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Dead Pool 25th July 2021

Another week, another spate of slightly famous people succumbing to various ailments. It might be a good week to send out the Flying Monkeys, we could do with a points bonanza! 

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

Former Good Morning Britain anchor, Piers Morgan has admitted that he has become one of the latest confirmed cases of coronavirus. It comes following the presenter’s trip to Wembley Stadium with his three sons. The 56-year-old believes he caught the Delta variant after heading to Wembley two weeks ago for the Euro 2020 final, that saw Italy take home the prestigious trophy. Over the past year, Piers has been perhaps one of the government’s most outspoken critics and policies. The journalist frequently attacked the government who refused to be questioned on Good Morning Britain during the height of the pandemic. Now, despite being double vaccinated, Piers has revealed the true extent of his symptoms. In order to attend the match, football fans had to provide proof that they were either double vaccinated or produce a negative test result. However, Piers claims he started to feel unwell just two days after the match, while at his home in Sussex. After taking a lateral flow test that displayed a positive result, he later took a PCR test, confirming that he was in fact positive, four days after the match. Writing in his column, Piers penned: “As I’m sure everyone who gets it feels, it’s a strange, disquieting moment to know I have this killer virus inside me.” Piers’ symptoms included a fever, cold sweats, coughing, sneezing, “strange aches” and “alarming” chest pains. He went on to write: “And my voice now sounds like Barry White, though I couldn’t feel less like a Walrus of Love. “This is definitely the roughest I’ve felt from any illness in my adult life, BUT, as I slowly come out the other side, coughing and spluttering. I’m still here – unlike so many millions around the world who’ve lost their lives to Covid in this pandemic.”  

A swan believed to be the UK’s oldest has died at the age of thirty. Pickles the whooper swan, or common swan, was described as a “massive character”. He was born in early June 1991, although his precise hatching date is unknown. Staff at Leeds Castle in Kent, where he was often seen on the moat, designated 3 June as Pickles Day, serving him a special swan-friendly cake last month. There are 19 captive-bred swans in the grounds of the castle, including mute swans, trumpeter swans and black swans. “Fly high, Pickles, fly high,” the castle tweeted. “Pickles was much loved by everyone. We celebrated his birthday with his favourite seed cake recently and he enjoyed the media attention he got! It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Pickles the swan, who passed away yesterday,” said Mark Brattle, the castle’s falconry and wildlife manager. “Pickles the whooper swan was a massive character at the castle and will be missed by staff and visitors alike. The falconry and wildlife team would like to thank everyone for their kind words of support.” Whooper swans, which can grow to 5ft 3in in length, generally live to about ten in the wild, but have previously been known to reach their late twenties in captivity.  

Chris Packham has revealed that he wants his ashes to be mixed with his two dogs Itchy and Scratchy, so they can be spread among the trees where they loved to play. Growing up with an animal can influence your choice of pet in the future, and for Chris Packham, 60, it was dogs – all of which were poodles. The nature presenter has had seven four legged friends over the years, to which he formed unique bonds with. And in a new interview, the Springwatch host admitted when he dies, he wants his ashes mixed with that of two of his poodles, Itchy and Scratchy, who saved him while he was in an extremely dark point in his life. Speaking of his love for the animals, he revealed his first dog Max died in 1995 and he didn’t get another until 2001, due to work commitments and general life changes. “My partner at the time was so bored with listening to stories about Max that she got me another dog, Fish, for my 40th birthday,” he said. But tragedy struck after the pooch was sadly hit by a car when he was a year old and died in his arms. “The suddenness and the shock was really damaging, and because of that six-year gap, I’d fallen in love with Fish more quickly,” Chris admitted. “I fell into a deep and intense depression, into a dark place where everything seemed to fall apart.” Seven years later, Itchy and Scratchy joined the family, but Chris admitted they weren’t an “instant fix”, instead they were something for him to “connect to”. “Itchy and Scratchy were there in my darkest moments — if they hadn’t been, I wouldn’t be here to write this,” he confessed the harrowing truth. And because of Fish’s awful fate, Chris’ growing concern for Itchy and Scratchy’s safety became his priority. “It got to a point where everyone could see we were three organisms umbilically linked,” he explained. When they got ill, the presenter decided to avoid any intolerable suffering and euthanise them. “It seemed obvious to me,” he shrugged. “When I die, I’ll be cremated and my ashes will be mixed with Itchy and Scratchy, and scattered by a particular tree. He now has two new poodles called Sid and Nancy, which he got in 2020. Both Sid & Nancy are crossing their paws in hope that Peckham lives a few more years as they don’t fancy being cremated alive with the wildlife presenter.    

On This Day

  • 1797 – Horatio Nelson loses more than 300 men and his right arm during the failed conquest attempt of Tenerife.  
  • 1965 – Bob Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival, signalling a major change in folk and rock music and people lo9se their fucking minds!  
  • 1978 – Birth of Louise Joy Brown, the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation, or IVF.   
  • 1984 – Salyut 7 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to perform a spacewalk.  
  • 2000 – Concorde Air France Flight 4590 crashes at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, killing 113 people.  

Deaths

 Last Meals

Edward Mordake is the apocryphal subject of an urban legend who was, according to the legend, born in the 19th century as the heir to an English peerage. Mordrake (originally spelled Mordake) was a young, intelligent, and good-looking English nobleman, as well as a “musician of rare ability.” But with all of his great blessings came a terrible curse. In addition to his handsome, normal face, Mordrake had a terrifying second face on the back of his head. According to legend, the face could whisper, grab objects, laugh or cry. The second face was said to be as “lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil.” This strange visage also possessed an intelligence “of a malignant sort.” Whenever Mordrake cried, the second face would “smile and sneer.”

Mordrake was constantly plagued by his “devil twin,” which kept him up all night whispering “such things as they only speak of in hell.” The young nobleman was eventually driven mad and took his own life at the age of 23, leaving behind a note ordering that the evil face should be destroyed after his death, “lest it continues its dreadful whispering in my grave.”

This story of the man with two faces spread like wildfire across America. On December 8, 1895, the Boston Sunday Post published an article titled “The Wonders of Modern Science.” This article presented reports from the so-called “Royal Scientific Society,” which documented the existence of “human freaks.” The public clamoured for more details about Mordrake, and even medical professionals approached the story without a hint of scepticism.

In 1896, American doctors George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle included the Mordrake story in their book Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine — a collection of peculiar medical cases. Although Gould and Pyle were legitimate ophthalmologists with successful medical practices, they were also quite gullible in at least this one case. Because as it turned out, the story of Edward Mordrake was fake.

As Alex Boese’s blog Museum of Hoaxes diligently deduced, the author of the original Post article, Charles Lotin Hildreth, was a poet and science-fiction writer. His stories tended toward the fantastical and other-worldly, as opposed to articles based in reality.

Of course, just because someone usually writes fiction doesn’t mean that every single thing they write is fictional. Still, there are many clues that suggest that the Mordrake story is completely made up.

For one, Hildreth’s article cites the “Royal Scientific Society” as its source for its numerous bizarre medical cases, but an organisation by that name didn’t exist in the 19th century.

