1966 – The first documented sighting of the West Virginia Mothman takes place

On November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant, West Virginia were out for a pleasant drive. Steve and Mary Mallette and Roger and Linda Scarberry later told police that they saw a large white creature whose eyes “glowed red” when the car headlights picked it up. They described it as a large flying man with ten-foot wings following their car.

Unknown to them, five others had sighted the creature three days earlier, but theirs was the first account to make the news, appearing in the Point Pleasant Register the following day. Over the next month, the creature, now called ‘the Mothman’, was sighted several more times, but after the collapse of a nearby bridge and the resulting deaths of 46 people, sightings dried up for a time – a fact that led many to speculate that the Mothman was a harbinger or prophet of the event.

Referenced in:
Sleestak Lightning — Clutch

1966 — The first “Star Trek” episode is broadcast

Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

With these words, one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time was inaugurated. “Star Trek” may have had its flaws, but its vision of a future in which all sentients of good will worked for the common good was an appealing one. From the humble beginnings of a first season that was still trying to figure out what it was, “Star Trek” grew to become a media behemoth, made the people who acted in it stars of the screen, and exerted a great influence over our culture.

As Spock might put it, it lived long and prospered.

Referenced in:
Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers

1966 — Buster Keaton dies

One of the greatest stars of the silent movie era, and still recognised for his comedic genius even today, Buster Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton on October 4, 1895. His parents were both vaudeville actors, and he followed them into the trade. When Hollywood beckoned, Keaton moved to Los Angeles and throughout the Twenties, was one of the great stars of the screen. His mastery of physical comedy was combined with a deadpan stoicism so famous that he became known as ‘the Great Stone Face’.

The jump to the talkies proved to be too much for Keaton, although part of the problem was his choice of studio: MGM placed great restrictions on him creatively and forced him to use a stunt double, both of which contributed to his lack of success there. Although he scored the occasional lead role over the rest of his career (and Keaton worked right up to his death), most of his work was as a supporting actor or as a writer (he wrote for the Marx Brothers in ‘Go West’ and ‘At The Circus’, for example).

Keaton died of cancer, although he himself was told only that he had bronchitis. He was seventy years old.

Referenced in:
Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond

1966 – Louise Post of Veruca Salt born

Louise Post was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1966. She later moved to Chicago, where her friend Lili Taylor introduced her to Nina Gordon. This simple introduction would radically change the courses of both women’s lives.

In 1993, Gordon and Post formed the band Veruca Salt, which originally had a sound not unlike that of the Indigo Girls. However, with the addition of Gordon’s brother, Jim Shapiro, on drums, and Steve Lack on bass, the band began gigging, and soon recorded their first (and best known) song, “Seether”, which was a hit for the band. Gordon and Post eventually had a falling out that led to Gordon leaving the band in 1998; while the two have since mended fences, they are not as close as they once were.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part II) — Adam Sandler

1963 – The Great Train Robbery

It is one of the most audacious crimes in history, and single largest robbery in the history of the United Kingdom. Over 2.6 million pounds were stolen from the Royal Mail Train by a team of 17 men (including those involved in planning). The robbery itself went fairly smoothly, although the resistance of the train’s driver, Jack Mills, was an unanticipated complication (he was beaten over the head to ensure his submission, and suffered from headaches the rest of his life as a result).

Naturally, the police were quick to react, and nearly all of the robbers were caught – although two of the, notably Ronnie Biggs (who remained free for years and became something of counterculture celebrity as a result), later escaped from prison – but almost none of the money was ever recovered. Driver Jack Mills in particular suffered as a result of the robbery, as he had great difficulty in getting compensated and was blamed in some quarters for giving in too easily (a claim which was both unfair and untrue).

Referenced in:

Just For Money — Paul Hardcastle
Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds — Alabama 3

1966 – Ray Bradbury’s “S Is for Space” published

“S is for Space” is a collection of science fiction short stories written by Ray Bradbury and published by Doubleday. It was released in August 1966, and sold respectably (for a science fiction/fantasy hardcover).

It included 14 stories, including the classic “Dark They Were, And Golden-Eyed” (which later gave its name to a bookshop in London that specialised in science fiction and fantasy books).

