List of unusual deaths

List of unusual deaths

This article provides a list of unusual deaths – unique or extremely rare circumstances – recorded throughout history. The list also includes less rare, but still unusual, deaths of prominent people.


"Note: Many of these stories are likely to be apocryphal (uncertain authenticity)"

* 458 BC: Aeschylus,a Greek playwright, was killed when an eagle dropped a live tortoise on him, mistaking his bald head for a stone. The tortoise survived. [Sommerstein, Alan H. (1996), Aeschylean Tragedy, Bari . p.33]
* 430 BC: Empedocles, Pre-Socratic philosopher, secretly jumped into an active volcano (Mt. Etna). According to Diogenes Laërtius, this was to convince the people of his time that he had been taken up by the Gods on Olympus.
* 272 BC: Pyrrhus of Epirus, the famous conquerer and source of the term "pyrrhic victory", according to Plutarch died while fighting an urban battle in Argos on the back of an elephant when an old woman threw a roof tile at him, stunning him and allowing an Argive soldier to kill him. [Citation
author = Thornton, W.
year = 1968
title = Allusions in Ulysses
publisher = University of North Carolina Press Chapel Hill
isbn = 0807840890
oclc = 185879476 27859245
page = 29
url =
* 270 BC: Philitas of Cos, Greek intellectual, is said by Athenaeus of Naucratis to have studied false arguments and erroneous word-usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death. [Athenaeus, "Deipnosophistae", [ 9.401e] .] Alan Cameron speculates that Philitas died from a wasting disease which his contemporaries joked was caused by his pedantry. [cite journal |journal= The Classical Quarterly |volume=41 |issue=2 |year=1991 |pages=534–8 |author=Alan Cameron |title= How thin was Philitas?]
*207 BC: Chrysippus, a Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after watching his drunk donkey attempt to eat figs. [Donaldson, John William and Müller, Karl Otfried. "A History of the Literature of Ancient Greece". London: John W. Parker and Son, 1858, p. 27.]
*162 BC: Eleazar Maccabeus was crushed to death at the Battle of Beth-zechariah by a War elephant that he believed to be carrying Seleucid King Antiochus V; charging in to battle, Eleazar rushed underneath the elephant, thrust a spear into its belly, whereupon it fell dead on top of him [Scullard, H.H "The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World" Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 186]
*53 BC: Marcus Licinius Crassus was executed by having molten gold poured down his throat, following his defeat at Carrhae at the hands of the Parthians under Spahbod Surena. 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. [ [ Marcus Licinius Crassus ] ]
*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. [Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6] 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.Fact|date=June 2008
*64 - 67: St Peter was executed by the Romans. According to legend, he asked not to be crucified in the normal way, but was instead executed on an inverted cross. He said he was not worthy to be crucified in the same way as was Jesus.
*c. 98: Saint Antipas, Bishop of Pergamum, was roasted to death in a brazen bull during the persecutions of Emperor Domitian. Saint Eustace, as well as his wife and children supposedly suffered a similar fate under Hadrian. The creator of the brazen bull, Perillos of Athens, was according to legend the first victim of the brazen bull when he presented his invention to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum. [ [ Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, WA ] ]
*260: Roman emperor Valerian, after being defeated in battle and captured by the Persians, was used as a footstool by the King Shapur I. After a long period of punishment and humiliation, he offered Shapur a huge ransom for his release. In reply, Shapur had the emperor skinned alive and his skin stuffed with straw or dung and preserved as a trophy. Only after the Sassanid dynasty's defeat in their last war with Rome three and a half centuries later was his skin given a cremation and burial. [Lactantius, "De Mortibus Persecutorum", v; Wickert, L., "Licinius (Egnatius) 84" in "Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie" 13.1 (1926), 488-495; Parker, H., "A History of the Roman World A.D. 138 to 337" (London, 1958), 170. From [] .] (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). [ [ "Iran to restore ancient bridge built by captive Roman emperor"] "Press TV", 02 Mar 2007]
*336: Arius, a Unitarian Christian priest who precipitated the Council of Nicea, passed wind and evacuated his internal organs. [ [ Arius: Biography and Much More from ] ]
*415: Hypatia of Alexandria, Greek mathematician and philosopher, was murdered by a mob by having her skin ripped off with sharp sea-shells and what remained of her burned. (Various types of shells have been named: clams, oysters, abalones. Other sources claim tiles or pottery-shards were used.) [ [ Hypatia biography ] ]

