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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Now that’s funny! » » A prisoner killed himself using a deck of playing cards (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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RS
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On 20 October 1930, William Kogut, an inmate on San Quentin's death row, fashioned ordinary decks of pasteboards into a pipe bomb, which he used to take his own life. Kogut was awaiting execution for the throat-slash murder of Mayme Guthrie, who ran a rooming house (which may have doubled as a gaming house and brothel) in Oroville, California.

Kogut removed a hollow steel leg from his cot, tore several packs of playing cards into tiny pieces, and stuffed these bits into the pipe. (At the time, red playing cards were reportedly made using a rather volatile ink.) He plugged one end tightly with a broom handle, and poured water into the other end to soak the torn cards. He then placed this device on top of the kerosene heater next to his bed, laid down, and put his head up against the open end of the pipe.

The heater turned the water into steam, and when the pressure built up to a high enough level, the resulting explosion shot the bits of playing cards out of the pipe with enough force to penetrate Kogut's skull.

Kogut felt he should punish himself for having taken Guthrie's life rather than let the State carry out its mandate. His suicide note, addressed to the warden, read: "Do not blame my death on any one because I fixed everything myself. I never give up as long as I am living and have a chance, but this is the end."

Barbara "four of clubs -- the devil's bedpost" Mikkelson

RS
paulajayne
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That was a totally mind blowing effect.

Paula
Paula Jay - Magic to Remember -
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I once wrote a book on elephants, I think paper would have been better.
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WhiteAngel
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I am confused. Smile Did this really happen or is this presentation for an effect?
True illusionists strive to decieve the eye AND the mind.....
paulajayne
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Hi

True

http://www.theatrefx.com/funfacts35.html

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/kogut.htm

Paula

Posted: Nov 10, 2004 4:39pm

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Playing Cards With Death

Ever hear the one about the prisoner who commited suicide with a deck of playing cards? I know, it sounded like an urban legend to me too, but this one actually happened. Try this story out during your next Halloween party -- it works especially well if you have a deck of cards to shuffle while telling it.

Many people don't realize that playing cards can be lethal. They certainly seem harmless enough, don't they? The guards on death row at San Quentin State Prison must have thought so, because they allowed the prisoners to have decks of playing cards in their cells. What they hadn't counted on was the creativity of one desperate man.

That man, William Kogut, had been convicted of the throat-slashing murder of Mayme Guthrie, a woman who ran a boarding house in Oroville, California. It's possible that Ms. Guthrie's establishment also doubled as a gaming hall and brothel. If so, it may explain why Mr. Kogut was there, and offer some possible motives for his attack on Ms. Guthrie.

Whatever the reason, William Kogut found himself awaiting execution for murder in October of 1930. Not content to let the state carry out his sentence, Mr. Kogut decided to take matters into his own hands. He devised a plan to commit suicide, in his cell, using a hollow bedpost, several decks of cards and a length of broomstick.

A bit of history here around this time, playing-card manufacturers used a rather volatile ink to mark the red cards (the hearts and diamonds). While it's not certain what compound went into that ink, nitrocellulose is certainly one possibility. Nitrocellulose is found in many common products including inks, plastics, smokeless gun powder and flash paper.

Mr. Kogut removed one of the hollow bedposts from his cot. He then tore up the decks of playing cards and stuffed them into the post. Plugging one end of the post with the broomstick, he filled the other end with water, which would have made the card pieces expand and, possibly, released the nitrocellulose from the red ink. He then wrote a brief note to the warden.

"Do not blame my death on anyone," he wrote, "because I fixed everything myself. I never give up as long as I am living and have a chance, but this is the end."

With that, he placed the crude pipe bomb he had made on the heater next to his bed. He then lay down with his head against the open end of the pipe, and waited for the end to come. Whether from the pressure of steam building up inside the pipe, ingnition of the nitrocellulose in the red ink, or some combination thereof, the bomb eventually exploded with enough force to send bits of playing card through Mr. Kogut's skull, killing him.

