, 18 sailors and 3 soldiers were killed, as well as an elderly Lebanese man who worked as a custodian and vendor and who was apparently sleeping in his concession area.

About fifteen minutes later, a nearly identical attack was carried out at the nearby barracks of the 1 Parachute Chaseurs Regiment, killing 58 French paratroopers and the wife and four children of a Lebanese custodian. Many of the French soldiers were out on their balconies trying to see what was going on at the American barracks. French sentries opened fire on the truck, killing its driver, but were unable to prevent the explosion.

In all, the twin suicide bombings took the lives of 298 military personnel and six civilians, plus the two bombers. It was the worst single-day loss of life for the US military since the first day of the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, and the worst single-day loss of life for the Marine Corps since Iwo Jima. Rescue efforts were hampered by intermittent sniper and mortar attacks.  The bombings led directly to the eventual withdrawal of peacekeeping forces in Beirut.

Culled from Wikipedia
Submitted by: Aimee

Here’s a CBS news special report from the morning of the attacks, before the full extent of the horror and the death toll was known. It’s got on-scene reports and footage and is hosted by an uncharacteristically somber Charles Kuralt.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 20, 2014

Today’s Eerily Well-Preserved Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

From the poisoner’s perspective, arsenic became a risky choice when forensic examiners began to look directly at the body. With the stubborn, solid constitution of any metallic element, it breaks down extremely slowly compared to organic poisons and can be detected decades after death in a victim’s hair and fingernails.  Even worse for those who hope to avoid detection, arsenic tends to slow down the natural decomposition of human tissue, often creating eerily well-preserved corpses.  Toxicologists refer to this effect as arsenic “mummification.”  Forensic chemist Rudolph Witthaus reported that one body, exhumed after fifty-four weeks in the ground, “did not differ from a living person” in appearance except for the patches of mold growing on his face.  “The growth of molds is not interfered with by arsenic,” he added austerely.

Culled from: The Poisoner’s Handbook

Hmmmmm… I wonder if Julia Buccola Petta, the “Incorruptible Bride,” was murdered with arsenic?

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 18, 2014

Today’s Unintimidated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

¿Quién es más macho?

¿Quién es más macho?

Former policeman Frank Coppola was obviously not intimidated by the thought of his own execution.  “What the hell?” he remarked, “We all have to die.  At least I can say when.”  When the fateful hour arrived and Coppola was strapped into the electric chair, he turned to the execution team and barked, “Fire it up!”

Records show that Coppola had a long history of such tough, gritty behavior.  He once went so far as to swallow spiders and razor blades to demonstrate his manliness.  We’re not sure about the significant of his last meal, but at this point in time there are no regions of the world where eating a cheese and egg sandwich is considered exceptionally macho.

Executed: August 10, 1982 in Virginia by electrocution
Crime: Beat a woman to death during a robbery
Last Meal: A cheese and egg sandwich.  (He asked for a wine recommendation with dinner.)

Culled from: Last Suppers: Famous Final Meals From Death Row

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 17, 2014

Today’s Livid Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), quoted a description of punishment in the prison of New Orleans:

Entering a large paved courtyard, around which ran galleries filled with slaves of all ages, sexes, and colours, I heard the snap of a whip, every stroke of which sounded like the sharp crack of a pistol.  I turned my head, and beheld a sight which absolutely chilled me to the marrow of my bones, and gave me for the first time in my life, the sensation of my hair stiffening at the roots.

There lay a black girl flat upon her face, on a board, her two thumbs tied, and fastened to one end, her feet tied and drawn tightly to the other end, while a strap passed over the small of her back, and, fastened around the board, compressed her closely to it.  Below the strap she was entirely naked.

By her side, and six feet off, stood a huge negro, with a long whip, which he applied with dreadful power and wonderful precision.  Every stroke brought away a strip of skin, which clung to the lash, or fell quivering on the pavement, while the blood followed after it.  The poor creature writhed and shrieked, and, in a voice which showed alike her fear of death and her dreadful agony, screamed to her master, who stood at her head, ‘Oh, spare my life!  don’t cut my soul out!’.  But still fell the horrid lash; still strip after strip peeled off from the skin; gash after gash was cut in her living flesh, until it became a livid and bloody mass of raw and quivering muscle.

