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Strange Deaths: Middle Ages Time Period

Updated on December 16, 2020

Watch Out For Deadly Teeth

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Strange Deaths in History

Usually, I write about odd things that end up being part fiction, partly true stories. While trying to track down information on a certain legend where a strange death occurred, I found out that this strange event was absolutely true! With almost no further searching, I ended up on webpages detailing strange TRUE deaths, so I went to the "Middle Ages" section (more research on the "Buried Alive" legends...too many of which are true stories) and ended up in a bizarre collection of absolutely documented deaths that seem so strange that they sound like fictitious urban legends.

Here are a few I feel I can mention here (some are so gross and unbelievable that even I won't put them on hubpages):

Martin of Aragon Laughed Himself To Death

Martin, who held many titles, succumbed to laughter in an unusual death. Known as Martin, King of Aragon, Valencia, Sardinia and Corsica (from 1396 'til death) and as Count of Barcelona (from 1409, under the name of Martin II - until death), was born in 1356 and expired in Barcelona in the year, 1410.

Okay, there was another element present in his death but honestly, I refused to put it in the subheading, in bold here, because I didn't want to say, "Martin of Aragon Died of Abdominal Gas and Laughter," or "Marting of Aragon Died of a full belly and laughter," or something similarly silly-sounding...

But apparently, this man actually DID die of the combination of indigestion and laughter!

* Note: some others have died of laughter, too - quite a number of people both recently and in the historical past in long ago times. Apparently, laughing can be a deadly matter.

Death by Eel...Henry I Died by "Pigging Out" On His Favourite Food

It is said that King Henry I of England, born sometime between May 1068 and May 1069, loved to eat lamprey eels and these were a delicacy and favourite food. On the day of his death, December 1, 1135, he had consumed a great feast of his favourite food.

Apparently, he got food poisoning from his favourite dish and expired in 1135.

All I know about eels is that some, you can safely eat, some you cannot, but I'm still checking up on this legend of strange death to find out if the problem was that Henry I ate too much of his favourite dish, ate a wrong species of eel, that the dish was not prepared properly or just what.

Death of the 4th Earl of Hereford: Speared in the Butt! It's True!

In 1322, the 4th Earl of Hereford, Humphrey de Bohun was literally speared in the butt, causing his death.

It is believed that this 4th Earl of Hereford was born in 1276 but this date is uncertain, however, we can know the date of his death as March 16 1322.

Humphrey was engaged in military manouvres at the Battle of Boroughbridge at Yorkshire and was just getting ready to storm the wooden bridge at Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, moments before his awful demise.

I'll display the quote Wikipedia uses from the authority of historian Ian Mortimer from Mortimer's book, "The Greatest Traitor":

"[The 4th Earl of] Hereford led the fight on the bridge, but he and his men were caught in the arrow fire. Then one of de Harclay's pikemen, concealed beneath the bridge, thrust upwards between the planks and skewered the Earl of Hereford through the anus, twisting the head of the iron pike into his intestines. His dying screams turned the advance into a panic."

Okay... 'nuff said here, I think...

Gives me a pain just to think about this too much.

Sigurd the Mighty. Otherwise known as Sigurd Eysteinsson The Viking Earl of Orkney

Apparently during the tenth century, The Viking Earl of Orkney - Sigurd The Mighty - caused his own death through displaying evidence of his MIGHTINESS! Or...displaying a stupidity that would never have been recognized nor care been taken to prevent beforehand, anyway, in his culture and era (sorry - this mention of "stupidity" is an unqualified judgment based on my modern era worldview but I'm leaving it in'll understand WHY once you hear the whole story).

...Or, there's another way to look at it which is also technically correct: Sigurd was killed in a mysterious way by a DEAD MAN!

Strangely, once you take in the necessary details, you'll have to conclude that both statements are TRUE...Sigurd caused his own death. Sigurd the Mighty was killed by a dead man, too.

I know that makes little sense, so far, so let me back up just a bit...

During the times when Vikings "conquered" and battled face to face and by hand, it was not unusual for individuals to walk away from battle displaying the spoils and trophies of war. Sometimes doing so helped individuals to build reputations concerning prowess on the battlefield, so a Viking warrior might chop off then display the hand of a beaten and deceased opponent somewhere on his property - thus striking fear into the hearts of those who might challenge the victorious warrior.

Technically, our ancient friend, Sigurd the Mighty was killed by an opponent, although Mighty Sig won his battle as a leader in the Viking Conquest of the area now known as Northern Scotland. Sigurd was killed by the fallen and fully deceased Mael Brigte (a Nobleman Pict) whom Sigurd had recently and brutally slain in combat!

