Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 27, 2015

Today’s Hastily Summoned Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

One afternoon at the San Francisco Zoo in 1968, drunken 59-year-old Amos Watson climbed the low fence that surrounded the lion grotto and tumbled to the bottom of the dry moat. Fully caught up in his perceived role as the mighty bwana, he issued his challenge to Tommy, a 5-year-old African lion: “Come here, come here!”

Before a crowd of stunned onlookers, Tommy came. Watson, preparing to do battle as he knew best, waved his wine bottle several times and assumed the classic boxing stance. Tommy, somewhat puzzled, merely sniffed around. Watson seized the opportunity and took several ineffective swings. Then, with a ferocious roar, Tommy retaliated and quickly demonstrated that the sweet science, even when backed up by a wine bottle, is no match for keen claws and sharp fangs.

Unfortunately, triumph would not be Tommy’s on this day. A hastily summoned keeper managed to drop Tommy with a single bullet between the eyes even as he had Watson by the neck. Watson would survive, but with an unforgettable lesson about the perils of mixing alcohol with animals. His souvenirs included two broken legs, numerous slash and puncture wounds, and a deep gash to the chest.

Culled from: Murder Can Be Fun #16 by John Marr

Poor Tommy. ¬†ūüôĀ


My Brush With Morbidity

“My Near-Drowning Experience” by Brooke

“This incident occurred in St. Augustine, Florida, during late August of 2014.

“I had a waveboard with me and had been riding the waves that were breaking closer to shore, but my legs were getting a little tired from constantly walking back to the point where the waves broke, so I decided I was going to go out just beyond that point and just float on the waveboard for a little while to give my muscles a rest. My mom went back to shore as I walked farther out to that point, where I floated peacefully by myself for a while, letting my mind drift, until I noticed that I was quite far away from any of the other swimmers and had floated out farther than I intended to, so I decided it was time to head back to shore.

“I kicked my legs downwards, intending to tread water, only to find that my feet could no longer touch the bottom at all. I was a little worried by this, but I thought I would just swim to shore so I wasn’t too worried. I started trying to swim back, but I wasn’t making any progress, so I decided to use the board to try to ride the waves back closer to shore. This worked a little, in that each wave pulled me a bit closer to shore, but then the tide would pull me back twice as far.

“By now I was quite worried. I got off of my board and swam with all my might diagonally like they tell you to do to break out of a riptide, but I was making no progress whatsoever. My board was still attached to me by the wrist strap, and I was beginning to think the reason why I wasn’t moving forward was that the board was catching the tide and pulling me back, so I unfastened the wrist strap and let the board drift away. I realized how stupid this was within moments, as it turned out the board had been the main thing keeping me afloat – with it, I hadn’t had to worry about keeping my head above water at all, but now I was not only trying to swim to shore, I was also having to concentrate on keeping myself afloat as well. I think I had also overestimated my swimming skills, because while the last time I had been in the ocean, I considered myself a very good swimmer, that had been several years ago.

“At this point, I was expending all my energy just keeping myself in place. I would take short breaks to float on my back in order to rest, but when I did this, I would find myself being pulled back out into the ocean, so I realized quickly this was not feasible. By now, I was trying extremely hard not to panic, because I knew panicking could only make things worse, but I couldn’t hold it back because at this point I was almost positive I was going to die. It was so surreal, because I was looking at all the swimmers close to the shore and my family on the beach, and I just kept thinking how I was going to die with all these people completely unaware, how I couldn’t swim much longer and how I was going to be pulled out into the ocean, how my body would probably never be found and how my family would spend the rest of their lives feeling guilty because of my stupid mistake.

“There was a group of people almost directly in front of me in the water, but very close to shore, and I started to scream for help. I screamed ‘HELP’ four or five times but nobody was turning in my direction at all, so I knew they couldn’t hear me – in fact, I didn’t see how anyone could possibly hear me over the waves, as they were the only thing I could hear. Half in desperation, half as a last attempt at drawing someone’s attention, I started to scream – no words, just screaming as loud as I could. I screamed several times and finally the group of people in front of me turned their heads toward me, and at first they were just looking – I realized they were trying to figure out if I was actually drowning or not, so I screamed again, and then they turned to shore and were waving their arms for help. I was thinking about how there probably weren’t any lifeguards around because I had never seen any on our previous trips in the days before, and how no one could possibly get to me before I went under – my muscles were very tired, and I was having serious trouble staying afloat.

“Then I saw one of the women start to swim out towards me, and I was somewhat relieved, though not entirely, because I was thinking that if she didn’t know what she was doing, or if the tide caught her too, we would both just drown – but she was my only chance. She swam closer to me, and when she was about five to six feet away she shouted for me to turn my back to her and float on my back. I didn’t stop to think about it at all, just did as I was told; I knew by the way she commanded me and her instructions that she knew what she was doing. I felt her grab onto my hair which was floating in the water, then the around the back of my neck, and when she was close enough, she held onto my upper arms and started to swim us backwards to safety. I was completely overwhelmed with relief, once I could tell we were getting back to shore and not staying still or being swept further out. I remember I kept babbling things like ‘thank you, thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ to her; she kept telling me not to apologize, but I felt I needed to, for potentially putting her into danger with my idiotic mistakes.

