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It took just five minutes on 25 June 1936 for the jury to find 27-year-old black resident Rainey Bertha guilty of the rape and murder of Lischia Edwards, a 70-year-old wealthy woman who resided in Owensboro, Kentucky.  Under Kentucky law at the time, the maximum penalty for rape was public hanging, despite most States now adopting the electric chair for all executions.  Bertha was to be sent to the gallows in full public view after an unsuccessful appeal.

It’s estimated that about 20,000 men, women and children turned to watch the hanging unfold, with thousands arriving from neighboring towns.  Bertha left the Daviess County Jail at 5:21 AM on 14 August accompanied by two deputy sheriffs, and after taking the haunting trip to the top of the gallows, a black hood was placed over his head and a noose firmly tied around his neck.  Bertha fell just over eight feet to his death, with his neck breaking instantly.

Although the sentence was relatively routine, it came into national headlines due to the sheriff of Daviess County being a woman.  Sheriff Florence Thompson was to be the first woman to oversee the hanging of a man, a major milestone at the time.

Newspapers spent a small fortune to cover the event, but ended up fabricating their reports after being disappointed with the spectacle of the hanging itself; depicting chaos at the gallows and Thompson even fainting at the sight of the hanging at one point.  The ensuing media circus led to he abolishment of all public executions in Kentucky on 30 May 1938.



One of the most troubling questions in the mystery surrounding White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster’s alleged suicide is why, in his final days, Foster behaved so unlike a man contemplating suicide.  Foster gave no indication to those closest to him that he was so terribly distraught about his new life in Washington, D.C., that he wanted to kill himself.  The very evening that he was found dead, he had enthusiastically set aside time to take his children on an outing.  With the anticipated arrival of his sister and niece flying in from Arkansas on the following day, he had promised them that he would escort them personally around the nation’s capital, with a bonus of a special lunch at the White House.

Yet according to students of the mystery, there is no question that Vincent Foster was a troubled man and was uncomfortable working with the president as deputy counsel.  Foster’s association with the President Bill Clinton was primarily through First Lady Hillary Clinton, with whom he had been partners at a law firm in Little Rock, Arkansas.  For years, Clinton insiders were aware that Hillary and Foster had shared a romantic relationship in Arkansas and that they maintained the affair when the Clintons moved to the White House.  Because of the tense situation between himself and the Clintons and his knowledge of the facts of the Whitewater scandal, conspiracy theorists maintain that Foster intended to resign on July 21, 1993.

On the morning of July 20 Foster attended the White House announcement of Louis Freeh’s appointment as the new director of the FBI.  Foster had scheduled a private meeting with President Bill Clinton for the next day, a meeting at which many believe Foster intended to resign has White House Deputy Council.

At midday on July 20 Foster told his secretary, Deborah Gorham, that he would be "right back."  On the way out of his office he offered his co-worker Linda Tripp the remainder of the M & Ms from his lunch tray.  That was the last time that Foster was seen alive.

The White House is equipped with the most sophisticated entry-control and video surveillance systems in the world, yet there is no video record of Foster leaving.  Neither does there exist any logbook entry to show that he signed out of the building.  Students of the circumstances surrounding Foster’s alleged suicide are convinced that he was somehow taken out of the building undetected and against his will.

Several hours after Foster told his secretary that he would return shortly, his body was found in Fort Marcy Park, in a Virginia suburb outside of Washington.  He appeared to have committed suicide by placing the barrel of a .38 pistol in his mouth and pulling the trigger.

The US Park Police were the first to investigate, but according to conspiracy theorists, they neglected the protocol mandating that all suspected suicides first be investigated as homicides.  In addition, they failed to retain such evidence as Foster’s beeper and were remiss in not conducting a thorough search of the crime scene and the surrounding area.  Overexposed photographs of the scene were considered worthless by subsequent investigators, and later the X-rays of Foster’s skull, along with the ineffective crime scene photographs, disappeared.

The timeline of Foster’s death becomes greatly jumbled.  Some witnesses stated that Foster’s office was being cleaned out before the Park Police arrived to seal it.  Several boxes of documents were allegedly removed by Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Margaret Williams, and carried to the private residence area of the White House.

The Park Police supposedly arrived on the scene of Foster’s death at 6:00 PM and had identified the body by 6:30 PM but delayed notifying the White House until 8:30 PM.  The staff was allegedly not told of Foster’s death until at least 9:00 PM, and the official identification of Foster’s body by Craig Livingstone, former White House security director, did not take place until 10:00 PM.

Arkansas state trooper Roger Perry later said that he felt the FBI tried to pressure him into changing his testimony about when the White House was notified of Foster’s death.  Perry says he was at the Governor’s mansion in Little Rock when he answered a call from Chelsea Clinton’s nanny, a close Foster family friend, alerting him to Foster’s apparent suicide.  Perry says he’s positive the call came in between 6:30 and 7:30 PM (CST; 7:30 to 8:30 PM Washington, D.C. time).  The nanny testified before Congress that she herself did not learn of the tragedy until about 10 PM and did not place the call to Little Rock until 10:30 PM.

Back in Little Rock, none of Foster’s friends and former associates accepted his death as a suicide.  Former Arkansas state trooper and Clinton confidant L.D. Brown said on October 31, 1998, that he didn’t know how Foster had died, but he did know that both investigations by independent counsels, Robert Fiske and Kenneth Starr were cover-ups.  Brown went on to say that the most relevant fact about Vince Foster was that he and Hilary Clinton were in the middle of a "long torrid affair."  Brown said that he ought to know, he was there:  "Hillary and I talked about it often during late-night chats in the Governor’s mansion.  This affair started in Little rock and drew Vince Foster to Washington and to his death.  Without putting the affair between these two people at its center, without interviewing Hillary, any investigation into the death of Vince Foster will be totally compromised."

