Fascinating True Stories From the Flip Side of History

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1964: A Painful Mourning

On July 12, 1964, in Stylia, Greece, Mrs. Ioanna Apostolopoulos, age 60, was hosting a memorial service to honor her late husband Gregory, who had died forty days earlier.  

About 200 people chose to attend the service and were served a traditional Eastern Orthodox Church boiled wheat germ dish called koliva.  It was then sprinkled with powdered sugar.

As you could probably guess, the powdered sugar was not sugar at all.  Instead, it was an insecticide intended for use on fruit trees. 

Within ninety minutes, mourners started complaining of feeling sick.  Some of the victims started rolling on the floor in pain, while others could be heard screaming from within the walls of their homes.

Sixteen people died before help arrived and six more died in the hospital.  It was reported that another 128 people were recovering at local hospitals.  The small town of 388 people was in shock.

Apostolopoulos, along with her son and daughter, were charged with manslaughter by negligence, mainly because they continued to serve the poisoned koliva after people started falling ill from it.

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