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Curious Shooting


An accidental shooting on this day in 1916 led to some very curious events in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Although the shooting occurred on this day, July 9th, it was not reported until five days later, on July 14th. Miraculously, the victim, and probable shooter in the incident, somehow managed to survive those five days without food or medical attention.

Local bachelor John Stluhka left his home on July 9th with a small calibur rifle. He crawled back to his house later in the day after being shot through the left breast. The hole left by the bullet passed clear through his back. Stluhka, returning home after only great effort on his part, went right to bed. He laid there for five days, “unable to help himself or call for aid.” Finally, on July 14th, neighbors passing by Stluhka’s home heard his loud groans and went inside to investigate. They were surely not prepared to find Stluhka in bed with a gunshot wound. The man was rushed to a doctor, who was amazed to find that the bullet passed within two inches of Stluhka’s heart and very near his spine. But the doctor found himself even more amazed to hear Stluhka’s story. Stluhka claimed that he had been out some distance from his home when he was shot. He then related how he had crawled home on his hands and knees to his own bed where he laid for those five days without food, water, or help of any kind. Although Stluhka claimed that he had been shot by someone else, he would not say who had shot him or why; ironically, the doctor found that the size of the bullet that had entered Stluhka’s chest matched Stluhka’s own rifle. Needless to say, this information made the doctor a little more than skeptical to believe Stluhka’s story. Authorities came to believe that Stluhka accidentally shot himself while out, and crawled home to bed without reporting the incident to avoid embarrassment. Many believed refusing medical attention and food for five days after being shot through the chest quite the risk to take in order to avoid a little embarrassment, but it appeared that for the bachelor Stluhka, embarrassment was a worse fear than death.

Written by Jayme Job


Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). July 14, 1916: p. 2.