We know that death is coming for all of us at some point in time. Until and unless science figures out a way for us to live forever, we’re all going to die. That’s the bad news.
The good news is it probably won’t happen like this:
For this first unusual death story, we’ll have to travel back to the year 620 BCE. An Athenian lawmaker named Draco was smothered to death by a bunch of cloaks and hats that had been given to him as gifts from appreciative citizens.
At least he was smothered to death by presents, though. Everybody loves presents.
In 475 BCE, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus died after being attacked by dogs. The dogs went after him because he had smeared himself with cow manure in an attempt to cure a condition known as dropsy (typically referred to today as edema). He probably didn’t expect smearing manure all over his body to be the second-worst thing to happen to him that day.
The Athenian playwright Aeschylus also had an unusual death. After hearing a prophecy that said he’d be killed by a falling object, he decided to go sit outside. It was then that an eagle mistook Aeschylus’ bald head for a rock and dropped a tortoise on top of it to crack the shell.
In 288 BCE, a Greek tyrant named Agothocles was murdered…
By a poisoned toothpick.
The Greek Stoic philosopher Chrysippus laughed himself to death. What was so funny? Apparently, he saw a donkey eating his figs.
Jokes were different back then, I guess.
This next guy actually made a pretty hilarious joke even as he was dying…
The year was 258 AD and the deacon Saint Lawrence was being roasted alive. Not one to pass up the opportunity to make a hilarious joke (even whilst being barbecued), he shouted out, “Turn me over — I’m done on this side!”
He is now the patron saint of chefs and comedians. It’s not hard to see why.
In the year 892, Sigurd the Mighty of Orkney was feeling pretty proud of himself after killing his foe, Máel Brigte. So proud, in fact, that he cut off Brigte’s head and strapped it to his horse’s saddle. Unfortunately for Sigurd, he sat in such a way that caused Brigte’s teeth to rub against his legs and create an open wound. The wound became infected and Sigurd eventually died as a result.
In 1016, Edmund Ironside was killed when he was sitting on a toilet by an assassin who was hiding in the toilet.
Obviously, dying on the john is a terrible way to go, but I have to imagine that the assassin’s night wasn’t too great either.
In 1387, Charles II of Navarre fell ill and consulted his physician. The doctor ordered him to be wrapped up in a linen cloth soaked in brandy (like a really boozy sleeping bag).
One of his female attendants sewed him into the sack and tied a know to finish the stitch. She didn’t have scissors handy and decided to use a candle to burn the end of the thread. The sack (which, as you’ll remember, was soaked in alcohol) immediately caught fire, burning Charles to death.
In 1567, a man named Hans Staininger died after tripping over his own 4 1/2-foot-long beard.
He usually kept his beard rolled up in a leather pouch. For good reason, as it turns out.
And now for the tale of the king who ate himself to death…
In 1771, the King of Sweden died of digestive problems. They were most likely (and by “most likely” I mean absolutely 100 percent) caused by his final meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring, champagne, and 14 servings of sweet rolls in hot milk.
He is remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as “the king who ate himself to death,” though I can’t imagine why.
Clement Vallandigham was a lawyer hired to defend a man named Thomas McGehan, who was accused of killing a man in a barroom brawl. Vallandigham argued that the victim had actually accidentally shot himself in the abdomen.
In order to prove his theory, Vallandigham put a gun (which he assumed was unloaded) into his pocket, then pulled it out. It snagged on his clothing, shooting the lawyer in the abdomen. Vallandigham died, but on the bright side, Thomas McGehan was acquitted.
Allan Pinkerton, the founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, fell on the pavement and bit his tongue.
His tongue soon became infected with gangrene, which was the eventual cause of his death.
George Herbert was the Earl who financed Howard Carter’s search for Tutankhamun’s tomb. He died of infection after accidentally cutting into a mosquito bite on his face while shaving. Some believe his death was caused by a curse.
In 1927, the famous dancer Isadora Duncan got into a car owned while wearing a long silk scarf. As the car drove off, her scarf became tangled in the spokes of the car’s wheel, breaking her neck and killing her instantly.
This next story once again proves that toothpicks are more dangerous than we thought…
The American novelist and short story writer Sherwood Anderson died of damage to his internal organs after accidentally swallowing a toothpick.
Bet you didn’t think there’d be two toothpick-related deaths on this list!
In 1958, an actor named Gareth Jones suffered a heart attack and died between scenes of a live television play in which he was performing.
Sure, that’s not too unusual. What is unusual is that his fellow actors had to continue on with the play, so they improvised lines to fill in for their co-star who had just died off-stage.
Kurt Gödel was an Austrian-American logician and mathematician. In 1977, his wife was hospitalized for six months. Gödel refused to eat any food that hadn’t been prepared by her, and thus starved to death in January of 1978.
When the American playwright Tennessee Williams put eyedrops in, he had a habit of holding the cap between his teeth.
In 1983, he choked on the cap and died.
In 1993, Garry Hoy was showing some visitors around his office building in Toronto, Ontario. He bragged to the crowd that the windows were “unbreakable.” To prove this claim, he threw himself against the glass of a 24th-floor window.
The good news? The glass did not break.
The bad news? The window popped out of its frame, and Hoy fell to his death.