List of unusual deaths

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The death of Aeschylus illustrated in the 15th-century Florentine Picture Chronicle by Maso Finiguerra[1]

This is a list of unusual deaths. This list includes only unique or extremely rare circumstances of death recorded throughout history, noted as being unusual by multiple sources. Oxford Dictionaries defines the word unusual as "not habitually or commonly occurring or done" and "remarkable or interesting because different from or better than others".[2]

Some other articles also cover deaths that might be considered unusual or ironic, including list of entertainers who died during a performance, list of inventors killed by their own inventions, list of association footballers who died while playing, list of cyclists with a cycling-related death and the list of political self-immolations.

Antiquity[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Draco of Athens c. 620 BC Draco, 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.[3][4]
Charondas
Illustration of the death of Charondas from 1787.jpg
Late 7th to early 5th century BC Charondas was a Greek lawgiver from Sicily.[5][6] According to Diodorus Siculus, he issued a law that anyone who brought weapons into the Assembly must be put to death.[5][6][7] One day, he arrived at the Assembly after hunting in the countryside with a knife still attached to his belt.[5][6] In order to uphold his own law, he committed suicide.[5][6][7]
Arrhichion of Phigalia
Pankratiasten in fight greek statue 2 century bC.jpg
564 BC Arrichion of Phigalia, a Greek pankratiast, caused his own death during the Olympic finals. Held by his unidentified opponent in a stranglehold and unable to free himself, Arrichion kicked his opponent, causing him so much pain that the opponent made the sign of defeat to the umpires, but at the same time breaking Arrichion's neck. Since the opponent had conceded defeat, Arrichion was proclaimed the victor posthumously.[8][9]
Sisamnes
Gerard David - The Judgment of Cambyses, panel 2 - The shedding of the corrupt judge Sisamnes.jpg
c. 525 BC According to Herodotus, Sisamnes was a corrupt judge under Cambyses II of Persia. He accepted a bribe and delivered an unjust verdict; as a result, the king had him arrested and flayed alive. His skin was then used to cover the seat in which his son would sit in judgment.[10][11]
Pythagoras of Samos
Kapitolinischer Pythagoras adjusted.jpg
c. 495 BC Ancient sources disagree on how the Greek philosopher Pythagoras died,[12][13] but one late and probably apocryphal legend reported by both Diogenes Laërtius, a third-century AD biographer of famous philosophers, and Iamblichus, a Neoplatonist philosopher, states that Pythagoras was murdered by his political enemies.[13] Supposedly, he almost managed to outrun them,[13] but he came to a bean field and refused to run through it because he had prohibited beans as ritually unclean.[14][13] Since cutting through the field would violate his own teachings, Pythagoras simply stopped running and was killed as a result;[13] this story may have been fabricated by Neanthes of Cyzicus, whom both Diogenes and Iamblichus rely on as a source.[13]
Heraclitus of Ephesus
Utrecht Moreelse Heraclite.JPG
c. 475 BC According to one account given by Diogenes Laërtius, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus was said to have been devoured by dogs after smearing himself with cow manure in an attempt to cure his dropsy.[15][16]
Themistocles
Busto di temistocle, da originale greco del V secolo ac, dal decumano presso il casamento del temistocle.JPG
c. 459 BC Themistocles, the Athenian general who won the Battle of Salamis, actually died of natural causes in exile,[17][18] but was widely rumored to have committed suicide by drinking bull's blood.[17][18][19][20] Since bull's blood is not actually poisonous,[18] Themistocles cannot have actually died in this way,[18] but the legend is widely retold in classical sources;[18] the early twentieth-century English classicist Percy Gardner proposed that the story about him drinking bull's blood may have been based on an ignorant misunderstanding of a statue showing Themistocles in a heroic pose, holding a cup as an offering to the gods.[18] The comedic playwright Aristophanes references Themistocles drinking bull's blood in his comedy The Knights (performed in 324 BC) as the most heroic way for a man to die.[18][21]
Aeschylus
Herma of Aeschylus, Klas08.jpg
c. 455 BC According to Valerius Maximus, Aeschylus, the eldest of the three great Athenian tragedians, was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his bald head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avert a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object.[22][23][24]
Empedocles of Akragas
Empedocles in Thomas Stanley History of Philosophy.jpg
c. 430 BC Empedocles of Acragas was a Pre-Socratic philosopher from the island of Sicily, who, in one of his surviving poems, declares himself to have become a "divine being... no longer mortal".[25] According to Diogenes Laërtius, he tried to prove he was an immortal god by leaping into Mount Etna, an active volcano;[26][27] this legend is also alluded to by the Roman poet Horace.[28]
Sophocles
Sophocles pushkin.jpg
c. 406 BC A number of "remarkable" legends concerning the death of Sophocles, another of the three great Athenian tragedians, are recorded in the late antique Life of Sophocles.[22] According to one legend, he choked to death on an unripe grape.[22] Another says that he died of joy after hearing that his last play had been victorious.[22] A third account reports that he died of suffocation after reading aloud a lengthy monologue from the end of his play Antigone without pausing to take a breath for commas or punctuation.[22]
Mithridates 401 BC Mithridates, a Persian soldier who embarrassed his king, Artaxerxes II, by boasting of killing his rival, Cyrus the Younger (who was the brother of Artaxerxes II), was executed by scaphism. The king's physician, Ctesias, reported that Mithridates survived the insect torture for 17 days.[29][30]
Democritus of Abdera
Hendrik ter Brugghen - Democritus.jpg
c. 370 BC According to Diogenes Laërtius, the Greek Atomist philosopher Democritus of Abdera died at the age of 109;[31][32] as he was on his deathbed, his sister was greatly worried because she needed to fulfill her religious obligations to the goddess Artemis in the approaching three-day Thesmophoria festival.[31][32] Democritus told her to place a loaf of warm bread under his nose[31][32] and was able to survive for the three days of the festival by sniffing it,[31][32] he died immediately after the festival was over.[31][32]
Antiphanes c. 310 BC Antiphanes was a renowned comic poet of the Middle Attic comedy. The Suda claims he died after being struck by a pear.[33][34]
Agathocles of Syracuse
Siracusa, agatocle, 25 litre, 310-300 ac ca.JPG
289 BC Agathocles, a Greek tyrant of Syracuse, was murdered with a poisoned toothpick.[35]
Philitas of Cos
Antikythera philosopher.JPG
c. 270 BC Philitas of Cos, a Greek intellectual, is said by Athenaeus to have studied arguments and erroneous word usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death.[36] British classicist Alan Cameron speculates that Philitas died from a wasting disease which his contemporaries joked was caused by his pedantry.[37]
Qin Shi Huang
Qinshihuang.jpg
10 September 210 BC Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, 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.[38][39][40]
Chrysippus of Soli
Chrysippos BM 1846.jpg
c. 206 BC One ancient account of the death of Chrysippus, a third-century BC 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" (Diogenes Laërtius 7.185).[41]
Eleazar Avaran
Harley3240 f.28 ElephantDetail.jpg
c. 163 BC Eleazar Avaran was the brother of Judas Maccabeus. According to 1 Maccabees 6:32-33, in battle, he thrust his spear into the belly of a king's war elephant, which collapsed and fell on top of Eleazar, killing him instantly.[42]
Porcia Catonis
Le Suicide de Porcia.JPG
June 43 to October 42 BC The daughter of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis and second wife of Marcus Junius Brutus, according to ancient historians such as Cassius Dio and Appian killed herself by swallowing hot coals.[43] Modern historians find this tale implausible.[44]
Claudius Drusus c. 20 AD According to Suetonius, Claudius Drusus, the eldest son of the future Roman Emperor Claudius, died while playing. Having tossed a pear high in the air, when it came back, he caught it in his mouth but he choked on it, dying of asphyxia.[45]
Tiberius
JPaul Laurens The Death of Tiberius.jpg
16 March 37 AD The Roman emperor Tiberius died in Misenum at the age of seventy-eight. According to Tacitus, the emperor appeared to have died and Caligula, who was at Tiberius' villa, was being congratulated on his succession to the empire, when news arrived that the emperor had revived and was recovering his faculties; those who had moments before recognized Caligula as Augustus fled in fear of the emperor's wrath, while Macro, a prefect of the Praetorian Guard, took advantage of the chaos to have Tiberius smothered with his own bedclothes, definitively killing him.[46]
Simon the Zealot
Zersägen des Heiligen Simon.png
1st century AD According to an ancient tradition, Simon, an apostle of Jesus, was sawn in half in Persia.[47]
Saint Lawrence
Martyrdom of Lawrence - Edited.jpg
258 AD The deacon Saint Lawrence was roasted alive on a giant grill during the persecution of Valerian.[48][49] Prudentius tells that he joked with his tormentors, "Turn me over—I'm done on this side",[50] he is now the patron saint of cooks, chefs and comedians.[51]

