“I have never yet heard of a murderer who was not afraid of a ghost.”
~John Philpot Curran
“Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst.”
~Arthur Conan Doyle
1556 – An earthquake in Shaanxi, China, killed an estimated 830,000 people. Counting casualties is often imprecise after large-scale disasters, especially prior to the 20th century, but this disaster is still considered the deadliest of all time.
The epicenter of the earthquake was in the Wei River Valley in the Shaanxi Province, near the cities of Huaxian, Weinan and Huayin. In Huaxian, every single building and home collapsed, killing more than half the residents of the city, a number estimated in the tens of thousands.
It was a similar story in Weinan and Huayin. In some places, 60-foot-deep crevices opened in the earth. Serious destruction and death occurred as much as 300 miles away from the epicenter. The earthquake also triggered landslides, which contributed to the massive death toll.
1870 – Declaring he did not care whether or not it was the band of Indians he had been searching for, Colonel Eugene Baker ordered his men to attack a sleeping camp of peaceful Blackfeet along the Marias River in northern Montana.
As the darkness faded in the early morning hours, Baker’s scout, Joe Kipp, recognized that the painted designs on the buffalo-skin lodges were those of a peaceful band of Blackfeet led by Heavy Runner.
Kipp rushed to tell Baker that they had the wrong Indians, but Baker reportedly replied, “That makes no difference, one band or another of them; they are all Blackfeet and we will attack them.”
Baker then ordered a sergeant to shoot Kipp if he tried to warn the sleeping camp of Blackfeet and gave the command to attack.
By the time the brutal attack was over, Baker and his men had murdered 37 men, 90 women, and 50 children. Knocking down lodges with frightened survivors inside, the soldiers set them on fire, burnt some of the Blackfeet alive, and then burned the band’s meager supplies of food for the winter.
Baker initially captured about 140 women and children as prisoners to take back to Fort Ellis, but when he discovered many were ill with smallpox, he abandoned them to face the deadly winter without food or shelter.
When word of the Baker Massacre (now known as the Marias Massacre) reached the east, many Americans were outraged, but neither Baker or his men faced a court martial or any other disciplinary actions.
1897 – Elva Zona Heaster Shue was found dead in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The resulting murder trial of her husband is the only case in U.S. history where the alleged testimony of a ghost helped secure a conviction.
Yes, this is going to be long because, well, it has to be.
Zona appeared to her mother in a dream four weeks after the funeral. She said that her husband of three months, Edward Stribbling Trout Shue, was a cruel man who abused her, and had attacked her in a fit of rage. The apparition claimed Shue broke her neck; to prove this, the ghost turned her head around until it was facing backwards.
The local prosecutor, John Alfred Preston, spoke to Dr. George Knapp, who stated that he had not made a complete examination of the body.
Knapp claimed by the time he arrived at the house, Shue had carried his wife’s body upstairs to the bedroom, and laid her out on the bed. He dressed the corpse himself; this was unusual, as traditionally the job of washing and preparing the body for burial would be undertaken by the women of the community.
Knapp, noting the husband’s grief, gave the body only a brief examination, noting some bruising on the neck. When he tried to look closer, Shue reacted so violently that Knapp ended the examination and left the house.
Initially, Zona’s cause of death was listed as “everlasting faint”; later, this was changed to “childbirth,” but whether she was actually pregnant or not is unknown.
During the wake, Shue allowed no one to come close to the coffin, especially while he was placing a pillow on one side of her head and a rolled-up sheet on the other. He explained these additions by saying that they would help his wife “rest easier.” Shue also tied a large scarf at the corpse’s neck, explaining tearfully that it “had been Zona’s favorite.”
This was viewed as sufficient justification for an autopsy, and an exhumation was ordered.
Zona’s body was examined on February 22, 1897. The autopsy lasted three hours and found that her neck had indeed been broken.
According to the report, “the discovery was made that the neck was broken and the windpipe mashed. On the throat were the marks of fingers indicating that she had been choked. The neck was dislocated between the first and second vertebrae. The ligaments were torn and ruptured. The windpipe had been crushed at a point in front of the neck.”
On the strength of this evidence, Shue was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at the West Virginia State Penitentiary, where he lived for three more years.
As for Zona, her ghost was never seen in the area again.
1932 – New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
By the time of the Democratic National Convention in June, Roosevelt was believed to have more delegate votes than all of his opponents combined. However, due to the “two-thirds” nominating rule then used by the Democrats, his opponents hoped that he would be unable to obtain the two-thirds majority necessary to win, and that they could gain votes on later ballots.