The Royal Society of London was a centuries-old scientific institution, but there was no organisation that was both “Royal” and “Scientific” by name in the Western world. However, this name might’ve sounded believable to people who didn’t live in England — which may explain why so many Americans fell for the story of the man with two faces. Or perhaps Americans are just stupid.

Secondly, Hildreth’s article appears to be the first time any of the medical cases he describes have ever appeared in any literature, scientific or otherwise. The Royal Society of London’s entire database is searchable online, and Boese wasn’t able to find any of Hildreth’s anomalies in its archives — from the Norfolk Spider (a human head with six hairy legs) to the Fish Woman of Lincoln (a mermaid-type creature).

“When we realise this,” Boese wrote, “that’s when it becomes apparent that Hildreth’s article was fiction. All of it sprang from his imagination, including Edward Mordake.”

As one might imagine, many newspapers in the late 19th century weren’t held to the same editorial standards as they are today. While they were still vital sources of information and entertainment, they were also filled with fictional tales that were presented as if they were nonfiction.

Ultimately, Hildreth’s story about a man with two faces wasn’t necessarily irresponsible journalism. It was simply a tale written convincingly enough to trick a couple of doctors — and to endure in the public imagination for more than a century. Hildreth died mere months after his article was published, so he never got to see just how quickly Americans were fooled by his wild creativity.

Edward Mordrake’s story experienced a recent resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to the TV series American Horror Story.

The show rehashes the basics of the urban legend, although the television incarnation of Mordrake is driven to murder as well as suicide. The writers must have taken a great deal of inspiration from the original Boston Sunday Post article, since the lobster boy also makes an appearance in the show.

Lest modern readers think they are so much wiser than their Victorian fore-bearers that they would never be taken in by such an absurd tale, a photo supposedly depicting the remains of Mordrake’s head went viral in 2018.

This is not the first time a photo of the cursed nobleman has seized the public’s attention. But like all of the others, it is far from authentic. 

The gruesome Janus-like skull is, in fact, just a papier-mâché artist’s imagining of what Edward Mordrake might have looked like if he existed. The artist has even gone on record stating it was created entirely for entertainment purposes. Another famous photo that is often mistakenly labelled as authentic is the work of a different artist who used wax.

Of course, even the most fantastical stories do contain at least a small grain of truth. The medical condition known as “craniofacial duplication” — the result of an abnormal protein expression — can cause the facial features of an embryo to be duplicated.

The condition is extremely rare and usually lethal, although there are a few recent documented cases of infants who managed to survive a short time with this mutation. For instance, Lali Singh was born with the condition in India in 2008.

Though Singh sadly didn’t live long, she was not believed to be cursed like Edward Mordrake. In fact, residents of her village thought that she was an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga, who is traditionally portrayed with multiple limbs.

After the poor baby Lali died when she was only a few months old, the villagers constructed a temple in her honour.

As for Edward Mordrake, his story continues to shock – and fool – people today. Even though the man himself never existed, the tale remains an enduring urban legend that will likely raise eyebrows for years to come.

Last Week’s Birthdays

Matt LeBlanc (54), D.B. Woodside (52), Iman (66), Rose Byrne (42), Elisabeth Moss (39), Anna Paquin (39), Summer Glau (40), Jennifer Lopez (52), Lynda Carter (70), Danny Dyer (44), Daniel Radcliffe (32), Kathryn Hahn (48), Woody Harrelson (60), Charisma Carpenter (51), Ronny Cox (83), Willem Dafoe (66), Selena Gomez (29), Terence Stamp (83), Rhys Ifans (54), Danny Glover (75), Louise Fletcher (87), Colin Ferguson (49), Josh Hartnett (43), Lance Guest (61), Paloma Faith (40), John Woodvine (92), Sandra Oh (50), John Francis Daley (36), Dean Winters (57), Julian Rhind-Tutt (53), Gisele Bündchen (41), Benedict Cumberbatch (45), and Jared Padalecki (39).  

Dead Pool 11th & 18th July 2021

No movement on the league table, but with this bumper two-week newsletter, there is loads to read about.

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

Pope Francis has been seen leaving hospital in  Rome, 10 days after undergoing surgery to remove half his colon. A car carrying the 84-year-old was spotted leaving Gemelli Polytechnic hospital in the Italian capital on Wednesday morning. Francis had half of his colon removed for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on 4th July, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. It was a planned procedure, scheduled for early July when the pope’s audiences are suspended and he would normally take some time off. The Pope on Sunday made his first public appearance since the surgery, standing for about 10 minutes while delivering his weekly prayer from the balcony of his suite surrounded by young cancer patients. Francis will have several more weeks to recover before beginning to travel again in September. There are plans for him to visit Hungary and Slovakia between 12th and 15th September before a brief trip to Glasgow in November to participate in the COP26 climate conference. The Vatican had originally said Francis could be discharged last weekend, but later said he would stay a few days extra for further recovery and rehabilitation therapy. On the eve of his release, he visited the paediatric cancer ward, which is located on the same floor as the papal hospital suite. The Argentine pope had part of one lung removed when he was a young man but has otherwise enjoyed relatively robust health.   

US country singer Ashley Monroe has revealed she is starting chemotherapy after being diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. Monroe, a member of the band Pistol Annies, wrote on Instagram that she had been diagnosed with Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia after going to the doctor for routine lab work. According to cancer.org, Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia is a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “A few months ago my doctor was doing some routine lab work and found that I was anaemic,” Monroe, 34, wrote. “I was like, FINE, I’ll just double up on cheeseburger patties, take some extra vitamins and call it a day. Well my red blood count just kept falling, and they found out my iron, b12, folic acid numbers were actually fine. short story long, they did a bone marrow biopsy, (ouch), and VOILA… a rare kind of blood c word called ‘Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia’.” Monroe added that she was “thankful” for the support of her family and friends, and for her “angel son”, whom she is “fighting for the most”. Monroe formed the Pistol Annies alongside Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley in 2009. She has also enjoyed a successful solo career.   

The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has reportedly been hospitalised after suffering from abdominal pains. He was admitted to the army hospital in the capital city of Brasilia for testing in the early hours of Wednesday, according to media reports. Mr Bolsonaro is expected to remain under observation for 24-48 hours. The 66-year-old had reportedly complained about persistent hiccups in the days before he was admitted to hospital. Mr Bolsonaro’s health has been in the spotlight during his presidency, particularly since he was stabbed and seriously injured on the campaign trail in 2018. His attacker was acquitted in 2019 on the grounds that he was mentally ill. Adelio Bispo de Oliveira pierced Mr Bolsonaro’s intestine, putting his life in danger, when he stabbed the leader with a knife in the streets of Juiz de Fora, north of Rio de Janeiro. The far-right politician was placed in intensive care and lost 40 per cent of his blood but sadly survived and went on to win the presidential election. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (US), non-stop hiccups can be caused by ‘brain lesions, tumours, intestinal diseases, and liver or kidney disorders.’ We can only pray and hope for the people of Brazil that one (or all) are the cause of his hiccups!  

