Thursday, January 22, 2009

Decapitation, Death and the Damned

On this, the first anniversary of the death of Heath Ledger, news of a decapitation, Mason County deaths, and the movie industry's recognition of The Joker are hitting the media.

Exactly one year ago today, on January 22nd, Heath Ledger, who played the Joker in The Dark Knight, was found dead in his fourth-floor apartment at 421 Broome Street, between Crosby and Lafayette Streets in SoHo, New York City, on the day of the Full Moon.


The link between the Joker and decapitations has already been made on this blog, often.

Last night, the horror of a decapitation merged with a familiar location in school violence history.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009, police reported a woman was slain on the Virginia Tech campus and decapitated, according to wire services including AP and Fox News. Xin Yang, 22, was killed Wednesday night after arriving at the campus from Beijing on Jan. 8 to begin studying accounting, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.

The first 911 call came into police around 7:06 p.m., saying a woman was being assaulted inside the Graduate Life Center, just outside the Au Bon Pain cafe.

A police officer who responded to an emergency call has told how she entered the cafe to find the male attacker holding the female victim's head in his hand. Police say the victim was decapitated with a kitchen knife while having coffee at the cafe with the suspect.

Responding officers found the woman had been stabbed to death and beheaded. They arrested the suspect, a 25-year-old Chinese graduate student named Haiyang Zhu. He is a Ph.D. student in agricultural and applied economics. The police also recovered a large kitchen knife they believe was used at the scene.

Haiyang Zhu was charged with first-degree murder and is being held in Montgomery County jail.

[Au Bon Pain-French for "place of good bread"- was founded by Louis Kane as a bakery in Boston's historically significant Faneuil Hall in 1978, known for Samuel Adams' revolutionary speeches and its famous grasshopper weathervane used to tell British spies from Patriots. In 1982 Au Bon Pain debuted a bakery cart at Logan Airport in Boston. Au Bon Pain Inc. (later renamed Panera Bread Company) went public in 1991, and today has 230 units worldwide.]

The Au Bon Pain decapitation was the first violence on campus since April 16, 2007, when Korean student Seung-Hui Cho killed two students at West Ambler Johnston Hall, and then two hours later, after walking across campus to Norris Hall, killed 30 others and himself.

Meanwhile, on January 22nd, the Academy Award nominations were rolled out, and as expected, Heath Ledger was named as a candidate for Best Supporting Male Actor for his work in The Dark Knight. (He already has won that award from the Golden Globes.)

Elsewhere, another horizon event is unfolding. For you see, it must be recalled that the movie The Mothman Prophecies began screening this Friday, seven years ago, as one group of the original witnesses, the Mallettes were attending a funeral in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Stephen Mallette, who was one of the first four witnesses, was mourning the passing of his brother, Charlie, due to a brain tumor. Charles Putnam "Charlie" Mallette, 43, of Point Pleasant, died on Thursday, January 22, 2002, at his home. This, of course, is the same date as Heath Ledger’s death date, which occurred six years later.

The last week in January 2002, during that same initial movie release time period, there were five fatalities in and near Point Pleasant, in two crashes involving four automobiles on January 26, and three other fatal wrecks in the next five days. For rural Mason County, the eight road deaths in six days was the most in 40 years, according to the State of West Virginia. In one major crash, two tractor-trailer rigs and a Volvo resulted in the death of truck driver Richard Clement, 61, of Mukwonga, Wisconsin.

Now comes word that two men were killed and a third man remains in a Huntington (West Virginia) hospital following a single-vehicle accident that happened near Point Pleasant late Tuesday, January 20, 2009.

According to a spokesman with the Mason County Detachment of the West Virginia State Police, Benjamin David Norvell, 32, of Point Pleasant, was driving his 1993 GMC Sonoma pickup truck east on Sand Hill Road with two passengers when his truck allegedly went off the right side of the road, causing him to lose control and strike a utility pole.

The accident happened around 10:20 p.m. on Sand Hill Road, near the intersection with Finch Drive (a location with a bird name, please note).

According to the state police, Matthew D. Scott, 21, of Columbus, Ohio, and Ryan Beckner, 32, of Point Pleasant, were pronounced dead at the scene. Norvell was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington by helicopter, where he remains in critical condition, according to Sharon Shaw, spokeswoman for the hospital.

The spokesman for the state police said none of the three men were wearing seat belts. According to investigators, the three men were celebrating Scott’s birthday and were on their way home when the accident happened.

Sand Hill Road was closed for a brief period of time as emergency crews cleaned up the scene. Members of Mason County Emergency Medical Services and the Point Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene as well.

Cpl. C.K. Zerkle and Cpl. K.M. Gilley are continuing their investigation of the cause of the accident, reports the Point Pleasant Daily Register, January 22, 2009.

Humm, Sand Hill Road.


In 1966, when the initial reports of the "Big Bird" (later labeled "Mothman" by an Ohio copyeditor who was a fan of the "Batman" TV series), one debunker said the eyewitnesses had seen nothing strange, only a sandhill crane (Grus canadensis). The "sandhill crane explanation" has become part of the lore of the early days of Mothman.

It is worth pointing out that the great intellectual anomalist Charles Fort, writing of the "Devil's Hoofprints" in his 1919 The Book of the Damned, Chapter 28, records:

"In the Illustrated London News, March 17, 1855, a correspondent from Heidelberg writes, 'upon the authority of a Polish Doctor of Medicine,' that on the Piashowa-gora (Sand Hill) a small elevation on the border of Galicia, but in Russian Poland, such marks are to be seen in the snow every year, and sometimes in the sand of this hill, and 'are attributed by the inhabitants to supernatural influences.'


(Thanks to tips from Todd Campbell, Brandon and Misty Tittel, Ben Fairhall, and others.)


Anonymous said...

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum's surname is a variant spelling of
Fincham, a name that is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon for "home of finches."

A history of the town of Fincham notes that there was possibly some connection with Beowulf, Finnes-ham possibly being the town of Fin the Friesian chieftain, who defeated Hnoef and Hengist, and whose tale is sung in the Danish King's hall. Beowulf decapitated Grendel.

MJenks said...

Is Louis Kane any relation to Bob Kane, creator of Batman? Now that would be curious and add another layer to the puzzle.

Christopher Darren Horn said...

"Keep you free from sin, 'til the sandman he comes!". LOL. Little bit of Metallica lyrics.
Really weird things going on.

I really enjoy your blog.

Jeff H. said...

Bob Kane's real name was Robert Kahn (yes, I know too much Batman trivia), so there would be no blood relation there. But he was known by that pen name for most of his life.

Anonymous said...

kim de gelder - kimveer gill

Unknown said...

The known details of this brutal crime at VTech just don't seem to add up. The police have claimed they responded within a couple of minutes after the first 911 call, yet Mr. Zhu had the time to stab this poor young woman to death and remove her head? Decapitating a person is not as easy as some may think--and with kitchen knife? Even in a petite woman, there are tough muscles, tendons, and ligaments to protect a narrowing spine and stabilize the head. 7 people reportedly witnessed this horrific crime, but no one interfered? Maybe they feared the knife, but how about throwing some hot coffee or a chair at him? Anyone else notice that in his photo, the alleged killer had the same dead-eyed stare as the VTech shooter? I don't think we have nearly all the facts surrounding this incident.