Middle Ages

*1135: Henry I of England is said to have died after gorging on lampreys, his favourite food. [ [ "The pre-historic visitors"] , "BBC", 18 September 2007]
*1258: Al-Musta'sim was killed during the Mongol invasion of the Abbasid Caliphate. Hulagu Khan, not wanting to spill royal blood, had the Caliph wrapped in a rug and trampled to death by horses. [ [ "The Mamluks"] , Jame Waterson, "History Today", March, 2006]
*1277: Pope John XXI was killed in the collapse of his scientific laboratory. [Joseph Epiphane Darras and White, Charles Ignatius. "A General History of the Catholic Church: From the Life of the Christian Era to the Twentieth Century", pp. 406-7. New York: P. J. Kennedy, 1898.]
*1308: John Duns Scotus, O.F.M. according to an old tradition was buried alive following his lapse into a coma.
*1322: Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford was fatally speared through the anus by a pikeman hidden under the bridge during the Battle of Boroughbridge. [cite book|last=Mortimer|first=Ian|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=The Greatest Traitor|year=2006|publisher=Thomas Dunne Books|location=Unknown|id= p. 124]
*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. [cite book |last=Schama |first=Simon |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=A History of Great Britain: 3000BC-AD1603|year=2000 |publisher=BBC Worldwide |location= London|id= p.220]
*1410: Martin I of Aragon died from a lethal combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing. [ [ "Patronage and Piety - Montserrat and the Royal House of Medeival Catalonia-Aragon"] , Paul N. Morris, "Mirator Lokakuu", October, 2000]
*1478: George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence reportedly was executed by drowning in a barrel of Malmsey wine [Thompson, C. J. S. "Mysteries of History with Accounts of Some Remarkable Characters and Charlatans", pp. 31 "ff." Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.] at his own request.


*1514: György Dózsa, székely man-at-arms and peasants' revolt leader was condemned to sit on a heated iron throne with a heated iron crown on his head and a heated sceptre in his hand (mocking at his ambition to be king). While Dózsa was suffering, he was set upon and eaten by six of his fellow rebels, who had been starved beforehand.Fact|date=June 2008
*1556: Humayun, a Mughal emperor, was descending from the roof of his library after observing Venus, when he heard the "mu'azaan", or call to prayer. Humayun's practice was to bow his knee when he heard the "azaan", and when he did his foot caught the folds of his garment, causing him to fall down several flights. He died 3 days later of the injuries at the age of 47. [ [ Gulbadan Begum, "The History of Humayun (Humayun-nama)"] . Trans. & ed. Annette Beveridge, Royal Asiatic Soc. (London) 1902 (ISBN 81-215-1006-6)] Internet Archive. page 55.]
*1559: King Henry II of France was killed during a jousting match, when his helmet's soft golden grille gave way to a broken lancetip which pierced his eye and entered his brain. [ [ Classic Encyclopedia Web, Based on 1911 Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica] ]
*1599: Nanda Bayin, a Burman king, reportedly "laughed to death when informed, by a visiting Italian merchant, that Venice was a free state without a king."cite book
title=Schott's Original Miscellany
author=Schott, Ben
location=London | publisher=Bloomsbury Publishing
id=ISBN 0-7475-6320-9
*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. [ [ Brahe, Tycho (1546-1601) - from Eric Weisstein's World of Scientific Biography ] ]
*1660: Thomas Urquhart, Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of Rabelais into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne. [cite book | title = Rabelais in English Literature | last = Brown | first = Huntington | isbn = 0-714-620-513 | publisher = Routledge | pages = p. 126 | year = 1968] [cite book | title = The History of Scotish Poetry | publisher = Edmonston & Douglas | year = 1861 | pages = p. 539]
*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. The authenticity of this story is questionable. [ [ Bartelby] , but it states the authenticity is doubtful.]
*1673: Molière, the French actor and playwright, died after being seized by a violent coughing fit, whilst playing the title role in his play Le Malade imaginaire (The Hypochondriac or The Imaginary Invalid). [ [ "Moliere,: The Imaginary Invalid"] , "NYU Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database", 23 October 2003]
*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", as it was customary at that time to conduct by banging a staff on the floor. The performance was to celebrate the king's recovery from an illness. [ [ Biography of Jean-Baptiste Lully] , "Vanderbilt University"]

Age of Reason

*1751: Julien Offray de La Mettrie, the author of "L'Homme machine", a major materialist and sensualist philosopher died of overeating at a feast given in his honor. His philosophical adversaries suggested that by doing so, he had contradicted his theoretical doctrine with the effect of his practical actions. [ [ Julien Offray de La Mettrie Biography] "Encyclopedia of World Biography"]
*1753: Professor Georg Wilhelm Richmann, of Saint Petersburg, Russia, was struck and killed by a globe of ball lightning. [ [ Benjamin Franklin and Lightning Rods] "Physics Today", January 2006]
*1771: Adolf Frederick, king of Sweden, died of digestion problems on 12 February 1771 after having consumed a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off with 14 servings of his favorite dessert: semla served in a bowl of hot milk. [ [ The lowdown on Sweden's best buns] "The Local", February 2007] He is thus remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as "the king who ate himself to death." [ [ Semlor are Swedish treat for Lent] Sandy Mickelson, "The Messenger", 27 February 2008]
*1794: John Kendrick, an American sea captain and explorer, was killed in the Hawaiian Islands when a British ship mistakenly used a loaded cannon to fire a salute to Kendrick's vessel. [ [] "John Kendrick," "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]

Modern Age

19th century

*1830: William Huskisson, statesman and financier, was crushed to death by the world's first mechanically powered passenger train (Stephenson's Rocket), at its public opening. [ [ "Huskisson, William"] , "International Centre for Digital Content", 17 January 2003]
*1834: David Douglas, Scottish botanist, fell into a pit trap accompanied by a bull. He was gored and possibly crushed. [ [ University of Maryland] : The source is uncertain if the bull fell in before or after him.]
*1862: Jim Creighton, baseball player, died when he swung a bat too hard and ruptured his bladder.
*1865: Lord Francis Douglas died after falling 4000 feet, having completed the first summit of the Matterhorn. [ [ The Matterhorn ] ]
*1868: Matthew Vassar, brewer and founder of Vassar College, died in mid-speech while delivering his farewell address to the College Board of Trustees. [ [ "VASSAR COLLEGE.; Sudden Death of Matthew Vassar, Founder of the Institution, While Reading the Annual Address."] , "The New York Times", 24 June 1868]
*1897: Salomon August Andrée, Knut Fraenkel and Nils Strindberg died in October 1897 at Kvitöya (White Island) (located to the northeast of Svalbard) where they had arrived after a failed attempt to reach the North Pole in a balloon. Their deaths might have been due to exhaustion but also could have been due to eating insufficiently cooked polar bear meat causing trichinosis, or carbon monoxide poisoning from the miniature kerosene stove when snow made it difficult to air out the fumes. [ [ "Solomon August Andree - Sweden"] , "True Magazine through", August, 1962]
*1899: Félix Faure, French president, died of a stroke while in his office. It is popularly believed that he was "in the arms of his mistress" at the time, perhaps receiving oral sex. [ [ France: Third Republic (1870-1940) - Presidential standards ] ]

20th century

*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. [Haig, Matt. "Brand Royalty: how the world's top 100 brands thrive and survive", p. 197. London: Kogan Page, 2004.]
*1912: Franz Reichelt, tailor, 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 had told the authorities in advance he would test it first with a dummy. [ [ Damn Interesting » The Intrepid, Ill-Fated Parachutist ] ]
*1916: Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, was reportedly poisoned while dining with a political enemy, shot in the head, shot three more times, bludgeoned, and then thrown into a frozen river. When his body washed ashore, an autopsy showed the cause of death to be hypothermia. There is now some doubt about the credibility of this account, though. [ [ Murder of Rasputin ] ]
*1918: Gustav Kobbé, writer and musicologist, was killed when the sailboat he was on was struck by a landing seaplane off Long Island, N.Y. [ "Hydroplane Kills Kobbe in his Boat; Naval Pilot Unaware He Had Struck Art Critic's Craft."] "New York Times". 28 July 1918. p. 1. Accessed 30 January 2008.]
*1920: Ray Chapman, baseball player, was killed when he was hit in the head by a pitch. [ Baseball: An Illustrated History. Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, 1994. ]
*1923: Martha Mansfield, an American film actress, died after sustaining severe burns on the set of the film "The Warrens of Virginia" after a smoker's match, tossed by a cast member, ignited her Civil War costume of hoopskirts and ruffles. [ [ Martha Mansfield (I) - Biography ] ]
*1923: George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon became the first to die from the alleged King Tut's Curse after a mosquito bite on his face became seriously infected. [ [ The Life of Lord Carnarvon ] ]
*1925: Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart, a circus strongman and Jewish folklore hero, died as a result of a demonstration in which he drove a spike through five one-inch thick oak boards using only his bare hands. He accidentally pierced his knee. The spike was rusted and caused an infection which led to fatal blood poisoning. He was the subject of the Werner Herzog film, "Invincible". [ [ Siegmund Breitbart ] ]
*1927: J.G. Parry-Thomas, a Welsh 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. [Reynolds, Barbara. "Dorothy L. Sayers: her life and soul", p. 162. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.]
*1927: Isadora Duncan, dancer, died of accidental strangulation and broken neck when one of the long scarves she was known for caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger. [ [ UCLA newsroom] ]
*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. [Bogdanov, Alexander (tr. & ed. Douglas W. Huestis). "The Struggle for Viability: Collectivism Through Blood Exchange", p. 7. Tinicum, PA: Xlibris Corporation, 2002.]
*1932: Eben Byers died of radiation poisoning after having consumed large quantities of a popular patent medicine containing radium. [ [] ]
*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. [cite book |last=Read |first=Simon |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The Bizarre Killing of Michael Malloy |year=2005 |publisher=Penguin Book Group |location= |id= ]
*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. [ [ :: LEN KOENECKE'S OBIT ] ]
*1939: Finnish actress [ Sirkka Sari] died when she fell down a chimney. She was at a cast party celebrating the completion of a movie, her third and last. She mistook a chimney for a balcony and fell into a heating boiler, dying instantly. [] [ [ YouTube - Sirkka Sarin kuolema ] ]
*1941: Sherwood Anderson, writer, swallowed a toothpick at a party and then died of peritonitis. [ [ Virginia Tech article] ]
*1943: Critic Alexander Woollcott suffered a fatal heart attack during an on-air discussion about Adolf Hitler. [ [ BBC] ]
*1944: Inventor and chemist Thomas Midgley, Jr. accidentally strangled himself with the cord of a pulley-operated mechanical bed of his own design. [Bryson, Bill. "A Short History of Nearly Everything". (2003) Broadway Books, USA. ISBN 0-385-66004-9]
*1945: Scientist Harry K. Daghlian, Jr. accidentally dropped a brick of tungsten carbide onto a sphere of plutonium while working on the Manhattan Project. This caused the plutonium to come to criticality; Daghlian died of radiation poisoning, becoming the first person to die in a criticality accident. [ [ Harry K. Daghlian - 1 of 1 ] ]
*1946: Louis Slotin, chemist and physicist, died of radiation poisoning after being exposed to lethal amounts of ionizing radiation. He died in a very similar way as Harry K. Daghlian, Jr., from dropping a block of material on the same sphere of plutonium by accident. The sphere of plutonium was nicknamed the Demon core []