Security minister James Brokenshire has announced he is standing down from the government to concentrate on his fight against cancer. The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP resigned as Northern Ireland secretary in 2018 for surgery to remove a lesion on his right lung, but returned to Theresa May’s cabinet later that year as housing secretary and joined the Home Office under Boris Johnson in 2020. He announced in January he was taking a leave of absence from ministerial duties for surgery on a tumour. But in a letter to Mr Johnson, he today said that his recovery from treatment and return to full duties was “taking longer than anticipated”. “I have therefore concluded that it is best that I stand down from my ministerial role and focus on restoring my health,” he said. Mr Brokenshire said he hoped “to be able to serve again in some way in the future”. The 53-year-old father-of-three has previously said that his lung cancer diagnosis came as a “jolt” as he had never smoked. In a letter written in crayon accepting his resignation from the government, Mr Johnson said: “I look forward to welcoming you back as soon as possible.”   

The son of former middleweight boxing champion Chris Eubank died on Friday, a month after becoming a father. His widow, Salma Abdelati, said the 29-year-old had the heart attack while in the sea in Dubai. She said she was grateful “he was able to spend a few short and happy weeks with his son before his death”. Sebastian, who had followed in his father’s footsteps to become a professional boxer, had been due to turn 30 on 18th July. In a statement, his widow said: “Dubai Police and the coroner have confirmed that after a full post-mortem Sebastian Eubank tragically died from a massive heart attack whilst in the sea and probably could not have been saved even if out of the water. There was evidence of a pre-existing heart condition we were all unaware of. While still very painful, it is of some comfort that Sebastian died after having one of his favourite meals with one of his closest friends whilst doing his favourite thing at his favourite place in Dubai where he often went to swim. He was standing in the water close to shore watching the sunset at Cove Beach in Dubai.” Figures from around the boxing world and beyond paid tribute to Sebastian, the middle child of Eubank’s five children, following the news of his death. His father called his son a “deep thinker who liked to challenge accepted wisdom” in an earlier tribute to him. Eubank said the family was devastated at the loss of Sebastian, who grew up in Hove but had been living in Dubai, where he was “a leader in the adoption of a healthy lifestyle and of alternative therapies”. Sebastian, who boxed using the name Alka Lion, made his debut in February 2018 against Polish fighter Kamil Kulczyk. His brother, Chris Eubank Jr, also a professional boxer, said on Twitter: “Rest easy little brother, I love you and you will be missed always.”   

A Los Angeles rapper was shot dead in his car in a brazen daylight attack last week while he was live-streaming on Instagram in what police believe was a gang-related killing. Zerail Rivera, who went by the name Indian Red Boy, was murdered in Hawthorne on July 8th at about 4.10pm while speaking to a friend on Instagram from inside his car. The disturbing video, which is being shared widely online, shows the 21-year-old smiling and laughing with his friend as the gunman approached his window. Rivera could be seen glancing out the window just as the gunshots started to ring out. He could be seen trying to cover his head with his arms as at least 12 shots were fired. His friend, social media influencer Kapone, can be heard saying: ‘What the fuck? Bro, what the fuck? Where you at?’ A bloodied Rivera could be seen mouthing ‘help’ repeatedly to the camera before whispering ‘I’m in Hawthorne’. He dropped his camera seconds later and the live-stream ended. Police responding to reports of the shooting found Rivera ‘slumped in the front seat’. He had been shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at the scene. The gunman fled before authorities arrived. No one has been arrested in relation to the shooting. Police are still reviewing surveillance video from the area but they believe it was a walk-up shooting and that Rivera was targeted. They say it was likely gang-related but have not provided further details.

On This Day 11th July

  • 1804 – A duel occurs in which the Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr mortally wounds former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.  
  • 1960 – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is first published, in the United States.  
  • 1962 – First transatlantic satellite television transmission.  
  • 1979 – America’s first space station, Skylab, is destroyed as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean.  

On This Day 18th July

  • 1944 – World War II: Adolf Hitler survives an assassination attempt led by German Army Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. 
  • 1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 11’s crew successfully makes the first manned landing on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility. Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first humans to walk on the Moon six and a half hours later.  
  • 1982 – Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings: The Provisional IRA detonates two bombs in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park in central London, killing eight soldiers, wounding forty-seven people, and leading to the deaths of seven horses.  
  • 2012 – James Holmes opened fire at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and injuring 70 others.  

Deaths on 11th July

Deaths on 18th July

  • 1923 – Pancho Villa, Mexican general and politician, Governor of Chihuahua (b. 1878). 
  • 1973 – Bruce Lee, American actor and martial artist (b. 1940). 
  • 2005 – James Doohan, Canadian-American actor (b. 1920). 
  • 2011 – Lucian Freud, German-English painter and illustrator (b. 1922). 
  • 2012 – Alastair Burnet, English journalist (b. 1928). 
  • 2017 – Chester Bennington, American singer (b. 1976). 

Last Meals

Francis Crowley was an American murderer. His crime spree lasted nearly three months, ending in a two-hour shootout with the New York City Police Department on May 7th 1931, that was witnessed by 15,000 bystanders and received national attention. In 1932 he was executed in New York’s electric chair. 

Crowley was born in New York City on October 31st 1912, the second son of an unwed German mother who gave him up for adoption. He had a hatred for police, with some speculating that his absent father was a police officer.

This hatred for the police was compounded by police killing his brother John when Crowley was 12 years old. John was alleged to be involved in the killing of NYPD Officer Maurice Harlow on February 22nd 1925. Shortly thereafter John Crowley was killed in a confrontation with police officers while resisting arrest on a charge of disorderly conduct. By his late teens, Francis Crowley had a reputation as a troubled youth with a criminal history. 

On February 21st 1931, Crowley and two other young men crashed a dance hosted by the American Legion in the Bronx. Several Legionnaires tried to remove them from the venue, so Crowley drew a gun and wounded two men before fleeing. He was charged with attempted murder and went into hiding. He was confronted by police on March 13th. He escaped into an office building on Lexington Avenue after shooting Detective Ferdinand Schaedel. Two days later, Crowley and four others robbed a bank in New Rochelle, New York.

A month later, Crowley and two friends broke into the West 90th Street apartment of real estate broker Rudolph Adler. Adler attempted to resist them, and Crowley shot him five times using two pistols, which earned him the nickname “Two Gun”. Adler’s dog Trixie attacked the robbers and drove them from the house, saving her owner’s life. 

On April 27th, Crowley was out joyriding in a stolen vehicle with his partner Rudolph “Fats” Durringer and dance hall hostess Virginia Brannen. Brannen resisted Durringer’s advances, so Durringer shot and killed her while still in the car. Crowley then helped him dump her body at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. New York City police found Brannen’s body and escalated their efforts to find Crowley. 

On April 29th he was spotted in the Bronx driving a green Chrysler Imperial sedan along 138th Street near the Morris Avenue Bridge. Police pursued him, but he escaped after a running gun battle. Detectives found that the bullets extracted from a police car matched those that killed Virginia Brannen and those from other unsolved shootings. The following day, Crowley’s car was found abandoned with bullet holes and bloodstains on the inside. On May 6th, Crowley was sitting in a parked car with his 16-year-old girlfriend Helen Walsh on Morris Lane in North Merrick, Long Island when he was approached by police officers Frederick Hirsch and Peter Yodice, who asked for identification. Crowley fired at them, killing Hirsch and wounding Yodice. He then sped off. 

