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House in Galveston on Avenue N, October 15, 1900

The Deadliest Disaster in American History

On September 8, 1900, the coastal city of Galveston, Texas was hit by a hurricane like none that the U.S. has ever experienced before or since. Winds of 120 mph slammed the city with flying debris that cut through homes like shrapnel. Waves crashed onto the streets, leaving the city 15 feet underwater at one point. And, worst of all, virtually nobody had the foresight to evacuate.

Galvestonians had experienced ocean flood waters from storms before but hadn’t ever done much more than board up windows and build beach houses up off the ground as prevention. This lack of preparation would cost them dearly.

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 remains the deadliest natural disaster in modern U.S. history, leaving behind an estimated death toll of 8,000-12,000 people.

The actual death toll will never be known because the magnitude of the disaster far exceeded the ability to accurately count and identify bodies. It is very likely that many of the dead were washed out to sea. Nevertheless, it was the deadliest natural disaster in America’s history.

The trouble began on Friday, September 7, when Galveston was issued a storm warning by the central office of the Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service). A single-paragraph story with a headline that read “Storm in the Gulf” appeared in the following day’s newspaper but did little to cause the citizens much concern.

However, Isaac M. Cline, a Weather Bureau official, drove his horse-drawn buggy through Galveston’s neighbourhoods, urging people to seek shelter. Even Cline didn’t believe there was cause for serious concern, though, writing in 1891 that “it would be impossible for any cyclone to create a storm wave which could materially injure the city.” (It should be noted that Cline survived the storm, but of course, those words would haunt him dearly.)

But as the tides began to rise and the winds came, Galveston was punished with unmerciful hurricane winds that left sheer chaos in their wake.

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The 26 kidnapped school children were found safe July 17, 1976. (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS )

The Chowchilla Kidnapping

In 1976, a school bus with 26 children suddenly disappeared on its way home. A frantic search by police located the bus but not the children. What no one knew at the time was that they had been kidnapped and hidden in a buried truck. News of the disappearance became a national story. With time running out, and the authorities unable to locate the children or even communicate with the kidnappers, it was up to the children and their adult driver to save themselves.

The questioning had begun in the afternoon with parents like Joan Brown.

“Jeffrey, Jennifer? Where are you? Come on, you guys. I know you’re hiding. Don’t play games with me now.”

Something was wrong at the Browns’ Chowchilla home. What was it?

Then she noticed. The peanut butter wasn’t out. There were no chairs in front of the television. She looked at the clock. It was 5 p.m. Where could they be?

From there, one of America’s most bizarre crimes against children began to play out over two horrific to joyous days. Twenty-six schoolchildren from Dairyland Elementary School and their bus driver, Ed Ray, were abducted from their school bus by three young men, transported hours around the state in two vans, and then buried alive in a moving van. In a daring escape, the bus driver and the older boys clawed their way out of their underground prison, leading the younger children across a rock quarry in a sprint to freedom.

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Aloha Wanderwell Liked Living Dangerously. Aloha stands on top of her famous car as it is lifted onto a ship during her tour of Africa in the 1920s. 

Aloha Wanderwell

The first Woman to Drive around the World

Adventure, exploration, danger, and murder: this was the life of Aloha Wanderwall. Inspired by the fantastic tales she read in her father’s beloved collection of boyhood books, she dreamed of travel, and intrigue in far-flung corners of the globe. In 1922, when she was 16, she embarked on an ambitious around-the–world expedition led by “Captain” Wanderwell…

Wanderwell was an explorer, a vaudevillian and filmmaker, a female Indiana Jones, a wife and mother. She visited places no western man or woman had seen before. She was a figure of controversy, self-invention and marketing. The romance that informs her legend is both real and contrived.

When she was still a teenager, she hopped into a Model T Ford and drove through 80 countries in the 1920’s. They called her “The World’s Most Travelled Girl.” An early filmmaker, Aloha captured her husband and two children as they explored the world.  Did she have adventures? Stranded in Brazil, she lived with and documented the Bororo people.