Culled from: The History of Torture

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 16, 2014

Today’s Moderate Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Throughout most of Western history, husbands have had the legal and moral right to beat their wives to provide “moderate correction,” according to Untying the Knot: A Short History of Divorce by Roderick Phillips.  The Catholic Church accepted this right of the husband as did most of the courts of Europe.  The key question, though, is: What was considered “moderate correction”?  “The violence should not draw blood,” stated Phillips, citing examples from many law codes, “and if a stick were used, it should be no thicker than a man’s thumb.”  That is actually the origin of the expression “rule of thumb.”  Many everyday proverbs from the Renaissance contain advice such as, “Don’t expect anything good from an ass, a nut or a wife, unless you have a stick in your hand.” Or, “Good or bad, the horse gets the spur; good or bad, the wife gets the stick.”

The basic legal principle – expressed in canon and civil law – was that since a husband was responsible for his wife’s actions, he also had the right to punish her to teach her. The broad acceptance of wife-beating started to change with the Protestant Reformation, which frowned on the practice and made it a crime.  In America, the Puritan colonies in New England outlawed wife-beating as early as 1641, but in merry olde England it wasn’t until 1891 that a husband’s right to “moderate correction” was officially abolished.

Culled from: An Underground Education

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 15, 2014

Today’s Not Proven Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Madeleine Smith

Now is THIS the face of a killer?

Madeleine Smith was the 19-year-old daughter of a wealthy Glasgow architect.  She had fallen head over heels in love with 26-year-old Emile L’Angelier, a shipping clerk from Jersey, whom she had met by chance one day while out walking.  Although they had had a torrid sexual relationship she knew he was totally unacceptable as a husband, and a new man had come into her life so she poisoned Emile with a cup of cocoa liberally laced with arsenic.  He died an agonizing death shortly after an evening tryst with Madeleine on March 22, 1857.  She was brought to trial later that year but saved from the gallows by the curious Scottish verdict of not proven.  Her lawyers had used the Styrian Defense, saying that L’Angelier could have been a secret arsenic-eater, and that Madeleine had bought arsenic to use as a cosmetic.

The Victorian public savored the trial with its prurient details of their relationship although the press portrayed L’Angelier as the seducer and fortune seeker and Madeleine as the victim whose only release was to get rid of him.  After the trial Madeleine moved to the south of England, eventually ending up in London where she met and married George Wardel, who was one of William Morris’s designers, and later his business manager. Soon Madeleine was working for the company as an embroiderer of tapestries.  She became a member of the group of intellectual socialists that included many leading artists and writers of the day, including George Bernard Shaw who knew her well.  Eventually her marriage broke up and she ended her days in the USA, dying in obscurity at the age of 74 in 1912.

Culled from: The Elements of Murder

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 14, 2014

Today’s Pompous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Epitaph on the gravestone of J.N. who died in 1678:

Seek not to learn who underneath doth lie.
Learn something more important:
— learn to die.

Culled from: Eccentric Epitaphs by Michelle Lovric

Don’t you hate one-uppers?  So you died first?  Big whoop!  I’m sure it ain’t THAT difficult!  Everybody does it.  Sheesh.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 13, 2014

Today’s Tidy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

For obvious reasons, bathtubs make a handy place to dismember corpses.  After picking up a female hitchhiker in January 1973, for example, Edmund Kemper shot her in the head, then drove the body back home, hid it in his bedroom closet, and went to sleep.  The next morning, after his mother left for work, he removed the corpse, had sex with it, then placed it in his bathtub and dismembered it with a Buck knife and an axe.

Dennis Nilsen’s tub, on the other hand, was used for a more traditional purpose.  He liked to bathe his lovers in it.  Of course, they were dead at the time.  Like Jeffrey Dahmer, this British serial killer murdered his homosexual pickups partly because he was desperate for companionship.  Turning them into corpses was his way of ensuring that they wouldn’t leave in the morning.  After strangling a victim, Nilsen would engage in a regular ritual, tenderly cleaning the corpse in his tub, then lovingly arranging it in front of the TV or stereo or perhaps at the dining room table, so he could enjoy its company until it became too decomposed to bear.

And then there is the occasional serial killer who turns his tub into a killing device, like the British Bluebeard, George Joseph Smith, the notorious “Brides in the Bath” murderer, who drowned three of his seven wives for their insurance money.

Culled from: The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers