Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A List of Unusual Deaths


* 586 BC: Zedekiah, king of Jehudia, was punished for his attempt at mutiny by having his whole family brought before him and executed, his eyes then immediately punctured, his palms amputated and his mutilated body sent to rot in the dungeons.
* 458 BC: The Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a live tortoise on him, mistaking his bald head for a stone.
* 270 BC: The poet and grammarian Philetas of Cos reportedly wasted away and died of insomnia while brooding about the Liar paradox.
* 207 BC: Chrysippus, a Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after watching his drunken donkey attempt to eat figs.
* 53 BC: Following his defeat at Carrhae at the hands of the Parthians under Spahbod Surena, Marcus Licinius Crassus was executed by having molten gold poured down his throat. Some accounts claim that his head was then cut off and used as a stage prop in a play performed for the Parthian king Orodes II.
* 48 BC: The Roman general Pompey, fleeing to Egypt after being defeated at the Battle of Pharsalus by his rival Julius Caesar, was stabbed, killed, and decapitated: his head was then preserved in a jar by the young king Ptolemy XIII and presented to Caesar, with whom he intended to ingratiate himself. Caesar was not pleased.
* 43 BC: Cicero, the great Roman statesman, was labelled an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate. Like all those proscribed by the Triumvirate, he was hunted down and killed; his severed hands and head were then displayed on the Rostra in the Forum for several days, during which time Fulvia, wife of Mark Antony, is supposed to have stabbed his once-skilled tongue several times with a hairpin.
* 42 BC: Porcia Catonis, wife of Marcus Junius Brutus, killed herself by supposedly swallowing hot coals after hearing of her husband's death; however, modern historians claim that it is more likely that she poisoned herself with carbon monoxide, by burning coals in an unventilated room.
* 4 BC: Herod the Great suffered from fever, intense rashes, colon pains, foot drop, inflammation of the abdomen, a putrefaction of his genitals that produced worms, convulsions, and difficulty breathing before he finally gave up. Similar symptoms-- abdominal pains and worms-- accompanied the death of his grandson Herod Agrippa in 44 AD, after he had imprisoned St Peter. At various times each of these deaths has been considered divine retribution.
* 64 - 67: St Peter was executed by the Romans. According to many sources, he asked not to be crucified in the normal way, but was instead executed on an inverted cross. This is the only recorded instance of this type of crucifixion.
* 69: The short-time Roman emperor Galba was killed after becoming extremely unpopular with both the Roman people and the Praetorian guard-- however, 120 different people claimed credit for having killed him. All of these names were recorded in a list and they all were later themselves executed by the emperor Vitellius.
* 258: St Lawrence was martyred by being burned or 'grilled' on a large metal gridiron at Rome. Images of him often show him holding the instrument of his martyrdom. Legend says that he was so strong-willed that instead of giving in to the Romans and releasing information about the Church, at the point of death he exclaimed "I am done on this side! Turn me over and eat."
* 260: According to some accounts, Roman emperor Valerian, after being defeated in battle and captured by the Persians, was used as a footstool by their king Shapur I. After a long period of mistreatment and humiliation, he offered Shapur a huge ransom for his release. In reply, Shapur had molten gold poured down Valerian's throat. He then had the unfortunate emperor skinned and his skin stuffed with straw or dung and preserved as a trophy in the main Persian temple. Only after Persia's defeat in their last war with Rome three and a half centuries later was his skin given a cremation and burial. (Interestingly, a recent report from Iran mentions the restoration of a bridge supposed to have been built by Valerian and his soldiers for Shapur in return for their freedom).

* 415: The Greek mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria was murdered by a mob by having her skin ripped off with sharp oyster-shells and what remained of her being burned

Middle Ages

# 1016: Edmund II of England was rumoured to have been stabbed in the gut or bowels while he was performing his ablutions.
# 1277: Pope John XXI was killed in the collapse of his scientific laboratory.]
# 1305: Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace was stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while still alive, emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts.
# 1327: Edward II of England, after being deposed and imprisoned by his Queen consort Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, was rumored to have been murdered by having a red-hot iron inserted into his anus.
# 1478: George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence reportedly was executed by drowning in a barrel of Malmsey wine at his own request.

