Absurd Deaths

Skeletons from the Mexican Day of the Dead.
Skeletons from the Mexican Day of the Dead. | Source

~I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.~

Mark Twain

Death Be Not Embarrassing

Throughout the logbooks of recorded history, deaths that are just a little bit silly have been jotted down for posterity by observant historians. Take, for example, the ancient Greek stoic philosopher, Chrysippus, who was said to have found the sight of his donkey attempting to eat a fig so knee-slappingly hilarious he collapsed and died in a fit of laughter---or the father of Greek tragedy, Aeschylus who was out walking one day when a tortoise fell from the sky on to his head, killing him instantly. An eagle, who had been hovering above with the tortoise in its mouth, had apparently been looking for something on which to smash his prey and mistook the Greek's bald head for a rock.

Consider too, Béla I of Hungary, who one moment was sitting resplendent on his elaborate throne and the next, dead as a doornail after the throne's canopy collapsed upon him without warning.

An intriguing absurd death was that of Chinese poet Li Po (701-706), who loved to recite his own poems when intoxicated. One night, while sitting in a boat on the Yangtze River he got particularly carried away with the poetic atmosphere and fell into the river and drowned while attempting to embrace the reflection of the moon.

Then there were those who willingly shook off their mortal coil with an absurd flourish, such as George Plantagenent, the Duke of Clarence in 1478, who being fond of a tipple, requested he be executed by drowning in a barrel of Maimsey wine.

Edward II
Edward II

According to legend, in an act of incredible (and suicidal) hubris, Greek philosopher Empedocles threw himself into the active volcano Mount Etna in Sicily in order to fool his followers into believing that his body had vanished and that he would return as a god. Alas, one of his sandals survived the tumult of the volcano and it was subsequently discovered by his followers , thus revealing the scam.

Perhaps one of the cruelest and most ignoble deaths in history was that of King Edward II. After his forced abdication in 1327 Edward was held under house arrest at various castles until his wife Isobella, upset at his close 'friendship' with a young man of the Royal Court, arranged secretly for his death. Held down by a mattress, a red-hot poker was pushed into his anus through a drenching-horn...his screams could be heard for miles around.


Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear

Seeing that death, a necessary end

Will come when it will come


Shakespeare

The woman who died in a chimney..
The woman who died in a chimney..

More recently, there's the sad case of factory worker Robert Williams, who died on the job in a Ford Motor casting plant in 1979 when he was knocked into oblivion by an unfeeling robot arm.

Then in 2010, ELO band member Mike Edward's life was cut tragically short when a bale of hay rolled down a hill and landed on his passing van.

Even more recently the tabloid press took great delight in revealing the story of the unfortunate medical intern, Jacquelyn Kotarac, who died after being stuck halfway down a chimney while attempting to break into her recalcitrant boyfriends home. The body was discovered only after her bodily fluids began dripping down the chimney shute. To compound the tragedy, despite whatever her Earthly achievements may have amounted to, Kotarac will now forever be remembered as "the woman who died in the chimney"...a case of death without too much dignity.


Death Be Not Inconvenient

Sometimes death can be not only embarrasing but can occur at the most inopportune moments. Take, for example the case of the former President of France, Félix François Faure, who expired most inconveniently in 1899 in delicato flagranto morto (caught with his pants down). The official cause of death was apoplexy, having happened at a critical point while engaging in an intimate encounter with 30-year-old Marguerite Steinhall, in his office.

Atilla the Hun suffered a heart attack while having sex with his wife on their wedding night...(most inconvenient for her).

And it was no doubt incredibly inconvenient for the church that Pope Paul II reputedly suffered a stroke in 1471 while being sodomized by a page boy...although the official version was that his death was brought on by indigestion, following the eating of a melon.



A still from Lucas Arts homage pc  game to film noir..'Grim Fandago"
A still from Lucas Arts homage pc game to film noir..'Grim Fandago"

Death Be Not Ironic

Isadora Duncan

An American born in 1877 and a revolutionary in the field of dance, Isadora Duncan found success on the world stage and established her own dance schools in Germany, France and the Soviet Union.

