Dead Pool 28th January 2024

A surprisingly deadly yet pointless week, with loads to  read. We also discover that the kid from The Exorcist is now old enough to collect her pension, or would be if they hadn’t changed it! (The Bastards!).

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

Morrissey is “receiving medical supervision” after cancelling two arena gigs at short notice. The former frontman of The Smiths, 64, had been set to play a pair of dates in Southern California this week, but the venues announced that “unforeseen circumstances” had led to the cancellations. In a statement shared to social media, a spokesperson for Morrissey revealed that the singer was getting medical care after suffering “physical exhaustion”. “He has been ordered to rest for two weeks, and he will remain in Zurich,” wrote Donnie Knutson. The concerts had been set to take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim and Kia Forum near Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday respectively. It has not yet been announced whether the performances will be rescheduled for later dates. Morrissey is still expected to perform seven planned performances in Mexico and South America next month. During his last show in Los Angeles, Morrissey walked off stage at the city’s Greek Theater after just 20 minutes, with a bandmate telling the audience: “Sorry, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the show is not going to continue. Very sorry. We’ll see you next time. Apologies.” This week’s cancelled shows would have seen the British artist perform his 2004 album You Are the Quarry in its entirety, to mark the 20th anniversary of the record. Back in August, Michael Imperioli, star of The Sopranos, claimed that Morrissey had been “abandoned” by the music industry, comparing him to late Irish musician Sinead O’Connor. Following O’Connor’s death last year, Morrissey shared a comment on his personal website, lamenting the singer’s treatment by media. “She was dropped by her label after selling seven million albums for them. She became crazed, yes, but uninteresting, never. She had done nothing wrong,” he wrote. “… You praise her now ONLY because it is too late. You hadn’t the guts to support her when she was alive and she was looking for you.”  

Alabama has carried out the first execution of a death row prisoner in the US using nitrogen gas, an untested procedure which the prisoner’s lawyers had argued amounted to a form of cruel and unusual punishment banned under the US constitution. Kenneth Smith, 58, was pronounced dead at 8.25pm on Thursday evening at an Alabama prison after breathing pure nitrogen gas through a face mask to cause oxygen deprivation. The execution took about 22 minutes. Alabama claimed that the new nitrogen gas method was “perhaps the most humane method of execution ever devised”. But eyewitness statements from reporters present in the death chamber suggested that Smith’s death was anything but humane. Marty Roney of the Montgomery Advertiser reported that between 7.57pm local time and 8.01pm, “Smith writhed and convulsed on the gurney. He took deep breaths, his body shaking violently with his eyes rolling in the back of his head.” Roney’s report continued: “Smith clenched his fists, his legs shook … He seemed to be gasping for air. The gurney shook several times.” The Rev Jeff Hood, Smith’s spiritual adviser, was at Smith’s side for the execution, and said prison officials in the room “were visibly surprised at how bad this thing went. What we saw was minutes of someone struggling for their life,” Hood said. It appeared that Smith was holding his breath as long as he could,” the Alabama corrections commissioner, John Hamm, later told a press conference. The White House declared the execution “very troubling”, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying on Friday afternoon that Joe Biden has “deep concerns about the death penalty and whether it’s consistent with our values”.  

Sarah Ferguson was seen smiling and greeting well-wishers outside King Edward VII’s Hospital in London following her skin cancer diagnosis. The Duchess of York, 64, gave a brief update on her health in Marylebone after she left the hospital on Wednesday. After visiting her consultant dermatologist Catherine Borysiewicz, she told well-wishers: “I’m fine, thank you.” Fergie’s skin cancer diagnosis came only six months after she underwent a single mastectomy for breast cancer. In July last year, the duchess had an eight hour operation where she had one of her breasts removed after the disease was discovered in a routine mammogram. After her visit to the hospital, the duchess stopped to talk to members of the public before being led away by her driver. A spokesperson for the duchess has said that Fergie is “very resilient” and is determined to carry on following the second medical diagnosis. On Sunday, the spokesperson announced: “Following her diagnosis with an early form of breast cancer this summer, Sarah, Duchess of York has now been diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Her dermatologist asked that several moles were removed and analysed at the same time as the Duchess was undergoing reconstructive surgery following her mastectomy, and one of these has been identified as cancerous.” Throughout both cancer diagnoses the duchess has encouraged women to keep getting checked for any forms of cancer. A friend of Fergie’s spoke fondly of the duchess stating: “She is simply amazing, always looking for the positive in any situation and rarely thinking of herself. She is going to beat this disease, just like she faced her breast cancer diagnosis, with bravery and good humour and working out a way she can use her experience to help others.” The duchess released her own statement on Instagram thanking everyone who sent messages of support following her diagnosis. She stated: “Naturally another cancer diagnosis has been a shock but I’m in good spirits and grateful for the many messages of love and support. I am incredibly thankful to the medical teams that have supported me through both of these experiences with cancer and to the MARYLIFE Clinic for taking gentle care of me in the past weeks, allowing me time for recuperation.” The news comes at a time when King Charles is recovering after surgery on an enlarged prostate and Kate is recuperating after abdominal surgery.  