No, Mael was no vampire, ghost or any other "supernatural entity." Despite the brutal nature of battle of the day, Mael wasn't engaged in a vampire-like or ghost-like supernatural act of vengeance concerning his death, either. Mael was definitely, entirely, and stone-cold DEAD when he killed the Mighty Sigurd!

Dead as a door-knob, dead as a rock, dead as an overpowered Pict, dead as a... well, I'm sure you get the picture.

Technically, Mael errrrrrrrrr sort of BIT Sigurd to death. Yes, that's right, you read it right, "BIT" Sigurd...and yes, Sigurd died by the teeth of Mael ! How horrendous!

Again, believe it or not - this is not about vampire vengeance! Again, Mael Brigte was definitely already dead.

The Pictish Nobleman, Mael Brigte was more than dead...he was slain and beheaded by Sigurd the Mighty. As a symbolic gesture, Sigurd had strapped Mael Brigte's caput (head) to his saddle to display proof of the victory as Sigurd embarked upon his journey back to his homelands. At this point, Mael was obviously no more than a trophy of conquest to the Mighty Sigurd, however...

As Sigurd rode, Mael's teeth grazed against and broke the skin of Sigurd's thigh. Sigurd the Mighty endured a massive infection at the spot where Mael's teeth had grazed his leg.

Sigurd expired from the wound from Mael's teeth and the resulting infection.

Mael Brigte is also known as Mael Brigte The Bucktoothed.


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    • CMHypno profile image


      6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Well I suppose we all have to go some way or other! Taken on board that it is definitely not a good idea to tie the heads of your slain enemies onto your saddle. I think the really awful thing about medieval injury and death is there were no painkillers or modern medical procedures.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Shoot, if you can't place them here, then where? as long as you can keep the cookies down.( forgive the southern humor) i know what you mean--there some things in our past here i wouldn't get into.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hello Alastar Packer! I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. Truth be known, there are a LOT more tidbits I need to place on this hub but I've refrained from doing so thus far because I'm having trouble getting my head around the freakish and bizarre (entirely horrific) deaths I've looked up for this hub. Truth is much more horrendous than fiction regarding deaths from earlier times - including executions (whoops, felt my cookies trying to exit, just thinking about that last sentence - so I'm going to go now).

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Man,Mythbuster, that was some great tid-bits I'd never heard nor read before on Euro history...greatly enjoyed!

    • PaperNotes profile image


      10 years ago

      Interesting! When it is a man's time to die, he will die in whatever possible way.

    • pennyofheaven profile image


      10 years ago from New Zealand

      That is truly amazing and mind bogling. We often do not hear about the different ways people die. Enjoyed it thoroughly Thank you.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hello evvy_09. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I think the deaths presented here are very awful and weird, too. Yikes @ Mael!

    • evvy_09 profile image


      10 years ago from Athens, AL

      Seems like Mael should have taken better care of his teeth but that is one of the bad things about living in the middle ages. All these death are so weird. Thanks for sharing.

      I became a follower though I'm sure I had followed you earlier. Not sure how I stopped being one in the first place.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Glad you liked this hub, shai77. Any research requests will be instantly considered - just letting you know. Take care...

    • shai77 profile image


      10 years ago

      Thumbs up my friend :-)

      You have wonderful Hubs!

      Dugg this one.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      Wow! Grisly yet fun and interesting read. Thumbs up!

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      I also love the buckteeth story, magnoliazz. That would be an awful death, for sure - from dirty saliva of an already deceased opponent!

    • magnoliazz profile image


      11 years ago from Wisconsin

      I love hubs like this! You remind me of my grandfather and his Viking tales!

      There is nothing worse than a human bite! Human saliva is filthy! And back in those days, when they did not even bother to brush their teeth, especially when they were on the war path, it would have been even worse. No Listerine here boys! ironic about the buckteeth, I love it.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hey MrMidNight, you pose an interesting question, "With all this chaos going on [in the Middle Ages] how could we exist now"? It's sort of amazing that mankind survived through many of the horrendous tortures of this earlier time period, especially when we know, at present day, of all the superstitious beliefs that were ACTED UPON consistently during that earlier time period.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Ahh yes, deaths in the middle ages were as common as brushing your teeth, the aggression being out of control, sometimes makes you think. With all this choas going on back then, how could we exist now, intrigruing hub...

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hello mrsmillich, thanks for commenting. I'm glad you found the hub, especially the Henry I section, interesting. All I've found out, so far, is a little about eels, but nothing about how these related to Henry I... I've found out that where eels are a delicacy and rather common on the menu or as a food source, people in those areas of the world who regularly consume eels are careful about certain varieties because some are NOT good food sources. I'm running into a possibly MYTH, however, about eels in the raw state being poisonous vs cooked eels which are made safe for consumption by the cooking process... I'm not sure if this is a truth or not.

