4 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About REALLY Famous Incidents (With Quotes!)


Many things in this world lose their details as time goes on.  Stories and legends get passed down over and over with the same ol’ rhetoric.  Over time details are lost, and so are the facts and the emotion behind the legends.   Here’s a quick little post about 4 famous incidents complete with quotes from those that were there…yes, they were there.

#4 A HIPPO’S FOOTPRINT IS THE REASON FOR THE “SURGEON’S PHOTO”

WHAT IT IS: The Surgeon’s photo is the world-famous photo of the what is supposedly the Loch Ness Monster raising its head out of the water.  If you’ve ever seen or read anything about “Nessie”, you’ve seen it.  If not, see below.

WHAT’S THE STORY?: In 1933, a new road was put in around Loch Ness.  This made for wide, elevated views of the Loch.  Shortly after, people started reporting monster sightings.  Shortly after that, a big game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell was hired by The Daily Mail to kill it.

Unable to locate the beast, in December of 1933 Marmaduke suspiciously located some big-assed tracks that looked monsterish in origin.  After making this find public, researchers from the Natural History Museum came out to take a look.  They were quickly able to determine that the tracks were made from a dried hippo’s foot (how on Earth they were able to do that, I have no idea).  Humiliated and embarrassed, Wetherell dissipated from public view.

A few months later, a respected British surgeon, Colonel Robert Wilson came public with a photo he claims he took while hanging out on the side of the Loch – thus, the Surgeon’s Photo:

loch ness monster surgeon's photo

Up until 1994, this photo was tossed between believers and skeptics as either true or hoax – until a man named Christian Spurling confessed on his deathbed his involvement in the famous picture.

Spurling was the step-son of Wetherell – you know, the embarrassed hunter.  Wetherell came to Spurling who was a talented model-maker when he was a kid and asked him to make a fake neck and head of a water beast.  He then secured this to a model submarine, floated this thing out in the water and took pictures of it.

Knowing that everyone still looked at him as a joke, Wetherell needed someone with stability and respect in the community to make his picture famous – enter his friend, the surgeon…surely people would believe the monster was real if a doctor said it was.

Wetherell’s motive?  Revenge – he was hired to find a monster that didn’t exist, and was embarrassed when he either:

     A)couldn’t tell between a dried hippo foot and a plesiosaurus…but hey, who can?  Or

     B) Planted the footprints himself and got busted

Either way, he had egg on his face, so he cooks up a picture and has his friend go public, thereby providing 62 years of speculation.

“We’ll give them their monster” ~Marmaduke Wetherell while planning to paste a fake monster head onto a toy submarine

#3 U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS VICTIMS MAINLY DIED FROM EXPOSURE, NOT SHARKS

 WHAT IT IS: A U.S. Navy Cruiser that delivered atomic bomb parts – yes, that one –  and uranium to the island of Tinian.  It was sunk in twelve minutes by two Japanese torpedos.  You would have heard of it on Shark Week, or from this little skit in the original Jaws movie:

WHAT’S THE STORY?: Well, if you decided to skip the video, it’s fairly accurate.  On July 30th, 1945, the Indy was sent to the bottom of the ocean as mentioned above.  There were 1,196 total crew members, and after the ship sank, roughly 900 were left to float in the ocean and wait for rescue…for four Goddam days.

Being with miniscule amounts of water and no food, delirium soon hit and the sailors began attacking each other, getting eaten by sharks, and diving underwater because their state of mind gave them the belief that the ship was just underneath them and they could dive down a bit and take a drink from the fountain.  Seriously, that happened.  Woody Eugene James was a witness to this, but we’ll get to him in a second…what you want to hear about are the sharks..

Well, this incident goes down in history as the single biggest loss of life from a U.S. ship being sunk.  It also goes down as the biggest attack on men from sharks.  One would instantly think that, “Whoa, HUNDREDS must have been eaten!” Well……probably… and most of those that got eaten were already dead.

The shark attacks of 1916 were the inspiration for Jaws and were also the most numerous and deadly up to the Indianapolis…and they were believed to have been done by one shark, over two weeks, and killed four with one injured…so basically 4 dead in the worst shark attacks EVER until 1945.

