Erotic asphyxiation is the restriction of oxygen to the brain with the intent of heightening sexual arousal. The behavior is classified as paraphilia in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, while “gasper” is the colloquial term for someone who engages in the practice. Physically, the act has been explained to cause the heightening of sexual pleasure because a lack of oxygen supply to the brain can increase particular sensations, including the pleasure derived from orgasm. Furthermore, documented as having been practiced since the early 17th century, erotic asphyxiation used to be suggested as a treatment for erectile dysfunction since subjects who were executed by hanging were noted to develop an erection. Disturbingly though, the act has also been described to be “highly addictive” and “no less powerful than cocaine,” approximately 250 to 1,000 deaths resulting from its practice in the United States each year.
The dangerous aspect of erotic asphyxiation is that the restriction of oxygen to the brain is often achieved by placing a plastic bag over the head or by hanging, and a mishap can result in the gasper losing his life. This is what is suspected to have happened to the following ten well-known men:
10. David Carradine (Actor) / 2009
American actor David Carradine was born to a productive acting family, his father, John Carradine, being best known for his roles in horror films and Westerns. Unfortunately for David, he had to endure an unstable childhood resulting from his father’s frequent marrying — probably a contributor to David repeatedly being arrested on charges involving substance abuse. Nevertheless, David built a respectable career as an actor, appearing in over one hundred feature films and being nominated four times at the Golden Globes.
On June 4, 2009, the 72-year-old actor was found dead in his Swissôtel Nai Lert Park hotel room in Thailand, where he was shooting a film. David was naked and hanging by a rope in the room’s closet, giving rise to speculation that the death was a suicide. However, revelations from two of his former wives that David’s self interests included self-bondage led people to conclude that his death was the result of accidental asphyxiation, a finding seemingly supported by two autopsies performed on his corpse.
9. Reverend Gary Aldridge (Baptist Church Minister) / 2007
Reverend Gary Aldridge served as the pastor for Montgomery’s Thorington Road Baptist Church for sixteen years and was often described as “responsible”, “wholesome”, and “conservative”. For this reason, it was a disturbing mystery to his flock when in June of 2007, he was found dead in his home. What made the circumstances surrounding his death so bewildering is that the minister was found hogtied and wearing two complete wet suits. Furthermore, investigators determined that Rev. Aldridge’s death did not involve foul play as he was truly alone in his home at the time of his death. The contents of his autopsy records further shed light on the circumstances surrounding his death:
“The decedent is clothed in a diving wet suit, a face mask which has a single vent for breathing, a rubberized head mask having an opening for the mouth and eyes, a second rubberized suit with suspenders, rubberized male underwear, hands and feet have diving gloves and slippers. There are numerous straps and cords restraining the decedent. There is a leather belt about the midriff. There is a series of ligatures extending from the hands to the feet. The hands are bound behind the back. The feet are tied to the hands. There are nylon ligatures holding these in place with leather straps about the wrists and ankles. There are plastic cords also tied about the hands and feet with a single plastic cord extending up to the head and surrounding the lower neck. There is a dildo in the anus covered with a condom.”
8. Peter Anthony Motteux (Author and Editor) / 1718
Born Pierre Antoine Motteux, Peter was best known as an English author, and from 1692 to 1694, as the publisher of The Gentleman’s Journal, “the first English magazine”. He died in 1718 after picking up a prostitute, the last time he was seen alive. That gave rise to suspicion that it was the prostitute who had murdered the “A Poem in Praise of Tea” writer. However, she and four others tried in separate cases were all acquitted, mostly because it was believed that his death resulted from seeking assistance from a prostitute to carry out a session of erotic asphyxiation. That would be in line with the prostitute’s suspicions — that Motteux was left craving for more after the session with her, causing him to try and continue the practice on his own. Unfortunately for Motteux, he died in the process, making his case probably the first recorded death by erotic asphyxiation.
7. Albert Dekker (Actor and Politician) / 1968
Albert Dekker was best known for starring in films like Dr. Cyclops, Kiss Me Deadly, and The Wild Bunch, but he also took advantage of his fame by running for and winning a seat in the California State Assembly for the 57th Assembly District in 1944. Shockingly, in 1968, Dekker was found dead by his fiancee in his home in Hollywood. The actor/politician was naked while kneeling in his bathtub, a noose firmly tightened around his neck and the rope hanging from the shower curtain rod. Furthermore, Dekker’s wrists were handcuffed, while a blindfold covered his eyes and a ball gag was stuffed into his mouth. Furthermore, there were two hypodermic needles inserted into his arm. As if those circumstances weren’t strange enough, his body was also covered with explicit drawings and words written in red lipstick. Lastly, while camera equipment and an amount of money were found to be missing, there were no signs of forced entry into the home, thus leading the coroner to find no evidence of foul play and to declare the death as an accidental one resulting from an erotic asphyxiation mishap.