*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. [ [ Biography of Hermits of Harlem Homer and Langley Collyer - ] ]
*1954: Alan Turing, English mathematician, logician, and cryptographer, was found dead by his cleaner on 8 June; the previous day, he had died of cyanide poisoning, apparently from a cyanide-laced apple he left half-eaten beside his bed. [Hodges, 1983, pp. 488-489] . It has been suggested that Turing was reenacting a scene from "Snow White", his favourite fairy tale. [Ferris, Timothy. "Seeing in the Dark". 2002. p. 250]
*1955: Margo Jones, theater director, was killed by exposure to carbon tetrachloride fumes from her newly cleaned carpet. [ [ Sweet Tornado: Margo Jones and the American Theater ] ]
*1956: Nina Hamnett, artist, died from complications after falling out her apartment window and being impaled on the fence forty feet below. [ [ Hamnett, Nina (1890-1956) ] ]
*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. [ [ Gareth Jones (VI) - Biography ] ]
*1959: In the Dyatlov Pass incident, Nine ski hikers in the Ural Mountains abandoned their camp in the middle of the night in apparent terror, some clad only in their underwear despite sub-zero weather. Six of the hikers died of hypothermia and three by unexplained fatal injuries. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, one victim had a fatal skull fracture, two had major chest fractures (comparable in force to a car accident), and one was missing her tongue. The victims' clothing also contained high levels of radiation. Soviet investigators determined only that "a compelling unknown force" had caused the deaths, barring entry to the area for years thereafter.cite news
url =
title = Mysterious Deaths of 9 Skiers Still Unresolved
author = Svetlana Osadchuk
publisher = St. Petersburg Times
accessdate = 2008-02-28
date = February 19, 2008
*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. [ [ Nedelin disaster ] ]
*1961: Valentin Bondarenko, a Soviet cosmonaut trainee, died from shock after suffering third-degree burns over much of his body due to a flash fire in the pure oxygen environment of a training simulator. This incident was not revealed outside of the Soviet Union until the 1980s. [Oberg, James, "Uncovering Soviet Disasters", [ Chapter 10: Dead Cosmonauts] , pp 156-176, Random house, New York, 1988, retrieved 8 January 2008]
*1963: Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, sat down in the middle of a busy intersection in Saigon, covered himself in gasoline, and lit himself on fire, burning himself to death. Đức was protesting President Ngô Đình Diệm's administration for oppressing the Buddhist religion. [ [ Thich Quang ] ]
*1966: Worth Bingham, heir to the Louisville Bingham publishing family, died when the surfboard lying atop the back of his convertible hit a parked car, swung around, and broke his neck. [cite news
title=Barry Bingham Jr., Louisville Publisher, Is Dead at 72
publisher=The New York Times
date=4 April 2006
*1967: Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee, NASA astronauts, died when a flash fire began in their pure oxygen environment during a training exercise inside the unlaunched Apollo 1 spacecraft. The door to the capsule could not be opened during the fire because of its particular design. [ [ Astronaut Bio: Virgil I. Grissom ] ]
*1967: Vladimir Komarov became the first person to die during a space mission after the parachute of his capsule failed to deploy following re-entry. [ [ 24 April 1967: Last Day in the Life of Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov ] ]
*1970: Yukio Mishima, award-winning Japanese playwright and novelist, committed seppuku after failing to inspire a coup d'état at the headquarters of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces in Tokyo. [cite book
last = Ross
first = Christopher
title = Mishima's Sword: In Search of a Samurai Legend
publisher = Harper Perennial
location = London
pages = 234-238
*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?" [] . Cavett says this is incorrect; the initial response was fellow guest Pete Hamill saying in a low voice to Cavett, "This looks bad." [ Reprint of NYT article by Cavett] The show was never broadcast.
*1972: Leslie Harvey, guitarist of Stone the Crows, was electrocuted on stage by a live microphone. [ [ Electrocuted Page in Fuller Up, Dead Musician Directory ] ]
*1973: Bruce Lee, a martial arts actor, is thought to have died by a severe allergic reaction to Equagesic. His brain had swollen about 13%. His autopsy was written as "death by misadventure." [cite book
last = Thomas
first = Bruce
title = Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit : a Biography
publisher = Frog LTD.
location = Berkeley, California
pages = 209