That being said, we are talking 900 people in the water for 4 days.  Exposure and delirium took most of them, and although the sharks pulled off the weaker, delirious and dead bodies first, no doubt the 4 days waiting for rescue had to be some scary shit.  Here is a quote from one of those brave men:

The day wore on and the sharks were around, hundreds of them.  You’d hear guys scream, especially late in the afternoon.  Seemed like the sharks were the worst late in the afternoon than they were during the day.  Then they fed at night too.  Everything would be quiet and then you’d hear somebody scream and you knew a shark had got him.”  ~ Woody Eugene James on day 3 of floating in the ocean after the U.S.S. Indianapolis sunk

Just in case you’re thinking to yourself that this doesn’t prove the whole “exposure to the elements” case, I point you to another quote from Mr. James…this one being a little more scary as it shows what the elements can do to a person…imagine these guys floating in the ocean with you with the sole purpose to get you to believe what they think they see…in other words…they’re trying to save you but you know better:

“…some of the guys been drinkin salt water by now and they were goin bezerk.  They’d tell you big stories about the Indianapolis is not sunk, it’s just right there under the surface.  I was just down there and had a drink of water out of the drinkin fountain and the Geedunk is still open.  The geedunk bein the commissary where you buy ice cream, cigarettes, candy, what have you, ‘it’s still open’ they’d tell ya.  ‘Come on we’ll go get a drink of water’, and then 3 or 4 guys would believe this story and go with them”  ~ Woody James on the mindset of sailors that began going crazy.

Of the 1,196 men on board and the roughly 900 that went into the sea, only 317 ultimately survived…all barely alive when brought onto the rescue ship.

#2 NOT ALL OF CHARLES MANSON’S KILLERS WENT TO JAIL   

WHAT IT IS: On August 8, 1969, Charles Manson ordered “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel to go to a house and “slaughter everyone inside.”  It’s a long and complicated story that can be read here.  Upon entering the home, Tex and Patricia encountered an 8 month pregnant Sharon Tate (wife of director Roman Polanski), famous hair stylist Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and his lover, Abigail Folger.  They murdered them all.

WHAT’S THE STORY?: The night after the Tate murders, the same four “Manson Family” members plus two more (Leslie Van Houten and Steve “Clem” Grogan) were dispatched again to kill a house full of people – this time the house contained supermarket mogul Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary.  They successfully did so and left…having killed 6 people in two nights.

charles manson family member linda kasabian

Linda Kasabian

In October of that year, a raid was sent to Spahn Ranch which doubled as the Manson Family hangout. The goal was to bust them for car theft.  Shortly after, their involvement in the Tate/LaBianca murders was discovered.

The trial of Charlie Manson and the family members was a media circus, and eventually ended with all receiving death sentences (that were reduced to life in prison because the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in California in 1972).  All of them except one – Linda Kasabian.  She turned State’s evidence and took the stand against her former family members, helping to convict them.

Although her story has her in “complete shock” while the murders were occurring, she was still there.   She was present when Tate, Sebring, Folger and Frykowski were murdered and she went the next night and was present when the LaBiancas were murdered.  She was also at the Ranch when the sting was carried out and they were arrested.  When Linda took the stand against Tex, she described the account from her point of view.

“There was a man just coming out of the door and he had blood all over his face and he was standing by a post, and we looked into each other’s eyes for a minute, and I said, ‘Oh God, I am so sorry.  Please make it stop.’ But then he just fell to the ground into the bushes.”  ~ Linda Kasabian on her first sight of Wojciech Frykowski, moments before “Tex” Watson stabbed and bludgeoned him to death.

Other than a few detainment periods from traffic violations later in life, Linda has never been to Prison.

#1 MULTIPLE PEOPLE HAVE SEEN THE ZODIAC KILL SOMEONE

WHAT IT IS: The Zodiac killer is/was a man in the late 60’s to early 70’s that claimed to have killed upwards of 37 people (5 of which are confirmed).  He has never been identified or caught, and is most famous for mocking the San Francisco Police Department by sending cryptographic messages that supposedly would reveal his identity if they were ever cracked.  As of June of 2012, two of the 3 codes remain unsolved.