Middle Ages[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Ragnar Lodbrok
Ragnar Lodbroks död by Hugo Hamilton.jpg
c. 865 Ragnar Lodbrok, a semi-legendary Viking leader whose exploits are narrated in the Ragnars saga loðbrókar, a thirteenth-century Icelandic saga, is said to have been captured by Ælla of Northumbria, who had him executed by throwing him into a pit of snakes.[52]
Louis III of France
GrabLudwig III.jpg
5 August 882 Louis III, king of West Francia, died aged around 18 at Saint-Denis. Whilst mounting his horse to pursue a girl who was running to seek refuge in her father's house he hit his head on the lintel of a low door and fell, fracturing his skull.[53]
Sigurd the Mighty of Orkney 892 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, according to the Old Norse Heimskringla and Orkneyinga sagas.[54]
Edmund Ironside
Edmund Ironside - MS Royal 14 B VI.jpg
30 November 1016 Edmund Ironside was stabbed whilst on a toilet, by an assassin hiding underneath.
Béla I of Hungary
Béla I (Chronica Hungarorum).jpg
11 September 1063 Béla I of Hungary, when the Holy Roman Empire decided to launch a military expedition against Hungary to restore young Solomon to the throne, was seriously injured when "his throne broke beneath him" in his manor at Dömös.[55] The King—who was "half-dead", according to the Illuminated Chronicle—was taken to the western borders of his kingdom, where he died at the creek Kanizsa on 11 September 1063.[56][57]
Crown Prince Philip of France
Philip of France (1131).jpg
13 October 1131 Crown Prince Philip of France died while riding through Paris, when his horse tripped over a black pig running out of a dung heap.[58]
Al-Musta'sim
HulaguInBagdad.JPG
20 February 1258 Al-Musta'sim, the last Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad, was executed by his Mongol captors by being rolled up in a rug and then trampled by horses.[59]
Edward II of England
Edward II - British Library Royal 20 A ii f10 (detail).jpg
21 September 1327 Edward II of England was rumoured to have been murdered, after being deposed and imprisoned by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, by having a horn pushed into his anus through which a red-hot iron was inserted, burning out his internal organs without marking his body.[60][61] However, there is no real academic consensus on the manner of Edward II's death and it has been plausibly argued that the story is propaganda.[62]
John of Bohemia
John of Luxemburg.PNG
26 August 1346 John of Bohemia, after being blind for 10 years, died in the Battle of Crecy when his companions tied their horses' reins to his own and charged. He was slaughtered in the ensuing fight.[63]
Charles II of Navarre
Charles II of Navarre.png
1 January 1387 Charles II of Navarre known as "Charles the Bad". 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.[64][65][66]
Martin of Aragon
Martín I de Aragón.jpg
31 May 1410 Martin of Aragon died from a combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing. According to tradition, Martin was suffering from indigestion on account of eating an entire goose when his favorite jester, Borra, entered the king's bedroom; when Martin asked Borra where he had been, the jester replied with: "Out of the next vineyard, where I saw a young deer hanging by his tail from a tree, as if someone had so punished him for stealing figs." This joke caused the king to die from laughter.[67][68]