Referenced in:

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury — Rachel Bloom

1966 — The Beatles release “Doctor Robert”

A song from the album “Revolver” (or, in America, “Yesterday and Today”), “Doctor Robert” is a somewhat autobiographical song about the way that the Beatles’ touring schedule was somewhat fuelled by drugs.

Somehow, it doesn’t seem to get much airplay.

Referenced in:
Edit — Regina Spektor

1966 – Mississippi John Hurt dies of a heart attack

Although he was mostly an obscurity during his life, in the last few years, beginning with an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1964, Mississippi John Hurt became a star of the folk and blues scenes.

He had originally recorded back in the Twenties, but nothing much came of it, and by the time the Great Dperession killed Okeh (his label), he was back in Avalon, Mississippi, sharecropping. He would have stayed there if not for the efforts of musicologist Tom Hoskins, who tracked him down and convinced him to give it another go, with much better results.

But Hurt was already in his seventies by then, and his life had been marked by poverty and suffering. He died of a heart attack in 1966, although not before recording a few more sessions.

Referenced in:

Did You Hear John Hurt – Tom Paxton

1966 – A Coal Tip falls on the Welsh village of Aberfan killing 144 people

Up until 1966, the National Coal Board had allowed the excavations from the Aberfan mine to be piled up on the hill above the village. The total volume of this debris is unknown, but the estimated volume of just the portion that broke away on October 21, 1966 is in the vicinity of 150,000 cubic metres. Safety inspectors were typically more concerned with safety issues inside the mine than outside, but even so the NCB had been warned repeatedly over the years leading up to this disaster.

The warnings went unheard until that deadly Friday, when heavy rains contributed to the slide of the debris onto the town. The debris covered a farm, twenty houses along Moy St, Aberfan, and a large portion of Pantglas Junior School. The total death toll was 144 people, including 5 teachers at the school, and 115 students aged between 7 and 10 years old. It remains one of the worst mining disasters of the modern era.

Referenced in:

Aberfan – David Ackles
Aberfan – Rhys Morgan
Palaces of Gold – Leon Rosselson
The Aberfan Coal Tip Tragedy – Thom Parrott

1966 – Rubin Carter is falsely accused by Alfred Bello

Alfred Bello, and his partner-in-crime, Arthur Dexter Bradley, were small-timers. Knocking over factories was their style, and the last thing they wanted to was to get involved in anything more serious.

But on June 17, 1966, they saw two men leaving the Lafayette Bar and Grill is New Jersey – two light-skinned black men, one carrying a pistol, the other a shotgun. They gave statements to the police, and tried not to incriminate themselves.

If that had been as far as it went, it might have been okay. But on October 14 of that year, Bello fingered Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter as one of the shooters. His testimony was essential to the guilty verdict that sent Carter to prison for murder.

In 1974, Bello recanted, claiming that the police had pressured him into making the statement. In 1975, he changed his story yet again, leading to the 1976 over-turning of the convictions of Carter and his alleged accomplice, John Artis. The pair were tried anew and convicted again. Their convictions were over-turned permanently in 1986.

Referenced in:
Hurricane – Bob Dylan

1966 – Charles Whitman kills 14 people in a shooting spree before his own death

Charles Whitman was a few weeks past his 25th birthday when he finally snapped. Taking his rifle, he killed 16 people, 3 of them in the tower tower of the University of Texas and 11 more as a sniper in the tower’s observation deck, where he retreated in his final rage. He also wounded 32 other people before he was shot dead by members of the Austin police department.

In the months leading up to his death, Whitman had been court-martialled by the Marines (by whom he had been trained as a sniper), endured his parents’ divorce, and developed both an amphetamine addiction and a headache-inducing brain tumour (the last discovered only at his autopsy)… looking for a motive in his actions is pointless, so many things in his life serving to unabalance him.

His was one of the earliest sniper killing sprees, but sadly, it would not be the last.

Referenced in:
Sniper – Harry Chapin
Sniper in the Sky – Macabre
The Tower – Insane Clown Posse
Chest Explodes – Bottom Feeder
Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer) — Exodus
The Ballad of Charles Whitman – Kinky Friedman
Road To Ruin (Charles Whitman) – Church of Misery