Josef Fritzl, our favourite Austrian who raped and held his daughter captive in the basement of his family home, has won his bid to be moved from a prison psychiatric unit. Fritzl, 88, who was pictured for the first time in 15 years on Thursday morning while being driven to court, was reportedly close to tears on hearing the decision by a panel of three female judges at Krems regional court, in Austria. It comes after his lawyer Astrid Wagner announced he was applying for early release from jail on the grounds of old age and dementia, paving the way for his eventual move to a nursing home. He has been in a prison for “mentally abnormal” inmates since his conviction in 2009 for incest, rape, enslavement, coercion and the murder, by neglect, of his newborn son. “He was a bit close to tears as he said once again that what he did was a terrible thing, and that he feels incredibly sorry for these people and that he wishes that he could undo it,” Ms Wagner said. Despite suffering from dementia, the rapist was able to follow proceedings. It followed a psychiatric assessment that he no longer posed a threat of reoffending, according to reports. From regular prison he can request to be released from prison altogether. Ms Wagner said she planned to submit such a request next year. “His everyday life will remain similar. Prison is prison,” Ms Wagner said, adding that he would continue to receive psychotherapy.   

A British base jumper has died after his parachute failed to open as he plunged to the ground from a tower block in Thailand. Nathy Odinson, 33, from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, illegally climbed to the top of the 29th floor in an apartment building in the coastal resort of Pattaya, on Saturday night before falling to his death. Horrifying footage shows the tattooed daredevil counting down ‘three, two, one, see ya’ before leaping into the night sky – only to go into a deadly tailspin with the small parachute flailing through the air. Mr Odinson can then be heard landing in a tree before hitting the ground with a sickening thud. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. Tourist police in Pattaya were alerted to the accident at 7.30pm and rushed to the condo building in Tambon Na Klua in Bang Lamung district of Chonburi province and found Odinson’s body on the ground. A round blue parachute was found on his body and was not fully deployed. Traumatised security guard Kanet Chansong, 33, said: ‘I heard the sound of the tree and I thought it was a fallen branch hitting the ground. ‘A woman screamed so I walked over and realised it was person. They were dead. I saw that they had jumped from the building.’ Mr Odinson was a regular daredevil and had performed skydives and base jumps around the world. He ran a ‘sky photography’ company and took customers on private skydives. 

On This Day

  • 1591 – Execution of Agnes Sampson, accused of witchcraft in Edinburgh.
  • 1896 – Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent, becomes the first person to be convicted of speeding. He was fined one shilling, plus costs, for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h), thereby exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph (3.2 km/h). 
  • 1922 – Knickerbocker Storm: Washington, D.C.’s biggest snowfall, causes a disaster when the roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre collapses, killing over 100 people.
  • 1958 – The Lego company patents the design of its Lego bricks.
  • 1986 – Space Shuttle program: STS-51-L mission: Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts on board.

Deaths

  • 1547 – Henry VIII, king of England (b. 1491).
  • 1996 – Jerry Siegel, American author and illustrator, co-created Superman (b. 1914).
  • 2009 – Billy Powell, American keyboard player and songwriter (b. 1952).

Windy Witch

Agnes Sampson was a Scottish healer and purported witch. Also known as the “Wise Wife of Keith”, Sampson was involved in the North Berwick witch trials in the later part of the sixteenth century.

Sampson lived at Nether Keith, a part of the Keith Marischal barony in East Lothian, Scotland. She was considered to have healing powers and acted as a midwife. The indictment against her indicated that she was a widow, with children. 