*1974: Christine Chubbuck, an American television news reporter, committed suicide during a live broadcast on 15 July. 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.Dietz, Jon. "On-Air Shot Kills TV Personality", "Sarasota Herald-Tribune", 16 July 1974.]
*1975: Physicist and businessman Kip Siegel died of a stroke while testifying before a US Congressional subcommittee. [ [ Lab History ] ]
*1975: Bandō Mitsugorō VIII, a Japanese kabuki actor, died of severe poisoning when he ate four fugu livers (also known as pufferfish). The liver is considered one of the most poisonous parts of the fish, but Mitsugorō claimed to be immune to the poison. The fugu chef felt he could not refuse Mitsugorō and lost his license as a result. [ [ Bandô Mitsugorô Viii ] ]
*1976: Keith Relf, former singer for British rhythm and blues band The Yardbirds, died while practicing his electric guitar. He was electrocuted because the guitar was not properly grounded. [ [ Electrocuted Page in Fuller Up, Dead Musician Directory ] ]
*1977: Tom Pryce (Formula One driver) and Jansen Van Vuuren (a track marshal) 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.cite book |last=Tremayne |first= David|authorlink=David Tremayne |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=The Lost Generation |origdate= |origyear= 2006 |origmonth=August|url= |format= |accessdate=2007-01-05 |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |date= |year= |month= |publisher= Haynes Publishing|location= |isbn=1-84425-205-1 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages= |chapter=Chapter 19 - A Moment Of Desperate Sadness|chapterurl= |quote=]
*1978: Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was assassinated in London with a specially modified umbrella that fired a metal pellet with a small cavity full of ricin into his calf.
*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. [ [ Twenty five years on: Smallpox revisted Queen Mary, University of London ] ]
*1978: Claude François, a French pop singer, was electrocuted when he tried to change a light bulb while standing in his bathtub which was full of water at the time. [ [ RFI Musique - - Biography - Claude FRANÇOIS ] ]
*1978: Kurt Gödel, the Austrian/American mathematician, died of starvation when his wife was hospitalized. Goedel suffered from extreme paranoia and refused to eat food prepared by anyone else. He was 65 pounds when he died. His death certificate reported that he died of "malnutrition and inanition caused by personality disturbance" in Princeton Hospital on 14 January 1978. [Toates, Frederick; Olga Coschug Toates (2002). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Practical Tried-and-Tested Strategies to Overcome OCD. Class Publishing, 221. ISBN 978-1859590690. ]
*1979: Robert Williams, a worker at a Ford Motor Co. plant, was the first known man to be killed by a robot.Robot firm liable in death, Tim Kiska, "The Oregonian", 11 August 1983. See [] , ROBOT FIRM LIABLE IN DEATH.]
*1981: Carl McCunn paid a bush pilot to drop him at a remote lake near the Coleen River in Alaska in March 1981 to photograph wildlife, but did not arrange for the pilot to pick him up again in August. Rather than starve, McCunn shot himself in the head. His body was found in February 1982. [ 9B0DEED61638F93AA25751C1A964948260&sec=health&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink]
*1981: Boris Sagal, a film director, died while shooting the TV miniseries "World War III" when he walked into the tail rotor blade of a helicopter and was decapitated. [ [ BORIS SAGAL, 58, MOVIE DIRECTOR, DIES AFTER A HELICOPTER ACCIDENT - Free Preview - The New York Times ] ]
*1981: Jeff Dailey, a 19-year-old gamer, became the first known person to die while playing video games. After achieving a score of 16,660 in the arcade game Berzerk, he succumbed to a massive heart attack. A year later, an 18-year-old gamer died after achieving high scores in the same game. [ [ berzerk, video game at arcade-history ] ]
*1981: Kenji Urada - Was killed by a malfunctioning robot he was working on at a Mitsubishi plant in Japan. The robots arm pushed him into a grinding machine, killing him. [ Trust me, I'm a robot] , "The Economist", June 8, 2006; accessed online 6-III-2007.]
*1982: Vic Morrow, actor, was decapitated by a helicopter blade during filming of "". Two child actors, Myca Dinh Le (who was decapitated) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (who was crushed), also died. [ [ The Twilight Zone Tragedy - Crime Library on ] ]
*1982: Vladimir Smirnov, an Olympic champion fencer, died of brain damage nine days after his opponent's foil snapped during a match, penetrated his mask, pierced his eyeball and entered his brain. [ [,9171,925598,00.html TIME ] ]
