HomeAll ListsStaff Profiles

This Day in History: October 31


The origins of Halloween can be traced to the ancient Gaelic festival known as Samhain,
which is derived from Old Irish dialect.  It falls on October 31 and is often viewed as an
international celebration of the dead.  It is an intriguing day and is celebrated differently
all over the world. 
This collection will be leading off my series of lists examining the
undead, ghosts, the unexplained, and certain events surrounding Halloween.  Here are
some influential historical events that occurred on Halloween.

10. Mount Rushmore is Completed

October 31, 1941


Mount Rushmore is a monumental granite sculpture.  It is located near Keystone, South
Dakota, and represents the first 150 years of the history of the United States of America
with 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of former U.S. presidents George
Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.  The entire
memorial covers 1,278 acres and is 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level.  The
memorial attracts approximately two million people annually.  Between October 4,
1927, and October 31, 1941, Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the colossal
monument.  It was officially declared finished on Halloween 1941.  The same day the
U.S. Navy destroyer Reuben James was torpedoed by a German submarine near Iceland
killing more then 100 men.


9. Tupac Shakur is Accused of Shooting Two
Off-Duty Police Officers

October 31, 1993


Tupac Shakur was born in the East Harlem section of Manhattan in New York City.  He
is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and has sold over 75 million
records worldwide.  Tupac released his debut album 2Pacalypse Now in 1991.  As he
garnered attention as a rapper and actor, Shakur gained notoriety for his conflicts with
the law.  In October 1991, he filed a $10 million civil suit against the law enforcement
of the Oakland Police Department, alleging they brutally beat him for jaywalking.  In
October 1993, in Atlanta, two brothers and off-duty police officers, Mark and Scott
Whitwell, had an altercation with Tupac and a group of men.  The event quickly turned
violent and one officer was shot in the buttocks, and the other in the back.  There were
no other injuries, but Mark Whitwell was charged with firing at Shakur's car and later
lying to the police during the investigation.  On October 31, 1993, Tupac Shakur was
arrested and charged in the shooting, but ultimately prosecutors decided to drop all
charges against both parties.  It was a widely underreported story.

On the night of September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times in a drive-by shooting in
Las Vegas.  He died six days later of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest at the
University Medical Center.  Since his death numerous conspiracy theories have been
circulating claiming that Shakur is still alive or that a police cover-up surrounds the
specifics of his killers.  Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Tupac Shakur has released
6 posthumous albums, including the upcoming 2010 release

8. John Candy is Born

October 31, 1950


John Candy was born on October 31, 1950.  He was raised in Toronto, Canada.  Candy’s
first movie role was a small unaccredited appearance in the 1973 film Class of '44.  He
appeared in several other low-budget films in the 1970s.  In the late 1970’s he became a
cast member on the influential Toronto-based comedy-variety show Second City
(SCTV).  By 1980, he began a more active film career appearing in the films
1941, The Blues Brothers, Stripes, and National Lampoon's Vacation.  You might have
seen him in Splash, Planes, Trains & Automobiles
, Brewster's Millions, The Great
Outdoors, Armed and Dangerous
, Who's Harry Crumb, Uncle Buck, Cool Runnings, or
Home Alone.

John Candy’s father died of a heart attack at age 35 when Candy was five years old. His
grandfather also died of a heart attack at a young age.  John struggled with obesity
throughout his adult life and in the early 1990s he gained a large amount of additional
weight.  However, he had been making a significant effort to improve his overall health
in the last year of his life.  The 43-year-old John Candy died in his sleep from a heart
attack on March 4, 1994, while on location in Durango, Mexico, filming Wagons East.
He might be the most famous and certainly the funniest man ever to be born on

7. River Phoenix Dies

October 31, 1993


River Phoenix was born in Metolius, Oregon in 1970.  At a young age his parents moved him
to Venezuela and his family joined the religious cult the Children of God.  In an interview
with Details magazine in November 1991, Phoenix stated that he lost his virginity at age
four. The magazine quotes him as saying "But I've blocked it out... I was completely celibate
from 10 to 14."  In 1977, his family left the cult and returned to the United States, they
officially adopted the surname Phoenix in 1979.  River Phoenix pursued a career in show
business.  He had significant juvenile roles in Joe Dante's Explorers (1985) and Rob
Reiner's Stand By Me (1986).

