The English Yew, or taxus baccata (“taxus” meaning toxin), is one of the deadliest trees on the planet. The evergreen has a majestic and lush appearance and is fairly common in forests of Europe. The yew is considered by scientists to be an odd and primitive conifer along with the monkey puzzle tree of Chile and Gingko biloba tree of Asia. The yew has a rather sad history. All parts – save for the flesh of the berries – are extremely poisonous. Because the toxin causes convulsions and paralysis, it was once used as an abortifacient. Apothecaries would dry and powder the leaves and stems and give desperate women minute amounts in the days before birth control was available. Unfortunately, death would often result. The yew has been quite popular throughout history for a number of medicinal purposes at extremely dilute levels, but it is deemed too dangerous in modern medical practice to be of use. The yew’s primary toxin is taxine, a cardiac depressant. The yew acts rapidly and there is no antidote.
Edmund Emil “Big Ed” Kemper III (born December 18, 1948), also known as “The Co-ed Killer”, is an American serial killer who was active in California in the early 1970s. He started his criminal life by shooting both his grandparents when he was 15 years old. Kemper later killed and dismembered six female hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz area. He then murdered his mother and one of her friends before turning himself in to the authorities days later.
Between May 1972 and February 1973, Kemper embarked on a spree of murders, picking up eight female students hitchhiking, taking them to isolated rural areas and killing them. He would stab, shoot or smother the victims and afterwards take them back to his apartment where he would have sex with their decapitated heads and bodies and then dissect them. Kemper had managed to stay one step ahead of investigators by virtue of his being friends with many Santa Cruz County police officers. Edmund was a regular at a bar called The Jury Room, which was a popular hangout with local law enforcement officers. None of his friends had any suspicions and freely discussed the case with him. However, his mother’s death changed all of that.
Agent Orange is the codename for an herbicide used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War to defoliate the thick jungles of Vietnam. 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 people being killed or maimed due to the adverse effects of the herbicide, and 500,000 children born with birth defects. Children in the areas where Agent Orange was used have been affected and have multiple health problems, including cleft palate, mental disabilities, hernias, and extra digits.