Among conspiracy theorists’ contentions that Foster’s death was murder, rather than suicide, are the following:

*  The positions of Foster’s arms and legs were extremely inconsistent with suicide.

*  The almost total lack of blood and brain tissue at the site indicates that Foster was killed elsewhere and carried to the park.

*  Foster was not wearing gloves, yet neither of the revolver’s handgrips yielded any of his fingerprints.

*  If Foster had truly placed the barrel of the .38 revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger, the blowback would have coated the pistol and Foster’s hand and white shirt sleeve with a spray of blood and powder residue.  No blood or gunpowder residue was found on the barrel, cylinder, or grips, and very little blood was found at the site.

*  Foster must have already been dead when the pistol was placed in his mouth, for the head wound would have continued to bleed for some time even after death.

A Zogby poll of the American public five years after Vincent Foster’s alleged suicide revealed that 70 percent rejected the official story of his death.

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In 1898 China agreed to lease its New territories to Britain for a term of 99 years.  However, like any lease, there was fine print.  The agreement stated that China would keep control of a small walled-in portion of the Kowloon Peninsula for use as a military installation.  In 1899, shortly after the inception of the lease, Britain broke its agreement and took over the Kowloon region, motivating the Chinese officers stationed there to flee.  Later that year the British also vacated the peninsula, and while the patch of land remained in their control technically, it was left void of any authority or governance.  This forgotten and unruly enclave in Hong Kong became known as the notorious Kowloon Walled City.

In time, this 6.5-acre scrap of earth would become home to more than 40,000 people and by 1987 was regarded as host to the highest population density on Earth.  Its citizens lived free from the laws created outside its walls, and Kowloon became a lost world of illegal immigrants and ruling crime lords.  The cavernous alleyways and tightly packed structures kept many of the residents in darkness, earning the city the name "Hak Nam" or "City of Darkness."

Those residing within the overcrowded city made a life of their own, creating businesses without regard to taxation or zoning laws.  No health codes regulated the restaurants.  Dentists practiced without licenses.  One could scarcely swing a dead cat without hitting a casino or a brothel.  Inhabitants had to fend for themselves, often wiring their own telephone lines, engineering a latticework of plumbing, and occasionally resorting to digging wells.  Although the walls around the city were removed by occupying Japanese forces during World War II, the Chinese who did not already live within Kowloon were often kept out.  Tourists were warned by police never to enter the squalor of the opium dens and damp corridors, which fueled the urban lore described by outsiders.

An apartment in Kowloon would make any freshman dorm room look palatial.  At the peak of the city’s population — 40,000 souls — each resident had a living area smaller than a typical parking space.  Despite the conditions, some residents found the lack of regulations favorable:  An unlicensed herbalist paying no taxes and minimal rent could treat patients and earn $2,000 a month.

Amid the anarchy of Kowloon, organization and self-regulation naturally began to arise.  The city created schools, kindergartens, bakeries, and butcher shops all bearing a resemblance to the lawful society outside the city’s boundaries.  Some residents even made a living cleaning others’ chamber pots every morning.

For decades it remained unresolved whether the city belonged to Hong Kong or to China.  For those within Kowloon the debate was of little importance, as it had no bearing on their basic survival.  Yet for all these citizens, this world would eventually come to an end.

With a stroke of a pen, Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signed the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the communist Chinese.  In 1987 the Chinese government exercised its authority to announce an evacuation of all residents of the Walled City of Kowloon and the future demolition of the city.  The Hong Kong government paid $384 million in compensation to the 900 businesses and 10,700 households that would have to resettle.

For some it meant the end of an era of darkness and filth that the outside world had come to know as the "cancer of Kowloon."

For others, the forced evacuation presented the challenge of building a new life and new livelihood.  the unlicensed professionals within the walls of the city would have to develop new job skills and new ways to live.  Real estate brokers from inside the walled city had to forsake their old contacts and knowledge, and were left feeling tiny and alone in the sprawling landscape of Hong Kong.

The eviction of the all the residents took years.  Over time they accepted the government’s payments and stepped out of the shadows.  From 1988 to 1992, the dark corners of the housing units emptied; finally the most stubborn of the city’s population were gathered and forced out by 150 armed police officers.

One particularly recalcitrant old man was said to have stood on the edge of a rooftop threatening to commit suicide if not permitted to stay.  In the end, he was convinced to come down.  Another local, a surly 62-year-old prostitute, refused the settlement because she was unsatisfied with the new apartment she was issued by the government.  Many felt that the compensation they were offered was a pittance compared to the unregulated tax-free haven Kowloon had offered them.  Moreover, the announcement of the imminent demolition had prompted the city’s crime lords to seek more lucrative locations elsewhere, making Kowloon’s final few years its most harmonious.

By January of 1993, the city had been emptied and was prepared for demolition.  Late one afternoon the sun set for the last time on Kowloon.  With the electricity disconnected and the wells covered, the "City of Darkness" disappeared into the shadows of its darkest hour.  For the first time the abandoned rooms and alleyways stood silent before the roar of demolition teams ushered in a new era.

Eventually the black and gray tones of the urban outpost were replaced with lush green hues of a city park.  Grass and trees now stand on the scrap of earth where thousands of crime lords, prostitutes, bakers, artists, and others had once plied their trades for a tightly knit anarchic society.  The dark, buried passages of the Walled City served to inspire writers and artists worldwide, proving once again that the darkest corners of the imagination often have their roots in reality.