Nothing can stand in the way of progress. Through war, famine, tsunamis, plagues and religious and political upheavals all over the world, you’ll always find a bit of news about a medical breakthrough, a technological phenomenon, or a promising experiment that may extend life expectancy.
One topic you’ll find little, if any, news about is immortality. No matter what you eat and drink – or don’t eat and drink – no one has yet figured out how to beat death, only delay it. People have been frustrated by this lack of success in overcoming the ultimate power of the Grim Reaper since time began and out of that aggravation different concepts like heaven, reincarnation, and rejoining all your friends and relatives in the hereafter arose.
Since no one’s figured out how to beat it, the best many can hope for is a final curtain that makes the news. While most of us prefer an exit as painless as possible, getting more than a boring obit on the back page is a much more appealing scenario. Dying as a hero would be the choice of many but if that option is not on the table, at least dying in a way that attracts more than just the attention of your family is an attractive second choice.
These unusual deaths span many centuries. They range from freak accidents to risky adventures gone awry, bad personal choices, and falling prey to the demonic acts of strangers. Regardless of the scenario, these fatal casualties all made front page headlines or were the loudest announcements of town criers before newspapers existed.
11. In Over Your Head
Beer lovers may daydream about swimming in a sea of their favorite brew, resurfacing every minute or so to scoop up a nice mouthful of a frothy ‘cold one’. In 1814 London, England, a giant vat of beer at the Meux and Company Brewery burst and started a chain reaction that ruptured the other containers. Over 323,000 gallons of beer spilled onto the streets. Two homes were destroyed and at least seven people drowned.
10. Magic Mountain
Ten adventurous ski hikers decided to climb Kholat Syakhl (which translates in English to “Mountain of the Dead”) in February 1959. One got sick and went home the day after the trek began; the other nine went missing. Rescuers found the camp in disastrous shape, with tents ripped to shreds from the inside, barefoot footprints leading away from the site, and corpses clad only in underwear a mile away. The clothing strewn about the camp was radioactive. Although the bodies showed no signs of outward trauma, all died of massive internal injuries…and one female hiker had a missing tongue. When the cause of death of all campers was attributed to “compelling natural forces,” scoffing began and continues to this day.
9. Fatal Gluttony
If you’re a fan of all-you-can-eat buffets, be sure to exercise some restraint. In 1771, King Adolf Frederick of Sweden came down to dinner one night with a smile on his face because he’d directed his chef to prepare all his favorites: lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, kippers, champagne, and semia, a dessert made from buns soaked in warm milk. After gorging himself on the savory dishes and champagne, the King gobbled up 14 servings of dessert. He may have done great things during his reign but will always be remembered in Sweden as “the king who ate himself to death.”
8. The Mummy’s Curse
Most mummy movies include the superstition that anyone who disrupts the mummy or mummy’s tomb will suffer horrific luck, devastating sickness, gruesome death – something so dreadful that most archeologists back off. But Lord Carnarvon wrote off those tales as pure fiction and in 1922 sponsored the excavation of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt. Several months after opening the crypt, Carnarvon suddenly died at age 56. He allegedly had a shaving nick accident that cut a mosquito bite that infected his blood with deadly erysipelas most likely due to blood poisoning from a mosquito bite that became infected with erysipelas. Sounds plausible but when you factor in messing with the mummy, it’s just too creepy to let pass.
7. Good Lord, Moon
The moon is arguably one of the most spellbinding visual entities. Besides having a surface that looks like a face with little imagination, you can watch it change colors and sizes every night. In 762, Li Bai, a famous Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty poetry period, took his boat out one night on the Yangtze River, presumably for artistic inspiration. Some think drinking or drugs may have played a part in his untimely death that night as he allegedly died from drowning after he fell overboard trying to embrace the reflection of the moon. Perhaps this mishap spawned the term “poetic justice.”
6. Jury Duty
Attorneys generally get a bad rap for being unscrupulous and greedy but this one died defending his client. In an Ohio court back in 1871, a man was being tried for shooting and killing a man in a bar fight. Attorney Clement Vallandigham contended the victim had actually killed himself while trying to draw his pistol from his pocket while kneeling. When the jury scoffed at his claim, he grabbed a gun he was told was unloaded to demonstrate his point. The gun had a bullet in its chamber and Vallandigham killed himself in front of the jury. His defendant was promptly acquitted.
5. Glass Act
Nobody loved a crazy trick more than Garry Hoy. The Toronto, Canada lawyer delighted in shocking people by thrusting his body against the unbreakable glass in the Toronto-Dominion Centre. In 1993, he performed the stunt and tumbled 24 stories to the ground below. In his defense, the glass didn’t break until it hit the concrete; his death came from it popping out of its frame.
4. Exit Laughing
Next time you claim you almost died laughing, consider this story. Way back in 206 BC, Chrysippus, a Greek philosopher who specialized in logic, got a little tipsy. As he was making his way home, he came upon a donkey feasting on figs. For some reason, perhaps inebriation, Chrysippus found the scene hysterically amusing and couldn’t control his laughter. He ended up laughing himself to death…so be careful out there, especially at comedy clubs.
3. Dance of Death
To put those drug-induced, crazy dancing raves into perspective, consider this: dancing mania. So deadly, these parties were called The Dancing Plague of 1518. In eastern France, people danced for days and days, non-stop. They stopped only when they died. Other than mass hysteria, to this day there is no explanation for the incident. Party on but take a break now and then.
2.Winning Is Everything
The score was tied, 1-1 and the tension in the air was palpable. A hotly contested soccer match in the Congo in 1998 was anybody’s game. But then a lightning bolt blasted from the sky and killed all 11 members of one team. The other team was left without a scratch. Cries of witchcraft rang out and medicine men scattered. Mother Nature skulked in the shadows, thinking maybe she’d been a bit too brassy.
1. Self-Medication Gone Wrong
Gloria Ramirez was in bad shape and excruciating pain from advanced cervical cancer that was shutting down her organs. But when she was brought into the ER in 1994, the medical staff started passing out, one after another. A doctor noticed a garlicky, fruity smell on the woman’s breath and her blood sample smelled of ammonia. The only solid theory that emerged was the woman was self-medicating with a solvent called dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and the oxygen administered in the ambulance may have combined with the DMSO to create DMSO2, and then the electricity from the defibrillator converted that into DMSO4, a poisonous gas.
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