What happened on this day in history: Elizabeth Báthory is born, George Washington creates the Purple Heart, and other historic events from August 7th.
1560: Elizabeth Báthory Is Born
Elizabeth Báthory, a Hungarian noblewoman and alleged serial killer, is born. Báthory was accused of torturing and murdering hundreds of women and young girls between 1590 and 1610. More than 300 individuals described seeing evidence of these crimes, but others believe the accusations were fabricated to destroy her family’s influence in the region. Nevertheless, Báthory was imprisoned in the Castle of Csejte in 1610, where she died four years later.
1782: George Washington Creates The Purple Heart Award
While commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, George Washington establishes the Badge of Military Merit, a purple cloth heart that will later become the modern Purple Heart award. The badge was to be given to a soldier “whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed.”
There were only three recipients during the Revolution, and the badge was forgotten until 1932, when it was reestablished as the modern Purple Heart that is awarded to military members who are wounded or killed in battle.
1876: Mata Hari Is Born
Exotic dancer-turned-spy Margaretha Geertruida Zelle — better known by her stage name Mata Hari — is born in the Netherlands. Mata Hari gained instant success as a dancer in Paris in the early 1900s due to her beauty and her willingness to appear virtually nude in public. During World War I, however, she was accused of spying for Germany, and she was executed by a French firing squad in 1917.
1947: Thor Heyerdahl Completes His Voyage Across The Pacific Ocean In A Raft
Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl completes his Kon-Tiki expedition after traveling from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia on a homemade wooden raft. The aim of the 5,000-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean was to prove that ancient people could have made similarly long sea voyages. Heyerdahl and five others completed the trip in 101 days, and today the raft can be seen in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway.
1974: The Winchester Mystery House Becomes A Historical Landmark
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California is added to the National Register of Historical Places. The design of this labyrinthine home came from the mind of Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune. Fearing that the spirits of those killed by her guns would haunt her, she made plans to build a complicated maze of a home in California.
The home eventually became a seven-story mansion. To confuse her alleged spirits, Winchester had contractors build rooms with windows that overlooked other rooms. Meanwhile, the home had multiple staircases, all with differently-sized risers. This one-of-a-kind home is available for tours to this day.
1985: The White House Farm Murders
Jeremy Bamber shoots and kills his parents, sister, and two nephews in Essex, England in what will become known as the White House Farm murders. Bamber slaughtered his family in the middle of the night, then called the police and said his schizophrenic sister, Sheila Caffell, had killed them all before turning the gun on herself. In the end, the 24-year-old was convicted on five counts of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.