As you may have guessed, playing card manufacturers no longer use such volatile compounds in their inks. While I'm not positive, I would imagine that the prisoners at San Quentin still have access to playing cards. William Kogut, as far as I can determine, is the only person ever to have commited suicide in this grisly, yet highly inventive fashion.
Paula Jay - Magic to Remember -
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I once wrote a book on elephants, I think paper would have been better.
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Stevethomas
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If you'd like to read yet another account of this, open your copy of Ricky Jay's "Cards as Weapons", and look at the last chapter. I believe the actual explosive part was not the steam, but rather the chemical used in the red playing cards for the red color. This is/was a true story.

Steve Thomas
RS
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Quote:
On 2004-11-10 16:32, paulajayne wrote:
That was a totally mind blowing effect.

Paula

Funny. Smile Seems we read the same things.
RS
sniper1
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In fact those people who have the Art of Astonishment book 3 will find this story coupled with an effect called Heart Burn. If I'm not wrong, the effect is, after telling this story, you take an ordinary playing card, strike it against the striking surface of a matchbox, and it ignites.
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BIlly James
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I haven't heard of this story before.

However, I have had people attempt to take their own lives while I was showing them a series of card tricks...and come to think of it, I use a RED deck too...coincidence?!?!
WhiteAngel
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No, Billy, no coincidence. That happens to me too. That's how I lost my dog Smile lol. But wow, the possibilities are endless with this story. Lots of patter there.
True illusionists strive to decieve the eye AND the mind.....
Wolflock
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Hmmm. Moral of the story? "don't show too many tricks with red cards or your audience will blow their tops."

My audience doesn't try to take their own lives, they try to take my life with my cards.

And once again RED CARDS.

There is a pattern forming here.
Back away from the red cards.
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Bill Palmer
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I thought maybe he bored himself to death with counting tricks.
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Wolflock
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Quote:
On 2004-11-30 23:09, Bill Palmer wrote:
I thought maybe he bored himself to death with counting tricks.



LOL. I don't think there is any evidence against this theory.
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spatrick
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Now I will attempt to pull the cards from my brain and piece by piece put them back together again. Now where did I put my TT????


S. Patrick
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I took this story and used it as the premise for In A Flash by Jay Sankey for a corporate function for a Bomb Data Conference.

I performed this for ATF, FBI, Canadian Mounties, AFP, Mayalsian Police, Singapore Police and Scotland Yard and not ONE of them believed the story was true.

They though I was making it up for the purpose of the trick!
Jordini
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I hate to ruin this for you, but it is scientifically IMPOSSIBLE to kill yourself with a deck of playing cards, unless you swallow the deck whole perhaps. You see, it's similar to the myth that you can kill someone by dropping a penny on their head from the top of the Empire State Building. Both pennies and cards, simple do not have enough mass to have any penatrating power. Even if you could get it up to sufficient speed, the structural integrity of the card would be compromised before it had any real penetrating power. Sorry everyone, but this one is going to stay a myth. Simply, not possible.
Wolflock
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Maybe not from the empire state building but it can kill if dropped from higher. Taking away the time taken for acceleration the object will still fall at 9.8 meters per second/ per second. This is sufficient to, when and if contact is made under the right circumstances, kill a person. Anything when used under the right circumstances, will kill you. ie. Drowning on a tablespoon of water, etc.
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Jordini
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I'm afraid not. You'd have to shoot the penny out of a high powered rifle to have it do any damage to the human skull. As for cards, there's just no way you could get them up to speed to hurt someone. (Unless they were hurling through space or some other vacum, traveling with a velocity of thousands of miles per second, and THEN they happened to hit you. That might be a different story.) But here on earth, even if you could spin a card at 150 MPH you'd only get a minor paper cut.
Wolflock
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That is why I said under the right circumstances. If say the coin was shot out of a high powered rifle, straight up. It will fall down at twice the speed of what it went up. Once again has to be right circumstances. Has to fall with edge pointing down No wind resistance, etc. Hmmm. Suppose we could debate this till the end of time. I'll just end this by agreeing with you. No need to agree and disagree anymore then.
Wolflock
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Jordini
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I think you're wrong about it falling at twice the speed it is shot up at. Gravity is a pretty weak force. I mean, you can overcome it with come 2 cent paper clips and a 50 cent magnet. I don't want to debate this forever though. The point is, it's more than doubtful that anyone has ever, or ever will be killed, by a rogue deck of cards.
CWMoss
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Small fragments and gasses under pressure can certainly penetrate the skull. Don't believe me? Ask Brandon Lee.
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