Category: History


 

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.

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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.

The Pied Piper Of Hameln

 

Robert Browning’s poem, The Pied Piper of Hamelin is based on an old German legend translated into English in 1605 by Richard Verstegan. In Verstegan’s story, an odd-looking man “who for the fantastical cote which he wore being wrought with sundry colours, was called the pyed pyper” came to Hameln and, for an agreed price, offered to rid the town of rats. He “went pyping through the streets, and forthwith the rates cam all running out;” he then led them to the River Weser, where they drowned.

When the piper asked for his reward, the burghers of Hameln went back on their word and refused to pay him. So the piper played once again and this time called to the town’s children to follow him. Outside the town a door opened in the hillside, revealing a large cavern. After the piper had led the children through the door, it closed behind them and melted from view.

A lame boy who could not keep up with the others took back the news, but the lost children were neither seen nor heard of again. According to Verstegan, this happened on 22 July 1376. But a fourteenth-century account gives the date as 26 June 1284 and the number of stolen children as either 130 or 150.

Attempts to explain the legend include floods, plagues, ritual murder, dance mania and a children’s crusade that moved through the area in the thirteenth century. The most convincing explanation so far lies in the fact that Bishop Bruno of Olmutz (now called Olomouc) sent agents into the region to recruit colonists for his diocese in Bohemia. There is a startling similarity between family names in the town records of Olomouc and Hameln, which suggests that Hameln was one of the places where recruiting was successful.

The piper adds a supernatural dimension to the story, for rat-catchers were credited with the ability to charm rats away by piping, fiddling, or reciting incantations. A concealed hillside door that opens and closes takes the story into European mythology. It was long thought that the otherworld lay inside such hills. In Wagner’s Tannhauser this is portrayed as the pagan kingdom of Venus, and in folklore generally as the land of the fairies, who were notorious for stealing children. Over the years the people of Hameln may have come to believe that their lost children were taken by otherworld beings.

 

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