TIME Bizarre

13 Weirdly Morbid Vintage News Stories

What were they thinking?

In the earlier days of TIME, the magazine ran a weekly round-up of local news items of note — and, as we pointed out earlier this month, it’s proof positive that funny flubs and weird happenings have always had the ability to go viral, albeit at a slightly slower pace than they do today.

But that “Miscellany” column, in the 1920s and ’30s, wasn’t just a repository of the benignly strange. On a regular basis, it also featured deaths and killings (and, as seen above, freak accidents that result in mere permanent blindness) that we can only hope weren’t meant to be funny. Here are a few of the strangest, most macabre items we could find.

TIME Crime

Mommy Blogger Stands Trial Accused of Killing Her 5-Year-Old Son With Salt

Lacey Spears
Westchester County District Attorney’/AP This undated photo provided by the Westchester County District Attorney’s office shows Lacey Spears, who was indicted June 17, 2014, in White Plains, N.Y., on charges of depraved murder and manslaughter in the death of her son, 5-year-old Garnett-Paul Spears.

Lacey Spears tweeted updates on her son's worsening condition

A mommy blogger is on trial outside New York City regarding the death of her 5-year-old son, whom she allegedly poisoned with high levels of salt while sharing his worsening medical condition over the Internet.

Lacey Spears, 27, of Scottsville, Ky., has been charged with the depraved murder and manslaughter of Garnett-Paul Spears. She allegedly fed him salt through a hospital tube at the Westchester Medical Center in White Plains, N.Y., precipitating a spike in his sodium levels that led to seizures, brain swelling and eventually death.

“This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels,” said prosecutor Doreen Lloyd, according to the Associated Press.

Spears, originally from Alabama, kept her social-media followers apprised of Garnett-Paul’s worsening medical condition during the last few days of his life, writing “My sweet angel is in the hospital for the 23rd time” and “Please pray he gets to come home soon.”

On her son’s final day, she wrote, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.”

The trial continues.

[AP]

TIME Saudi Arabia

Global Leaders Pay Respects After the Death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah

President Obama meets King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters U.S. President Barack Obama meets with King Abdullah at Rawdat al-Khraim (Desert Camp) near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2014.

"An important voice who left a lasting impact on his country"

U.S. President Barack Obama paid tribute to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Friday, hailing the late monarch’s contributions to peace in the Middle East and the relationship between the two allies.

“As our countries work together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship,” Obama said in a statement. “The closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah’s legacy.”

Former President George H.W. Bush also released a statement calling Abdullah “a wise and reliable ally, helping our nations build a strategic relationship and enduring friendship,” according to CBS News.

Messages came in from leaders around the world, with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both expressing regret at Abdullah’s demise. Cameron, who visited Saudi Arabia in 2012, said he was “deeply saddened” and expressed hope that the “long and deep ties between our two Kingdoms will continue,” while Modi took to Twitter to commemorate “an important voice who left a lasting impact on his country.”

Abdullah’s spearheading of the Arab Peace Initiative, which was cited by both Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as one of his key achievements, was also included in U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s condolence message as “a tangible legacy that can still point the way towards peace in the Middle East.”

TIME Health Care

Clinic Loses Accreditation After Joan Rivers’ Death

Joan Rivers-Death Investigation
Tina Fineberg—AP Yorkville Endoscopy seen in New York, Sept. 5, 2014.

The clinic has been cited for multiple errors in its care of the late comedian

The New York clinic where TV personality Joan Rivers underwent vocal cord surgery, before her sudden deterioration and death, will lose its federal accreditation at the end of the month.

As of Jan. 31, Yorkville Endoscopy will no longer receive Federal funds for services given to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, the Huffington Post reports.

Earlier this past year, the New York State Department of Health determined that the clinic made multiple errors during Rivers’ care. Rivers died on Sept. 4 after suffering brain damage from lack of oxygen after she quit breathing during surgery only a few days earlier.

An employee of the clinic also reportedly took a photo of Rivers during the surgery.

The clinic released a statement, saying: “We are continuing to work with all regulatory bodies. We intend to communicate with CMS and appropriate authorities to have the decision reversed. Yorkville continues to be a licensed facility and perform procedures while cooperating with the regulatory process.”

TIME Addiction

Alcohol Poisoning Kills 6 Americans a Day

CDC says alcohol poisoning deaths are a greater problem than previously thought

America has a drinking problem, with 2,200 people dying each year from alcohol poisoning. That’s an average of six alcohol-related deaths a day, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report says.