The following day, Crowley, Walsh, and Durringer were tracked down to a fifth-floor apartment in a rooming house on West 91st Street. The residence belonged to a former lover of Crowley’s, who notified the police upon seeing Crowley with another woman. Outside the building, a force of 300 police officers armed with rifles, machine guns, and tear gas assembled. The events attracted 15,000 bystanders. 

Crowley and the police exchanged gunfire for nearly two hours, with the police firing an estimated 700 rounds into the building. While Walsh and Durringer reloaded Crowley’s pistols, Crowley threw back several tear gas grenades that the police had thrown into the apartment through a hole cut into the roof. After suffering four gunshot wounds and bleeding heavily, he finally surrendered. Arresting officers found two pistols strapped to his legs.  

On May 29th, less than three weeks after his arrest, Crowley was tried and convicted of the murder of police officer Frederick Hirsch. His partner, Fats Durringer, was found guilty of the murder of Virginia Brannen. Both men were sentenced to death on June 1st. Crowley was sentenced to death by electric chair.

Crowley spent his last year on death row at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. He remained a disciplinary problem – stuffing his prison uniform down a toilet, setting fire to his bed, and frequently crafting homemade weapons. His attitude became somewhat more serene as his execution neared: He reportedly adopted a starling that frequently flew into his cell. For his last meal, Crowley enjoyed steak and onions, french fries, apple pie, ice cream and melted ice cream?!?! 

On January 21st 1932, Crowley’s last words to Warden Lewis Lawes were to ask for a rag. Referring to Durringer’s death in the same electric chair, Crowley said, “I want to wipe off the chair after this rat sat in it.” It is not clear if the request was granted.

Crowley was only 19 when he was executed.

Last Two Week’s Birthdays

Vin Diesel (54), Kristen Bell (41), Elizabeth McGovern (60), James Brolin (81), Priyanka Chopra Jonas (39), Paul Verhoeven (83), Richard Branson (71), Donald Sutherland (86), Alex Winter (56), Eric Winter (45), David Hasselhoff (69), Will Ferrell (54), Phoebe Cates (58), Corey Feldman (50), Travis Fimmel (42), Diane Kruger (45), Brigitte Nielsen (58), Forest Whitaker (60), Celia Imrie (69), Jesse Ventura (70), Adam Savage (54), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (36), Jackie Earle Haley (60), Matthew Fox (55), Kyle Gass (61), David Mitchell (47), Harrison Ford (79), Sharon Horgan (51), Patrick Stewart (81), Ken Jeong (52), Michelle Rodriguez (43), Anna Friel (45), Melissa O’Neil (33), Bill Cosby (84), Tamsin Greig (55), Cheryl Ladd (70), Stephen Lang (69), Caroline Quentin (61), Craig Charles (57), Sofía Vergara (49), Chiwetel Ejiofor (44), Jessica Simpson (41), Peter Serafinowicz (49), John Simm (51), Tom Hanks (65), Kelly McGillis (64), Pamela Adlon (55), Courtney Love (57), Fred Savage (45), Scott Grimes (59), Richard Roundtree (79), O.J. Simpson (74), Richard Wilson (85), Kevin Bacon (63), Anjelica Huston (70), Jaden Smith (23), Jeffrey Tambor (77), Shelley Duvall (72), Jack Whitehall (33), Ringo Starr (81), Eva Green (41), Sylvester Stallone (75), Kevin Hart (42), Burt Ward (76), Geoffrey Rush (70), Jennifer Saunders (63), 50 Cent (46), and Huey Lewis (71).

Dead Pool 4th July 2021

Deaths are certainly a bit sparse at the moment. However, I will send out the flying monkeys next week, so watch this space! 

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

Blink-182 singer-bassist Mark Hoppus gave 153 concerned fans an encouraging update on his cancer treatment while on Twitch on Sunday. The 49-year-old still hasn’t specified what type of cancer he was diagnosed with, but he admitted he was ‘feeling much better’ than he had on Saturday. ‘I woke up today feeling better,’ Mark said. ‘I went for a walk, and I had a decent breakfast, and I haven’t felt like I was going to throw up today, so we’ll take it as a win. I’ve actually, like, watched movies and walked around and cleaned the house and hung out with my dogs, I didn’t just feel like a poisoned electrified zombie leaned up against an electric fence like I did the rest, the past couple of rounds.’ Hoppus said he was nauseated after his most recent round of chemotherapy treatments, which began in March. ‘I still have months of treatment ahead of me, but I’m trying to remain hopeful and positive,’ Mark said in his statement. ‘Can’t wait to be cancer free and see you all at a concert in the near future. Love to you all.’ 

Although not famous enough for our purposes, but sadly the youngest survivor of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster has died aged 34 after a long battle with drug addiction. Carly Zutic, from Dumfries, was just nine weeks old when her soldier father swam to safety with her ‘baby grow in his teeth’ from capsize tragedy which killed 193 people. The family held a small, private funeral for the Scottish mother due to current Covid restrictions on funerals. At about 6pm on March 6th, 1987, the Townsend Thoresen roll-on, roll-off ferry The Herald Of Free Enterprise turned over on its side outside Zeebrugge,  Belgium, as it set out for Dover, Kent. Carly’s father Petar reportedly carried Carly’s ‘baby grow in his teeth’ as she was so tiny when he rescued her, swimming to safety as the passenger ferry capsized. They were reunited with Carly’s mother Julie just six hours later. A friend said, ’Carly’s rescue was the stuff of legend around Dumfries. Her dad swam to safety with her baby grow between his teeth as she was so tiny. It was a story that made headlines around the world at the time and they are quite well known because of it.’

In a horrifying incident, a 25-year-old Iraqi chef fell into a giant vat of chicken soup, sustaining third-degree burns over 70 per cent of his body, several Middle Eastern outlets reported. He succumbed to his injuries five days later. Issa Ismail was making chicken soup for a wedding party on 15th June in Iraq’s northern district of Zakho, when he slipped and fell into the vat. Ismail, a father of three, was preparing food at the Hazel Hall for Weddings and Events when the accident happened. He was rushed to a hospital in the nearby city of Dohuk for treatment. After battling severe burn injuries for several days, Ismail succumbed on 21st June. His tragic death has led to an outpouring of grief on social media when news of this accident was finally out. One of his relatives, Zervan Hosni, was quoted in the local media as saying: “Issa cooked food at wedding parties, mourning boards and various ceremonies, and for two years he has been working in two-party halls for 25,000 dinars per day.” Which is roughly £12.50 a day. The local Kurdish media — Rudaw Media Network — quoted him as saying that Ismail had three children and the youngest was just six months old!! 