“At some point before we got to shore, she handed me off to a lifeguard, but I don’t remember this happening at all. Then our feet were touching the ocean floor again, and the lifeguard told me to grab onto the flotation device he had – I think mainly to keep me from just falling down in the water, as I was shaking very badly and I thought my knees were going to give out from the effort I’d expended and just being overwhelmed.¬† In addition to ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’, I told him I just wanted to sit down and he assured me I would be able to very soon.

“He walked me to shore, then to his patrol truck where my family was standing – they knew what was going on at this point. My mom gave my shoulder a squeeze, I could tell she was very frightened but definitely not as much as I still was. The lifeguard sat me on the bed of the truck and just let me calm down for a few moments, encouraged deep breathing, etc. Then he asked me what had happened, if I had swallowed any water or felt like I needed to go to the hospital, got my info, and took my vitals. By the time he took my pulse it was almost back to normal – apparently he had taken it when we were walking out of the ocean and it was extremely high, but again, I have no memory of this at all. I didn’t remember swallowing any water, but my mouth felt like it had been scrubbed with salt all the same – I think possibly some water may have splashed into my mouth while I was screaming. The lifeguard was very nice, and I owe my life to him and especially the woman who swam out after me; I have no doubt about that. He told my family to watch for any changes in my behavior or condition, just in case, then he left.

“Before he left he told us, for future reference, to always go into the ocean with some kind of board or other flotation device and never to let go of it, especially in an emergency, because it can easily be the difference between life and death. He also said there was a very strong undertow that day and the days before, and that it and the very strong waves were due to the storm they had received a few days prior, a consequence of Hurricane Cristobal. (Apparently, two people drowned on the East Coast, where my incident occured, as a result of riptides caused by this hurricane.) He told us the week before the ocean had been flat as glass (so I guess I picked a prime week to nearly drown).

“Before this incident, I shared the widespread belief that drowning would be a relatively peaceful death – but now I can tell you it’s not. I really can’t stress enough the sheer terror and overwhelming feeling of helplessness and despair I experienced. I will always be in debt to the people who helped rescue me. My thoughts are with, and will always be with, the two who shared my experience that week, but didn’t make it back to shore. Rest in peace, Sarmad Rizvi and Jose Maudiel Hernandez.

“As for my waveboard – one of the other women in the group that helped rescue me retrieved it and gave it back to me. It had made it nearly back to shore without me, ironically enough.”

Thanks for sharing this frightening story, Brooke! ¬†As someone who is a weak swimmer and who spent her childhood blowing up a couple of “falling into water” incidences into “near-drownings” of my own, I can completely relate to the fear.

Past brushes can be found at the Asylum Eclectica My Brush With Morbidity page.

Do you have a morbid experience you’d like to share? ¬†Please write the Comtesse!


International Holocaust Remembrance Day

As you may have heard, today is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. ¬†Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. ¬†Although I haven’t managed to make a trip to Auschwitz yet, I was able to visit two concentration camps in Germany over the summer: Sachsenhausen and Bergen-Belsen. ¬†I’m currently working on a full travelogue of my visit to Sachsenhausen but I thought that for today, I’d share a few photos I took with my phone camera at that harrowing location.


This is the front gate of Sachsenhausen prison camp.  This was a Nazi camp Рmainly for political prisoners but also homosexuals, jews and gypsies Рthat existed from 1936 to 1945. About 30,000 people walked through these gates and never walked back out again.

The infamous false promise emblazoned upon the front gate: “Work makes you free”.

Inside the walls of Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The gravel represents the off-limit area. Walking into that area meant the prisoner could be shot. Electric fence lined the walls. Sometimes prisoners would deliberately throw themselves onto the fence in despair to end their suffering.  (I know I would.)

This track was used to test boots at Sachsenhausen. Prisoners were forced to wear a variety of boots and walk between 16-25 miles a day over a variety of surfaces to test boots that soldiers would wear. Some developed severe foot problems. Since I had three awful blisters on my feet and every step caused a great deal of pain, I felt like I could relate in a small way.

In the barrack at Sachsenhausen. “This is where in the morning prisoners would wash themselves. At times up to 400 prisoners would be squeezed into a barracks like this and they only had 30 minutes for rations and bathing. Consequently, 8 to 10 men would be standing at a time at these basins with only cold water running. SS men were known to have drowned prisoners in the basins for washing feet on the right.”

Sachsenhausen toilets. Prisoners were only allowed to use the toilets twice a day and in the rush, older, sick, and weakened prisoners would be trampled and lay on the floor covered in excrement. Prisoners who were unable to work had to stand, without moving a muscle, all day long in this unaired space. SS guards were known to have drowned prisoners in the toilets.

The clothing of a homosexual prisoner. Notice the pink triangle. I think I would have qualified for imprisonment on many criteria: socialist, anti-fascist, gay, history of mental illness, and just being different.

Firing range at Sachsenhausen. ¬†This is the view that the victims would have (if they weren’t blindfolded). The guns would point out of those holes in the door.

The autopsy table at Sachsenhausen. Of course, the only time autopsies were performed was to verify medical experiments or if there was something about the corpse that interested the research doctors.

The morgue.

Hereditary Health Court records. The Nazis had a court where they would debate whether individuals with supposed hereditary disorders should be allowed to procreate. If they decided no you would be taken to a public hospital and sterilized.

Faces of some of the victims of Sachsenhausen.  Never forget.

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