Alcohol poisoning happens when people drink an excessive amount of alcohol in a short amount of time, causing high levels of alcohol in the body to interfere with and even shutdown parts of the brain that are critical for controlling vitals like heart rate, body temperature, and breathing. Eventually, that can lead to death.

Over 38 million Americans binge drink an average of four times a month, and consume an average of eight drinks per binge, according to the new CDC Vital Signs report. Interestingly, the report shows that the majority of alcohol poisoning deaths happen in adults between the ages of 35 and 64, and 76% of those who die are men, revealing binge drinking is not a behavior solely observed among young people. The CDC reports that while the most deaths occur among non-Hispanic whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the most deaths per million people. The death rates also vary widely state to state. For example, alcohol poisoning deaths in Alaska add up to 46.5 deaths per million residents, and in Alabama it’s 5.3 per million residents.

The CDC says the report shows alcohol poisoning deaths are a greater problem than previously believed, and that the numbers are likely an underestimate since alcohol-related deaths are known to be underreported. Alcoholism was a factor in 30% of the deaths and other drug use was a factor in only 3%.

“Alcohol poisoning deaths are a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers of excessive alcohol use, which is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.,” CDC principal deputy director Ileana Arias said in a statement.

In response, the CDC is calling for more members of the medical community to screen and talk to their patients about alcohol, since numbers show only one in six U.S. adults has reported ever talked about their drinking with a health professional. States with stronger alcohol policies also have less binge drinking, and should partner with community workers including police and health workers for better programs, CDC says.

TIME Heart Disease

6 Steps That Can Prevent 70% of Heart Attacks

woman-running
Getty Images

Much of your heart health is within your control

How much of your heart health is in your own hands?

A lot, it turns out, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. And it helps to start early: Young women who follow six healthy activities can all but heart-attack-proof themselves.

The study looked at questionnaire data from a large number of nurses over two decades. They were all around age 37 at the start. The researchers identified six healthy behaviors important for heart health, none of which will come as a surprise: not smoking, having a normal BMI, getting at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week, watching television seven or fewer hours a week, having a healthy diet and limiting alcohol to a drink or less per day.

MORE How Mindfulness Protects Your Heart

Women who stuck to all six guidelines had a 92% lower risk for coronary heart disease, the researchers discovered. That means that more than 70% of heart attacks in the group could have been prevented if everyone had hit those six benchmarks of heart health, they estimate.

Not that you needed a study to tell you; the science has long been clear about how to get a healthier heart. But now, at least you know you’re only six steps away.

Read next: Your Chances of Surviving Cancer May Depend on Where You Live

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME People

See Mario Cuomo’s Life in Pictures

The former three-term New York Governor died Thursday at the age of 82 , just hours after his son was inaugurated for a second term as New York governor.

TIME brazil

Four People Were Killed by a Lightning Strike on a Brazilian Beach

Local media reports say they included a pregnant woman and were from the same family

Four people were killed Monday by a lightning strike on a popular beach in Brazil, during a sudden storm off the coast of São Paulo.

Citing local media, the BBC says the four included a pregnant woman and were from the same family.

Four other people were injured and taken to hospital, with two said to be in a serious condition.

The victims were sheltering from the heavy rain under a kiosk on Praia Grande beach, near the port city of Santos, when they were struck.

An earlier storm on Monday tore down trees and power lines across São Paulo state, causing transport chaos.

[BBC]

TIME Crime

Vice President Biden, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio Honor Life of Fallen Officer

Officer Rafael Ramos was shot to death along with his partner Wenjian Liu while on a meal break in Brooklyn last week

Thousands gathered to honor the life of New York City police Officer Rafael Ramos, who along with his partner Wenjian Liu, was shot in broad daylight the weekend before Christmas.

Vice President Joe Biden, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were among the many government officials who offered their condolences to the family of Rafael Ramos during his Saturday morning services at the Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale, Queens.

Vice President Joe Biden offered his sympathies, telling Ramos’s sons, widow, and extended family that the nation’s “hearts ache for you.”

“Being a cop is not what they did,” Biden said of Ramos and Liu, both shot in broad daylight in Brooklyn last weekend. “It was who they were.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said of Ramos: “New York City has lost a hero.” During his remarks, officers outside of the church turned their backs on the mayor.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the NYPD’s response to Eric Garner protests over the past couple of weeks and added, “Nothing will ever defeat or divide our New York family.”

