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article imageDeath and History: a humorous look

By Ziad Chatila     Nov 7, 2006 in Lifestyle
This is a short list of interesting and funny deaths that have been reported throughout history.
History can be a depressing discipline to study at times: just think of all the world wars, endless famines and horrific genocides that have occurred. But history can also teach us that death need not always be depressing.
* 456 BC: Aeschylus, Greek dramatist, according to legend, died when a lammergeier, a type of vulture, mistaking his bald head for a stone, dropped a tortoise on it.
* 207 BC: Chrysippus, Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after watching his drunken donkey attempt to eat figs.
* 30 BC: Cleopatra allegedly commited suicide with an asp snake bite to the breast.
* 81: Roman emperor Titus is said to have died when a mosquito flew up his nose and picked at his brain.
* 453: Attila the Hun suffered a severe nosebleed and choked to death on his wedding night.
Middle Ages
* 668: Constans II of the Byzantine Empire was killed in his bathtub by a chamberlain who broke a marble soapdish over his head.
* 1063: King Béla I of Hungary died when his tall wooden throne collapsed due to sabotage.
* 1277: Pope John XXI was killed in the collapse of his scientific laboratory.
* 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.
Early Modern Times
* 1514: György Dózsa, leader of a peasants' revolt in the Kingdom of Hungary, was roasted alive on a white hot iron chair. His captured companions were forced to eat his flesh.
* 1532: Vlad Înecatul (Vlad the Drowned), Prince of Wallachia, got severely drunk and rode his horse into the waters of the Dâmboviţa River.
* 1534: Pope Clement VII died after eating the death cap mushroom.
* 1543: Pedro de Valdivia, a dreaded conquistador, was captured by Native Americans and supposedly executed by pouring molten gold down his throat to satisfy his thirst for treasures. :?
* 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.
* 1791 or 1793: Frantisek Kotzwara, double bass player and composer, died of erotic asphyxiation while with a prostitute.
* 1799: Constantine Hangerli, Prince of Wallachia, was arrested by a kapucu and a Moor, and immediately executed by being strangled, shot, stabbed, and decapitated in quick succession.
19th century
* 1834: David Douglas, Scottish botanist, who fell in a pit trap, was crushed by a bull that fell in the same pit.
* 1841: William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States, gave the longest inaugural address in the history of the United States on a particularly cold March day and subsequently caught a cold. He wore no coat, to display his virility. Despite some accounts, this address was not given in the snow, as at that time the presidential term began in March. The cold developed into pneumonia and killed him in a month.
* 1845: Josiah P. Wilbarger, a Texan pioneer, was scalped by Comanches in 1833 but survived, leaving his skull exposed. He lived 11 years until fatally striking his head against a low beam in his cotton gin.
* 1857: Elisha Mitchell, geologist and explorer, slipped and fell into Mitchell Falls in North Carolina, which he had named earlier.
* 1864: John Sedgwick, Union general in the American Civil War, was killed by a distant Confederate sniper at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Among his last words to his men were "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance!"
* 1867: William Bullock was accidentally killed by his own invention, the web rotary press.
20th century
* 1911: Jack Daniel, founder of the famous Tennessee whiskey distillery, died of blood poisoning from a toe injury he received after kicking his safe in anger when he could not remember its combination code.
* 1915: François Faber, Luxembourgean Tour de France winner, died in a trench on the western front of World War I. He received a telegram saying his wife had given birth to a daughter. He cheered, giving away his position, and was shot by a German sniper.
* 1916: Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, died of drowning while trapped under ice. Although the details of his murder are disputed, he was allegedly placed in the water through a hole in the winter ice after having been poisoned, bludgeoned and shot multiple times in the head, lung, and liver.
* 1927: Isadora Duncan, dancer, died of accidental strangulation and broken neck when her scarf caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger. Her last words before the car drove off were Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire. (Farewell, my friends! I go to glory!)
