Unusual Ways to Die
"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."
—Major General John Sedgwick, last words
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Isaac Newton most likely died from mercury poisoning.
The noted playwright Tennessee Williams choked to death on an eyedropper bottle cap in 1983. (source)
In 1971, William G. Hall, of Shrewsbury, England, killed himself by drilling eight holes in his head with a power drill. (source)
The worst possible death for a Viking chief was to die peacefully in bed.
King John of England died in 1216 of over-eating. (source)
100 people a year choke to death on ball-point pens.
Allan Pinkerton, who founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, died from an infection that set in after he bit his own tongue. (source)
In 1996, Richard Versalle suffered a heart attack onstage at the New York Metropolitan Opera after delivering the line "Too bad you can only live so long" during a performance of The Makropulos Case.
During the Third Crusade, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa drowned while crossing the Saleph River in Turkey on horseback. (source)
King Adolf Frederick of Sweden ate himself to death in 1771. His final meal included cabbage, lobster, caviar, smoked herring, and Champagne, followed by 14 servings of semla in hot milk. (source)
According to legend, Draco, the 7th century B.C. Greek lawmaker, died when, after giving an excellent speech, the crowd showered him with cloaks and hats and he died of suffocation. (source)
Ethiopia's Emperor Menelik II believed that the Bible had curative powers, and he would eat a few pages of it to help restore his health whenever he felt sick. However, he died in 1913 as a result of eating the entire Book of Kings. (source)
In 1911, Jack Daniel, founder of the famous Tennessee whiskey distillery, died from blood poisoning that was the result of a toe injury caused by kicking his safe in anger when he could not remember its combination code.
King Alexandros I of Greece (1917–1920) died from blood poisoning after being bitten by his pet monkey. (source)
Under Massachusetts' Stubborn Child Act of 1654, parents could put their "stubborn" children to death. (source)
Henry I of England (reigned 1100–1135) died of food poisoning after eating too many lampreys at a banquet in France. His remains were sent back to England sewn into the hide of a bull. (source)
Ken Charles Barger, who was 47 years of age, accidentally shot himself to death in December 1992 in Newton, North Carolina when, awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone but instead grabbed a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear.
In 1915, statistics were compiled from 18 U.S. states of the number of deaths from three branches of outdoor sport. 16 people were killed in football, 59 in hunting, and 59 in baseball. (source)
According to legend, Aeschylus, a fifth-century B.C. Greek playwright considered to be the father of Greek tragedies, died when an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a rock, dropped a tortoise on his head. (source)
In October 1997, 79-year-old Maxine Ann Keggerris believed that she could mow the lawn with her ride-on mower and exercise her dog at the same time. However, the dog's lead became entangled with the lawn mower, causing both to fall into a pond, where they both drowned. (source)
In ancient Egypt, slaves are known to have been murdered to accompany their deceased owners to the afterlife. (source)
In 1982, David Grundman was firing at cacti near Lake Pleasant, Arizona, just for fun. When he fired several shots at a cactus 26 feet in height at very close range, a 4-foot limb of the cactus, weakened by the gunfire, fell on him, crushing him to death.
In 1978, Kurt Gödel, the famous Austrian-American mathematician and logician, died of starvation. His wife had been hospitalized, and Gödel suffered from extreme paranoia and refused to eat food prepared by anyone else. He weighed only around 65 pounds at the time of his death.
On July 7, 1973, in Alwar, India, a bus was swept into a river by a flash flood. 70 of 78 passengers drowned because they belonged to two separate castes, and did not share a rope that would have allowed them to climb to safety. (source)
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In 1911, Bobby Leech survived a barrel ride over Niagara Falls. After recovering from his injuries, his new-found fame gave him the opportunity to embark on a worldwide lecture tour. In New Zealand, he slipped on a banana peel and died from complications due to the fall. (source)
Legend has it that Clement VII, pope from 1523 to 1534, was so fond of mushrooms that he made it illegal for anyone else to eat those growing in the Papal States, so that there would never be a shortage for his own table. He died in 1534 from eating a poisonous death cap mushroom. (source)
On July 12, 1997, Eric A. Barcia was found dead at Lake Accotink Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. He had joined together bungee cords for a planned 70-foot jump from a trestle, but was killed hitting the pavement. Unfortunately, the length of the cords was greater than the distance between the trestle and the ground. (source)
A common taboo is that royal blood must not be spilled on the ground, and as a result history records a few unusual methods of executing royals. When Kublai Khan defeated his uncle Nyan, he ordered that Nyan be placed in a carpet and tossed to and fro until he died. In 1688, the king of Siam (now Thailand) ordered that one of his relatives be placed in a large mortar and pounded to death with a huge pestle. (source)
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632–1687), the first documented conductor, was the first musician to use a baton. It was a heavy, six-foot-long staff that he pounded on the ground in time to the music. One day, at a concert to celebrate the king's return to health, he accidently stuck the staff into his foot. He developed gangrene and died. (source)
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The last occasion on which professional scientists took any serious notice of an alchemist's claim to have turned lead into gold happened in 1783. The Royal Society in London called on one of its Fellows, James Price, to show how he had achieved the alchemist's dream. But Price failed to replicate his successful experiment and, before the eyes of three colleagues, drank prussic acid and died.
View more facts about: Lasts
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