On This Day

  • 1776 – American Revolution: The United States Declaration of Independence is adopted. 
  • 1826 – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively the second and third presidents of the United States, die the same day, on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence. Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  
  • 1862 – Lewis Carroll tells Alice Liddell a story that would grow into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequels.  
  • 1910 – The Johnson–Jeffries riots occur after African-American boxer Jack Johnson knocks out white boxer Jim Jeffries in the 15th round. Between 11 and 26 people are killed and hundreds more injured.  
  • 1911 – A massive heat wave strikes the northeastern United States, killing 380 people in eleven days and breaking temperature records in several cities.  
  • 1918 – Bolsheviks kill Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family. 
  • 1954 – Rationing ends in the United Kingdom.  

Deaths

  • 1826 – John Adams, American lawyer, 2nd President of the United States (b. 1735). 
  • 1826 – Thomas Jefferson, American lawyer, 3rd President of the United States (b. 1743). 
  • 1831 – James Monroe, American lawyer, 5th President of the United States (b. 1758). 
  • 1934 – Marie Curie, French-Polish physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1867). 
  • 1995 – Bob Ross, American painter and television host (b. 1942). 
  • 2003 – Barry White, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer (b. 1944).  
  • 2012 – Eric Sykes, English actor, director, and screenwriter (b. 1923). 
  • 2013 – Bernie Nolan, Irish singer (b. 1960). 

 Last Meals

Keith Zettlemoyer was an American convicted murderer who was executed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the 1980 murder of his friend Charles DeVetsco.

In the early hours of the morning on October 13th 1980, two police officers were out on patrol in Harrisburg in an unmarked car. They heard gunfire coming from a nearby wooded area which was unlit and often used for dumping trash. As they approached the scene they found a 1967 Ford van parked on a dirt road near some bushes. After hearing rustling noises coming from the bushes they ordered the person making the noise to come out. Zettlemoyer emerged from the woods holding a handgun and a flashlight. He claimed he had been shooting rats, but the officers were not convinced. Zettlemoyer was ordered to drop the gun and was then secured. 

One of the officers searched the area and came across the body of 29-year-old Charles DeVetsco. He had been shot a total of four times. It later emerged he had been shot twice in the van while handcuffed and was then dragged from the van to the woods where two more fatal shots were fired. The cause of death was confirmed as a massive haemorrhaging of the heart, which had been penetrated by .357 magnum bullets. 

DeVetsco had worked with Zettlemoyer at a retail store and had been scheduled to testify against him in an upcoming robbery trial in Snyder County. In May 1980, Zettlemoyer and an accomplice had carried out a robbery, in which they had bound a security guard at a RadioShack near Sunbury and had stolen electronic equipment worth thousands of dollars. The accomplice was later caught trying to return the equipment for money and had named Zettlemoyer as his partner. Zettlemoyer had then confided in DeVetsco about the heist. DeVetsco contacted the authorities, and had planned to testify against him. Zettlemoyer had kidnapped DeVetsco near Selinsgrove and had driven him to Harrisburg to kill him in order to prevent his testimony.

On April 24th 1981, Zettlemoyer was convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to death. After spending fourteen years on death row, Zettlemoyer fired his lawyers and dropped his efforts to live. He begged the courts to let him die because he claimed “brain disease” was making his life hell. Doctors reported that Zettlemoyer was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Lawyers for the Pennsylvania Post-Conviction Defender Organization argued that Zettlemoyer was not mentally competent, however, three psychiatrists testified he was sane. DeVetsco’s mother also argued that Zettlemoyer was mentally ill and was, therefore, not competent to be executed for the murder  of her son.

However, Zettlemoyer was executed by lethal injection on May 2nd 1995, at State Correctional Institution – Rockview. His last meal was two cheeseburgers, french fries, chocolate pudding and chocolate milk. He became the first person to be executed by the state of Pennsylvania since the resumption of the death penalty in 1976 and the first inmate put to death in Pennsylvania in thirty-three years. He remains the first of only three people to be executed in Pennsylvania since the resumption of the death penalty. The others were Leon Moser in August 1995 and Gary M. Heidnik in 1999.

Last Week’s Birthdays

Gina Lollobrigida (94), Post Malone (26), Neil Morrissey (59), Tom Cruise (59), Connie Nielsen (56), Patrick Wilson (48), Kurtwood Smith (78), Yeardley Smith (57), Margot Robbie(31), Lindsay Lohan (35), Larry David (74), Jerry Hall (65), Peter Kay (48), Liv Tyler (44), Pamela Anderson (54), Geneviève Bujold (79), Dan Aykroyd (69), Debbie Harry (76), Vincent D’Onofrio (62), Marton Csokas (55), Katherine Ryan (38), Mike Tyson (55), Cheryl (38), Gary Busey (77), Amanda Donohoe (59), Aleks Paunovic (52), Katherine Jenkins (41), Mel Brooks (95), John Cusack (55), Kathy Bates (73), Alice Krige (67), Felicia Day (42), and Elon Musk (50).

Dead Pool 27th June 2021

Not a good week if your name begins with J! Looks like it’s also a historically bad day for J  people too! Coincidence or fate? 

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

James Michael Tyler, the actor best known for playing coffee shop worker Gunther on Friends, has revealed that he has prostate cancer. Tyler was diagnosed back in 2018, but had kept his diagnosis private until a new interview with us. “I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” Tyler said. “I’ve been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years. … It’s stage four now. Late stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.” According to the 59-year-old actor, the illness was noticed during an annual check-up. “I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen,” Tyler said. “That came back at an extraordinarily high number … So I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there. Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said ‘Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate.” According to Tyler, he underwent hormone therapy, which “worked amazingly for about a year”, allowing him to continue living as normal. The actor added that the cancer mutated “right at the time of the pandemic”, spreading to his bones and spine, leading to paralysis of his lower body. He said that he is currently undergoing chemotherapy and “aggressively” treating the disease. A few weeks ago Tyler did make a brief appearance on the Friends special via Zoom, but did not feature alongside the cast in real life. “I wanted to be a part of that, and initially I was going to be on the stage, at least, with them, and be able to take part in all the festivities. It was bittersweet, honestly. I was very happy to be included. It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn’t wanna bring a downer on it, you know? … I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.’”  

British boxer Brian London, who challenged Muhammad Ali for his world title, has died aged 87. London, who fought Ali just months after England won the World Cup in 1966, fought 58 times over the course of his 15-year professional fight. He retired in 1970 following a stoppage defeat by Joe Bugner which took his record to 37-20-1. Born in Hartlepool in 1934, London moved to Blackpool when he was 16 and took on the nickname the Blackpool Rock. He won his first dozen fights as a professional before losing to Henry Cooper who also challenged Ali later in his career. Current Blackpool boxer Brian Rose was among those to pay tribute. “My thoughts and wishes go out to his family as well,” he told us. “It must be so sad for them because he will have made a massive impact in their lives. He was so well liked in the town and he was still out and about. I remember seeing him not so long ago walking around the park. He just never stopped. It’s a shame Blackpool has lost him.” London, born Brian Sydney Harper, went on to win the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles but lost his second and third fights with Cooper. His fight with Ali, in which he was stopped in the third round, was his only challenge for a world title and he later admitted: ‘Ali was big, fast and he could punch, whereas I was smaller, fatter and couldn’t punch. He stopped me in three rounds and that was it, I don’t think I hit him. It was good money and I got well paid for it – that’s all I fought for. Every fight I ever had I always had a go, but with Muhammad Ali I thought, ‘Don’t get hurt Brian’, and I therefore didn’t try, which was wrong, totally wrong.” London went on to open and run a nightclub in Blackpool called The 007 Club which was opened by Manchester United legend George Best and attracted stars from across sport and showbiz.  

