List of unusual deaths



* 456 BC: Aeschylus, Greek dramatist, according to legend, died when a vulture, mistaking his bald head for a stone, dropped a tortoise on it.

* 207 BC: Chrysippus, Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after watching his drunken donkey attempt to eat figs.

* 121 BC: Gaius Gracchus, Roman tribune, according to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, was executed by assassins out to receive a bounty on the weight of his head in gold. One of the co-conspirators in his murder, Septimuleius, then decapitated Gaius, scooped the brains out of his severed head, and filled the cavity of his skull with molten lead. Once the lead hardened, the head was taken to the Senate and weighed in on the scale at over seventeen pounds. Septimuleius was paid in full. [1]

* 30 BC: Cleopatra, queen of Ptolemaic Egypt, allegedly killed herself with an asp snake bite.

* 260: 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 treatment and humiliation of this sort, he offered Shapur a huge ransom for his release. In reply, Shapur had molten gold poured down his throat. He then had the unfortunate Valerian skinned and his skin stuffed with straw 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.

* 453: Attila the Hun suffered a severe nosebleed and choked to death on his wedding night.

Middle Ages

* 892: Sigurd I of Orkney. Sigurd the Mighty conquered much of northern Scotland, which brought him into conflict with Maelbrigte of Moray. Sigurd defeated Maelbrigte in 892, killed him, cut off his head and strapped it to his saddle as a sign of triumph. As he rode, however, Maelbrigte's tooth rubbed against Sigurd's leg causing a wound which turned septic and Sigurd died of the poison.

* 895: lmos, the top chieftain leading Hungarian tribes towards the Carpathian basin, was executed in a horse sacrifice on the border, and not allowed to enter the haven for ritual reasons - an ironic reflection of the fate of Moses, but in full accordance with the nomadic customs that called for a chieftain to be sacrificed if the tribe suffered any large-scale defeats (in this case the Pecheneg invasion).

* 1063: King Bla I of Hungary died when his tall wooden throne collapsed due to sabotage.

* 1190: Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, drowned in the Saleph River en route to the Third Crusade. It is believed that he suffered a heart attack from the shock of the cold water while he was drinking it. Weighed down by his armour, he drowned in water that was barely hip-deep.

* 1277: Pope John XXI was killed in the collapse of his scientific laboratory.

* 1327: King 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 drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine.

Early Modern Times

* 1514: Gyrgy Dzsa, leader of a peasants' revolt in the Kingdom of Hungary, was roasted alive on a white hot iron chair. His captured companions were forced to eat his flesh.

* 1526: King Louis II of Hungary drowned in a stream under the weight of his own plate armour while fleeing the Ottomans after the lost battle of Mohcs.

* 1532: Vlad necatul (Vlad the Drowned), Prince of Wallachia, got severely drunk and rode his horse into the waters of the Dmbovi?a River.

* 1534: Pope Clement VII died after eating the death cap mushroom.

* 1543: Pedro de Valdivia, a dreaded conquistador, was captured by Native Americans and supposedly executed by pouring molten gold down his throat to satisfy his thirst for treasures.

* 1543: Joo Rodrigues Cabrilho, Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain (discoverer of California), died of gangrene in a broken leg. He broke the leg when jumping from one of his ships to attack hostile natives.

* 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, Danish astronomer, was once thought to have died of a bladder infection after refusing to leave for the bathroom during a banquet for the sake of good manners. However, newer research suggests that he died of mercury poisoning.

* 1626: Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman, and essayist, died of possible pneumonia after purchasing a chicken and stuffing it with snow to see if cold could preserve meat. Highgate is reputedly haunted by the chicken's ghost.

* 1671: Franois 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.

* 1695: Henry Purcell, composer, died of a chill after returning late from the theatre one night and finding that his wife had locked him out. It is also possible that he died of chocolate poisoning.