In 1989, at the age of 18, Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for
his role in Running on Empty.  In the early 1990’s Phoenix starred in numerous productions.
He was a dedicated animal rights, environmental and political activist.  He campaigned for
PETA and won their Humanitarian of the Year award in 1990 for his fund-raising efforts.
On October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed from a drug overdose of heroin and cocaine
(known as a speedball) outside the Viper Room, a Hollywood night club.


On the evening of October 30, River was to perform onstage with his close friend
Michael "Flea" Balzary from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At some point in the evening
Phoenix went to the bathroom to take drugs with various friends and dealers.  It is
reported that an acquaintance offered him some Persian Brown (a powerful form of
methamphetamine mixed with opiates), which he then snorted.  Soon after consuming
the drug he became ill.  Upon leaving The Viper Room, River Phoenix collapsed onto
the sidewalk and began convulsing for eight minutes.  Attempts to resuscitate Phoenix,
which including the insertion of a pacemaker were unsuccessful.  He was pronounced
dead at 1:51 a.m.

6. The Official End of the Battle of Britain

October 31, 1940


The Battle of Britain is one of the most important battles of World War II.  Following
the evacuation of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk and the French surrender on
June 22, 1940, Hitler believed the Second World War was practically over.  He also
believed that the British would come to terms quickly.  German fighter planes waged an
all out air campaign against the Royal Air Force in the summer and autumn of 1940.
The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces,
and was the largest and most sustained aerial bombing up until that date.  Britain
defended their land weekly and most attacks occurred at night.  Germany failed to
achieve its objectives and on October 31, 2009 the battle officially ended with a
decisive British victory.  The Battle of Britain marked the first defeat of Hitler's military
forces and spawned hope that the Nazi regime would be stopped.


5. Indira Gandhi is Assassinated

October 31, 1984


Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of the Republic of India for three consecutive
terms from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her death in 1984.  She
was India's first and only female Prime Minister.  Gandhi introduced more left-wing
economic policies and promoted agricultural productivity in India.  In June 1984, under
Gandhi's order, the Indian army forcefully entered the Golden Temple, the most sacred
Sikh shrine, to arrest insurgents.  On October 31, 1984, two of Gandhi's bodyguards,
Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, both Sikhs, executed her with their service weapons in
the garden of the Prime Minister's Residence.  Investigators concluded that she was
attacked in retaliation for her operations at the Golden Temple.  Official autopsy reports
varied, some stating that 31 bullets were extracted from her body.  After Indira Gandhi’s
death, unrest in the form of anti-Sikh riots engulfed New Delhi and several other cities
in India. 

4. Harry Houdini Dies

October 31, 1926


On Halloween’s eve millions of children around the world gather in the streets, filling
neighborhoods with excitement.  Children will knock on your door and utter the phrase
“trick or treat.”  Of course the kids aren’t interested in a trick, but they just might have
been if they ventured onto the front porch of Harry Houdini.  Harry Houdini was an
infamous Hungarian American magician, escapologist, and stunt performer.  Early in his
career Houdini was a sensation in Europe, where he became widely known as "The
Handcuff King.”  He toured England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and
Russia.  In 1907, Houdini traveled to the U.S. and performed with great success.


Later in his career Houdini began setting up elaborate escape tricks.  The possibility of
failure and death thrilled his audiences.  In 1912, Houdini introduced perhaps his most
famous act, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in
a locked glass-and-steel cabinet overflowing with water.  In his career Houdini
performed many acts that displayed his incredible dexterity.  In 1926, he was performing
in Montreal when he let McGill University student, J. Gordon Whitehead, deliver
multiple blows to his abdomen.  Houdini had apparently been suffering from
appendicitis for several days prior and yet refused medical treatment.  He died of
peritonitis from a ruptured appendix on October 31, 1926, at the age of 52. 