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton used strong language during his remarks, saying the two officers were “assassinated” by a “madman” for choosing to serve his community as a member of the police department. He also spoke about the need for healing and bringing the city together in the wake of the officers’ deaths. “If we can learn to see each other, we’ll heal,” he said.

At the funeral, Bratton promoted both Ramos and Liu to detectives and posthumously appointed Ramos as an honorary chaplain.

TIME Family

What It’s Really Like to Care for a Dying Parent

mother-daughter-walking-embracing
Getty Images

Despite everyone's best efforts, my mom is clearly, obviously dying

xojane

There are two things that movies consistently get wrong: sex and death.

Just like no real-life sex scene has ever involved seamless, body-fluid-free sex (I, for one, seem to consistently get stuck in my skinny jeans while covertly trying to take them off), very few deaths are the simple, dignified situations we see portrayed on screen. Death, real death, is a messy, confusing process for everyone involved.

A few months ago I wrote an article for xoJane about my mother, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. At the time she had plateaued. Roughly three weeks ago, however, that changed.

Determined to walk, she hauled herself out of bed — and promptly fractured her pelvis. At the time, she was still receiving treatment — now she’s in hospice. As terrible as it was before, this is worse. She is completely bedridden and has a catheter. Despite everyone’s best efforts, she immediately got a UTI and yeast infection upon arriving home. She’s restless — she’s scared. What little she says rarely makes sense. She is clearly, obviously dying.

How do you care for someone who is dying? We all have a pretty good idea of what it means to nurse someone back to health, but how do you compassionately nurse them into death?

Even typing that raises my hackles a little. We live in a society that prizes life — by any means, in any shape — above all else, so reconciling that programming with what is clearly worse than death is difficult, to say the least. I am completely pro-choice and very much believe assisted suicide should be legal. But nevertheless, the ethical dance I’m doing now feels fraught with peril. I usually lay my mom’s pills out with her breakfast. She doesn’t ask for food or water, but I still bring them.When she does eat, she doesn’t eat much — a bite here and there.

And don’t even get me started on the morphine. She’s agitated a lot of the time — to the point of attempting to to get out of bed — and morphine helps calm her. But is it wrong to administer it in order to relieve psychic, not physical, pain? While the fracture is painful, the truth is I dose her more for the agitation than for the pain. Is that merciful, or profoundly messed up?

These are the questions I wrestle with daily. I know my mom — she would have never wanted to live like this. One of the last clear things she said to me when she was diagnosed was that she didn’t want to dwindle.

I can see the pain and frustration on her face when I tell her she can’t walk, or when I have to clean her after a bowel movement. But at the same time, I’m not sure where my place is in this process. She is mostly non-communicative, so I can only guess at what she wants. I have asked her if she’s tired, if she’s ready to let go — her only response is a blank stare.

Recently, I met with a social worker to discuss mortuaries, and on the back page of the packet she gave me there was a section regarding donating the body for scientific purposes, specifically the eyes. I felt like I’d been sucker punched. I believe in donating one’s organs for the greater good, but how do you make that decision for someone else? I know my mom is an organ donor, but…which organs? How many organs? Is there really a moral difference between donating someone’s eyes and donating someone’s kidneys, or am I just being squeamish?

The only organ donors you see on “Grey’s Anatomy” are car accident fatalities. No one ever talks about mulling over whether or not to give someone’s organs away while they’re still conscious in another room.

Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of my mom’s diagnosis. She’s made it much farther than anyone ever predicted, but I can’t pretend that I believe that’s a good thing. A family friend told me that I’d look back and treasure this extra time I was able to spend with my mom — I wish that were true, but it isn’t. I’ve watched her do exactly what she stated she didn’t want to do — dwindle. It’s horrific, and I know neither she nor I expected it to be like this.

Which is why I’m writing this article — I think it’s important to open a frank dialogue about what it means to die. How do we help our loved ones die? What, exactly, do heroic measures mean to different individuals? For one person it might be CPR, but for another, it might be administering any medication at all, down to steroids or anticonvulsants. What are tolerable living circumstances — i.e., what happens if you become bed bound? Incontinent??

These are tough questions, and they’re usually brought up too late, whispered shamefully in the corridor of a hospital. But my hope is that, just like we’ve learned to discuss with our children what they should actually expect from sex, we’ll someday be able to talk openly to one another about what we can really expect from death.

Gracie F. is a writer and contributor to xoJane. This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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