By the autumn of 1590, Scotland was aflame with witch hunts, and many of those sent to trial were questioned by the King himself. Agnes Sampson was accused by Gillis Duncan and arrested along with others, and questioned regarding her role in a storm raising. She was put to torture and confessed and her body was shaved to reveal a “privy mark” or witches’ mark. These proceedings were described in the 1591 London publication Newes from Scotland:

This aforesaid Agnes Sampson which was the elder Witch, was taken and brought to Holyrood Palace before the Kings Majesty and sundry other of the nobility of Scotland, where she was straightly examined, but all the persuasions which the Kings majesty used to her with the rest of his counsel, might not provoke or induce her to confess any thing, but stood stiffly in the denial of all that was laid to her charge: whereupon they caused her to be confined away to prison, there to receive such torture as hath been lately provided for witches in that country: and for as much as by due examination of witchcraft and witches in Scotland, it has lately been found that the Devil does generally mark them with a privy mark, by reason the Witches have confessed themselves, that the Devil doth lick them with his tongue in some private part of their body, before he doth receive them to be his servants, which mark commonly is given them under the hair in some part of their body, whereby it may not easily be found out or seen, although they be searched: and generally so long as the mark is not seen to those which search them, so long the parties that has the mark will never confess anything. Therefore by special commandment, Agnes Sampson had all her hair shaven off, in each part of her body, and her head “thrawen” (constricted) with a rope according to the custom of that Country, being a pain most grievous, which she continued almost an hour, during which time she would not confess any thing until the Devil’s mark was found upon her privates, then she immediately confessed whatsoever was demanded of her, and justifying those persons aforesaid to be notorious witches. 

According to the Newes from Scotland, Agnes Sampson confessed to causing the storm that drowned Jane Kennedy on 7th September 1589 when ferry boats collided during a sudden storm on the Forth. She had made a charm by sinking a dead cat, to which her companions had attached parts of a dead man, into the sea near Leith. The same charm raised the storm and weather effects that threatened the king on his return voyage from Denmark in 1590.

Agnes Sampson used the phrase “contrary wind”, and this frequently appears in contemporary correspondence describing voyages, but Agnes Sampson used it in a special sense. She said that the king’s ship experienced “a contrary wind to the rest of ships, then being in his company, which thing was most strange and true, as the King’s Majesty acknowledges, for when the rest of the ships had a fair and good wind, then was the wind contrary and altogether against his Majesty”. The rest of the fleet were able to sail ahead, 

while the king’s ship alone was becalmed or driven back.

This weather condition was perhaps not uncommon in the Forth, in May 1583 a ship belonging to James Gourlay carrying Manningville, a French ambassador, was driven back to Burntisland by a “contrary wind”.

Agnes Sampson was interviewed by James VI, who was sceptical of the material in the confessions, however she told him things about the conversation he had on his wedding night with Anne of Denmark in Oslo, that she could not have known: 

Item, the said Agnis Sampson confessed before the Kings majesty sundry things which were so miraculous and strange, as that his Majesty said they were all extreme liars, where at she answered, she would not wish his Majesty to suppose her words to be false, but rather to believe them, in that she would discover such matter unto him as his majesty should not any way doubt off. And thereupon taking his Majesty a little aside, she declared unto him the very words which passed between the King and his Queen on the first night of their marriage, with their answer each to other: whereat the Kings Majesty wondered greatly, and swore by the living God, that he believed that all the Devils in hell could not have the same: acknowledging her words to be most true, and therefore gave the more credit to the rest which is before declared.

James VI had not been convinced of Sampson’s guilt prior to this last confession, but afterwards changed his mind. On 27th January 1591 the  charges of witchcraft against her were drawn up with fifty three points or “articles of dittay” (that is, articles of indictment).

Agnes Sampson was taken to the scaffold on Castlehill, where she was garrotted then burnt at the stake on 28th January 1591.

Edinburgh Burgh treasurer’s accounts itemise the cost of Agnes Sampson’s execution, giving the date of the purchases as the 16th January 1591 and the cost as £6 8s 10d. Scots. Robert Bowes wrote that her execution took place on 28 January 1591.

The naked ghost of a bald Agnes, stripped and tortured after being accused of witchcraft, is said to roam the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Last Week’s Birthdays

Will Poulter (31), Ariel Winter (26), Elijah Wood (43), Alan Alda (88), Frank Darabont (65), Rosamund Pike (45), Alan Cumming (59), Bridget Fonda (60), James Cromwell (84), Patton Oswalt (55), Frank Miller (67), Scott Glenn (85), Deep Roy (75), Ellen DeGeneres (66), Matthew Lillard (54), Mischa Barton (38), Kristen Schaal (46), Nastassja Kinski (63), Ed Helms (50), Michael Ontkean (78), Adrian Edmondson (67), Ewen Bremner (52), Gil Gerard (81), Olivia d’Abo (55), Diane Lane (59), Linda Blair (65), and Phil Wang (34).

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