Renaissance[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence.jpg
18 February 1478 George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, was allegedly executed by drowning in a barrel of Malmsey wine, apparently his own choice once he accepted he was to be killed.[69]
Victims of the 1518 dancing plague
Die Wallfahrt der Fallsuechtigen nach Meulebeeck.jpg
July 1518 In July 1518, several people died of either heart attacks, strokes or exhaustion during a dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace (Holy Roman Empire).[70][71]
Cosimo Gheri 24 September 1537 According to the Florentine historian Benedetto Varchi, Cosimo Gheri, the 24-years-old Bishop of Fano (Papal States), died of pain due to the shock of having been raped by Pier Luigi Farnese, son of Pope Paul III (see Rape of Fano).[72][73][74] But the event is far from certain.[75]
Pietro Aretino
La muerte de Pietro Aretino, por Anselm Feuerbach.jpg
21 October 1556 The influent Italian author and libertine Pietro Aretino is said to have died of suffocation from laughing too much at an obscene joke during a meal in Venice. Another version states that he fell from a chair from too much laughter, fracturing his skull.[76]
Hans Staininger
Braunau am Inn 003.JPG
1567 Hans Staininger, the burgomaster of Braunau (then Bavaria, now Austria), died when he broke his neck by tripping over his own beard.[77] The beard, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long at the time, was usually kept rolled up in a leather pouch.[78]
Marco Antonio Bragadin
Брагадино.jpg
17 August 1571 Marco Antonio Bragadin, Venetian Captain-General of Famagusta in Cyprus, was gruesomely killed in August 1571 after the Ottomans took the city. He was dragged round the walls with sacks of earth and stone on his back; next, he was tied to a chair and hoisted to the yardarm of the Turkish flagship, where he was exposed to the taunts of the sailors. Finally, he was taken to his place of execution in the main square, tied naked to a column, and flayed alive.[79] Bragadin's skin was stuffed with straw and sewn, reinvested with his military insignia, and exhibited riding an ox in a mocking procession along the streets of Famagusta; the macabre trophy was hoisted upon the masthead pennant of the personal galley of the Ottoman commander, Amir al-bahr Mustafa Pasha, to be brought to Constantinople as a gift for Sultan Selim II. Bragadin's skin was stolen in 1580 by a Venetian seaman and brought back to Venice, where it was received as a returning hero.[80]
Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe.JPG
24 October 1601 Tycho Brahe contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague, and died eleven days later. According to Kepler's first-hand account, Brahe had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette.[81][82] After he had returned home he was no longer able to urinate, except eventually in very small quantities and with excruciating pain.[83]

Early modern period[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Thomas Urquhart
ThomasUrquhart.png
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.[84][85]
James Betts 1667 James Betts died from asphyxiation after being sealed in a cupboard by Elizabeth Spencer, at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in an attempt to hide him from her father, John Spencer.[86][87]
François Vatel
Le suicide de François Vatel.jpg
24 April 1671 Vatel, the majordomo of Prince Louis II de Bourbon-Condè, was responsible for a banquet for 2,000 people hosted in honour of King Louis XIV at the Château de Chantilly, where he died. According to a letter by Madame de Sévigné, Vatel was so distraught about the lateness of the seafood delivery and about other mishaps that he committed suicide with his sword, and his body was discovered when someone came to tell him of the arrival of the fish.[88]
Molière
Pierre Mignard - Portrait de Jean-Baptiste Poquelin dit Molière (1622-1673) - Google Art Project (cropped).jpg
17 February 1673[89] The French playwright Molière suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage caused by tuberculosis while playing the character Argan, a severe hypochondriac, in his own play Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid).[89][90] He disguised his convulsion as part of his performance and finished out the show,[89] which included a scene in which the character he was playing faked his own death to find out how his wife really felt about him.[89][91] After the show, Molière's actual wife, who played the daughter of his character, realized that he really was ill[89] and carried him across the street to their house in the same chair he had pretended to die in as part of the performance,[89] he began coughing up blood and she sent for a priest to hear him renounce his acting career so he could be buried on sacred ground,[89] but Molière died before a sympathetic priest could be found.[89][90]
Bhai Mati Das