*1983: Four divers and a tender were killed on the Byford Dolphin semi-submersible, when a decompression chamber explosively decompressed from 9 atm to 1 atm in a fraction of a second. The diver nearest the chamber opening literally exploded just before his remains were ejected through a 24in (60cm) opening. The other divers' remains showed signs of boiled blood, unusually strong rigor mortis, large amounts of gas in the blood vessels, and scattered hemorrhages in the soft tissues. [Giertsen, J.C. et al., "An Explosive Decompression Accident", The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 9(2):91-101, 1988.]
*1983: Sergei Chalibashvili, a professional diver, died after a diving accident during the 1983 Summer Universiade in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 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. [ [,9171,954031,00.html?promoid=googlep TIME ] ]
*1983: Author Tennessee Williams died when he choked on an eyedrop bottle cap in his room at the Hotel Elysee in New York. He would routinely place the cap in his mouth, lean back, and place his eyedrops in each eye. Williams' lack of gag response may have been due to the effects of drugs and alcohol abuse. [ [ Search Results ] ]
*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: Jane Dornacker, died while on the air giving a traffic report when the helicopter that she was riding in stalled and crashed into the Hudson River. This was the second helicopter crash she had been in that year.
*1987: Budd Dwyer, a Republican politician, committed suicide during a televised press conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Facing a potential 55-year jail sentence for alleged involvement in a conspiracy, Dwyer shot himself in the mouth with a revolver.
*1992: Christopher McCandless died of starvation near Denali National Park after a few months trying to live off the land in the Alaskan wilderness. His life and death were researched by Jon Krakauer, who then wrote the novel Into the Wild which was later turned into a movie.
*1993: Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was shot and killed by Michael Massee using a prop .44 Magnum gun while filming the movie "The Crow". A cartridge with only a primer and a bullet was fired in the pistol prior to the scene Brandon was in; this caused a squib load, in which the primer provided enough force to push the bullet out of the cartridge and into the barrel of the revolver, where it became stuck. The malfunction went unnoticed by the crew, and the same gun was used again later to shoot the death scene, having been re-loaded with blanks. However, the squib load was still lodged in the barrel, and was propelled by the blank cartridge's explosion out of the barrel and into Lee's body. It was not instantly recognized by the crew or other actors; they believed he was still acting. [ [ Brandon Lee's Death in 'The Crow' ] ]
*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." [ [ article] ]
*1993: Michael A. Shingledecker Jr. was killed almost instantly when he and a friend were struck by a pickup truck while lying flat on the yellow dividing line of a two-lane highway in Polk, Pennsylvania. They were copying a daredevil stunt from the movie "The Program". Marco Birkhimer died of a similar accident while performing the same stunt in Route 206 of Bordentown, New Jersey. [ [ Not Like the Movie: A Dare Leads to Death - New York Times ] ]
*1994: Gloria Ramirez was admitted to Riverside General Hospital for complications of advanced cervical cancer. Before she died, her body mysteriously emitted toxic fumes that made several emergency room workers very ill. She has been dubbed as the "toxic lady" by the media. [ [ Analysis of a Toxic Death | Cancer | DISCOVER Magazine ] ]
*1996: Sharon Lopatka, an Internet entrepreneur from Maryland, 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. Their bodies were never recovered. The incident inspired the film "Open Water" and an episode of "20/20". [ [ "A mystery resurfaces"] , "The Age", 7 August 2004]
*1998: Every player on the visiting soccer team at a game in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was struck by a fork bolt of lightning, killing them all instantly, presumably because of the metal studs in their shoes. [ [ BBC News | Africa | Lightning kills football team ] ]
*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, bouncing chest-first off the top rope resulting in a severed aorta, which caused his lungs to fill with blood. [ [ Owen Hart Biography - ] ]
*2000: Jonathan Burton stormed the cockpit door of a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City. The 19-year-old was subdued by eight other passengers with such force that he died of asphyxiation. [ [ Janofsky, Michael. "Neighbors' Gentler View Of Man Killed on Plane," "The New York Times", 23 September 2000.] ]