6. Stephen Milligan (Journalist and Politician) / 1994
In 1994, there were whispers that Stephen Milligan, at that time the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh, could very well be one of the important players in the British Conservative Party. He had gained prominence through his Commons interventions on foreign affairs and was even appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Defence, Jonathan Aitken. Surprisingly, on February 7, 1994, Milligan was found dead in his flat by his secretary, Vera Taggart. She had entered Milligan’s home because he had missed his appointments for the day, and she was shocked to see her boss naked, save for a pair of stockings on his legs and suspenders and a black bin liner tied over his head. Another intriguing detail regarding his death was that he was found to have a segment of an orange in his mouth. These details were later referenced in the satirical news program Have I Got News for You, whose producers sent black stockings, black bin bags, and oranges to TV journalists.
5. František Kočvara (Composer and Musician) / 1791
František Kočvara, later known as Frantisek Kotzwara, travelled around Europe to perform with various orchestras, his most famous composition being “The Battle of Prague”, which became popular during the late 18th and 19th centuries. On September 2, 1791, Kotzwara visited a prostitute, had dinner with her, then paid her two shillings to cut off his testicles. The prostitute refused, so Kotzwara instead tied a ligature around the doorknob, fastened the other end around his neck, and proceeded to have sex with the woman. After the act, the prostitute was shocked that Kotwara had died, making his case one of the first recorded deaths from erotic asphyxiation. Later that year, the prostitute was tried for murder but was acquitted.
4. Hideto Matsumoto a.k.a “hide” (Band Member) / 1998
With his wild, brightly colored hair and flamboyant guitar skills, Hideto Matsumoto, better known as “hide”, was a huge star in Japan during the 90s. With his band X-Japan and as a solo artist, Matsumoto sold millions of records and was about to launch an international career with his American band Zilch. Shockingly, on May 2, 1998, after a night out drinking, he was found dead, his neck hanging by a towel tied to a doorknob in his apartment in Tokyo. Within a week of his death being reported, three of his teenage fans died in copycat suicides. Meanwhile, speculation about the cause of his death was varied, some saying he committed suicide, others believing he was practicing a technique to relieve pains from playing the guitar, and yet others suspecting that he was practicing erotic asphyxiation.
3. Vaughn Bodé (Graphic Artist) / 1975
The creator of the character “Cheeck Wizard” and various pieces of artwork depicting voluptuous women, Vaughn Bodé is considered an influence on the films Wizards and The Lord of the Rings. He is also widely respected among graffiti artists since his characters have remained popular throughout graffiti’s history, enabling him to be inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame for graphic artists in 2006.
On July 18, 1975, Vaughn’s friend, Vincent, broke down the comic artist’s door because he suspected that something was amiss. Bodé had told his son, “Mark, I’ve seen God four times, and I’m going to see him again soon. That’s No. 1 to me, and you’re No. 2.” True to Vincent’s suspicions, upon breaking in, he found Bodé dead, laying on his back with his feet in the closet, while his head was covered with a leather mask with a slit for each eye and another for his mouth. Prior to that, Bodé had been influenced by guru Prem Rawat to engage in cross-dressing, transvetism, and even experiments with female hormones. That eventually led him to describe his sexuality as “auto-sexual, heterosexual, homosexual, mano-sexual, sado-sexual, trans-sexual, uni-sexual and omni-sexual.”
2. Kevin Gilbert (Musician) / 1996
Many people are familiar with musician Sheryl Crow and her hits “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Strong Enough”. Much less known is her ex-boyfriend, Kevin Gilbert, who introduced Crow to the people who enabled her to record her Tuesday Night Music Club album. In fact, Gilbert co-wrote many of that album’s songs, including the 1995 Grammy Record of the Year “All I Wanna Do”.
On May 17, 1996, Gilbert was found dead in his home. A black hood covered his face, and his head was slumped against a leather strap chained to the headboard of his bed. The coroner listed the cause of Gilbert’s death as “asphyxia due to partial suspension hanging,” which can be interpreted as death resulting from erotic asphyxiation.
1. Michael Hutchence (Band Member and Actor) / 1997
The Australian rock band INXS was already enjoying success in the 70s and 80s, but they gained even more popularity when their lead vocalist, Michael Hutchence, began a romance with pop singer Kylie Minogue. In 1977, Hutchence again put the band under the spotlights, but this time, under much sadder circumstances. On the morning of November 22, 1997, the 33-year-old vocalist was found dead by a maid in his hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Sydney. Police reported, “He was in a kneeling position facing the door. He had used his snakeskin belt to tie a knot on the automatic door closure at the top of the door, and had strained his head forward into the loop so hard that the buckle had broken.”
The autopsy and coronial inquest released on February 6, 1998 ruled the death a suicide committed under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. However, in 1999, UK television presenter Paula Yates, Hutchence’s former girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, claimed during a paid interview with 60 Minutes that she believed the vocalist had died as a result of autoerotic asphyxiation.