* 1799: Constantine Hangerli, Prince of Wallachia, was arrested by a kapucu and a Moor, and immediately executed by being strangled, shot, stabbed, and decapitated in quick succession.

Modern Age

19th century

* 1834: David Douglas, Scottish botanist, who fell in a pit trap, was crushed by a bull that fell in the same pit.

* 1841: William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States, gave the longest inaugural address in the history of the United States in heavy snow and subsequently caught a cold. It developed into pneumonia and killed him in a month.

* 1844: United States Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur and the Secretary of the Navy Thomas Walker Gilmer along with several other dignitaries were killed when the Peacemaker, a new experimental breech-loading 12-inch naval cannon on board the USS Princeton, exploded while firing a salute. The Princeton's captain, the press and the public blamed the great naval engineer John Ericsson, who had to flee to Europe even though the faulty cannon was a product of one of his rivals.

* 1849: Edgar Allan Poe, famous American writer and poet, was found on October 7, 1849, at a Baltimore tavern in a state of delirium and wearing clothes he didn't own. He died in a Washington, D.C. hospital early the next morning, his last words being "Lord, help my poor soul." While the official cause of death was listed as "congestion of the brain", the actual cause for his death has been a matter of debate ever since. The current prevailing theory is that he was a victim of rabies.

* 1850: Zachary Taylor, twelfth President of the United States, following ceremonies on an exceptionally hot July 4, had eaten a large quantity of iced milk and cherries. He then fell ill with acute indigestion and died five days later, after only 16 months in office. This led to speculation he might have been poisoned which in turn led to his body being exhumed in the early 1990s (the medical examination showed he was not poisoned).

* 1867: William Bullock was accidentally killed by his own invention, the web rotary press.

* 1867: John A. Roebling, civil engineer and designer of bridges died of tetanus sixteen days after his foot was crushed by a ferry while overseeing the initial construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in the East River.

* 1884: Allan Pinkerton, detective, died of gangrene resulting from having bitten his tongue after stumbling on the sidewalk.

* 1888: Charles-Valentin Alkan, composer and pianist, supposedly died when a bookcase collapsed on him when he was reaching for a copy of the Talmud from the top shelf (though the factuality of this event is disputed).

* 1898: Austrian empress Elisabeth (affectionately known as Sissi) was assassinated by a needlefile-wielding anarchist while boarding a ship. It is reported that she walked some dozen steps after being stabbed, her tight-fitting corset slowing down the internal bleeding.

20th century

* 1911: Jack Daniel, founder of the famous Tennessee whiskey distillery, died of blood poisoning due to a toe injury he received after kicking his safe in anger when he could not remember its combination code.

* 1915: Franois Faber, Luxembourgean Tour de France winner, died in a trench on the western front of World War I. He received a telegram saying his wife had given birth to a daughter. He cheered, giving away his position, and was shot by a German sniper.

* 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 after having been poisoned, shot multiple times in the head, lung, and liver, and bludgeoned.

* 1916 : The English satirist, novelist and wit Saki was killed in France, during World War I by a sniper's bullet, having reportedly cried "Put that damned cigarette out!" to a fellow officer in his trench lest the glowing embers reveal their whereabouts.

* 1926: Barcelona's star architect Antoni Gaudi was run over by a tram. Cab drivers did not take him to hospital immediately, not recognizing the ragged figure who had no money in his pockets. Gaudi was brought to a pauper's hospital, where he died some days later.

* 1927: J.G. Parry-Thomas, a British racing driver, was decapitated by his car's drive chain which, under duress, 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. Her last words before the car drove off were Adieu, mes amis. Je vais la gloire. (Farewell, my friends! I go to glory!)

* 1928: Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian physician, died following one of his experiments, in which the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis 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 to collect on life insurance policies they'd 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.

* 1938: Austrian author dn von Horvath was killed by a falling branch during a thunderstorm in Paris.