21st century

*2001: Bernd-Jürgen Brandes from Germany was stabbed repeatedly and then partly eaten by Armin Meiwes (who was later called the Cannibal of Rothenburg). 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. [ [ "German cannibal guilty of murder"] , "BBC News", 9 May 2006]
*2002: Brittanie Cecil, an American 13-year-old hockey fan, died two days after being struck in the head by a hockey puck at a game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Calgary Flames at Nationwide Arena. [ [ "Girl dies after getting hit by puck at NHL game"] , "", 20 May 2002]
*2003: Doug McKay was killed at the Island county fair amusement park when his arm was caught as he sprayed lubricant on a Super Loop 2 circular roller coaster. The ride was in operation at the time and he was pulled 40 feet in the air before falling and landing on a fence. [ [ Carnival worker dies in Island County ride accident] , The Seattle Times, August 16, 2003.]
*2003: Brian Douglas Wells, a pizza delivery man in Erie, Pennsylvania, 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. In 2007, police alleged Wells was involved in the robbery plot along with two other conspirators. [cite news| last=Nephin| first=Dan| title=Indictment: Bomb Victim in on Bank Plot| publisher=Associated Press| date=2007-07-12| url=,4670,BankRobberyExplosion,00.html| accessdate=2008-07-21]
*2003: Brandon Vedas died of a drug overdose while engaged in an Internet chat, as shown on his webcam. [ [ "Net grief for online 'suicide'"] "BBC News", 4 February 2003.]
*2003: Timothy Treadwell, an American environmentalist who had lived in the wilderness among bears for thirteen summers in a remote region in Alaska, along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, were killed and partially consumed by a bear. An audio recording was captured on a video camera (the lens-cap was in place during the incident), but the tape has never been released to the public. Werner Herzog's documentary film, "Grizzly Man", discusses Treadwell and his death. [Medred, Craig." [ Wildlife author killed, eaten by bears he loved] ". "Anchorage Daily News". 8 October 2003. Retrieved 4 September 2006.]
*2005: Kenneth Pinyan ('Mr. Hands') of Gig Harbor, Washington died of acute peritonitis after submitting to anal intercourse with a stallion. Pinyan had had sex with a horse before. Pinyan delayed his visit to the hospital for several hours out of reluctance to admit what happened. The case led to the criminalization of bestiality in Washington. [ [ The Seattle Times: Local News: Trespassing charged in horse-sex case ] ] His story was recounted in the 2007 documentary film "Zoo".
*2005: Lee Seung Seop, a 28-year-old South Korean, collapsed of fatigue and died after playing StarCraft for almost 50 consecutive hours in an Internet cafe. [ [,,3-1729573,00.html "Korean drops dead after 50-hour gaming marathon"] , "Times Online", 10 August 2005]
*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. [,20867,20355064-30417,00.html]
*2006: Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer of the Russian State security service, and later a Russian dissident and writer, suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later, becoming the first known victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome.
*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. [ [,1,1368543.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california "Woman dies after being in water-drinking contest"] , "The Los Angeles Times", 14 January 2007] [ [ "Woman's Death After Water-Drinking Contest Investigated"] "", 16 January 2007]
*2007: Kevin Whitrick, a 42-year-old man committed suicide by hanging himself live on a webcam during an internet chat session. [cite web|url= |title=Get on with it, said net audience as man hanged himself on webcam |accessdate=2007-05-27 |last=Bale |first=Joanna |date=2007-03-24 |work=Times Online |publisher=Times Newspapers Ltd ]
*2007: Surinder Singh Bajwa, the Deputy Mayor of Delhi, India, was kicked by a Rhesus Macaque monkey at his home and fell from a first floor balcony, suffering serious head injuries. He later died from his injuries. [ [ Bajwa succumbs to injuries ] ]
*2008: Abigail Taylor, 6, died nine months after her organs were partially sucked out while sitting on a swimming pool drain. She had several organs replaced in surgery but died later due to the incident. [ [ Girl, 6, Dies From Swimming Pool Injury] "USA Today", 21 March 2008]
*2008: Gerald Mellin, a U.K. businessman, committed suicide by tying one end of a rope around his neck and the other to a tree. He then hopped into his Aston Martin DB7 and drove down a main road in Swansea until the rope decapitated him. He supposedly did this as an act of revenge against his ex-wife for leaving him. [ [ Businessman uses Aston Martin to decapitate himself] "Mail Online", 8 August 2008]

ee also

* Fatal hilarity
* Toilet-related injury
* List of inventors killed by their own inventions
* Darwin Awards
* Multiple gunshot suicide
* List of people who died onstage
* List of unusual animal anecdotes


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