On This Day

  • 1556 – The thirteen Stratford Martyrs are burned at the stake near London for their Protestant beliefs. 
  • 1743 – In the Battle of Dettingen, George II becomes the last reigning British monarch to participate in a battle. Don’t think we’d do too well with Queenie and her cake cutting sword skills!   
  • 2015 – Formosa Fun Coast fire: A dust fire occurs at a recreational water park in Taiwan, killing 15 people and injuring 497 others, 199 critically.  

Deaths

  • 1996 – Albert R. Broccoli, American film producer (b. 1909). 
  • 2001 – Jack Lemmon, American actor (b. 1925). 
  • 2001 – Joan Sims, English actress (b. 1930). 
  • 2002 – John Entwistle, English singer-songwriter, bass guitarist, and producer (b. 1944).  
  • 2018 – Joe Jackson, American manager, father of Michael Jackson (b. 1928).  

The Case of Tamám Shud 

The mystery of the Somerton Man, is an unsolved case of an unidentified man found dead in 1948 on the Somerton Park beach, just south of Adelaide, South Australia. The case is named after the Persian phrase tamám shud, meaning “is over” or “is finished”, which was printed on a scrap of paper found months later in the fob pocket of the man’s trousers. 

On the morning of 1st December 1948, the police were contacted after the body of a man was discovered on Somerton Park beach. The man was found lying in the sand with his head resting against the seawall, with his legs extended and his feet crossed. It was believed the man had died while sleeping. An unlit cigarette was on the right collar of his coat. A search of his pockets revealed an unused second-class rail ticket from Adelaide to Henley Beach; a bus ticket from the city that may not have been used; a US-manufactured, narrow aluminium comb; a half-empty packet of Juicy Fruit chewing gum; an Army Club cigarette packet, which contained seven cigarettes of a different brand, Kensitas, and a quarter-full box of Bryant & May matches. 

According to the pathologist, John Burton Cleland, the man was of “Britisher” appearance and thought to be aged about 40–45; he was in “top physical condition”. He was 180 centimetres (5 ft 11 in) tall, with grey eyes, fair to ginger-coloured hair, slightly grey around the temples, with broad shoulders and a narrow waist, hands and nails that showed no signs of manual labour, big and little toes that met in a wedge shape, like those of a dancer or someone who wore boots with pointed toes; and pronounced high calf muscles consistent with people who regularly wore boots or shoes with high heels or performed ballet. He was dressed in a white shirt; a red, white and blue tie; brown trousers; socks and shoes; a brown knitted pullover and fashionable grey and brown double-breasted jacket of reportedly “American” tailoring. All labels on his clothes had been removed, and he had no hat (unusual for 1948) or wallet. He was clean-shaven and carried no identification, which led police to believe he had committed suicide. Finally, his dental records were not able to be matched to any known person. The autopsy showed a massive amount of internal bleeding but no external marks to have caused the internal damage. It also showed that the man’s last meal was a pasty eaten three to four hours before death, but tests failed to reveal any foreign substance in the body. The pathologist, Dr. Dwyer, concluded: “I am quite convinced the death could not have been natural … the poison I suggested was a barbiturate or a soluble hypnotic”. Although poisoning remained a prime suspicion, the pasty was not believed to be the source. Other than that, the coroner was unable to reach a conclusion as to the man’s identity, cause of death.   

On 14th January 1949, staff at the Adelaide railway station discovered a brown suitcase with its label removed. It was believed that the suitcase was owned by the man found on the beach. In the case were a red checked dressing gown; a size-seven, red felt pair of slippers; four pairs of underpants; pyjamas; shaving items; a light brown pair of trousers with sand in the cuffs; an electrician’s screwdriver; a table knife cut down into a short sharp instrument; a pair of scissors with sharpened points; a small square of zinc thought to have been used as a protective sheath for the knife and scissors; and a stencilling brush, as used by third officers on merchant ships for stencilling cargo. Also in the suitcase was a thread card of Barbour brand orange waxed thread of “an unusual type” not available in Australia – it was the same as that used to repair the lining in a pocket of the trousers the dead man was wearing. All identification marks on the clothes had been removed but police found the name “T. Keane” on a tie, “Keane” on a laundry bag and “Kean” on a singlet, along with three dry-cleaning marks. 

An inquest into the man’s death found that he died from poison, that the poison was probably a glucoside and that it was not accidentally administered; but  it couldn’t be said whether it was administered by the deceased himself or by some other person. After the inquest, a plaster cast was made of the man’s head and shoulders. The lack of success in determining the identity and cause of death of the man had led authorities to call it an “unparalleled mystery” and believe that the cause of death might never be known.  

Around the same time as the inquest, a tiny piece of rolled-up paper with the words “Tamám Shud” printed on it was found in a fob pocket sewn within the dead man’s trouser pocket. Public library officials called in to translate the text identified it as a phrase meaning “ended” or “finished” found on the last page of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The paper’s verso side was blank. Police conducted an Australia-wide search to find a copy of the book that had a similarly blank verso. 

Following a public appeal by police, the copy of Rubaiyat from which the page had been torn was located. The theme of Rubaiyat is that one should live life to the fullest and have no regrets when it ends. The poem’s subject led police to theorise that the man had committed suicide by poison, although no other evidence corroborated the theory. The book was missing the words “Tamám Shud” on the last page, which had a blank reverse, and microscopic tests indicated that the piece of paper was from the page torn from the book. Also, in the back of the book were faint indentations representing five lines of text, in capital letters. The second line has been struck out – a fact considered significant due to its similarities to the fourth line and the possibility that it represents an error in encryption. Code experts were called in at the time to decipher the lines but were unsuccessful.  

A telephone number was also found in the back of the book, belonging to a nurse named Jessica Ellen “Jo” Thomson (1921–2007). who lived about 400 metres north of the location where the body was found. When she was interviewed by police, Thomson said that she did not know the dead man or why he would have her phone number and choose to visit her suburb on the night of his death. Gerry Feltus stated that when he interviewed Thomson in 2002, he found that she was either being “evasive” or she “just did not wish to talk about it”. Feltus believed Thomson knew the Somerton man’s identity. Thomson’s daughter Kate, in a television interview in 2014 with Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes, also said that she believed her mother knew the dead man. 

There has been persistent speculation that the dead man was a spy, due to the circumstances and historical context of his death. At least two sites relatively close to Adelaide were of interest to spies: the Radium Hill uranium mine and the Woomera Test Range, an Anglo-Australian military research facility. 

In March 2009 a University of Adelaide team led by Professor Derek Abbott began an attempt to solve the case through cracking the code and proposing to exhume the body to test for DNA. His investigations have led to questions concerning the assumptions police had made on the case. 

