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Unusual Ways to Die

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." —Major General John Sedgwick, last words

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In 1662, John Graunt, a London merchant, published the first set of actuarial tables in his book Observations on the Bills of Mortality. Graunt provides many interesting statistics regarding causes of deaths in London in 1632. Seven people are listed as being murdered, 10 people as having died from cancer, and no specific mention is made of heart ailments. On the other hand, 13 people are listed as having died from "planet", 38 from "king's evil", and 98 from "rising of the lights". Possibly the saddest statistic, however, is that out of 9,535 deaths that year, infants made up 2,268 of them, over 23%. (source)

View more facts about: Firsts | Interesting Statistics

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.

View more facts about: Vikings

In 2010, Jim Heselden, owner of the Segway Company, died while riding a Segway.

Allan Pinkerton, who founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, died from an infection that set in after he bit his own tongue. (source)

King John of England died in 1216 of over-eating. (source)

View more facts about: Mediaeval England

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)

View more facts about: Crusades

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 resulting from 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)

View more facts about: Animals | Royalty

100 people a year choke to death on ball-point pens.

View more facts about: Interesting Statistics

Under Massachusetts' Stubborn Child Act of 1654, parents could put their "stubborn" children to death. (source)

View more facts about: Laws and Customs

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)

View more facts about: Interesting Statistics

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 and both fell into a pond and drowned. (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 ancient Egypt, slaves are known to have been murdered to accompany their deceased owners to the afterlife. (source)

View more facts about: Ancient Egypt | Slavery

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.

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.

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)

View more facts about: India

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)

View more facts about: Food and Drink | Popes

In 1972, a certain Vera Czermak of Prague, Czechoslovakia found out that her husband was unfaithful. She decided to commit suicide and flung herself out of a third-storey window. It so happened that Mr. Czermak was walking by at the time, and she landed on him, killing him instantly. Mrs. Czermak was treated for minor injuries at the hospital and released. (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)

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