Early Modern Times

# 1559: King Henry II of France was killed during a stunt knight's jousting match, when his helmet's soft golden grille gave way to a broken lancetip which pierced his eye and entered his brain.
# 1601: Tycho Brahe, according to legend, died of complications resulting from a strained bladder at a banquet. It would have been extremely bad etiquette to leave the table before the meal was finished, so he stayed until he became fatally ill. This version of events has since been brought into question as other causes of death (murder by Johannes Kepler, suicide, and lead poisoning among others) have come to the fore.
# 1671: François Vatel, chef to Louis XIV, committed suicide because his seafood order was late and he couldn't stand the shame of a postponed meal. His body was discovered by an aide, sent to tell him of the arrival of the fish.
# 1687: Jean-Baptiste Lully, composer, died of a gangrenous abscess after piercing his foot with a staff while he was vigorously conducting a Te Deum. The performance was to celebrate the king's recovery from an illness.
# 1753: Professor Georg Wilhelm Richmann, of Saint Petersburg, Russia, was struck and killed by a globe of ball lightning while observing a storm.
# 1771: King of Sweden, Adolf Frederick, died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after having consumed a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off with 14 servings of his favourite dessert: semla served in a bowl of hot milk. He is thus remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as "the king who ate himself to death."

Modern Age

19th century

* 1830: William Huskisson, statesman and financier, was crushed to death by the world's first passenger train (Stephenson's Rocket), at its public opening.
* 1834: David Douglas, Scottish botanist, fell into a pit trap accompanied by a bull. He was mauled and possibly crushed.
* 1841: William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, died of pneumonia one month after delivering his two-hour inauguration speech in cold weather without an overcoat.
* 1868: Matthew Vassar, brewer and founder of Vassar College, died in mid-speech while delivering his farewell address to the College Board of Trustees.
* 1884: Allan Pinkerton, detective, died of gangrene resulting from having bitten his tongue after stumbling on the sidewalk.
* 1899: French president Félix Faure died of a stroke while receiving oral sex in his office.

20th century

* A number of performers have died of natural causes during public performances, including:
o 1943: Critic Alexander Woollcott suffered a fatal heart attack during an on-air discussion about Adolf Hitler.
o 1958: Gareth Jones, actor, collapsed and died while in make-up between scenes of a live television play, Underground, at the studios of Associated British Corporation in Manchester. Director Ted Kotcheff continued the play to its conclusion, improvising around Jones's absence.
o 1960: Baritone Leonard Warren collapsed on the stage of the New York Metropolitan Opera of a major stroke during a performance of La forza del destino. According to legend, the last line he sang was "Morir? Tremenda cosa." ("To die? A tremendous thing.") However, witnesses say he was just past that aria and his actual last line was "Gioia, o gioia!" (Joy, oh joy!)
o 1971: Jerome Irving Rodale, an American pioneer of organic farming, died of a heart attack while being interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show. According to urban legend, when he appeared to fall asleep, Cavett quipped "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?", which Cavett has recently stated in a May 2007 New York Times article was incorrect - the initial reaction to Rodale was fellow guest Pete Hamill noticing something was wrong, and saying in a low voice to Cavett, "This looks bad." The show was never broadcast.
o 1984: Tommy Cooper collapsed from a massive heart attack in front of millions of television viewers, midway through his act, on the popular ITV variety show, Live from Her Majesty's. At first the audience assumed he was joking.
o 1987: Dick Shawn, a comedian who starred in the 1968 movie The Producers, died of a heart attack while portraying a politician. Just before he died, he announced, "if elected, I will not lay down on the job,".