Trying to find fuel (never mind roads) in the 1920’s, she used crushed bananas and animal fat for fuel.   Her husband was mysteriously murdered.  Apparently, she cut her hair and fought for the French Foreign Legion. She flew a seaplane.  In Indochina, she had to shoot her way out of a gauntlet of angry elephants. In India on their round-the-world trip oxen were frequently required to tow the Ford Model-T across mud flats and rivers. In China in 1924, when civil warfare made it impossible to purchase fuel, labourers pulled the car for eighty miles…

She died in obscurity, and you’ve probably never heard of her. Even with a name like Aloha Wanderwell.

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Joseph Michael Swango (born October 21, 1954) is an American serial killer and former licensed physician. It is estimated that Swango has been involved in as many as 60 fatal poisonings of patients and colleagues, though he only admitted to causing three deaths.

A License to Kill

Doctor “Double-O Swango”

Joseph Michael Swango is a serial killer who, as a trusted doctor, had easy access to his victims. Authorities believe he murdered up to 60 people and poisoned countless others, including co-workers, friends, and his wife.

Though American doctor Michael Swango appeared to be handsome and congenial in nature, signs of his inner mental instability were noticeable to colleagues even while he was attending medical school. Swango’s classmates observed that he often worked on a scrapbook containing images of horrific, bloody disasters, and they worried that some of the basic anatomical knowledge expected from a physician was sorely lacking. However, no one knew how scary Swango really was until they discovered years later that he had killed between thirty and sixty of his patients.
As an intern in 1983, Swango’s patients started quietly dying after he had been in the room with him. Though nurses alerted hospital officials at Ohio State University, their cursory investigations revealed nothing, and Swango continued to practice medicine without reproach. He moved to Illinois, taking a job as an ambulance driver because he admitted that he liked seeing the blood and gore of accidents. It was there that his co-workers again became suspicious of him. Swango began slowly poisoning his co-workers with ant poison, sending them home sick with terrible stomach pains. After a particularly bad episode involving a tainted batch of doughnuts, his co-workers set a trap for Swango by leaving him alone in a room with a pitcher of iced tea. They later had the tea tested in a lab and found that Swango had indeed put ant poison in the tea.

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Paramedics treat a wounded boy outside the McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro as SWAT officers secure the scene. James Oliver Huberty shot and killed 20 and wounded 20 others at McDonald’s, San Ysidro, California. ZUMAPRESS

McDonald’s Massacre

The McDonald’s massacre, sometimes called the McMurder, was an incident of mass murder at a McDonald’s restaurant in the San Ysidro section of San Diego, California, on July 18, 1984. The massacre was carried out by James Oliver Huberty, a 41-year-old former welder from Canton, Ohio. In January, Huberty had moved to San Ysidro with his wife and children, where he worked as a security guard until his dismissal one week prior to the murders. His apartment was located near the site of the shooting spree.

Before leaving for McDonald’s his wife Etna asked him where he was going, Huberty responded, “going to hunt humans”. Earlier that same day he and his family visited another McDonald’s restaurant for lunch, before going to the zoo. While walking around with his wife and two daughters he made the comment to his wife, “society had its chance”.

It was another busy summer’s afternoon at McDonald’s in San Ysidro, San Diego, California. But it was about was to go down as a horrific day in US history. At 4 pm, as families sat eating burgers and fries, a balding man wearing camouflage trousers and a black T-shirt burst in. He was heavily armed. Ready for battle. And all hell was about to be let loose…

‘Freeze!’ he yelled, firing at the crowds of diners and employees.

His bullets killed a 4-month-old baby girl, other children, mums and dads.

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Orlando Villas Boas with two Kalapalo Indians with the supposed bones of Colonel Fawcett. 1952 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Lost City of Z

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was a famous British explorer who’s legendary adventures captivated the world

Lieutenant Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett DSO (18 August 1867 – during or after 1925) was a British geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archaeologist and explorer of South America. He charted the wilderness of South America but then disappeared without a trace while exploring the Brazilian jungle in search of “The Lost City of ‘Z,'” his name for an ancient lost city, which he and others believed to exist and to be the remains of El Dorado, in the jungles of Brazil.

Danger appealed to Fawcett, and over the course of many years, broken only by a return to the army at the outbreak of the First World War, he ventured out on a succession of missions to map the unknown jungle — sometimes alone — and follow up the tantalising clues that the undergrowth masked a hidden civilisation to rival those of Greece or Rome.