Bhai Sati Das

Bhai Dayala

Bhai Mati Das.jpg
1675 Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayala are revered as early Sikh martyrs. By order of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Bhai Mati Das was executed by being bound between two pillars and sawn in half,[92] while his younger brother Bhai Sati Das wrapped in cotton wool soaked in oil and set on fire[93] and Bha Dayala was boiled in a cauldron full of water and roasted over a block of charcoal.[94] All three were particularly calm during the torture.
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Paul Mignard - Jean-Baptiste Lully.jpg
22 March 1687 Jean-Baptiste Lully, the French composer, died of a gangrenous abscess after accidentally piercing his foot with a staff while he was vigorously conducting a Te Deum. It was customary at that time to conduct by banging a staff on the floor,[95] he refused to have his leg amputated so he could still dance.[96]
Stanisław Leszczyński
Wypadek Leszczynski.jpg
23 February 1766 The former King Stanisław I of Poland, father-in-law of Louis XV of France, died in 1766, at the rare age of 88, as a result of serious burns: his silk attire caught fire from a spark while the King was snoozing near the fireplace in his palace in Lunéville on 5 February. Leszczyński was badly burned when the servants rescued him after a while, but he breathed his last after many days of agony.[97]
Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden
Gustaf Lundberg - Portrait of Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden - WGA13779.jpg
12 February 1771 Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden, died of digestion problems on 12 February 1771 after having consumed a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring, and champagne, topped off with 14 servings of his favourite dessert: semla served in a bowl of hot milk, called "hetvägg".[98] He is thus remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as "the king who ate himself to death."[99]
Frantisek Kotzwara 2 September 1791 While he was in London, Kotzwara visited a prostitute named Susannah Hill in Vine Street, Westminster. After dinner with her in her lodgings, Kotzwara paid her two shillings and requested that she cut off his testicles. Hill refused to do so. Kotzwara then tied a ligature around the doorknob, the other end fastened around his neck, and proceeded to have sexual intercourse with Hill. After it was over, Kotzwara was dead.

19th century[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
William Snyder 11 January 1854 William Snyder, a 13-year-old, died in San Francisco, California, when a circus clown swung him around by his heels.[100][101]
Mathilda of Austria
Matilde de Áustria-Teschen.5.jpg
6 June 1867 Archduchess Mathilda of Austria, daughter of Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen, died at the age of 18 in Schloss Hetzendorf. She had put on a gauze dress to go to the theatre. Before leaving for the theatre, she wanted to smoke a cigarette but shortly thereafter her father, who had forbidden smoking, approached her, and she hid the cigarette behind her dress, immediately setting light to its very flammable material and giving her second and third-degree burns.[102]
Clement Vallandigham
Clement Vallandigham - Brady-Handy.jpg
17 June 1871 Clement Vallandigham, a lawyer and Ohio politician defending a man accused of murder, accidentally shot himself and died while demonstrating how the victim might have accidentally shot himself. His client was cleared.[103][104]
Henry Taylor November 1872 Henry Taylor, a pall bearer at Kensal Green Cemetery in London, tripped over a stone and stumbled as he was carrying a coffin.[105] The other pall bearers let go of the coffin[105] and it fell on top of Taylor, crushing him to death in front of all the mourners;[105] the widow of the man in the coffin reportedly "nearly went into hysterics".[105]
Sir William Payne-Gallwey, 2nd Baronet 19 December 1881 Sir William Payne-Gallwey, a former British MP, sustained "severe internal injuries" when he fell over and landed on a turnip while out hunting. He died a few days later.[106][107]
Allan Pinkerton
Allan Pinkerton-retouch.jpg
1 July 1884 Allan Pinkerton, the founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, was in Chicago, Illinois when he tripped on the pavement and severely bit on his tongue.[108] His tongue became infected with gangrene, ultimately leading to his death.[108]
Empress Elisabeth of Austria
Assassinato luigi.jpg
10 September 1898 During a trip in Geneva, Empress Elisabeth of Austria was stabbed to death, with a thin file, by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. The weapon pierced the victim's pericardium, and a lung; because of the sharpness and thinness of the file the wound was very narrow and, due to pressure from Elisabeth's extremely tight corseting, which was usually sewn onto her, she did not notice what had happened (in fact she believed a simple passerby had hit her) and continued to walk for a while before collapsing.[109][110]

20th century[edit]

1901 – 1960[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Topsy the elephant
Topsy the elephant.png
4 January 1903 Topsy was executed by poisoning, electrocution, and strangulation. A 74-second film of the electrocution was recorded and preserved, it may have been the first time death was ever captured in a motion picture film.[111][better source needed]
Unknown Early 1903 An unnamed person was beaten to death with a Bible during a healing ceremony gone wrong in Honolulu.[112] The victim was being treated for malaria when his family summoned a Kahuna who decided he was possessed by devils and tried to exorcise the demons;[113] the Kahuna was brought up on a charge of manslaughter.[114]
Mary the elephant
Elephantmary.jpg
13 September 1916 The day after Mary, a five-ton cow elephant, killed a trainer for the Sparks World Famous Shows circus in Sullivan County, Tennessee, she was hanged by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial crane.[115][116]
Grigori Rasputin
Rasputin PA.jpg
30 December