      It might be that Henry I's meal was poorly prepared, undercooked or any of a number of other things. A few "accounts" on the matter say he died of "food poisoning" which means the meat from the eels could have been undercooked, poorly prepared, or a number of things and that he didn't necessarily die of "poison" from the eels.

    • mrsmillich profile image


      11 years ago from New York

      Super interesting! I'd be interested to find out more about Henry I and his eels, because I don't think I've heard that before. Thanks for sharing!

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      I think there are actually a few versions on the Sigurd the Mighty death, Enelle Lamb...this version was wacky enough, so I left well enough alone. I think the pike up the butt story was particularly gruesome - strange but true, but it happened sort of by accident - whereas there are a LOT of documented cases from the Middle Ages time period where similar tortures were actually planned and executed - ugh.

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 

      11 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Another very intereting hub! I heard about Sigurd, but not the others...not even mentioning the 'Piker' LOL...

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hey christopheranton, thanks for commenting...ummm I'm just going to skip breakfast now! lol I know that throughout history, mankind has been brutal and performed all manner of horrendous tortures against fellow human beings. The deaths mentioned on this hub from the Middle Ages time period are probably THE LEAST HEINOUS of deaths if one really wants to do a diligent search on details about torture methods used from this time period. It was a time of hysteria, superstitions and brutality...and I'm glad we have advanced...although in some regions of the world, certain forms of capital punishment seem to survive and thrive. Your pull-quartering that you mentioned was done with horses but also by mechanical means in some areas. It would have been just AWFUL to live in those earlier times... and many of these tortures were made public so that the public could WATCH...yes, I think I'll hold off on my breakfast for a few hours now. Brunch sounds nicer for this morning. Thx for name-dropping, too... I'll go look up the Robert Damiens/Louis XV of France connection.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      11 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Thanks for an interesting, albeit gory hub.

      Although terrible deaths were not only confined to the middle ages. One of the worst was that of Robert Damiens, who attempted to kill Louis XV of France. After an assortment of tortures, too gruesome to list, he was tied to four horses and pulled different directions. Because his joints refused to part he was quartered by the executioner, and his still living torso was thrown on a fire.

      Not nice.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      CMHypno, thanks for stopping by and adding a few notes to the "gross death" list lol Yes, red hot pokers anywhere on the body would be excruciating. And how about the favourite Mongol tactic of pouring molten silver into the ears, down the throat, etc...? really I should stop now - I'm having a late supper and really do wish to be able to eat lol I'm NOT going to be having eels for supper *whew*

    • CMHypno profile image


      11 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Interesting Hub mythbuster, it's amazing how many ways there are to die really. What about poor old Edward II and his red hot poker or the Duke of Clarence asking to be drowned in a vat of malmsey wine? Fascinating stuff.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      lorlie6, thanks for enjoying my gory hub first thing during your morning coffee time haha. I'm actually enjoying your comment during MY first coffee, late this morning! I loved researching the Viking story...I'm seeing all kinds of ways the Sigurd demise can be told in "ghost story" fashion around the campfire or in spooky story circles, etc. Glad you started your day getting a kick out of these true stories. Watch out for stray pikes, buck teeth, signs of indigestion when something funny is around - oh, and don't consume too many eels for supper tonight, eh? Just in case.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      palmerlarryray, you've got it right - a lot of true stories are stranger than fiction! For the latter part of your viewpoint concerning capital punishment and the torture of rapists and child molesters, I'm sorry but I have to disagree on the "threat as a deterrent." If you do a little research, you'll find that capital punishment has never been an effective deterrent to most crimes. I wouldn't wish any of the deaths mentioned on this hub on anyone, criminal or not.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      11 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Wow. What a gloriously gory read to go with my morning coffee! Ah, mythbuster, you've quite the talent for surprise.

      Loved this, but pardon me while I go brush my teeth! :-)

    • palmerlarryray profile image

      Larry Ray Palmer 

      11 years ago from Macon, Missouri

      Very interesting hub. It's true what they say. Sometimes, Truth is stranger than fiction. I think some of these would make great methods of capital punishment. After all, how many rapists and child molesters do you think there would be if they knew they were going to be skewered with a pike? Sounds like a case of punishment fitting the crime to me.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hey BJBenson - glad you enjoyed the hub. I don't know... I think maybe the Martin 4th Earl of Hereford was probably a pretty awful death. Makes me cringe to think about it.

    • BJBenson profile image


      11 years ago from USA

      Yes we all die,some in ways that are crazy sounding.

      I hope I don't die on the toilet like Elvis. That was sad.

      I enjoyed the read. I found it very funny.


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