- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Commercial & Creative Writing»
- Creative Writing»
- Humor Writing
10 Strange and Unusual Deaths
Death is a serious matter. None of us wants to go. None of us wants to see anyone we know go. But when we do go, we want it to be a dignified affair. We don't expect sniggers and giggles from those reading our obituaries.
Yet there are people who leave this world in a way that is downright ridiculous. As Shakespeare said, tragedy + distance = comedy. (Okay, it wasn't Shakespeare, but somebody said it). If there is time and/or space between us and the unfortunate victim, we can often share the Grim Reaper's sense of humor.
However, sometimes deaths are so downright bizarre, there still isn't a funny side. For your solemn and profound consideration, here are some examples of human beings who left this world in ways they didn't expect and certainly wouldn't have chosen.
Alberto Fargo - Danced to his Death (1998)
Portuguese dance teacher Alberto Fargo was demonstrating to his Lisbon dance class how to properly dance the tango. To maintain the the correct posture, it is essential to keep the head held high, so he recommended they practise by looking at the ceiling when dancing.
Unfortunately, when showing them how to do this, he had forgotten that a large window was open at the end of the room. Alberto therefore, watched intently by his students, tangoed down the room and straight out of the window.
Basil Brown - Killed by Carrot Juice (1974)
Basil Brown was a British man who was very keen on healthy living. He knew more than anyone needed to know about vitamins and minerals. Carrot juice was clearly much healthier than fizzy drinks and he decided to drink some of it. It was quite pleasant, so he drank some more of it. And some more. Then a bit more. And even more. In fact, he drank ten gallons of carrot juice in ten days (that's British gallons - 160 ounces as opposed to a U.S. gallon's 128 ounces - bet you didn't know that!)
They tell us that beta carotene in carrots is good for us. However, the human liver has its limits and Basil was getting around 10,000 times the normal dose. He died of liver poisoning. Basil Brown found out the hard way that you really can have too much of a good thing.
Hans Steininger - Death by Facial Hair (1567)
Shed a tear for the tragic demise of poor Hans Steininger. He was enjoying life as a celebrity in Austria in 1567. Fame had come to him not because of skill in battle or intellectual or artistic prowess - nothing so mundane. Hans was famous for his facial fuzz. His pride and joy was his beard, which he had managed to grow to a length of four and a half feet. People came from far and wide to gape at what hung from his chin. After a viewing, he would meticulously roll it up to keep it clean and safe. On one fateful occasion, however, he was a bit tired, left it loose and began to doze. As luck would have it, fire broke out in the building where he rented a room and someone yelled a warning. Jumping up in panic, Hans tripped up on his beard which snaked across the floor, went flying and smashed his head into the wall. He died instantly. Hans Steininger remains the world's only known victim of death by facial hair.
6 Londoners - Drowned in Beer (1814)
Meux and Company was a major beer brewer in London in the early nineteenth century. One day in 1814, the unthinkable happened, and the beer vats burst. 323,000 British gallons - that's 388,000 US gallons - of beer poured and gushed like an alcoholic tsunami onto the streets of London, in what has gone down in history as the Great London Beer Flood. A wave of beer demolished a house and knocked down a pub wall. Six people drowned. A seventh person died from alcohol poisoning.
21 Bostonians - Death by Molasses (1919)
If anything could be worse than a beer tsunami, it's one involving molasses. One of these engulfed a Northeastern U.S. city in 1919. In the Boston Molasses Disaster, a gigantic wave of the dark, sticky substance poured through the streets after a huge tank full of the stuff exploded, dooming twenty-one innocent Bostonians to a very sticky end. It is said that there were well over 2 million gallons of molasses and the wave traveled at 35 miles per hour, much faster than anyone could run.
Uroko Onoja - Death by Polygamy (2012)
Nigerian Uroko Onoja was a successful businessman who enjoyed displaying his wealth and power. One way he did so was to acquire material things; another way was to acquire wives - six of them, in all. Uroko was to discover that polygamy has its drawbacks, when five of his wives ganged up on him. They were so peeved that he was giving all his amorous attentions to his newest, youngest wife that they decided to take action. When Uroko came home at 3 a.m. after a night out with the boys and climbed into bed with wife number 6, ignoring the rest of them, it was the last straw. They surrounded him, armed with knives and sticks, and insisted he make love to each of them in turn. It was only fair, you might think, but Uroko found it a bit of strain. After making love to four of them, he dropped dead.
King Adolf Frederick of Sweden - Death by Dessert (1771)
King Adolf Frederick had a sweet tooth. Even though he had consumed a banquet of fishy food, including smoked herrings, caviar and lobster, accompanied by a big bowl of sauerkraut, he still fancied something smooth and sugary. I'm sure you know the feeling. The King ordered his favorite dessert, a Swedish speciality called Semla, a kind of cake with marzipan and hot milk. The problem was, King Adolf liked his Semla so much he just didn't know when to stop. He ordered seconds, then thirds, then fourths, fifths, sixths ...... until finally he couldn't manage another spoonful - after FOURTEEN bowls of Semla. Shortly afterwards, the King developed digestive problems and died. Think about poor old King Adolf whenever you are tempted to binge.
Death by Deodorant (1998)
A sixteen year old boy in England was so keen to smell fresh that he sprayed his entire body in deodorant twice every day. Eventually, his family became concerned as he was using so much that the scent was everywhere, even in the food in the kitchen. He just laughed it off - how could smelling good hurt you? Sadly, it could. The aerosol cans used butane and propane gas to expel the contents and he was constantly breathing them in. He was found dead next to three empty deodorant cans and a post-mortem found high levels of both chemicals in his blood. It was the first recorded death in Britain from accidental inhalation of aerosol contents.
Killed by Kindness
The Belgian Air Force went on a mission of mercy to deliver food to the starving people of the Sudan. Three Sudanese men ran into the field to collect the food, which the Belgians were to drop from the plane. Unfortunately, the pilot did not see the three men and dropped the boxes of supplies right on top of them, killing them outright.
Alex Mitchell - Died Laughing (1975) (N.B. NOT the clip he died laughing at - but these are the Goodies)
50-year old Alex Mitchell, who lived in Norfolk, England, was a big fan of a TV show starring the comedy team "The Goodies". The humor of the Goodies was a little surreal and celebrated the absurdity of life. During this particular episode, they presented a demonstration of a spoof Scottish martial art called "Toots-Hoots-Och-aye!" which involved using a set of bagpipes. This struck Alex's funny bone so precisely that he laughed almost non-stop for twenty-five minutes. Every time he thought of it, he would be engulfed in laughter again. Eventually, he died of heart-failure. His widow wrote to the Goodies to thank them for making his last moments so happy.
I'd be the first to admit some of these deaths are tragic rather than hilarious. But most show an ironic tendency that the Grim Reaper has to thwart our expectations and turn up when we least expect it. If you ever think about what might take you from this world, it's not likely that drowning in treacle or dancing out of a window would be high on your list. The Bible says death comes like a thief in the night, and maybe it does, but sometimes it turns up like a clown in the daytime, too. It just teaches us we should treasure every moment - and avoid too much carrot juice!