* 1940: Leon Trotsky, the Soviet revolutionary leader in exile, was assassinated with an ice axe in his Mexico home. His killer, Spanish-born Soviet agent Ramon Mercader, acquired the ice axe in Trotsky's own office after being invited in. After receiving a brutal blow to the head, Trotsky fought and literally took a bite out of his murderer.
* 1944: Inventor and chemist Thomas Midgley, Jr., accidentally strangled himself with the cord of a pulley-operated mechanical bed of his own design.
* 1953: Frank Hayes, jockey, suffered a heart attack during a horse race. The horse, Sweet Kiss, went on to finish first, making Hayes the only deceased jockey to win a race.
* 1960: Famed baritone Leonard Warren collapsed on the stage of the New York Metropolitan Opera of a major stroke during a performance of La forza del destino. The last line he sang was "Morir? Tremenda cosa." ("To die? A tremendous thing.")
* 1971: Jerome Irving Rodale, an American pioneer of organic farming, died of a heart attack while being interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show. When he appeared to fall asleep, Cavett quipped "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?".[3] The show was never broadcast.
* 1973: Péter Vályi, finance minister of Hungary fell into a blast furnace on a visit to a steelworks factory at Miskolc.
* 1974: Christine Chubbuck, an American television news reporter committed suicide during a live broadcast on July 15. 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.
* 1977: Francis Gary Powers, the U2 pilot who was shot down over the USSR in 1960, died as the result of a helicopter crash in Chatsworth, California, while flying as a TV station traffic reporter.
* 1978: Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was assassinated by poisoning in London by an unknown assailant who jabbed him in the calf with a specially modified umbrella that fired a metal pellet with a small cavity full of ricin poison.
* 1981: A 19-year-old man named Jeff Bailey died of a heart attack after scoring 16,660 on the arcade game Berzerk. This was the first known instance of a video game-related death.
* 1981: A 25-year-old Dutch woman studying in Paris, Renée Hartevelt, was killed and eaten by a classmate, Issei Sagawa, when he invited her to dinner for a literary conversation. The killer was declared unfit to stand trial and extradited back to Japan, where he was released from custody within fifteen months.
* 1996: Richard Versalle suffered a heart attack onstage at the New York Metropolitan Opera after delivering the line "Too bad you can only live so long" during a performance of The Makropulos Case.
* 1997: David Bailey, an Irish man died when he was urinated on by a rat while attempting to retrieve a lost golf ball from a ditch. Bailey apparently startled the rat, causing it to dart up his pant leg and urinate on him. After the incident, Bailey's companions urged him to immediately shower, but Bailey refused stating that he had no bites or scratches. He died two weeks later from kidney failure brought on by an acute case of leptospirosis.
* 1999: Owen Hart, World Wrestling Federation or WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE) wrestler, died when he fell 78 feet while being lowered into the ring by a cable from the stadium rafters before a match onto a metal ring turnbuckle. He had been scheduled to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship that night.
21st century
* 2001: Bernd-Jürgen Brandes was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and then eaten by Armin Meiwes. Before the killing, both men dined on Brandes' severed penis. 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.
* 2003: Jane McDonald, a seminary student from Scotland, slipped and fell into an open dishwasher and was impaled by a kitchen knife.
* 2005: Kenneth Pinyan, a Seattle, WA. man, died of acute peritonitis after submitting to anal intercourse with a stallion in the town of Enumclaw, WA. The man had done this before, but he delayed several hours to visit a hospital wishing to avoid official cognizance. The case led to the criminalization of bestiality in Washington.
* 2005: 28-year-old Korean video game addict Lee Seung Seop collapsed in an Internet cafe after playing World of Warcraft and Starcraft for almost 50 hours.
* 2006: A Canadian woman choked on marshmallows at London, Ontario's Western Fair while taking part in a "Chubby Bunny" contest, and later died in hospital. Although there were medical personnel at the scene with suction equipment, it is believed that their efforts at resuscitation were hampered by the stickiness of the marshmallows The contest has since been taken down.
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