* A number of performers have died from unnatural causes during a practice or public performance, including:
o 1925: Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart, a circus strongman and Jewish folklore hero died during a demonstration in which he drove a spike through five one-inch thick oak boards using only his bare hands when his knee was accidentally pierced. The spike was rusted and caused an infection which led to fatal blood poisoning. He was the subject of the Werner Herzog film, Invincible.
o 1972: Leslie Harvey, guitarist of Stone the Crows was electrocuted on stage by a live microphone.
o 1976: Keith Relf, former singer for British rhythm and blues band The Yardbirds, died while practicing his electric guitar, electrocuted because the guitar was not properly grounded.
o 1999: Owen Hart, a professional wrestler for WWE died during a Pay-Per-View event when performing a stunt. It was planned to have Owen come down from the rafters of the Kemper Arena on a safety harness tied to a rope to make his ring entrance. The safety latch was released and Owen dropped 78 feet into the wrestling ring. The PPV continued even after he was pronounced dead.

* 1911: Jack Daniel, founder of the Tennessee whiskey distillery, died of blood poisoning six years after receiving a toe injury when he kicked his safe in anger at being unable to remember its combination code.
* 1912: Tailor Franz Reichelt fell to his death off the first deck of the Eiffel Tower while testing his invention, the coat parachute. It was his first ever attempt with the parachute and he'd told the authorities in advance he would test it first with a dummy.
* 1916: Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, died of drowning while trapped under ice. Although the details of his murder are disputed, he was allegedly placed in the water through a hole in the winter ice when he stubbornly refused to die after having been poisoned, bludgeoned, castrated, and shot multiple times in the head, lung, and liver.
* 1920: Baseball player Ray Chapman was killed when he was hit in the head by a pitch.
* 1923: George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon allegedly becomes the first to die from King Tut's Curse after a mosquito bite on his face becomes seriously infected.
* 1923: Frank Hayes, jockey, suffered a heart attack during a horse race. The horse, Sweet Kiss, went on to finish first, making Hayes the only deceased jockey to win a race.
* 1927: J.G. Parry-Thomas, a British racing driver, was decapitated by his car's drive chain which, under stress, snapped and whipped into the cockpit. He was attempting to break his own Land speed record which he had set the previous year. Despite being killed in the attempt, he succeeded in setting a new record of 171 mph.
* 1927: Isadora Duncan, dancer, died of accidental strangulation and broken neck when her scarf caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger.
* 1928: Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian physician, died following one of his experiments, in which the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis, L. I. Koldomasov, was given to him in a transfusion.
* 1933: Michael Malloy, a homeless man, was murdered by gassing after surviving multiple poisonings, intentional exposure and being struck by a car. Malloy was murdered by five men in a plot to collect on life insurance policies they had purchased.
* 1935: Baseball player Len Koenecke was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher by the crew of an aircraft he had chartered, after provoking a fight with the pilot while the plane was in the air.
* 1941: Sherwood Anderson, writer, swallowed a toothpick at a party and then died of peritonitis.
* 1943: Lady be Good, a USAAF B-24 bomber lost its way and crash landed in the Libyan Desert. Mummified remains of its crew, who struggled for a week without water, were not found until 1960.
* 1944: Inventor and chemist Thomas Midgley, Jr., accidentally strangled himself with the cord of a pulley-operated mechanical bed of his own design.
* 1947: The Collyer brothers, extreme cases of compulsive hoarders were found dead in their home in New York. The younger brother, Langley, died by falling victim to a booby trap he had set up, causing a mountain of objects, books, and newspapers to fall on him crushing him to death. His blind brother, Homer, who had depended on Langley for care, died of starvation some days later. Their bodies were recovered after massive efforts in removing many tons of debris from their home.
* 1960: In the Nedelin disaster, over 100 Soviet missile technicians and officials died when a switch was turned on unintentionally igniting the rocket, including Red Army Marshal Nedelin who was seated in a deck chair just 40 meters away overseeing launch preparations. The events were filmed by automatic cameras.
* 1967: A flash fire began in the pure oxygen atmosphere during a training exercise inside the unlaunched Apollo 1 spacecraft, killing Command Pilot Gus Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee. The door to the capsule was unable to be opened during the fire because of its specific design.
* 1967: Vladimir Komarov became the first person to die during a space mission after the parachute of his capsule failed to deploy.
* 1973: Péter Vályi, finance minister of Hungary fell into a blast furnace (some sources say a pit of molten iron) on a visit to a steelworks factory at Miskolc.
* 1974: Christine Chubbuck, an American television news reporter, committed suicide during a live broadcast on July 15. At 9:38 AM, 8 minutes into her talk show, on WXLT-TV in Sarasota, Florida, she drew out a revolver and shot herself in the head.