WHAT’S THE STORY?:The Zodiac killer is one of the most famous of all time…simply for not being identified and daring the police to catch him.  40 years later people are still trying to put a face with the name.  Over 40 years however, some may forget that he wasn’t a ghost that just appeared and disappeared at his convenience…there are witnesses that have seen him kill, yet he still eludes capture.

Towards the latter half of his active spree, the Zodiac killed a taxi driver named Paul Stine on October 11, 1969.  3 teenagers then witnessed a man “wiping down” the cab and tearing off a piece of the driver’s shirt.  Later, this chunk of bloody shirt was mailed to the Chronicle in San Francisco with a mocking letter that was confirmed to have been from Zodiac.

zodiac killer composite sketchTwo blocks down the road, Officer Donald Fouke wrote a report where saw a white male suspect in a blue coat walk up a set of stairs and out of view.   This was just after responding to the call of the murdered cab driver.  When asked why he didn’t stop the man, he said the initial report was that the suspect was a “black male”.  When it was corrected by the dispatch, the white male had disappeared.  There is also some speculation that Officer Fouke had even unknowingly spoken with the Zodiac at some point in the night as well, but this is unsubstantiated.

So far that’s 3 witnesses to the Zodiac in mid-crime and one just afterwards.  The most compelling however, is that of Bryan Hartnell. 

Bryan Hartell was at Lake Berryessa in California on September 27, 1969 with a girl named Celia Shepard.  While sitting on a peninsula on the lake, Bryan and Celia were approached by a man wearing what is now the infamous mask of the Zodiac killer.  The man came down towards the two and explained that he was an escaped convict and needed their car and money to get to Mexico…all well and good until you take into consideration that he’s talking to them while dressed like this:

zodiac killer hood

The Zodiac then had Celia tie up Bryan, then he himself tied up Celia then started stabbing.  Bryan was stabbed 8 times in the back, and lived.  Celia died shortly after.

While Hartnell isn’t the only person to survive an attack, he is the only one to survive a confirmed Zodiac attack and remember details leading up to it…which is eerie in itself:

 “I happened to hear some rustling behind us and I asked her to look because she was facing that direction and I was facing toward the water and I asked her to note, you know, what was going on and she said, ‘Oh there’s a man walking around there’ and she became concerned about it.  I said, you know, well actually don’t worry about it, there’s a lot of people, picnickers, etc… and, you know, if he kept coming to let me know.  She kind of kept watching, I noticed she wasn’t following my conversation, and she told me he was stepping behind a tree, the tree was about 30 feet behind us.  When he came out she said he’s got a mask on.  That was my first inkling there was anything actually wrong going on.”  ~  Bryan Hartnell on his experience minutes prior to being stabbed 8 times by the Zodiac Killer



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4 replies

  1. The Spahn Ranch which Manson took over was a former 500 acre western movie set. At one time in had an old western town set. Some scenes of Bonanza, the Lone Ranger were filmed there. A really old 1946 movie, called Duel in the Sun was filmed there, along with many of the earlier B Western movies.

  2. There is a famous movie about the Zodiac killer in which a Cartoonist obsessed with the case, goes on a thirteen year spree and writes many books about the case. His name was Robert Graysmith. The 2007 movie Zodiac, was partly based on his books.

  3. I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but when I was a young boy, my uncle told a tale of the Indy, which is one reason I got interested in the military and military history. You can read about it here.
    http://macsmilitary.com/sgtmacsblog/a-navy-tale/

    • As a side note, some fifty-eight years later, Aunt Marge (Wally’s wife), sent me a box. Inside the box, was an old Navy magazine, sort of a pictorial history of WWII, when the boys got out of the Navy. Some of the most amazing war photographs you have ever seen.

      I think the other things were articles from an old Parade magazine on the Indy sinking. This inspired me to go to the library and get the book, In Harms Way. After nearly sixty years, the tale that Uncle Wally told me so long ago, came to fruition.

      This event also caused me to research Wally’s WWII history. He was a Naval Armed Guardsman on a Merchant Marine ship, at age 17 and made several convoys to England. I contacted several of his shipmates and have some info and photos from that time. I was also able to get some info and an image of the USS Frank Knox, which he was later on, after joining the Regular Navy.

      We have no idea, why he told me that tale so long ago, or why he saved those accounts on the Indy. One shipmate of his theorized that he may have had a friend(s) on that ship.

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