November 10 in history:
The 10th of November is known for some disasters on the water…
A passenger ship called the Stephen Whitney was wrecked on this date in 1847, when it struck an island in the fog off the coast of Ireland. Only 18 of the 110 people aboard the ship survived. The captain apparently had mistaken a nearby lighthouse for a different one. A new lighthouse was built in that area as a result of the disaster.
A huge explosion destroyed the USS Mount Hood on November 10th, 1944, in an island harbor near New Guinea. The Navy ship was carrying nearly four thousand tons of ammunition. None of the approximately 350 men aboard the ship survived the blast, and the cause of the explosion was never determined.
Perhaps the most famous shipwreck to occur on November 10th claimed 29 lives, when the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior during a storm in 1975. A year later, on the first anniversary of the sinking, Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” was number 3 on the Billboard chart in America, behind “Rock’n Me” by Steve Miller and “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees.
November 10th is the birthday of two actors famous for playing passengers on ill-fated boat trips…”Jaws” star Roy Scheider (1932), and Russell Johnson (1924), Professor Roy Hinkley from “Gilligan’s Island.”
October 31 in history:
Real-life spooks and scares on Halloween, in history…
Seances are often held on Halloween, with the hope of contacting the spirit of Harry Houdini. The magician and escape artist died of peritonitis on October 31st, 1926, several days after a young man punched him hard in the abdomen to see whether he really could withstand powerful blows. Houdini said he didn’t have time to prepare his abdominal muscles for any punches before he was hit.
A “Holiday on Ice” performance came to a disastrous end on Halloween night in 1963, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Near the end of the show, a fiery explosion killed dozens and injured hundreds among the four thousand people inside the Coliseum. The blast was blamed on a propane leak at a popcorn stand. The ice rink was turned into a temporary morgue after the explosion.
A tiger shark attacked 13-year-old surfing champion Bethany Hamilton while she was floating on her surfboard near her home in Hawaii on this date in 2003. The shark took Hamilton’s left arm, and a chunk of her surfboard. She recovered from the injury to resume her surfing career. Hamilton’s ordeal inspired the 2011 movie “Soul Surfer.”