* 1975: On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King's Lynn literally died laughing whilst watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, who was a witness, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing whilst watching a sketch in the episode "Kung Fu Kapers" in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from a psychopathic black pudding in a demonstration of the Scottish martial art of "Hoots-Toot-ochaye." After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired from heart failure.
* 1977: Tom Pryce, a Formula One driver, and a 19-year-old track marshal Jansen Van Vuuren both died at the 1977 South African Grand Prix after Van Vuuren ran across the track beyond a blind brow to attend to another car which had caught fire and was struck by Pryce's car at approximately 170mph. Pryce was struck in the face by the marshal's fire extinguisher and was killed instantly.
* 1978: Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was assassinated by poisoning in London by an unknown assailant who jabbed him in the calf with a specially modified umbrella that fired a metal pellet with a small cavity full of ricin poison.
* 1978: Janet Parker, a British medical photographer, died of smallpox in 1978, ten months after the disease was eradicated in the wild, when a researcher at the laboratory Parker worked at accidentally released some virus into the air of the building. She is believed to be the last smallpox fatality in history.
* 1981: A 25-year-old Dutch woman studying in Paris, Renée Hartevelt, was killed and eaten by a classmate, Issei Sagawa, when he invited her to dinner for a literary conversation. The killer was declared unfit to stand trial and extradited back to Japan, where he was released from custody within fifteen months.
* 1981: Boris Sagal, a motion picture-director, died while shooting the TV miniseries World War III when he walked into the tail-rotor blade of a helicopter and was decapitated.
* 1982: Vic Morrow, actor, was decapitated by a helicopter blade during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie, along with two child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen.
* 1982: Vladimir Smirnov, an Olympic champion fencer, died of brain damage nine days after his opponent's foil snapped during a match, pierced his eyeball and entered his brain.
* 1983: A diver on the Byford Dolphin oil exploration rig was violently dismembered and pulled through a narrowly opened hatch when the decompression chamber was accidentally opened, causing explosive decompression.
* 1983: Tennessee Williams, American playwright, died choking on a bottle cap. He was in a hotel but was too drunk to leave his room or make sufficient noise to attract attention.
* 1983: Sergei Chalibashvili, a professional diver, died after a diving accident during World University Games. When he attempted a three-and-a-half reverse somersault in the tuck position, he smashed his head on the board and was knocked unconscious. He died after being in a coma for a week.
* 1984: Jon-Erik Hexum, an American television actor, died after he shot himself in the head with a prop gun during a break in filming. Hexum apparently did not realize that blanks use paper or plastic wadding to seal gun powder into the shell, and that this wadding is propelled out of the barrel of the gun with enough force to cause severe injury or death if the weapon is fired at point-blank range.
* 1986: While on the air giving a traffic report, the helicopter that Jane Dornacker was riding in stalled and crashed into the Hudson River, killing her. This was the second helicopter crash she had been in that year.
* 1987: R. Budd Dwyer, a Republican politician, committed suicide during a televised press conference. Facing a potential 55-year jail sentence for alleged involvement in a conspiracy, Dwyer shot himself in the mouth with a revolver.
* 1990: Joseph W. Burrus, aged 32, an aspiring magician, decided to perform the "buried alive" illusion in a plastic box covered with cement. The cement crushed the box and he died of asphyxia.
* 1990: George Allen, an American football coach, died a month after some of his players gave him a Gatorade Shower following a victory (as it is tradition in American Football). Some argue this resulted in pneumonia.
* 1993: Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was shot and killed by a prop .44 Magnum gun while filming the movie The Crow. The gun was pre-loaded by the Weapons Master for the set, but the casing for the blank shattered upon firing and the fragments became instant projectiles. They pierced Brandon's chest in five places, some in the heart. It was not instantly recognized by the crew or other actors; they believed he was still acting.
* 1993: Garry Hoy, a Toronto lawyer, fell to his death after he threw himself through the glass wall on the 24th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre in order to prove the glass was "unbreakable".
* 1996: Sharon Lopatka, an internet entrepreneur from Maryland who allegedly solicited a man via the Internet to torture and kill her for the purpose of sexual gratification. Her killer, Robert Fredrick Glass, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the homicide.
* 1998: Tom and Eileen Lonergan were stranded while scuba diving with a group of divers off Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The group's boat accidentally abandoned them due to an incorrect head count taken by the dive boat crew. The couple was left to fend for themselves in shark-infested waters. Their bodies were never recovered. The incident is depicted in the film Open Water.