[O.S. 17 December] 1916

According to the Russian mystic's murderer himself, Prince Felix Yusupov, Rasputin consumed tea, cakes, and wine which had been laced with cyanide but he did not appear to be affected by the poison. He was then shot once in the chest and believed to be dead but, after a while, he leapt up and attacked Yusupov, who freed himself and fled. Rasputin followed and made it into the courtyard before being shot again and collapsing into a snowbank; the conspirators then wrapped Rasputin's body and dropped it into the Malaya Nevka River.[117]
Twenty-one people
BostonMolassesDisaster.jpg
15 January 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.[118][119]
George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon
George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, reading.jpg
5 April 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.[120][121]
Bobby Leach
BobbyLeachNiagaraFalls.jpg
1926 Bobby Leach, an American stunt performer, died after a botched amputation of the infected leg which he had broken after slipping on an orange peel.[122]
Phillip McClean 1926 Phillip McClean, aged 16, and his brother were clubbing a cassowary on the family property in Mossman, Queensland,[123] when the bird knocked him down, kicked him in the neck, and opened a large cut, leading to death from loss of blood.[124]
Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan portrait.jpg
14 September 1927 Isadora Duncan, a dancer, broke her neck when her long scarf caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger.[125]
Gareth Jones 1958 Gareth Jones, an actor, died of a heart attack between scenes of a live television play, Underground. Other members of the cast improvised lines, such as "I'm sure if So‑and‑so were here he would say..." to compensate for Jones's absence. Coincidentally, Jones's character was supposed to die of a heart attack in a later scene of the play.[126][127]

1960s[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
John A. Byrnes, Richard Leroy McKinley, and Richard C. Legg
US AEC SL-1.JPG
1961 U.S. Army specialists John A. Byrnes and Richard Leroy McKinley and Navy electrician's mate Richard C. Legg were killed by a water hammer explosion during maintenance on the SL-1 nuclear reactor in Idaho.[128][129][130][131][132]
Nick Piantanida 1966 Nick Piantanida, a skydiver, died four months after an attempt to break the record for the highest parachute jump; his suit had depressurized causing brain damage.[133][134]

1970s[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev
Soyuz 11 crew.jpg
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.[135]
Basil Brown 1974 Basil Brown, a 48-year-old health food advocate from Croydon, England, died from liver damage after he consumed 70 million units of Vitamin A and around 10 US gallons (38 litres) of carrot juice over ten days, turning his skin bright yellow.[136][137][138]
Alex Mitchell 1975 After watching the "Kung Fu Kapers" episode of The Goodies, Alex Mitchell laughed continuously for 25 minutes and then fell dead on his sofa from heart failure.[139][140][141][142][143]
Tina Christopherson 1977 Tina Christopherson died when she fanatically drank 4 US gallons (15 litres) of water a day to combat stomach cancer.[144]
Tom Pryce and Frederick Jansen van Vuuren 1977 Tom Pryce, a driver in the 1977 South African Grand Prix, was killed alongside fire marshal Frederick Jansen Van Vuuren after being struck on the head by a fire extinguisher when his car, travelling at 170 miles per hour (270 km/h), hit Jansen Van Vuuren as he was running across the Kyalami race track to extinguish a burning car.[145][146][147][148]
Kurt Gödel
Kurt gödel.jpg
1978 Kurt Gödel, an Austrian-American logician and mathematician, died of starvation when his wife was hospitalized. Gödel refused to eat food prepared by anyone else.[149]
Robert Williams 1979 Robert Williams, a worker at a Ford Motor Co. plant, became the first person known to be killed by a robot[150] when the arm of a factory robot struck him in the head.[151]
John Bowen 1979 John Bowen, a 20-year-old from Nashua, New Hampshire, was killed at a half-time show at Shea Stadium when a 40-pound (18 kg) model plane shaped like a lawnmower crashed into the stands.[152][153]

1980s[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Boris Sagal 1981 Boris Sagal, a Ukrainian-American film director, died while shooting the TV miniseries World War III in Portland, Oregon, when he walked into the tail rotor blade of a helicopter and was partially decapitated.[154][155]
David Grundman 1982 David Grundman, shooting at cacti with his shotgun near Lake Pleasant, Arizona, was crushed when a 4-foot (1.2 m) limb of the cactus detached and fell on him.[155][156][157]
Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams NYWTS.jpg
1983 Tennessee Williams, an American playwright, died after accidentally choking on a plastic bottle cap which he was using to ingest barbiturates.[158] Reports at the time of his death indicated he had died applying eyedrops while holding the cap between his teeth, but this was corrected in the official medical examiner's report six months later.[159]
Truls Hellevik 1983 Truls Hellevik, a Norwegian diver, was explosively dismembered when accidentally exposed to an eight-atmosphere change in air pressure which instantaneously forced his body through a 60-centimetre-diameter (24 in) opening.[160][161]
Dick Wertheim 1983 Dick Wertheim, a tennis linesman, died after a ball struck him in the groin and he fell out of his chair.[162][163][164]
Jimmy Ferrozzo 1983 Jimmy Ferrozzo, a bouncer at the Condor Club in San Francisco, died while engaging in sexual intercourse with his girlfriend Theresa Hill on a grand piano that was lowered from the ceiling by a hydraulic motor. Ferrozzo accidentally activated the lifting mechanism which pinned him against the ceiling leading to his suffocation.[165] Hill survived the accident.[165]
Paul G. Thomas 1983 Paul G. Thomas, owner of a wool mill in Thompson, Connecticut, died of suffocation after falling into a machine in the wool mill and becoming wrapped in 800 yards (730 m) of wool.[166]

