Strange Deaths in History

I was talking to someone about “The Last King of Scotland” movie recently. Which is about the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Then I remembered the rumor about the leader dying from a severe case of Syphilis (which is what supposedly made him crazy and irrational while in office). I Wikipedia-ed the rumor and found that he died of kidney failure. This makes the rumor somewhat true because kidney failure is sometimes caused by untreated Syphilis.

Anyways…..Wikipedia led me to some other unusual deaths . Here are some that I thought were interesting (warning, some are gruesome):

  • 401 B.C.:  Mithridates, a soldier condemned for the murder of Cyrus the Younger, was executed by scaphism, surviving the insect torture for 17 days. 

Scaphism is a torture procedure where they would rub the person down with honey to attract bugs. Then let the insects eat and lay eggs inside of your flesh. I would have died of a heart attack within 5 minutes of this torture. I don’t know how he lasted 17 days.


  • 1410: Martin I of Aragon died from a lethal combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing.
Really? Laughing to death?
  • 1814: London Beer Flood, 9 people were killed when 323,000 imperial gallons (1,468,000L) of beer in the Meux and Company Brewery burst out of their vats and gushed into the streets.
  • 1920: Ray “Chappie” Chapman, shortstop for the Cleveland Indians baseball team, was killed when a submarine ball thrown by Carl Mays hit him in the temple. He took two steps after being given a walk, collapsed, and died the next day.
I had a terrible experience as a child playing softball. I hit a foul ball and it hit an innocent bystander in the head. She was rushed to the hospital. I still remember the entire scene. I felt really bad. But, on a better note, at least she didn’t die.
I’m sure this guy was hurting afterwards…..
  • 1943: Critic Alexander Woollcott suffered a fatal heart attack during an on-air discussion about Adolf Hitler. 
  • 1966: Skydiver Nick Piantanida died from the effects of uncontrolled decompression four months after an attempt to break the world record for the highest parachute jump. During his third attempt, his face mask came loose (or he possibly opened it by mistake), causing loss of air pressure and irreversible brain damage.
  • 1974: Basil Brown, a 48-year-old health food advocate from Croydon, drank himself to death with carrot juice.
I think that if you drink or eat too much of one thing, it is pretty natural for your body to shut-down. But this is kind of ironic that he was a health food advocate.
Maybe the juice cleanse craze that is all over magazines isn’t so healthy after all?
Nutrient overload!
  • 1978: Kurt Gödel, the Austrian/American logician and mathematician, died of starvation when his wife was hospitalized. Gödel 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”.
65 pounds? I can’t even imagine what he looked like. I thought Christian Bale in “The Machinist” was skinny, but this guy is over 40 lbs less than him! And his wife must have been an amazing cook, for him not to eat anyone else’s food.
  • 1981: David Allen Kirwan a 24-year-old, died after attempting to rescue a friend’s dog from the 200°F water in Celestine Pool, a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park on July 20, 1981. Kirwan suffered third-degree burns over 100% of his body and died the next morning at a Salt Lake City hospital.
  • 1991: Carl Hulsey, 77, of Cherokee County, Georgia, was butted to death by his pet goat. Hulsey had regularly hit the goat with a stick in an apparent attempt to make it more aggressive so it could act as a “guard dog” for Hulsey’s home.
Speaking of goats…check out Fainting Goats
  • 2004: Ronald McClagish, from England, died after being trapped inside a cupboard for a week. A wardrobe outside had fallen over, trapping him. In an effort to free himself, McClagish accidentally wrenched a water pipe from the wall and the water gushing from the pipe eventually caused his death from bronchitis.
  • 2010: Jimi Heselden, owner of the Segway motorized scooter company, was killed when he accidentally drove off a cliff on a Segway at his estate and drowned in the River Wharfe.
Segways are so nerdy.
  • 2010: Jenny Mitchell, a 19-year-old English hairdresser, was killed when her car exploded after fumes, caused by chemicals mixing with hydrogen peroxide leaking from a bottle of hair bleach, ignited as she lit a cigarette.
  • 1983: American 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.
I see people do this all of the time! And I always put small objects in my mouth when I am doing something (like putting the nail in my mouth while hanging pictures).

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