Decryption of the “code” was being started from scratch. It had been determined the letter frequency was considerably different from letters written down randomly; the frequency was to be further tested to determine if the alcohol level of the writer could alter random distribution. The format of the code also appeared to follow the quatrain format of Rubaiyat, supporting the theory that the code was a one-time pad encryption algorithm. Copies of Rubaiyat, as well as the Talmud and Bible, were being compared to the code using computers to get a statistical base for letter frequencies. However, the code’s short length meant the investigators would require the exact edition of the book used. With the original copy lost in the 1950s, researchers have been looking for a FitzGerald edition. 

An investigation had shown that the Somerton man’s autopsy reports of 1948 and 1949 are now missing and the Barr Smith Library’s collection of Cleland’s notes do not contain anything on the case. Maciej Henneberg, professor of anatomy at the University of Adelaide, examined images of the Somerton man’s ears and found that his cymba (upper ear hollow) is larger than his cavum (lower ear hollow), a feature possessed by only 1–2% of the Caucasian population. In May 2009, Abbott consulted with dental experts who concluded that the Somerton Man had hypodontia (a rare genetic disorder) of both lateral incisors, a feature present in only 2% of the general population. In June 2010, Abbott obtained a photograph of Jessica Thomson’s eldest son Robin, which clearly showed that he – like the unknown man – had not only a larger cymba than cavum but also hypodontia. The chance that this was a coincidence has been estimated as between one in 10,000,000 and one in 20,000,000. 

An exhumation was carried out on 19th May 2021. The remains were deeper in the ground than previously thought. The authorities have said that they intend to take DNA from the remains if possible. Dr. Anne Coxon of Forensic Science South Australia said: “The technology available to us now is clearly light years ahead of the techniques available when this body was discovered in the late 1940s,” and that tests would use “every method at our disposal to try and bring closure to this enduring mystery”. As of yet, we have not heard any news from this study. 

Last Week’s Birthdays

Tobey Maguire (46), Courtney Ford (43), Matthew Lewis (32), J.J. Abrams (55), Meera Syal (60), Nick Offerman (51), Ariana Grande (28), Chris O’Donnell (51), Jason Schwartzman (41), Robert Davi (70), Chris Isaak (65), Ricky Gervais (60), Erin Moriarty (27), Iain Glen (60), Peter Weller (74), Nancy Allen (71), Mick Fleetwood (74), Melissa Rauch (41), Frances McDormand (64), Joel Edgerton (47), Selma Blair (49), Joss Whedon (57), Bryan Brown (74), Meryl Streep (72), Bruce Campbell (63), Lindsay Wagner (72), Kris Kristofferson (85), Cyndi Lauper (68), Stephen Chow (59), Tim Russ (65), Nicholas Lea (59), Erin Brockovich-Ellis (61), Prunella Scales (89), Chris Pratt (42), Juliette Lewis (48), David Morrissey (57), and Lana Del Rey (36).

Dead Pool 20th June 2021

In the week where Joe Biden’s dog Champ dies at the age of 13, there’s a slight dip in celebrity deaths and news. All this mask wearing must be making a difference. 

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

The patriarch of ‘The World’s Largest Family’ with 39 wives, 94 children, 33 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, which adds up to 181 people, has died at the age of 76. The polygamous man from northeast India whose dozens of wives and scores of children had turned his family into a tourist attraction. Ziona Chana’s death was confirmed by Mizoram’s chief minister, Zoramthanga, who offered his condolences on Twitter “with a heavy heart”. Chana reportedly suffered from diabetes and hypertension. Doctors told PTI news agency that Chana’s condition deteriorated at home in his village, Baktawng Tlangnuam. He was admitted to hospital on Sunday evening,  where he was declared dead on arrival. While various local news reports have referred to him as holding the “world record” for such a large family, it’s unclear which global record it is. But world record or not, Chana and his family are a local sensation of sorts, attracting tourists to their village in India’s north-east. The enormous family lives together in a four-storied house called “Chuuar Than Run” or New Generation House, with 100 rooms. His wives share a dormitory near Chana’s private bedroom, according to local media. The mansion is a major tourist attraction in the state, with people from around the world thronging the village to get a peek into the family’s lifestyle. According to Reuters news agency, Chana was born in 1945. He met his oldest wife, who is three years older than him, when he was 17.   

Social-media users without anything better to do are sharing Google Street View images featuring friends and relatives who have since died. It was sparked by a post on the Twitter account Fesshole, who said they had searched the map platform for images taken before their father had died. The BBC’s Neil Henderson shared an image of his late father at his front door. “I have literally hundreds of pics of my dad but the Google Street View is quite affecting, like he’s still around,” he wrote. Another tweeter showed an image of a couple holding hands in the street – his parents, he said, who had died several years ago. One captured a lady just outside her doorway. “My mum creeping outside for a cigarette,” wrote Bernard Baker. Others said just seeing local images taken when their loved ones were still alive made them feel a connection. And some expressed regret images poignant to them had been replaced with more recent photos. Searching through Google Street View for strange objects or bizarre moments captured in freeze-frame has become something of a niche internet pastime. 

Scarface, the world’s most famous lion, has died of natural causes aged 14, in Kenya. The king of animals, and the oldest lion in the Maasai Mara game reserve, was known for the huge scar across his right eye. He had his own Facebook page, and starred in several documentaries, including the BBC’s Big Cats Diary. His passing leaves a 400 square-mile territory up for grabs in the Kenyan reserve. The massive area in the Malaika and Ashnil camp territories was once held by Scarface and his three brothers: Morani, Sikio, and Hunter. They were known as the ‘Four Musketeers’ and headed a pride of nine females with cubs and a few young males.Conservationists said the lion, whose species typically live between 10 and 14 years, had become skinny and sickly in the period leading up to his death. Announcing his death, the Mara Predator Conservation Programme said: ‘At 1 pm local time [on Friday, June 11], Scarface took his last breath. ‘He died in peace without any disturbance from vehicles and hyenas. We were the only vehicle on the scene and by his side, hoping to give him any kind of comfort.’The Mara has lost yet another one of its great iconic males. May his legend forever live on.’ Scarface suffered a series of injuries in his lifetime and was hit by a the spear of a Maasai warrior who was trying to protect his cattle. He received the scar across his eye, earning him the nickname Scarface, during a 2012 territory raid with his brothers when he was just four years old. Vets repeatedly intervened to treat the wound when it opened, preventing infection.

On This Day

  • 1837 – Queen Victoria succeeds to the British throne.   
  • 1893 – Lizzie Borden is acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother.  
  • 1963 – Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union and the United States sign an agreement to establish the so-called “red telephone” link between Washington and Moscow.  
  • 1975 – The film Jaws is released in the United States, becoming the highest-grossing film of that time and starting the trend of films known as “summer blockbusters”.  

Deaths

  • 1906 – John Clayton Adams, English painter (b. 1840).  
  • 1974 – Horace Lindrum, Australian snooker player (b. 1912). 
  • 2005 – Jack Kilby, American physicist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1923). 

Soddor Family Mystery

When fire engulfed the Sodder family home on Christmas Eve, with only four of the nine children inside managing to escape, the awful tragedy rocked their small community. But the apparently fatal blaze soon turned into one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries as, once the flames had been put out, none of the bodies of the children trapped in the house were found.