1990s[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Carl Beauford Terry and Linda Varnar Keath 1991 A male flight instructor and a female student, Carl Beauford Terry and Linda Varnar Keath,[167] were killed when the Piper PA-34 Seneca airplane they were flying crashed, believed to have been caused by the two people having sex in the cockpit of the plane.[168] Movements in the cockpit led to the stick being pushed down and the airplane exceeding its speed limitations and breaking off the right wing.
Brandon Lee 1993 Brandon Lee, 28-year-old film actor, martial artist, and son of Bruce Lee, was accidentally shot to death by co-star Michael Massee while filming a scene for The Crow, as the result of an improperly-loaded prop gun.[169][170][171]
Garry Hoy 1993 Garry Hoy, a lawyer in Toronto 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 window, which did not break but popped out of its frame.[172][173]
Gloria Ramirez 1994 Gloria Ramirez, 31, died from kidney failure related to her cervical cancer. While treating her, several of the hospital staff became ill, suffering from loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and muscle spasms. Shortly before dying, Ramirez was allegedly covered with an oily sheen, which smelled of fruit and garlic; when drawing her blood with a syringe, nurses noticed it had a smell similar to ammonia and there were unusual particles floating in it.[174]
Jeremy Brenno 1994 Jeremy Brenno, 16, was killed on a golf course when, frustrated, he struck a bench with a 3-wood golf club. The shaft broke, bounced back at him, and pierced his heart.[175]
Karen Wetterhahn 1997 Karen Wetterhahn, a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, died ten months after a few drops of dimethylmercury (an organomercury compound and one of the strongest known neurotoxins) landed on her protective gloves. Although Wetterhahn had been following the required procedures, the material permeated the gloves and her skin within seconds.[176][177][178]
Jonathan Capewell 1998 Jonathan Capewell, 16, died from a heart attack brought on by the buildup of butane and propane in the blood after excessive use of deodorant sprays.[179] Capewell was reported to have an obsession with personal hygiene.[179] An autopsy showed that Capewell had 0.37 mg of butane per litre in his blood, and the same amount of propane, whereas 0.1 mg per litre can be fatal.[179]
Betty Stobbs 1999 Betty Stobbs, 67, died after delivering a bale of hay to her sheep. The starving sheep rushed Stobbs, who was on her motorcycle. In the ensuing scuffle, Stobbs was knocked down into a deep ravine near Durham, England, and died when her motorcycle landed on her.[180]

21st century[edit]

2000s[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Bernd Brandes 2001 Bernd Brandes, a German engineer from Berlin, was willingly slaughtered so that he could be butchered and eaten by cannibal Armin Meiwes. Brandes had responded to an internet advertisement which Meiwes had placed for this purpose. In prison, Meiwes became a vegetarian.[181][182][183]
David Phyall 2001 David Phyall, 50, the last resident in a block of flats due to be demolished in Bishopstoke, near Southampton, Hampshire, England, decapitated himself with a chainsaw to highlight the injustice of being forced to move out.[184][185]
Brian Douglas Wells 2003 Brian Douglas Wells, a pizza delivery man from Erie, Pennsylvania, was killed by an explosive collar around his neck, as part of a bank-robbery scheme.[186]
Hitoshi Nikaidoh 2003 Hitoshi Nikaidoh, a doctor in Houston, Texas, was decapitated after his head was trapped in the doors of an elevator at his workplace[187]
Phillip Quinn 2004 Phillip Quinn, 24, from Kent, Washington, was killed when a lava lamp he was heating on a stove exploded, with a shard piercing his heart.[188]
Kenneth Pinyan 2005 Kenneth Pinyan died from injuries caused by anal sex with a stallion.[189]
Mildred Bowman and Alice Wardle 2005 Mildred Bowman, 62, and Alice Wardle, 68, were two sisters killed in Benidorm, Spain after becoming trapped for four days when their fold-up bed collapsed.[190]
Humberto Hernandez 2007 Humberto Hernandez, a 24-year-old Oakland, California resident, was killed after being struck in the face by an airborne fire hydrant while walking. A passing car had struck the fire hydrant and the water pressure shot the hydrant at Hernandez with enough force to kill him.[191][192][193]
Judy Kay Zagorski 2008 Judy Kay Zagorski was killed when a 75-pound (34 kg) spotted eagle ray leapt out of the water and knocked her over. The ray also died.[194][195][196]
Unknown 2008 A 43-year-old Irish mother of four died of an allergic reaction after having sex with a German Shepherd dog.[197]
Taylor Mitchell 2009 Taylor Mitchell, a 19-year-old Canadian folk singer, was killed by a pair of coyotes while hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, in the only known fatal coyote attack on an adult.[198][199][200]