On the first three ballots Roosevelt had well over a majority of the delegate vote, but still lacked the two-thirds majority.
Before the fourth ballot, his campaign managers struck a deal with House Speaker John Nance Garner: Garner would drop out of the race and support Roosevelt, and in return Roosevelt would agree to name Garner as his running mate. With this agreement, Roosevelt won the two-thirds majority and with it the presidential nomination.
1941 – Charles A. Lindbergh, a national hero since his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Lend-Lease policy (which offered cash and military aid to countries friendly to the United States in their war effort against the Axis powers) and suggested that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Adolf Hitler.
During the mid-1930s, Lindbergh had become familiar with German advances in aviation and warned his U.S. counterparts of Germany’s growing air superiority.
Lindbergh also became enamored of much of the German national “revitalization” he encountered, and allowed himself to be decorated by Hitler’s government, which drew tremendous criticism back home.
Lindbergh’s subsequent public denunciation of “the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt Administration” as instigators of American intervention in the war – as well as comments that smacked of anti-Semitism – lost him the support of isolationists.
1962 – Jackie Robinson and Bob Feller were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Just as he had been the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues, Robinson became the first to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
1962 – Tony Bennett recorded I Left My Heart In San Francisco for Columbia Records.
The label released it as the B-side of Once Upon A Time but radio DJs (and listeners) preferred the song which went on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, as well as for Best Male Solo Vocal Performance.
1966 – Donovan recorded Sunshine Superman at EMI Studios (later to become Abbey Road Studios) in London.
Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, both session musicians at the time, but destined to become one half of Led Zeppelin, played lead guitar and bass respectively.
The song was Donovan’s only single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The singer first met his future wife, Linda in 1965. The pair dated briefly, she broke it off at the end of the year. Donovan responded with this song.
“It’s not a normal love song,” he recalled in 2011. “On the face of it, the song is about being with Linda again. But sunshine is a nickname for acid. The Superman is the person capable of entering higher states because it’s not easy to go into the fourth dimension and see the matrix of the universe in which everything is connected.”
1968 – The U.S. intelligence-gathering ship Pueblo was seized by North Korean naval vessels and charged with spying and violating North Korean territorial waters.
Negotiations to free the 83-man crew of the U.S. ship dragged on for nearly a year, damaging the credibility of President Lyndon Johnson’s administration.
1969 – Elvis Presley recorded Suspicious Minds at American Sound Studio in Memphis.
Written in 1968 by Mark James, who was also co-writer of Always On My Mind and sole writer of Moody Blue (songs Presley would later record), the song was first recorded and released by James in 1968.
Presley’s version was almost never released.
Production of the song was nearly canceled over a copyright dispute. Elvis’s music publishers (Hill & Range) said they wanted half of producer Chips Moman’s publishing rights. Moman accused them of stealing and threatened to halt the recording session. Harry Jenkins of RCA agreed with Moman because he sensed that “the song would be a big hit and there would be plenty to go around.”
It was a big hit, becoming Presley’s eighteenth and final #1 single in the United States.
1971 – It was a cold day in Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska. The lowest temperature ever officially recorded in the U.S. was reported as the mercury fell to a minus 79.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
It warmed up to minus 66 later in the day.
1973 – President Richard Nixon announced that Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the chief North Vietnamese negotiator, had initialed a peace agreement in Paris “to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.”
Under the terms of the agreement, which became known as the Paris Peace Accords, a cease-fire would begin at 8 a.m., January 28, Saigon time (7 p.m., January 27, Eastern Standard Time).
In addition, all prisoners of war were to be released within 60 days and in turn, all U.S. and other foreign troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam within 60 days.
With respect to the political situation in South Vietnam, the Accords called for a National Council of Reconciliation and Concord, with representatives from both South Vietnamese sides (Saigon and the National Liberation Front) to oversee negotiations and organize elections for a new government.
1977 – Roots, the miniseries based on Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga Of An American Family, premiered on ABC.
The eight-part series received 37 Emmy Award nominations, winning 9.
Each episode captured more than 40% of the viewing audience – the finale on January 30 reached 51.1% and was watched by 100 million viewers when the U.S. had a population of 220 million – and every episode remains in the top 100 of all-time Nielsen rankings.
1978 – Musician Terry Kath died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He was the lead guitarist and occasional lead singer with Chicago – Dialogue (Part I & II), Colour My World and Make Me Smile.
Kath, a gun enthusiast, was attending a party at roadie Donnie Johnson’s home in Los Angeles. He had been drinking heavily and showing off his automatic pistols. Kath took an unloaded .38 revolver and put it to his head, pulling the trigger several times on the empty chambers.
