1955 — Ginsberg’s “Howl” is first performed

The greatest poem of the Beat Generation writers, and one of the finest of the 20th century, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is a lengthy, stream of consciousness rant with strikingly hallucinatory imagery of drug use, New York City, the back roads of America, and sex of both homosexual and heterosexual varieties. Ginsberg performed it for the first time at the Six Gallery in San Francisco at the behest of Wally Hedrick.

Later, the poem would be published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books (a small press and book shop also located in San Francisco), and become the centre of one the depressingly frequent obscenity trials that dot American judicial history – in this case, the court ruled that the court contained redeeming social value. The greatest minds of a generation rejoiced.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1939 — Harvey Williams Cushing dies

The founder of neurosurgery as a separate discipline within medicine, Cushing was the youngest of ten children, and the son of a doctor. He studied medicine at both Yale and Harvard, interning at Massachusetts General and later Johns Hopkins. He was a firm believer in the application of hard science to medical problems, drawing especially on physics to better diagnose and treat patients.

Among other things, he pioneered the use of x-rays to detect tumours and used electro-cortical stimulation to investigate and better understand the workings of the brain. In the first few decades of the 20th century, he was the world’s leading teacher of neurosurgeons. But his most lasting effect on medicine may be the introduction of the earliest sphygmomanometer to America, which would rapidly become a great diagnostic tool. Ironically, while the proximate cause of Cushing’s own death at the age of 70 was a myocardial infarction, his autopsy revealed that he had a colloid cyst of the third ventricle in his brain.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder

1849 – Edgar Allan Poe dies

The very archetype of the tortured artist, Edgar Allan Poe was a writer of phantasmagorical fictions, often featuring delirium, madness and grief as major ingredients. As such, he is basically the forefather of the entire gothic movement, especially that portion of it that drinks absinthe.

Aside from his work in horror – which is the majority of his work – he also wrote several early science fiction stories, and is generally credited with the invention of the modern detective story. His detective, C. Auguste Dupin, not only predates Sherlock Holmes, but rates an occasional mention by the Great Detective even in the original Doyle stories.

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore by one Joseph W. Walker. Upon discovering that Poe was in some form of delirium, Walker took him to a hospital. Poe died there four days later at 5 in the morning. The cause of his death, or even of the delirium that preceded it, is unknown. Poe never became coherent after Walker found him, and thus, it has never been determined how he came to be in that state. Moreover, all the hospital records pertaining to his death have been lost.

Referenced in:

Edgar — Jean Leloup
Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond

1965 – Ian Brady and Myra Hindley are arrested for murder

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were a couple who seemed made for each other. He was a would-be neo-Nazi, she was a survivor of domestic abuse who had been taught that violence was the only way to win respect. When they met, he was 27 and she 23 – he had already done some prison time, she had already been through a failed engagement. They each saw themselves as an outsider, and both wanted to make a mark.

Unfortunately, the only way they could think of to do so was to commit murders. From July of 1963 through to October of 1965, they abducted and murdered four people, burying the bodies on Saddleworth Moor, near Manchester where they and their victims lived. In each case, Brady would commit the actual murders, and often, he would sexually assault the victims, too.

They were eventually caught when Brady tried to include Hindley’s brother-in-law, David Smith, in their crimes. Although he played along, Smith later went to the police, and told them of the murder he had witnessed. Hindley and Brady were arrested the next day, and both eventually received sentences for lifetime imprisonment for what the British press dubbed ‘the Moors Murders’.

Referenced in:

Mother Earth – Crass
Very Friendly – Throbbing Gristle
Suffer Little Children – The Smiths