3. Benito Mussolini Becomes Prime Minister of Italy

October 31, 1922

Mussolini and Hitler

Mussolini is one of the most infamous political leaders of the 20th century.  The March
on Rome was a coup d'état by which Mussolini's National Fascist Party came to power
in Italy and ousted prime minister Luigi Facta.  The actual fighting took place between
October 27-29, 1922 and on October 31, 2009 Benito Mussolini became the 40th
Prime Minister of Italy.  In 1940, Mussolini was convinced that the war would end with
a German victory, so Italy entered the war on the Axis side.  Italy declared war on
Britain and France on June 10, 1940.  Mussolini would hold the position of prime
minister until July 25, 1943.

In the summer of 1943 the war was beginning to turn against the Axis powers and
Germany was beginning to retreat.  Prominent members of the Italian Fascist
government turned against Mussolini and he was removed as prime minister.  Mussolini
was imprisoned, but ultimately escaped and headed the Italian Social Republic in parts
of Italy that were not occupied by Allied forces.  In late April 1945, with total defeat
looming, Mussolini attempted to escape to Switzerland, only to be captured and
executed near Lake Como by Italian partisans.  

2. American Eagle Flight 4184 Crash

October 31, 1994


Halloween has proven to be a deadly day in aviation history.  Since 1994, two separate
plane crashes have occurred on October 31.  American Eagle Flight 4184 was a scheduled
flight from Indianapolis International Airport, Indiana to O'Hare International Airport in
Chicago.  Upon arrival in Chicago the aircraft was held at 10,000 ft. due to bad weather
conditions.  While holding, the plane encountered freezing rain, which caused an intense ice
buildup.  The aircraft was soon cleared to descend to 8,000 ft (2,400 m), but after this
descent the pilots were ordered to make another hold. While in the second holding pattern, a
warning alarm sounded indicating problems with the extended flaps.

The pilot took action by retracting the flaps.  This was followed by a strange noise and an
uncommanded roll excursion, which disengaged the autopilot.  The plane began to fall into
uncontrollable full rolls.  Two minutes later contact was lost and the aircraft crashed into a
soybean field near Roselawn, Indiana, killing all 64 passengers and 4 crew on board.  Flight
4184 was the first loss of the ATR 72 and was also the highest death toll of any aviation
accident involving an ATR 72 anywhere in the world.  The family members of the victims
agreed to a record $110 million settlement and an apology in open court.


1. EgyptAir Flight 990 Crash

October 31, 1999


One of the deadliest aviation disaster in world history occurred on Halloween 1999.
EgyptAir Flight 990 was a regularly-scheduled Los Angeles-New York-Cairo flight.
The events surrounding this flight remain largely unexplained today and it is one of the
biggest mysteries in aviation history.  Radar and radio contact was lost with the aircraft
30 minutes after departing from JFK Airport in New York on way to Cairo.  Flight data
showed that the flight controls were used to move the elevators in order to initiate and
sustain the steep dive.  The flight deviated from its assigned altitude of 33,000 feet and
dove to 16,000 feet for 44 seconds.  It then climbed back up to 24,000 and seconds later
the craft began a final dive, hitting the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles south of
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, in international waters, killing all of the 217 people on
board.  The aircraft was carrying passengers from seven countries (Canada, Egypt,
Germany, Sudan, Syria, United States, and Zimbabwe.) 


The cockpit voice recorder recorded the Captain excusing himself to go to the bathroom,
followed thirty seconds later by the First Officer saying, "I rely on God."  A minute later,
the autopilot was disengaged, immediately followed by the First Officer again saying, "I
rely on God."  Three seconds later, the throttle for both engines was reduced to zero, and
both elevators were moved three degrees, nose down.  The First Officer repeated "I rely
on God" six more times before the Captain is suddenly heard to ask repeatedly, "What's
happening, what's happening?"  The engines operated normally for the entire flight until
they were shut down.  Egyptian investigators concluded that the aircraft crashed as a
result of mechanical failure, while U.S. investigators concluded the aircraft was
deliberately crashed in an apparent terrorist attack. 

Follow The List Blog - Top 10 on Twitter


Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted October 18, 2009