2010s[edit]

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Mike Edwards 2010 Mike Edwards, 62, 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.[201][202][203]
Jimi Heselden 2010 Jimi Heselden, 62, owner of Segway Inc., died after apparently riding a Segway Personal Transport System, his own product, off a cliff.[204]
Jose Luis Ochoa 2011 Jose Luis Ochoa, 35, died after being stabbed in the leg at an illegal cockfight in Tulare County, California, by a bird with a knife-like spur strapped to its leg.[205][206]
Edward Archbold 2012 Edward Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach, Florida, choked on "arthropod body parts" during a cockroach-eating contest.[207][208]
Erica Marshall 2012 Erica Marshall, a 28-year-old British veterinarian in Ocala, Florida, died when the horse she was treating in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber kicked the wall, released a spark from its horseshoes and triggered an explosion.[209][210][211]
Elisa Lam 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.[212]
Takuya Nagaya 2013 Takuya Nagaya, 23, from Japan, started to slither on the floor and claimed he had become a snake. Takuya died after his father spent the next two days head-butting and biting him "to drive [out] the snake that had possessed him."[213]
Roger Mirro 2013 Roger Mirro was crushed by a trash compactor while looking through a dumpster for his phone.[214]
Unknown 2013 An unnamed Belarusian fisherman, 60, bled to death after being bitten by a beaver which he had tried to grab in order to have his picture taken with it.[215][216]
João Maria de Souza 2013 João Maria de Souza, 45, was crushed in his bed by a cow falling through the roof of his home in Caratinga, Brazil. The cow had climbed on top of the house from a steep hillside behind it. Both the cow and de Souza's wife (who had been in bed next to him) were unharmed.[217]
Denver Lee St. Clair 2013 Denver Lee St. Clair was asphyxiated by an "atomic wedgie" administered by his stepson during a fight. After St. Clair had been knocked unconscious, the elastic band from his torn underwear was pulled over his head and stretched around his neck, strangling him.[218][219]
Kendrick Johnson 2013 Kendrick Johnson, 17, was discovered trapped upside down in a rolled-up gym mat in his high school gymnasium. Police originally concluded he had climbed in to retrieve a shoe and became trapped, but the case was later reopened as a possible homicide.[220][221][222][223][224]
Miguel Martinez 2013 Miguel Martinez, 14, from Lubbock, Texas, was impaled through the chest by the horn of a bull statue while playing hide-and-seek at night in front of the National Ranching Heritage Center.[225]
Noah Barthe, Connor Barthe 2013 The two young brothers, aged 4 and 6, were killed by an African rock python during a sleepover in New Brunswick, Canada. The large snake had escaped a pet store and slithered up through ducts into the apartment where they slept. Though it suffocated the children it did not attempt to eat them.[226][227]
Hayato Tsuruta 2013 Hayato Tsuruta, 28, from Japan, with intellectual disabilities, ran away from his residential facility and went to a supermarket. There he consumed so many doughnuts displayed that he choked to death.[228][229]
Heval Yıldırım 2014 Heval Yıldırım, 13, of Turkey was killed when a sacrificial goat bought for Eid al-Adha jumped off the roof over a protective fence and fell onto him. Yıldırım's father placed the goat on the roof of the building where he lived because he could not find another suitable place to keep it.[230]
Christophe de Margerie
Christophe Jacquin de Margerie (besoindair) 2009-09-04.jpg
2014 Christophe de Margerie, an oil executive, was killed when his corporate jet collided with a snowplow reportedly driven by a drunk driver.[231][232]
Peng Fan 2014 Peng Fan, a chef in Foshan, China, was bitten by a cobra's severed head, which he had cut off 20 minutes earlier while preparing a soup.[233][234]
Peter Biaksangzula 2014 Peter Biaksangzuala, an Indian association football player, died after sustaining spinal cord injuries while awkwardly landing a somersault celebrating a goal.[235]
Chelsea Ake-Salvacion 2015 Chelsea Ake-Salvacion, 24, an employee of a Henderson, Nevada salon, was suffocated while using a cryotherapy machine set to the wrong level, which eliminated the oxygen in the chamber.[236][237]
Ravi Subramanian 2015 Ravi Subramanian, an Air India technician, was sucked into an aircraft's jet engines.[238][239]
Stephen Whinfrey 2015 Stephen Whinfrey, 50, became trapped and asphyxiated when rabbiting near Doncaster, England, after his head became stuck down a rabbit hole[240]
V. Kamaraj 2016 V. Kamaraj, a 40-year-old Indian bus driver, was claimed by local Indian newspapers to have been killed by a meteorite which left a two-foot (61 cm) crater, although officials from NASA oppose that view saying that the most likely explanation was a land-based explosion.[241][242][243][244]
Lottie Michelle Belk 2016 Lottie Michelle Belk, 55, was fatally stabbed in the chest by a beach umbrella blown by a strong wind.[245] Wind speeds at the time reached 20–25 miles per hour (32–40 km/h).[246][247]
Caleb Schwab 2016 Caleb Schwab, 10, was decapitated when he was ejected from his raft on Verrückt, a 168-foot-tall (51 m) water slide.[248][249]
Irma Bule 2016 Irma Bule, 29, an Indonesian dangdut singer who performed with live snakes, died during a concert after being bitten by a king cobra and refusing treatment.[250][251]
