50 Peculiar and Unusual Deaths Throughout History

1William Kogut

In 1930, William Kogut, an inmate of San Quentin State Prison, committed suicide by a self-made pipe bomb filled with torn bits of playing cards. Kogut made the pipe from a hollow steel leg from his bed and filled it with torn cards and water. The pipe was then put on the heater in his room and Kogut placed his head nearby. The buildup of steam pressure ruptured the pipe, shooting the card bits with enough force to penetrate Kogut's skull.


2. In 1983, Dick Wertheim, a tennis linesman, died after a ball struck him in the groin and he fell out of his chair.


3. On 30 November 1016, Edmund Ironside, the King of England, was stabbed whilst on a toilet, by an assassin hiding underneath.


4. In 2012, 32-year-old Edward Archbold of West Palm Beach, Florida, choked on "arthropod body parts" during a cockroach-eating contest.


5. In 1387, King Charles II met a rather unfortunate end. The contemporary chronicler Froissart relates that the king, suffering from illness in old age, was ordered by his physician to be tightly sewn into a linen sheet soaked in distilled spirits. The highly flammable sheet accidentally caught fire and Charles later died of his injuries. Froissart considered the horrific death to be God's judgment upon the king.


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6Karen Wetterhahn

In 1997, Karen Wetterhahn, a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, died 10 months after a few drops of dimethylmercury landed on her protective gloves. Although Wetterhahn had been following the required procedures, the material permeated the gloves and her skin within seconds.


7. In 1971, Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev, Soviet cosmonauts, died when their Soyuz-11 spacecraft depressurized during preparations for re-entry. These are the only known human deaths outside the Earth's atmosphere.


8. In 2018, Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year old woman in Tempe, Arizona, died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber, as she crossed the road, in what was reported to be the first death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving car on public roads. In response to the fatal accident, Uber suspended self-driving car tests in all U.S. cities.


9. In 2010, 62-year-old Mike Edwards, who was a cellist and a founding member of the band Electric Light Orchestra, died when a large round bale of hay rolled down a hill and collided with the van he was driving.


10. The second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was Bobby Leach, who survived the fall and died in 1926 in New Zealand, of gangrene caused by injuries resulting from slipping on an orange peel.


11Qin Shi Huang

In 210 B.C., the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, whose artifacts and treasures include the Terracotta Army, died after ingesting several pills of mercury in the belief that it would grant him eternal life.


12. In 289 B.C., Agathocles, a Greek tyrant of Syracuse, was murdered by a poisoned toothpick.


13. On 17th June 1871, Clement Vallandigham, a lawyer and Ohio politician defending a man accused of murder, accidentally shot himself while demonstrating how the victim might have accidentally shot himself. His client was cleared.


14. In 1923, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who financed Howard Carter's search for Tutankhamun, died after a mosquito bite, which he had cut while shaving, became infected. Some attributed his death to the so-called curse of the pharaohs.


15. In 620 B.C., Draco of Athens, an Athenian lawmaker, was reportedly smothered to death by gifts of cloaks and hats showered upon him by appreciative citizens at a theatre on Aegina.


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16Topsy

In 1903, Topsy the elephant was executed by poisoning, electrocution, and strangulation. A 74-second video of the electrocution was recorded and preserved. It may have been the first time death was ever captured in a motion picture film.


17. One ancient account of the death of Chrysippus, a third-century B.C. Greek Stoic philosopher, tells that he died of laughter after he saw a donkey eating his figs; he told a slave to give the donkey neat wine to drink to wash them down with, and then, "...having laughed too much, he died."


18. Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague and died 11 days later in 1601. According to first-hand account, Brahe had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette. After he had returned home he was no longer able to urinate, except eventually in very small quantities and with excruciating pain.


19. In 2013, Elisa Lam, from Vancouver, British Columbia, was missing for several weeks before being found dead in a large water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, after guests complained about the taste of the water.


20. In 1660, Thomas Urquhart, a Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of François Rabelais's writings into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.


21Sigurd the Mighty

In 832 A.D., Sigurd the Mighty, the second Earl of Orkney, strapped the head of his defeated foe, Máel Brigte, to his horse's saddle. Brigte's teeth rubbed against Sigurd's leg as he rode, causing a fatal infection.


22. In 1993, Garry Hoy, a lawyer in Toronto, Ontario, fell to his death from the 24th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre while demonstrating to a group of visitors that the building's windows were "unbreakable". Hoy threw himself against the glass, which indeed did not break; rather, the window popped out of its frame.


23. On 18 February 1478, George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, was allegedly executed by drowning in a barrel of Malmsey wine at his own request.


24. In 2010, Jimi Heselden, owner of Segway Inc., died after apparently riding his own product (Segway) off a cliff.


25. In 1919, a large storage tank burst in Boston's North End, releasing a wave of molasses which killed 21 people and injured 150. This event was later dubbed the Great Molasses Flood.

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