At first George and Jennie Sodder assumed that five of their children, aged between five and 14, had perished in the fire at their home in Fayetteville, West Virginia. But they soon realised things were not as they seemed and remained convinced their missing children were still alive for the rest of their lives.

But while the case is marked by odd events and has inspired many conspiracy theories, from kidnapping to the involvement of the Italian mafia, it is still unsolved today. 

Up until bedtime on December 24, 1945, it had been a normal Christmas Eve in the Sodder household, where nine of George and Jennie’s ten children – their eldest was fighting in World War Two – played and exchanged gifts. Youngest children Martha, Jennie, Betty, Maurice and Louis, all asked to stay up later than usual to play, and their mum agreed, as long as they helped take care of the cows and chickens before bed. Around midnight, the phone started ringing and mum Jennie went downstairs to answer it. A woman asked for someone whose name she didn’t recognise, so told the caller she had reached the wrong number. Downstairs, she found the lights and curtains open, with Marion, one of the eldest sisters, asleep on the couch. Assuming the children had neglected to do their chores and had gone straight to sleep in the attic, she headed back to bed herself.

At 1am, Jennie was woke again, this time by the sound of an object hitting the house’s roof with a loud bang, followed by a rolling noise. After hearing nothing further, she went back to sleep. But she woke again half an hour later because of the smell of smoke and found a fire had broken out in George’s office. She woke  him, who in turn woke his four older sons, and the six managed to flee the house. Unable to get upstairs because of the flames, they frantically called the children, but there was no response. As the family desperately tried to rescue their children, a series of odd events would later convince the Sodders something much more sinister had occurred.

First, they tried to call the fire department, but found the line was dead. It was later found that the phone line at the top of their power pole had been cut – even though only an hour and a half earlier someone had managed to phone the Sodder’s home. George then went to grab his ladder to get the children down from the second floor. But the ladder, which was normally resting against the side of the house, wasn’t in its usual place or anywhere else where they looked. So he decided to drive his truck underneath he window and climb on top of it to reach them – but neither of George’s trucks would work, even though both were in good working order the previous day. One of the children, Marion, then ran to a neighbour’s house to phone the fire department but she couldn’t get through to an operator.

Someone at a nearby tavern, seeing the blaze, also called the fire department but again there was no operator to make the call. By then, the surviving family members could only watch as their home – and the five young children – went up in flames.

By the time the volunteer firefighters arrived the next morning – most were overseas serving in the war – the family assumed they had perished inside.

Four days after the fire, George bulldozed the home intending the make a memorial garden for his children, while death certificates were issued for each. But it wasn’t long before the family began to question what really happened.

First, the Christmas lights staying on through the beginning part of the blaze, which would not have occurred if it was an electrical fire caused by “faulty wiring”, as investigators concluded. They also found the missing ladder, which had been moved from the side of the house and hidden in an embankment near the home. A witness also came forward claiming he saw a man at the fire scene taking a block and tackle used for removing car engines – perhaps the reason why Georg’s trucks refused to start. And a telephone repair man told the Sodders that their lines appeared to have been cut, not burned – which could only have happened in the hour and a half between the midnight phone call to the home and the start of the fire. Most significant, however, was when Jennie found kitchen appliances intact in the rubble, and wondered why they had not been burned to ash if their children’s bodies had. She later contacted a crematorium which told her that a two-hour fire at 2,000oF – both hotter and longer than the Sodder’s house fire – would still leave human bones intact.

The parents then began their campaign to find out what had really happened, and the case of the Sodder children became an enduring mystery which would fascinate America for decades. 

One of the strongest theories, which George and Jennie came to believe, was that their children had been abducted by the Sicilian mafia, in retaliation for Italian immigrant George’s outspoken criticism of Mussolini and the fascist government back in his homeland.

Two months before the fire, a travelling insurance salesman tried to sell George a policy, but when he declined he was shocked by the salesman’s response: “Your goddamn house is going up in smoke and your children are going to be destroyed. “You are going to be paid for the dirty remarks you have been making about Mussolini”. Around the same time, a stranger appeared at the home asking George, who owned a trucking company, about hauling work. Walking to the back of the house he pointed to two fuse boxes and said “this is going to cause a fire some day” – even though George had just had his wiring checked by the local power company who pronounced it safe. 

Just weeks before the fire some of the Sodder children had noticed two people in a car watching them on their way home from school and told their parents. But despite the suspicions the family never received any communication from the Italian mafia, who were known for using kidnaps to extort money from victims’ families. When George and Jennie asked for help from the FBI but were refused, they contracted a private investigator called C.C. Tinsley, who discovered that the insurance salesman who had threatened George was a member of the coroner’s jury that had deemed the fire accidental, further adding to the mystery. Tinsley persuaded Morris to go with him to dig up the box, but the ‘heart’ inside was found to be beef liver, untouched by the fire.

Soon after, the Sodders heard rumours that the fire chief had told others that he had buried the beef liver in the rubble in the hope that the family would conclude that their children really had died there and give up claiming they had been abducted. But subsequent hearings failed to find any answers, telling the Sodders their search was “hopeless’ and declaring the case closed. 

Undeterred, they erected a billboard long Route 16 near the scene of the fire, offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of their children. But while George travelled the country to investigate each lead, he always returned home without any answers.

In 1968, more than 20 years after the fire, Jennie went to get the mail and found an envelope addressed only to her. Postmarked in Kentucky with no return address, it contained a photo of a man in his mid-20s with features comparable to those of their son Louis, who was nine at the time of the fire. On its flip side was a handwritten note: “Louis Sodder. I love brother Frankie. Ilil Boys. A90132 or 35.”

One again they hired a private detective, but he failed to find the sender of the letter, and the couple never heard from him again.

In an interview in 1966, George, now aged 71, said: “Time is running out for us. “But we only want to know. If they did die in the fire, we want to be convinced. Otherwise, we want to know what happened to them.” He died the following year, still hoping for a breakthrough in the case.

Jennie lived the rest of her life in isolation, still wearing only black, which she had done since the fire as a sign of mourning, until her own death in 1989. Their quest for answers was taken up by their grown-up children, but all but one of them also passed away without finding any answers. The last surviving Sodder child, Sylvia, now aged 76, is just as convinced as her parents were that her lost siblings didn’t die in the fire. 

The last surviving witness to what happened on that fateful Christmas Eve 74 years ago, she is still hoping she will find the truth before it is too late.

Last Week’s Birthdays

Nicole Kidman (54), John Goodman (69), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (32), Robert Rodriguez (53), Miles O’Keeffe (67), Kathleen Turner (67), Zoe Saldana (43), Aidan Turner (38), Paula Abdul (59), Richard Madden (35), Isabella Rossellini (69), Carol Kane (69), Paul McCartney (79), Will Forte (51), Jodie Whittaker (39), Barry Manilow (78), Arnold Vosloo (59), James Bolam (86), Courteney Cox (57), Helen Hunt (58), Neil Patrick Harris (48), Jim Belushi (67), Ice Cube (52), Will Patton (67), Yasmine Bleeth (53), Boy George (60), and Donald Trump (75).