This Day In History, March 24th

What happened on this day in history: Harry Houdini is born in 1874, the Exxon Valdez spills 11 million gallons of oil off the coast of Alaska in 1989, and more.

1603: Queen Elizabeth I Dies

Queen Elizabeth I Portrait

Public DomainQueen Elizabeth I was famously known as the “Virgin Queen” because she never married or had children.

Elizabeth I, the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, dies at Richmond Palace after ruling England and Ireland for 45 years.

The 69-year-old queen was in good health until late 1602, when several of her close friends died, sending her into a deep depression. The “Virgin Queen” had no heirs, so upon her death, her distant cousin James, who was already the king of Scotland, took the throne as King James I of an unofficially unified England and Scotland.

1721: Bach Dedicates The ‘Brandenburg Concertos’

Johann Sebastian Bach dedicates six concertos to Margrave Christian Lewis of Brandenburg. These pieces are now known as his iconic Brandenburg Concertos for this reason. The margrave had asked to see some of Bach’s work, and the composer wrote to him in response:

“I have… taken the liberty of rendering my most humble duty to Your Royal Highness with the present concertos, which I have adapted to several instruments; begging Your Highness most humbly not to judge their imperfection…”

1874: Harry Houdini Is Born

Harry Houdini width=

WikipediaHarry Houdini performing the “Chinese Water Torture Cell” escape.

Magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is born Erik Weisz to a Jewish family in Budapest. He immigrated to the United States with his family as a child and started working as a trapeze artist at the young age of nine.

In the 1890s, he became a professional magician and started using the stage name Harry Houdini. His big break came in 1899, when he started focusing on escape acts, and today he’s remembered as the most famous escape artist in history.

1919: Jack The Ripper Suspect Aaron Kosminski Dies

Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish barber possibly linked to the Whitechapel Murders, dies in Leavesden Asylum in Hertfordshire, England at age 53. DNA evidence found on a shawl belonging to Catherine Eddowes revealed the presence of Kosminski’s blood and seminal fluid, though he has not been officially named as Jack the Ripper.

1987: Josefina Riveria Escapes Serial Killer Gary Heidnik

Josefina Riveria escapes serial killer Gary Heidnik in Philadelphia after months of captivity. Riveria was Heidnik’s first victim, and as time passed, Heidnik used her to kidnap at least five other women. All Heidnik’s victims were locked in his basement, and several were forced into a boarded up pit. Heidnik subjected his victims to horrific torture, rape, and even acts of cannibalism. While running errands with Heidnik, Riveria walked away while Heidnik was distracted and successfully called the police on a pay phone. They later raided the house of horrors and promptly arrested him.

1989: The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Cleanup Workers Exxon Valdez

Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty ImagesWorkers try to clean up oil along the Alaskan shoreline following the devastating spill.

An oil tanker called the Exxon Valdez owned by the Exxon Shipping Company spills 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound in Alaska after striking a reef. It was the worst spill of its kind in U.S. history at the time, with 1,300 miles of coastline were covered in oil. Hundreds of thousands of birds, otters, seals, whales, and other ocean creatures died in the wake of the disaster.

Later, it was discovered that the captain of the Exxon Valdez had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident and had allowed an unlicensed third mate to take control of the ship.