May 6, 1937
These are the iconic words spoken by radio announcer Herbert Morrison as the Hindenburg burned. WLS radio had sent Morrison out to the Lakehurst, New Jersey docking tower to report on the first transatlantic flight of the year by the dirigible.
At about 7:20pm people noticed the fabric on a section of the gas bag flapping before the tail section erupted into flame. The Hydrogen gas cells erupted causing the airship to drop, the nose still pointing to the air. It took just 37 seconds for the ship to be destroyed, taking the lives of 35 passengers and crew with it. Those who perished died in the flames, or after trying to jump to safety onto the ground far below. One member of the ground crew also perished.
The cause of the disaster has not been proven one way or the other, with theories ranging from a lightening strike, engine failure, static spark to sabotage and a fuel leak caused by a luger pistol being fired during a suicide attempt.
The disaster spelled the end of the airship era.
May 7, 1896
Dr H.H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) used these words in his confession after being arrested for using a corpse in a insurance scam. However fraudulent, use of human remains was not his only crime...
Holmes had purchased himself a nice little pharmaceutical business, after which he built a massive three story building nicknamed 'The Castle'. From the outside it seemed like a nice hotel to help accommodate many of the people visiting Chicago for the 1893 Chicago's World Fair.
However, on the inside was a depraved set-up in order to trap people, mainly women. Holmes could control hidden walls and doors, send gas into the rooms to asphyxiate the people who were staying there, or even ignite the gas, torching them to death. The remains were sent down a chute to the basement, where he would dissect them and mount the skeletons as anatomical models to sell to schools of anatomy.
After his arrest he was trialled and found guilty of four counts of murder in the first degree, though estimates put the actual number of his victims as high as 200.
He was hanged in Moyamensing Prison aka Philadelphia State Prison. Unfortunately for Holmes his execution was not swift, his neck failed to break, and he slowly strangled to death over 15 minutes, twitching.
The caretaker of Holmes Castle was haunted by the ghosts of those who died there before he suicided by taking Strychnine.
May 7, 1994
Edvard Munch describes the inspiration for his composition 'the Scream'. Aside from these words, also expressed later as a poem by the painter, it is believed much inspiration came from Munch's visitation of his sister, who was a patient in an asylum near the place the painting is set.
Munch made four versions of the painting between 1893 and 1910. On February 22, 1994, two men broke into the Oslo National Gallery and stole their version of 'The Scream'. This took place the same day as the opening ceremony of the Lillehammer Winter Olympics.
With the theft taking place in the city, of such a high profile piece of art, the media attention was massive, as was the fact that the thieves left a note saying "Thanks for the poor security."
The thieves set a ransom of $1million for the safe return of the painting, but the museum refused to pay. A special task force was set up between Norwegian and British police, and the hunt was on. The painting was recovered on 7 May, 1994, and nearly two years later four men were arrested in connection with the theft. However, all were released on legal grounds, including one man who was previously arrested in relation to the theft of another of Munch's works!
May 12, 1932
These were Richard Hauptmann's last words, spoken to his spiritual advisor, before he was taken from his cell and strapped into the electric chair "Old Sparky", in the New Jersey State Prison. His funeral service was attended by the maximum 6 people allowed by New Jersey laws of an executed criminal, but more than two thousand people gathered outside the cemetery.
Hauptmann, 36, had been arrested, trialled and found guilty of the murder of 20 month old Charles Lindbergh Junior, son of Charles Lindbergh, who flew “The Spirit of St. Louis” across the Atlantic Ocean five years earlier.
On March 1st, 1932, Lindbergh, and his wife Anne, found their child missing and a ransom note demanding $50,000 for his return. The abductor had used a ladder to climb in through the second storey bedroom window in order to make off with Charles Jr.
The crime, which soon went to capture the intrigue of the nation, saw many people offering help to locate the son of an American Hero. Al Capone even offered his assistance (albeit from his prison cell in the Atlanta US Penitentiary).
Later a second ransom note was received, this time asking for more money. The money was delivered and instructions on where to find Charles Jr were received. Unfortunately, he was never found at the location given. A new search in the vicinity of the Lindbergh property was conducted, and it was on May 12 he was found. Charles Lindbergh's body was found less than a mile from the family home, he had been killed the night of the kidnapping.
Two years later, some of the marked money was found in circulation, and police were able to follow the trail to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was found in possession of $13,000 of ransom notes. Hauptmann claimed he was holding the money for a friend, and that he was innocent of any crime.
The evidence used to convict Hauptmann was the money in his possession, handwriting analysis of the ransom notes, and wood similar to the wood used to make the ladder used to break into the Lindbergh Home. The case was not particularly strong, but Hauptmann received the chair as punishment anyway.