Picking up a semi-automatic 9mm pistol, Kath put the gun to his temple. He was asked to put it away. He ejected the magazine to show that the weapon was unloaded. He returned the clip and placed the barrel against his temple.
After saying, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded,” Kath pulled the trigger. The chambered round he had neglected to unload killed him instantly.
1979 – Willie Mays was the sole eligible candidate elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Despite his outstanding career numbers (.302 batting average, 660 home runs, 338 stolen bases, 12-time Gold Glove winner), his name was left off 23 of the 432 ballots cast.
New York sports columnist Dick Young, never one to mince words, blasted his fellow voters. “If Jesus Christ were to show up with his old baseball glove, some guys wouldn’t vote for him.”
1986 – The first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
The first inductees were Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley.
Alan Freed, Sam Phillips and John Hammond were inducted in the Non-Performer category, while Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers and Jimmy Yancey were inducted into the Hall as Early Influences.
1989 – The Traveling Wilburys released End Of The Line.
The single peaked at #63 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while peaking at #2 on the Album Rock Tracks chart.
The music video for the song was filmed in Los Angeles shortly after Roy Orbison’s death in December 1988. To honor the loss of Orbison, a shot of a guitar sitting in a rocking chair next to a photo of him was used when his vocals are heard.
1990 – Allen Collins, guitarist with Lynyrd Skynyrd, had survived the band’s plane crash in 1977, and was paralyzed in a car accident in 1986, but he finally ran out of luck and time when he died at the age of 37 from pneumonia.
Collins and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant co-wrote many of the biggest Skynyrd hits, including Free Bird, Gimme Three Steps, and That Smell.
1991 – Darrell Lunsford, a county constable in Garrison, Texas, was killed after pulling over a traffic violator. His murder was remarkable because it was captured on a camera set up in Lunsford’s patrol vehicle.
The videotape evidence led to the conviction of the three men who beat, kicked, and stabbed the officer to death along the East Texas highway.
The videotaped murder of Lunsford ushered in a new era. Video cameras have become standard procedure in police cars, and have proven to be a potent law-enforcement tool.
1997 – Singer/songwriter Richard Berry died of heart failure at the age of 61.
His name may not ring a bell but the song he wrote certainly will.
Berry and his band, The Pharaohs, released the original version of Louie Louie on Flip Records in April 1957. It was a regional success for him but became an international hit in 1963 when it was recorded by the Kingsmen.
However, Berry received little financial reward for its success for many years, having sold the copyright for $750 in 1959 to pay for his wedding.
But there was a happy ending.
In 1986, Berry was living on welfare at his mother’s house in Los Angeles. California Cooler, makers of wine coolers, wanted to use Louie Louie in a commercial, but discovered it needed Berry’s signature to use the song.
The company asked Artists’ Rights Enforcement to locate him, and the lawyer who found him mentioned the possibility of Berry taking action to regain the rights to his song. The publishers settled out of court, making Berry a millionaire.
2002 – On his way to what he thought was an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani at the Village Restaurant in downtown Karachi, Pakistan, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by a militant group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty.
The group claimed Pearl was a spy and sent the United States a range of demands, including the freeing of all Pakistani terror detainees, and the release of a halted U.S. shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government.
Nine days later, Pearl was decapitated.
2004 – Bob Keeshan died after a long illness at the age of 76.
He played “Clarabell the Clown” on Howdy Doody from 1948-1952, but will forever be remembered as Captain Kangaroo from 1955-1984.
In the 1990s, Keeshan expressed an interest in bringing back a new version of Captain Kangaroo as a gentler and kinder answer to the violent cartoons on children’s television. Despite having sponsors and television stations lined up, Keeshan was unable to obtain permission from ICM Partners, the company that owned the rights to Captain Kangaroo at that time.
2005 – Johnny Carson – an American icon who spent thirty years as host of The Tonight Show) – died of respiratory failure resulting from emphysema. He was 79.
Idle Thought: In my opinion, no late night host since Carson retired in 1992 has come close to matching Johnny.
2015 – Baseball Hall of Fame legend Ernie Banks died of a heart attack at the age of 83.
Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Banks played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, hitting 512 career home runs and compiling 2.583 hits. “Mr. Cub” was a National League All-Star 11 times, and was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1958 and 1959.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1977. At his induction, he repeated the catchphrase he had become famous for … “We’ve got the setting – sunshine, fresh air, the team behind us. So let’s play two!”
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2020 RayLemire.com / Streamingoldies.com. All Rights Reserved.