List of unusual deaths  

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

To be included on this list, an unusual death has to receive mention in the Wikipedia article of a person, or the death itself has to be the focus of a Wikipedia article.

Contents

Antiquity

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

  • 456 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.<ref>Sommerstein, Alan H. (1996), Aeschylean Tragedy, Bari . p.33</ref>
  • 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. <ref>Template:Citation</ref>
  • 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.<ref>Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 9.401e.</ref> Alan Cameron speculates that Philitas died from a wasting disease which his contemporaries joked was caused by his pedantry.
  • 207 BC: Chrysippus, a Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after watching his drunk donkey attempt to eat figs.<ref>Donaldson, John William and Müller, Karl Otfried. A History of the Literature of Ancient Greece. London: John W. Parker and Son, 1858, p. 27.</ref>
  • 194 BC: Lady Qi consort of Emperor Han Gaozu of the Han Dynasty was murdered by his jealous empress, Lu Zhi, by having her hand and feet chopped off, by scooping out her eyes, cutting out her tongue and abandoning her to live in a toilet, and insulted her as "the Human Pig" (人彘).
  • 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 and thrust a spear into its belly, whereupon it fell dead on top of him<ref>Scullard, H.H The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 186</ref>
  • 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.<ref>Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6</ref> Similar symptoms-- abdominal pains and worms-- accompanied the death of his grandson Herod Agrippa in AD 44, after he had imprisoned St Peter. At various times, each of these deaths has been considered divine retribution.Template:Fact
  • 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. According to legend, the creator of the brazen bull, Perillos of Athens, was the first to be put into the brazen bull when he presented his invention to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum, but he was taken out before he died.
  • 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, Shapur had the emperor skinned alive and his skin stuffed with straw or dung and preserved as a trophy.<ref>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 [1].</ref>
  • 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.)<ref>Hypatia biography</ref>

Middle Ages

Renaissance

18th century

Modern Age

19th century

20th century

  • 1983: Richard Wertheim, a linesman at the boys' singles finals in the US open, was struck by a ball hit by a young Stefan Edberg. He toppled backwards off his chair fracturing his skull as he hit the ground. <ref name="Sporting Life"> "Sporting Life" Accessed 28 January 2007.</ref>
  • 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.<ref>Giertsen, J.C. et al., "An Explosive Decompression Accident", The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 9(2):91-101, 1988.</ref>
  • 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 from the ten meter platform, he smashed his head on the platform and was knocked unconscious. He died after being in a coma for a week.<ref>TIME</ref>
  • 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.<ref>Search Results</ref>
  • 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, playing Russian Roulette using a revolver loaded with a single blank cartridge . Hexum apparently did not realize that blanks too have gun powder that explodes into gas with enough force to cause severe injury or death if the weapon is fired as contact shot. This is the principle which gives a powerhead its lethality.
  • 1987: Budd Dwyer, the State Treasurer of Pennsylvania, 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 fatal scene; 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. His death was not instantly recognized by the crew or other actors; they believed he was still acting.<ref>snopes.com: Brandon Lee's Death in 'The Crow'</ref>
  • 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. The pane didn't break, but instead popped out of its frame.<ref>Snopes.com article</ref>
  • 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. <ref>Not Like the Movie: A Dare Leads to Death - New York Times</ref>
  • 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. <ref>Analysis of a Toxic Death | Cancer | DISCOVER Magazine</ref>
  • 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.<ref>"A mystery resurfaces", The Age, 7 August 2004</ref>
  • 1998: Daniel V. Jones committed suicide on a freeway carpool lane near Los Angeles, California by shooting himself through the chin with a shotgun, which was accidentally televised by journalists monitoring the incident on helicopters. Jones, a former hotel maintenance worker, had killed himself partly due to his frustration over treatment by his HMO.<ref>"After a Suicide, Questions on Lurid TV News", The New York Times, 2 May, 1998</ref>
  • 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.<ref>BBC News | Africa | Lightning kills football team</ref>
  • 1999: Owen Hart, a professional wrestler for WWF, died during a pay-per-view event when performing a stunt. It was planned to have Owen come down from the rafters of 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.<ref>Owen Hart Biography - Biography.com</ref>
  • 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.<ref>Janofsky, Michael. "Neighbors' Gentler View Of Man Killed on Plane," The New York Times, 23 September 2000.</ref>

21st century

See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "List of unusual deaths" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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