* 1940: Leon Trotsky, the Soviet revolutionary leader in exile, was assassinated with an ice axe in his Mexico home. His killer, spanish born soviet agent Ramon Mercader, acquired the ice axe in Trotsky's own office after being invited in. After receiving a brutal blow to the head, Trotsky fought and literally took a bite out of his murderer.

* 1940: Tom Mix, Actor, Western Star was killed in a minor car accident by an aluminum suitcase which dislodged from the back seat of his car and smacked him in the back of the head.

* 1940: Kysti Kallio, the Finnish president during the Winter War, died from stroke at Helsinki Railway Station while attempting to board on train to his home in Nivala, Ostrobothnia after resigning the office.

* 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.

* 1943: Critic Alexander Woollcott suffered a fatal heart attack during a discussion on Adolf Hitler. Listeners to the broadcast noticed that Woollcott, known for his wit, seemed strangely silent during much of it.

* 1944: Inventor and chemist Thomas Midgley, Jr., accidentally strangled himself with the cord of a pulley-operated mechanical bed of his own design.

* 1945: After surviving the Second World War, composer Anton Webern was shot by a drunk American sentry on the veranda of his son-in-law's house in Mittersill, Austria, when he had stepped outside to smoke his after-dinner cigar.

* 1953: 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.

* 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.

* 1960: Famed baritone Leonard Warren collapsed on the stage of the New York Metropolitan Opera of a massive stroke during a performance of La forza del destino. The last line he sang was "Morir? Tremenda cosa." ("To die? A terrible thing.")

* 1960: In the Nedelin disaster, over 100 Soviet rocket technicians and officials died when a switch was turned on unintentionally igniting the rocket. Red Army Marshal Nedelin was seated just 40 meters away overseeing launch preparations.

* 1967: A flash fire began in the pure oxygen atmosphere inside the unlaunched Apollo 1 spacecraft, killing its crew during a training exercise.

* 1967: Harold Holt, the serving Prime Minister of Australia, vanished while swimming on a beach near Melbourne. His body was never found.

* 1968: Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, author, was accidentally electrocuted to death while taking a bath.

* 1971: Jerome Irving Rodale, an American pioneer of organic farming, died of a heart attack while being interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show. When he appeared to fall asleep, Cavett quipped "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?".[2] The show was never broadcast.

* 1972: Leslie Harvey, guitarist of Stone the Crows was electrocuted on stage by a live microphone.

* 1973: Pter Vlyi, finance minister of Hungary fell into a blast furnace 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 15th. 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: Vaughn Bod, cartoonist, died while performing an act of autoerotic asphyxiation.

* 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 and was struck by Pryce's car. Pryce was hit 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: Claude Franois, a French pop singer, was accidentally electrocuted when he tried to fix a broken light bulb while standing in a filled bathtub.

* 1979: Bill Stewart, an ABC News correspondent, and his interpreter were executed by a Nicaraguan National Guardsman during a checkpoint stop. The incident was captured on tape.

* 1981: A 25-year-old Dutch woman studying in Paris, Rene 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.

* 1982: Vic Morrow, actor, was decapitated by a helicopter blade during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie and was killed instantly, 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: 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: Tommy Cooper, British television magician, died on stage of a heart attack at Her Majesty's Theatre during a live television routine. Most of the audience and viewers believed it was part of his act.

* 1984: Cats Falck, a Swedish TV reporter and her friend died in a car that fell into the water in a suburb of Stockholm. It was later found that this was a murder committed by Stasi, East German Secret police.

* 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. Whether he deliberately committed suicide or was simply unaware of the potentially deadly effects of the blank round was not determined.

* 1986: Jane Dornacker, a musician, actress and comedienne turned radio station traffic reporter, died after a helicopter owned by New York's WNBC-AM in which she was a passenger crashed into the Hudson River. The fatal crash occurred as Dornacker was delivering a traffic report, and was broadcast live on air. Her final words to the helicopter pilot Bill Pate, who survived, "Hit the water! Hit the water! Hit the water!", were heard by listeners.