21st century

* 2001: Bernd-Jürgen Brandes was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and then eaten by Armin Meiwes. Before the killing, both men dined on Brandes' severed penis. Brandes had answered an internet advertisement by Meiwes looking for someone for this purpose. Brandes explicitly stated in his will that he wished to be killed and eaten. This is referred to in the song "Mein Teil" by German NDH band Rammstein.
* 2003: Brian Wells, a pizza delivery man, was killed by a time bomb which was fastened around his neck. He was apprehended by the police after robbing a bank, and claimed he had been forced to do it by three people who had put the bomb around his neck and would kill him if he refused. The bomb later exploded, killing him.
* 2003: Brandon Vedas died of a drug overdose while engaged in an Internet chat, as shown on his webcam.
* 2003: Timothy Treadwell, an American environmentalist who had lived in the wilderness among bears for thirteen summers in a remote region in Alaska, was killed and partially consumed by bears, along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard. The incident is described in Werner Herzog's documentary film Grizzly Man.
* 2005: Kenneth Pinyan of Seattle died of acute peritonitis after submitting to anal intercourse with a stallion in the town of Enumclaw, Washington. Pinyan had done this before, and he delayed his visit to the hospital for several hours out of reluctance for official cognizance. The case led to the criminalization of bestiality in Washington. His story was recounted in the 2007 documentary film Zoo.
* 2005: 28-year-old Korean video game addict Lee Seung Seop collapsed and died of fatigue in an Internet cafe after playing World of Warcraft for almost 50 consecutive hours.
* 2006: Steve Irwin, a television personality and naturalist known as The Crocodile Hunter, died when his heart was impaled by a short-tail stingray barb while filming a documentary entitled "Ocean's Deadliest" in Queensland's Great Barrier Reef.
* 2006: Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB operative and Russian expatriate who had been investigating the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was poisoned by polonium-210, an extremely rare radioactive metalloid.
* 2006: Mariesa Weber, a 5'3" Florida woman, fell behind a 6' tall bookcase in her family's home and suffocated. She was not discovered for 11 days; her family thought she had been kidnapped.
* 2007: Jennifer Strange, a 28-year-old woman from Sacramento, died of water intoxication while trying to win a Wii console in a KDND 107.9 "The End" radio station's "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest, which involved drinking large quantities of water without urinating.
* 2007: Kevin Whitrick, a 42-year-old man committed suicide live on a webcam during an internet chat session.
* 2007: Martin Harris, a Danish train surfer, who published several video clips on the internet and was featured on regional TV for his sport, was killed during train surfing while passing under a low bridge.