The killer whale that apparently killed a trainer today in front of a horrified SeaWorld audience was also connected to the death in 1999 of a drifter so obsessed with Ultima Online that he once wandered into Richard Garriott's home.
Daniel Dukes, 27, the son of Columbia, S.C., real estate brokers, drifted into Austin, Texas in the late 90s, compiling an impressive arrest record.
The Austin America-Statesman reported at the time that the crimes included "stealing a Barbie doll, briefcase and women's camisole from a Target store; clocking a fellow patron in the head at Joe's Generic Blues Bar; and breaking into a home where he was discovered resting in a downstairs bedroom."
But the crime that finally pushed him out of the city and towards his eventual death in Florida, was the strangest of all.
During an interview years ago, Garriott, creator of popular computer role-playing game Ultima, told me that it was Dukes who broke into his castle-like home in Austin in the late 90s. It's a story he tells with the ease of someone one who's told and retold the tale countless times.
Garriott says that the man, who he described as an obsessed Ultima fan, slipped into his fenced property, smashed out a glass door with a rock and headed to the stairs to his bedroom. Frightened, Garriott says he pulled out a gun and told the man to stop. When Dukes didn't, he fired off a warning shot leaving a bullet hole in the wall.
Ignoring the shot, the man walked up to Garriott's bedroom, stripped and got into bed. That's where police found him when they responded to Garriott's 911 call.
Eventually, Dukes found his way to Florida, hanging out in the Coconut Grove Hare Krishna Temple.
On July 6, 1999, Dukes' body was discovered draped across the back of Tillikum, the same killer whale who police say killed a trainer today and who in 1991 was blamed for the drowning of one of his trainers in Victoria, British Columbia, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Garriott was traveling today and couldn't be reached for comment, but in our conversations from a decade ago the game designer speculated that Dukes might have gotten lost in the fantasy world of Ultima that Garriott created and that his journey around the country, and to that killer whale, were part of that fantasy.
The original Ultima games included a virtue system that drew from both chivalry and Buddhism.