Isadora was not only a revolutionary in the dance world -she was also a radical thinker politically and ahead of her time socially. While she eschewed marriage, she had a penchant for intense affairs and had two children by two different lovers...one a stage designer, the other a millionaire...a scandalous situation for the era.

Yet despite her global achievements in dance and love affairs, hers was a life marked by extreme tragedy. In 1913 her two young children drowned when the car they were sitting in rolled into the Seine; an event that was to alter the mood and tone of her dance toward a more sombre syle.

Regarded as a genius by some, pretentious by others, her trademark was the long flowing scarves she used to wear that would trail behind her as she whooshed past, both on and off the stage. Duncan is often given credit for being 'the mother of modern dance'. Dancing barefoot in a Greek robe, she believed in "listening to the music with your soul" and thus founded a new system of interpretive dance, rejecting the formal conventions of tradtional ballet. It was, at least in spirit, a return to tthe classical Greek idea of the mousike -a coalescence of poetry, music and the rhythms of nature.

Isadora Duncan died in 1927 from a broken neck in Nice, France, when the long scarf she was wearing became entangled in the wheel of a Bugatti sports car. Tragically and ironically, she had been annihilated by the silken threads of her own gossimer trademark.


Lady of the Scarves, Isadora Duncan
Lady of the Scarves, Isadora Duncan

Death Be Not Stupid

The Darwin Awards, given posthumously, are, according to the blurb on their website, "named to honor Charles Darwin, and commemorate those who improve our gene pool by (accidentally) removing themselves from it". Here's just a few of the winners:

1993: A college student dressed up as Dracula Halloween and decided to make the costume more authentic by stuffing a pine board down his front. Carelessly, he shoved a knife into it to make it appear as though he'd been staked by vampire killers. However, he failed to note the thinness of the pine and when he banged the knife in with a hammer it went straight through the board and deep into his heart. Before dying, he managed to stagger into the party, gasping..."I really did it".

1998: Two experienced construction workers, working on a project 8 storeys high, fell 100 feet to their death after drilling a circular hole through thick concrete. Alas, they had failed to realise they were standing in the middle of the circle. Unfortunately neither man was wearing a safety harness.

2002: A women belonging to an extreme religious group who liked to regularly test their faith by standing amid busy traffic, was taken out by a vehicle on Interstate55 while proletysing to passing motorists. Apparently it was not the first time she had attempted to win converts whilst standing in the middle of the freeway.

2008: A 23 year old man with several body piercings wondered what it would feel like to connect an electronic control tester to his chest piercings. Connecting two alligator clips to his metal nipple piercings - one on each side, he pushed the test button. He could not be revived.

2010: A devon woman climbed the barrier at a seaside cliff in order to chase a feather floating in the air. So determined was she to get that feather she chased it right off the cliff and died of head injuries.


The Grim Reaper


~In the sphere of thought, absurdity and perversity remain the masters of the world, and their dominion is suspended only for brief periods. ~

Arthur Schopenhaeur



And of course...


Death Be Not Proud


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


John Donne


Portrait of John Donne by an unknown English artist
Portrait of John Donne by an unknown English artist

More by this Author

  • Australian War Songs
    18

    I clearly remember the first time I heard The Band Played Waltzing Mathilda - Eric Bogel's poignant ode to the men who were maimed and killed in the Great War and in particular Gallipoli.

  • Dignitas
    18

    Dignitas is the name of an organisation in Schwerzenbach, Switzerland where people from all over the world travel to die, via assisted suicide.

  • A Day in the Life of a 1950s Housewife
    115

    Post-feminist revolution, 1950's housewives carry a certain amount of hip kudos. Now that we have equality (or a facsimile thereof) we don't have to be on the defensive anymore. We can wear a stiff, full skirt, vintage...


Comments 15 comments

Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

Terrific hub; you put such a twist on death, it is hard not to enjoy reading it.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Thanks Petra..although I just noticed all the appalling spelling mistakes. Jeeze..it always amazes me how I manage to miss them before publishing.


