Archive for April, 2011

Digging, Struggling, Sinking (Relax & Float)

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

In 1997, Everette Hodgins, 14, and his friend Justice Carr, 15, were walking to a fishing pond in Braidwood, Illinois, when they encountered something they’d only seen in movies – quicksand.

Traditional quicksand is created when water seeps up from an underground source and saturates an area of sand, silt, clay, or any other grainy soil. Normal sand can support extreme amounts of weight because friction between the grains of sand creates a force chain, distributing the load across a large area. But once there is sufficient moisture, the sand and water becomes a suspension where the sand particles are floating within the water. This significantly reduces the friction between the grains of sand, compromising its ability to support weight. Because the water seeps in from the bottom, the top layer of sand is often dry, causing it to appear to be normal sand.

The boys began to sink, and struggling just caused them to dig deeper.

Once quicksand is disturbed by movement on the surface, it liquefies, causing anything on top to sink into it very easily. The sand and clay then fall to the bottom of the mixture, creating a thick sediment that ultimately prevents further sinking, but makes it very difficult to escape.  To move within quicksand, a person or object must apply sufficient pressure on the compacted sand to re-introduce enough water to liquefy it. The forces required to do this are quite large: to remove a foot from quicksand at a speed of .01 m/s would require the same amount of force as “that needed to lift a medium-sized car.”

When Everette didn’t come home that Wednesday night, his mother called the police.  She told them she knew something was tragically wrong.  Officers believed that the boys ran away, so Everette’s parents began their own search.

The bodies of Everette and Justice were not found until Saturday morning.

When authorities first came to retrieve the boys’ bodies, the officers sank in the sand and had to be pulled out.

They then used pumps to drain “a large amount of water” from the pool, and finally employed a backhoe to recover the bodies.

The boys were never completely submerged.  According to a 2005 study, it is impossible for quicksand to completely engulf a human being.

Study led by Daniel Bonn, University of Amsterdam

The researchers simulated a quicksand pit in the lab and placed an aluminum ball of greater density than the quicksand on top of the pit. The ball didn’t sink until the researchers began to shake the pit, simulating movement and turning the mixture of sand and water more liquid. When they did this, the ball sank right to the bottom.

But when they used an aluminum ball with a density equal to the human body, which is less than the density of quicksand, they found it impossible to sink the ball, no matter how hard they shook the pit.

Incidents of sinking and disappearing into quicksand are exceedingly rare and tend to involve additional weight, such as heavy metal-frame backpacks.

Eventually the boys stopped struggling from exhaustion and began to float, but at this point they had already sunk too deep.

They died of drowning and possibly exposure.

The vast majority of deaths involving quicksand occur as a result of exposure: a person becomes trapped and unable to escape and then dies from starvation, cold, or rising tides.

The police said there were claw and scratch marks in the sand.

I can’t think straight.

I know what’s distracting me.

As usual, I’m digging myself deeper.  I thought I’d lost the ability.

Any attempt to pull me out will only tear me apart.

I need to stop struggling.

I need to just relax, and float.

“I shouldn’t have found that your lips I still taste in my head.” (The Story of Armin Meiwes)

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

A little over 10 years ago, German computer programmer Armin Meiwes (right) posted an advertisement on the Internet.

The post stated that he was “looking for a well-built man, 18 to 30-years old, to be slaughtered and then consumed”.  Bernd Jurgen Brandes (below, left) answered the ad.

On March 9th, 2001, the two men met at Meiwes’s isolated farmhouse in Rotenburg.  There the men made a pact.  Meiwes would cut off parts of Brandes’s body for Meiwes’s consumption, while Brandes was still conscious. It was agreed they would film the entire episode.

Eventually, after Brandes consumed 20 sleeping pills and a significant amount of Schnapps, the two men prepared to cannibalize.  They started with Brandes’s penis.

Brandes insisted that Meiwes attempt to bite Brandes’s penis off.  This proved to be a difficult task, so Meiwes used a kitchen knife to complete the severing.

Harald Ermel, Meiwes’s lawyer, told 60 Minutes, “[Brandes] wanted to experience pain that was so bad it would kill him – pain that would destroy him. Obviously, he yelled. He was standing at the table and he sprang backwards. The blood was spurting out, and after 30 seconds, he stopped yelling, and said, ‘It doesn’t hurt any more.’”

Brandes apparently tried to eat some of his own penis raw, but could not because it was too tough and, as he put it in the video, “chewy”. Meiwes fried the penis in a pan with salt, pepper, wine and garlic.  He then fried it with some of Brandes’s fat, but by then it was too burned to be consumed. He chopped it up into chunks and fed it to his dog.

However, the wound wasn’t enough to kill Brandes, and Meiwes hesitated over what to do next.  He read a Star Trek adventure book for three hours while Brandes lay bleeding in the bath. (Meiwes’s bathtub, right.)

In an interview from his jail cell, Meiwes said, “At that moment, I didn’t know what to do. I asked myself whether I should pray to the Devil, or God? And I asked God for forgiveness. Then I took the knife, grasped it in my hand, and after hesitating some more, I cut his throat with it. Then in the slaughter room, after he was dead, I separated the head from his body [by slicing away the neck muscle and twisting the head off where the spinal cord met the skull]. I hung him from the ceiling. Then I removed his organs and cut him in half. I poured hot water over the two halves and washed the body.”

He videotaped the entire thing.

After preparing his meal and pouring himself a glass of fine red wine, Meiwes began to eat.  “The first bite was, of course, very strange,” he said. “It was a feeling I can’t really describe. I’d spent over 40 years, 30 years longing for it, dreaming about it, and now I was getting the feeling that I was actually achieving this perfect inner connection through his flesh,” he said.  (Meiwes’s dining room, below left.)

“Flesh tastes like pork, but stronger,” Meiwes continued, “more substantial, although I don’t think that other people would have noticed a difference, had they eaten it. It tasted really good.”

Over a period of months, he consumed more than 40 pounds of Brandes’s flesh.  He also tried to make flour from grinding his bones.  All the while, Meiwes continued searching the Internet for more willing victims. Eventually, in December 2002, a young Austrian student became suspicious and alerted authorities. Five months later, dozens of police swooped on Meiwes’s farmhouse to search the property.  They found 15 pounds of meat in the freezer (below right) underneath some pizza boxes.

“What kind of meat do you have in the fridge?” a policewoman asked Meiwes.

“This is just normal meat, animal meat,” he responded.

“You know, I’m a housewife,” she said.  “I know this is not normal meat.”

The case posed a legal dilemma. There is no German law against cannibalism and Brandes was clearly a willing victim. Meiwes was initially convicted of manslaughter in 2004 and sentenced to only 8.5 years in prison. But a retrial in 2005 convicted him of murder and he was sentenced to life in jail.

“Today I know that what I did was wrong.  That this can never be the right way,” Meiwes said in his 60 Minutes interview. “The wishes, the fantasies you have, that these can never ever be fulfilled. And everything that you dream about will only ever remain a dream.”

During the raid of his farmhouse, police also found the videotape of the killing. It was so shocking that they have locked it away, never to be released.