Peter N. Witt, 80, widely known for his research involving...


September 20, 1998

Peter N. Witt, 80, widely known for his research involving psychoactive drugs and spiders, died Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C.

Born in Berlin and educated in Germany and Austria, Witt moved after World War II to Switzerland, where a Life magazine article drew the world's attention to his work involving spiders. He had discovered that psychoactive drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms) and marijuana caused changes in the webs of a particular arachnid, the orb spider.

Gerold Frank, 91, a pioneer of the contemporary literary form of the as-told-to celebrity biography, died Thursday in Philadelphia. also wrote such well-reviewed books as "The Boston Strangler," which was made into a movie with Tony Curtis, and "An American Death," about the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

But to some extent, those books were overshadowed by his reputation as a ghostwriter for a succession of famous women, including singer Lillian Roth with "I'll Cry Tomorrow" and gossip columnist Sheilah Graham on "Beloved Infidel," the story of her relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both became movies.

Kurt Hager, 86, the longtime chief ideologue of the former East Germany's Politburo, the Communist Party's ruling body, died Friday in Berlin.

Mr. Hager was charged with numerous counts of manslaughter in the deaths of people trying to escape over East German borders to the West. But he was declared unfit to stand trial in 1996 because he was seriously ill with cancer.

Anthony M. Scibelli, 86, one of the country's longest-serving state lawmakers, died Friday in Springfield, Mass. The 48-year -- legislator held his Springfield seat until his death. Mr. Scibelli, a trucking business millionaire, first ran for office largely because he was upset that a trucking competitor -- in his view -- was gaining an unfair advantage with the city.

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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