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Well, you've done it, Jane. You made death interesting, readable and memorable. Not an easy task.

BTW, the best way not to miss any errors in spelling, punctuation, etc., is to type your hub in MS Word first before copying and pasting to your hub. Any errors will show up in red making it easier to spot them.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Very detailed Jane. Very enjoyable.

The Grim Reaper has his origins in the black death, the plague years of Europe. I like the dancing skeleton woodcuts from that period.

In the Disc World novels by Terry Pratchett the Grim Reaper is made into a real character. He wants to get to know humanity better but it seems humans aren't much on small talk when he appears. His companion in many of his adventures is a smaller rat-like version of himself, Death of Rats. He makes a home for himself which mirrors the usual house with picket fence and swing on the tree out in the yard but he can't get the color right so everything is gray and black. Fun stuff the Mexicans I am sure would approve of.

The first episode of the television show The Crow has the main character come back from the dead on the anniversary of his murder which happens to be the Mexican Day of the Dead which is also celebrated in L.A. He makes a spectacular re-entry into the world of the living which works in well with the festivities going on.

My writing of course touches upon death and what is beyond death. Vampires are really neither here nor there so undead is a pretty good description of what they are but referring to their state as unliving also has a lot of truth attached to it.

In my novel Ghost Dance I have the Old Ramsgate Baths south of Sydney as a place spirits can go for a good time. It was pulled down in 1970 to make way for a car park but in spirit it remains because it was so loved by the people. I remember going there as a kid. Apart from the swimming pools there was this arcade with its distorting mirrors, pinball machines and fortune teller machine. Personally I want to believe it is still around as a place for ghosts. I remember the banana fritters and the fun. These things should not disappear but fade into the realm of the shades.

The Darwin awards are always hilarious as is Monty Python. If you don't like my reply you can always reach for a holy hand grenade but be sure to follow the holy instructions it comes with.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Thanks for that tip drbj..and for the kind comment. As annoying as those red squiggly lines are, they can be helpful.

Cheers


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hey Rod,

Heh,heh..yeah, I love that Monty Python Grim Reaper scene.

Both Pratchett's Grim Reaper and The Crow series sound interesting.I do think the Mexican Day of the Dead is pretty amazing.It's on my list of things to do/visit. I want one of those little decorative skeletons.

That's a great idea...using the old Ramsgate Baths as a ghosts hangout. I remember you mentioning them before and they do sound fantastic. What a pity those things have gone by the wayside...but as you say they remain in the shadows through works like yours.

I liked your reply so I wont be throwing any holy hand grenades!


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Thanks Jane.

Pratchett is one of the best humorists to come to the fore in the late 20th Century and he's still got new titles coming out. He even wrote his own Disc World version of Australia that has his own concoction of vegemite in it and his own very strange salute to the desert based on an opera singer, peach Melba. I found it funny rather than offensive. Check out The Last Continent (1998) some time.

I loved the old Ramsgate Baths when I was a kid and in recent times, while doing research, discovered that there were a LOT of people around my age who also loved them. I suppose what I am saying is that love doesn't really die as in gone forever. It merely changes form from time to time. I find this a comforting thought.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

It is a comforting thought, thanks Rod. I will make it a mission to check out Pratchett..he sounds like my kind of writer.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Not superficial twaddle at all, my dear! A most enjoyable and interesting read, in fact.

Thanks for sharing all this fascinating stuff and a few good laughs as well!

Love and peace

Tony


Tour to Rajasthan 6 years ago

Hi ,

Thanks for shearing a wonderful article , nice information .


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Aw thanks tonymac...you're so nice.

Thanks too, Tour to Rajasthan for the generic comment, you naughty spammer.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

....my love life is in a current state of death - then again it never really lived!!!!!!

..but in this hub of infinite genius - you give life to death - so that makes you an ironic genius my dame - as I bow to thee with humility and respect ......


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Thanks epi,

I love that comment (naturally)...:)


Chasuk 6 years ago

An enjoyable hub about a morbidly enjoyable subject.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hi there..thanks for reading Chasuk!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working