Lauren Seitz 2016 Lauren Seitz, 18, died June 19, 2016, from a brain-eating amoeba she acquired at the US National Whitewater Center in North Carolina.[252]
Anton Yelchin
Anton Yelchin Deauville 2011.jpg
2016 Anton Yelchin, 27, an American actor known for portraying Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot movie series, was found pinned between his car and a brick wall. His driveway is on an incline and his car was found running and in neutral.[253][254]
Unknown 2016 A seven-year-old girl died after being struck by a stone thrown by an elephant from its enclosure at the zoo at Rabat, Morocco.[255][256]
Kristopher Moules and Timothy Gibbons 2016 Kristopher Moules, 25, a Corrections Officer and Timothy Gibbons, 29, an out of county inmate being housed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, fell to their deaths after an altercation between the two caused them to slam into the fifth floor elevator doors. Despite the elevator having its up-to-date working credentials, upon impact the elevator doors popped open, causing the two men to fall five flights down the elevator shaft to their deaths; the county declared CO Moules’ death a homicide and declared Gibbons’ death an accident.[257]
Charlie Holt 2017 Charlie Holt, 5, was killed at the Sun Dial Restaurant, a rotating restaurant at the top of Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia; his head was caught in a small space between the rotating and non-rotating sections.[258]
Akbar Salubiro 2017 Akbar Salubiro, a 25-year old man, was killed and swallowed by a reticulated python in Indonesia, in the first fully confirmed case of a snake swallowing an adult human.[259] A second case in Indonesia happened the following year, when another reticulated snake killed and swallowed an adult woman in her garden.[260]
Robert Dreyer 2017 Robert Dreyer, 89, drowned on his birthday after crashing his car into a fire hydrant. Dreyer successfully stepped out of his car, but was swallowed by a sinkhole likely created as a result of the destruction of the fire hydrant and subsequent water pressure.[261]
Debra Bedard 2017 Debra Bedard, 58, died after falling from a golf cart onto shards of wine glasses that had broken in her hands in Calaveras County, California.[262]
Rebecca Burger 2017 Rebecca Burger, 33, a fitness blogger and model, died after a pressurized canister of whipped cream exploded and struck her in the chest.[263]
Hidr Korkmaz 2017 Hidr Korkmaz, 42, a Turkish-Dutch drug dealer and informant, died while fishing when he threw his fish hook into an electric wire. Though he was a witness in the case against infamous Dutch criminal Willem Holleeder, he was not important to the case and authorities treated it as an accident.[264]
Arslan Valeev 2017 Arslan Valeev, 31, died in Saint Petersburg, Russia, after enticing a pet black mamba to bite him live on webcam in an apparent suicide.[265]
Rajesh Maru 2018 Rajesh Maru, 32, died at Nair Hospital in Mumbai after carrying a metal oxygen tank into a room housing an MRI scanner; the machine's magnetic field pulled Maru in, pinning his hand and breaching the tank, releasing liquid oxygen.[266] A hospital employee had asked Maru to transport the tank, as Maru's hospitalized relative would need it during her scan.[266][267] An autopsy showed that Maru died instantly from pneumothorax brought on by exposure to very high levels of leaked oxygen.[266] Conflicting reports state two or three hospital employees were arrested for negligence;[268][266] the Maharashtra state government compensated Maru's family 500,000 rupees.[268]
Elaine Herzberg 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.[269][270]
Ateef Rafiq 2018 Ateef Rafiq, 24, died from cardiac arrest in a cinema in Birmingham, England whilst looking for his dropped mobile phone. His head became wedged under the electronic footrest of a seat.[271]
Jennifer Riordan 2018 Jennifer Riordan, 43, a passenger aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, died after debris from an engine failure struck and destroyed the window she was sitting next to. She was partially sucked out through the window, but was pulled back into the aircraft and was given CPR until an emergency landing was made, she died upon arrival at hospital with her cause of death determined to be blunt trauma to the head, neck and torso.[272][273]
Hildegard Whitling 2018 Hildegard Whiting, 77, died of suffocation from the carbon dioxide vapors produced by four dry ice coolers in a Dippin' Dots delivery car.[274][275] The car was borrowed by the deliveryman's wife to take Whiting home.[274][275]
John A. Korody 2018 John A. Korody, 61, died after falling into a vat of cooking oil and grease while standing on a grate in Orange County, Florida, near Orlando. Co-workers were unable to rescue him due to the strong fumes.[276]
Sam Ballard 2018 Sam Ballard, 29, died from angiostrongyliasis after eating a garden slug as a dare eight years earlier.[277]
Linda Goldbloom 2018 Linda Goldbloom, 79, died after being hit by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium. Goldbloom’s death was the first in nearly 50 years directly attributed to a foul ball.[278]
Salvator Disi 2019 Salvator Disi, 62, was decapitated while using a power cart to jump start a helicopter in Hernando County, Florida. The unexpected up and down motion of the helicopter caused the rotor blades to strike Disi.[279]
Paul McDonald 2019 Paul McDonald, 47, was attacked and killed by a pet deer on his property in north-east Victoria, Australia.[280][281]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]