* 1987: Dick Shawn, aged 63, an actor and comedian, died onstage on April 17, during a monologue about the Holocaust in San Diego, California. Due to the nature of his act, audience members were at first unaware that he had suffered a massive heart attack.

* 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.

* 1989: A Belgian teenager was killed by a crashing soviet MiG-23 fighter jet, which escaped from Poland on autopilot after the crew ejected over a false engine failure alarm.

* 1991: Redd Foxx, an American TV actor and comedian, died during a rehearsal on the set of the CBS sitcom The Royal Family from a heart attack. As a faked heart attack was a frequent gag used in Foxx's previous TV series, Sanford and Son, the rest of the cast thought he was joking around at first.

* 1993: Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, was shot and killed by a prop .44 Magnum gun while filming the movie The Crow. The scene involved the firing of a full-powder blank (full charge of gunpowder, but no bullet) at Brandon's character. However, unknown to the film crew/firearms technician, a bullet was already lodged in the barrel. The gun had previously been fired with a dummy round that had had all its gunpowder removed, but its primer charge left intact in error. The firing of the 'squib' lodged the bullet inside the barrel. When the full powder blank round was later fired, the bullet in the barrel shot out and fatally wounded Lee.

* 1994: Stephen Milligan, UK journalist and conservative politician, died due to autoerotic asphyxiation

* 1996: "The Engineer" Yahya Ayyash, chief Palestinian bombmaker of Hamas was assassinated by way of a Shin Bet (Shabak) rigged mobile phone, which detonated when he answered a call.

* 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.

* 1997: Karen Wetterhahn, an accomplished chemist and professor at Dartmouth College died slowly of mercury poisoning over the course of one year after accidentally allowing "a drop or two" of the toxic chemical dimethylmercury to fall onto her latex safety gloves.

* 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. Although their bodies were never recovered, they likely eventually died of dehydration, drowning, shark attack, or a combination thereof.

* 1999: Owen Hart, World Wrestling Federation or WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE) wrestler, died when he fell 78 feet while being lowered into the ring by a cable from the stadium rafters before a match onto a metal ring turnbuckle. He had been scheduled to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship that night.

21st century

* 2001: Bernd-Jrgen 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.

* 2001: June 1, Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal, enraged from a dispute over his marriage arrangements (and possibly intoxicated), reportedly went on a rampage at dinner and massacred nearly the entire Royal Family, including his father the king. But in accordance with custom and tradition, Dipendra, then in a coma due to wounds sustained either from palace guards or a botched suicide attempt, became king for three days before dying on June 4. He was succeeded by his uncle, whose son mysteriously survived the massacre unscathed.

* 2001: Orchestral conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli collapsed at the podium of a heart attack while conducting an emotionally charged scene in Aida.

* 2003: Brian Wells, pizza deliveryman, 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 then exploded, killing him.

* 2003: Timothy Treadwell, an American environmentalist who had lived in the wilderness among bears for thirteen summers in a remote portion of Alaska, was killed and partially consumed by bears along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard. The incident is chronicled in the documentary film Grizzly Man. [3]

* 2005: Kenneth Pinyan, an Enumclaw, WA. man, died of acute peritonitis after submitting to anal intercourse with a stallion. The man had done this before, though apparently this time his partner was a little too keen, and he delayed several hours to visit hospital wishing to avoid official cognisance. The case led to the criminalization of bestiality in Washington. [4]

* 2005: 28-year-old Korean Lee Seung Seop collapsed in an Internet cafe after playing World of Warcraft and Starcraft for almost 50 hours.

* 2006: Michael Maas, aged 61, a window fitter from Swindon, UK, caught septicemia from a cat scratch, and died from blood poisoning. Recording a verdict of death by natural causes, the Wiltshire coroner said it would be unduly harsh to lay the blame on the cat.