During an expedition to find “Z” a place Colonel and South American explorer Percy Fawcett became increasingly engrossed by over the years, Fawcett vanished in the wilderness on his expedition in 1925, along with his two partners, his son Jack, and another friend. The case is one of the wildest mysteries in missing person cases today, and some believe the trio could have been eaten alive by wild animals.

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A girl licks ice cream and plays with the tip of the guns bayonet to try and elicit a reaction from a royal guard in Sweden in 1970

“His only pair”, circa 1907, U.K.

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Hotel CCTV showing Blair Adams at the front desk at 6:51 p.m. Source: YouTube.

Blair Adams Mystery

The death of a young man found in a Tennessee parking lot remains a mystery.

The events that transpired prior to the mysterious death of the British Columbia resident seemed to make no sense at all. He had suddenly exhibited an acute case of paranoia and thought someone was trying to kill him. Authorities who later investigated his death believed that his fear did not stem from anything real. But then how and why did he end up murdered thousands of miles away? Was it really just psychotic paranoia, or could someone have really tracked him all that way and take his life in cold blood? This is the strange mystery of Blair Adams.

On the morning of July 11, 1996, 32-year-old Blair Adams was found dead in a deserted parking lot in Knoxville, Tennessee. Adams had travelled over 3,000 kilometres (2,000 mi) from his hometown of Surrey, British Columbia, for unexplained reasons. Adams worked as a construction foreman, but in the weeks prior to his death, he had been displaying erratic and paranoid behaviour and seemed certain that someone was trying to kill him.

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Glen Campbell hosts the NBC television show ‘The Midnight Special’ in 1975. (Photo: Bettman Contributor via Getty Images)

Rhinestone Cowboy

Boyishly handsome and six feet tall, with his “aw shucks, ma’am” charm and velvety voice, Glen Campbell was a legendary country and pop-music singer, guitarist and Hollywood hot guy.

Singer-guitarist and actor Glen Campbell, who was known for hits including “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” died yesterday after following a difficult six-year bout with Alzheimer’s disease. He was eighty-one and is survived by his wife and eight children. Campbell is probably best known for “Rhinestone Cowboy,” a song he recorded in 1975, though he released sixty full-length studio albums over the course of a fifty-year career, sending some eighty-two singles up the Billboard charts.

From his humble rural beginnings to his meteoric rise to fame to the long battle with Alzheimer’s that resulted in his death in Nashville, Tennessee, the details of Glen Campbell’s life at times read like the lyrics to one of his melancholy country ballads. But with more than 50 million records sold and a dazzling amount of Top 40 hits in his decades-long career, Campbell’s achievements transcend the trail of heartache and loss that winds through it, ultimately telling a tale of redemption, and of one of the brightest musical lights of the era.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” the singer’s family said in a statement.

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Legendary CIA counterspy James Jesus Angleton. Photo: Harvey Georges/AP

“Wilderness of Mirrors”

It is inconceivable that a secret arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government  

-James Jesus Angleton

Long before Game of Thrones dubbed its spymaster The Spider, James Jesus Angleton earned that name. His internal witch hunts still leave people wondering—madman, genius, or both?

Angleton had been forced to resign from the Central Intelligence Agency after two decades running its counterintelligence operations. In news reports and in outright fiction, Angleton was portrayed as amazingly eccentric and wildly paranoid, the mastermind who kept American intelligence operations safe from Soviet “moles,” and the madman whose “sick-think” destroyed careers and paralysed the agency with his obsessive hunt for traitors. Indeed, there were some who said he’d done so much damage that Angleton must be the mole.

His name became part of every enigmatic event of the 1960s, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the subsequent murder of one of his mistresses (the ex-wife of another CIA man).

As chief of counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, James Jesus Angleton built a formidable reputation. Although perhaps best known for leading the agency’s notorious “Molehunt”—the search for a Soviet spy believed to have infiltrated the upper levels of the American government—Angleton also played a key role in the U.S. intervention in the Italian election of 1948, in Israel’s development of nuclear weapons, and in the management of the CIA’s investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

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