Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Back from the Land of Shadows

December 22nd, 2009 · No Comments


Upon recently hearing the classic Super Cat track “Scalp Dem” on WeFunk, we were reminded of a curious incident in dancehall history: Super Cat’s resurrection from the dead.

Okay, perhaps it wasn’t quite as dramatic as alll that. But back in May of 1997, the wire services ran a story stating that Super Cat had been mortally wounded during a Brooklyn holdup. This wasn’t mere Jeff Goldblum tomfoolery, but rather a legit news item confirmed by a New York Police Department spokesman. Within hours, though, it became clear that the victim was not Super Cat—perhaps someone at the hospital had a copy of Boops! lying around, and realized that the dying young man on the table wasn’t the Jamaican dancehall king.

Remembering this tale got us thinking: how many other times throughout history have rumors of a person’s demise been greatly exaggerated? Or not rumors, necessarily, but ostensibly reported-out media obituaries. We all know about that famous incident involving Mark Twain, but there have been plenty of other times when the Reaper’s arrival has been reported prematurely.

The one that stands out to us, though, is the case of Kate Webb, a Kiwi war correspondent who was captured in Cambodia in 1971:

Catherine M. (Kate) Webb, United Press International bureau manager in Phnom Penh missing since April 7 and feared dead was freed Saturday by Communist led forces…

She and her driver and a free-lance photographer were accompanying Cambodian paratroopers near Pieh Nil Pass when enemy troops attacked. The Cambodians fell back and one partrooper told other newsmen he saw enemy soldiers grab Miss Webb and drag her into the jungle.

Cambodian units returned to the scene of the fight eight days later and said they found the body of a foreign woman with extensive head wounds. It was presumed that the victim was Miss Webb.

In fact, that body was cremated and the ashes returned to Webb’s parents in New Zealand. We can only imagine their joy and shock upon learning weeks later that their daughter was alive, and free.

Several months back, we posted about the only “survivor” of Pan Am Flight 103—a man who missed the plane by five minutes, due to the fact that he was downing pints of Carlsberg with pals at the airport bar. He spoke of how the incident changed him, making him less materialistic and more spiritual. Do the loved ones of those who’ve “returned” from The Great Beyond undergo similar changes? And how do they deal with receiving a gift so many millions regularly pray for—a second chance at a relationship that seemed permanently broken by death?

Paging Michael Apted. Please tackle this issue in your next multi-decade documetary series.

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