There really are a 1000 ways to die, I guess. Here are just 30 of the more unusual, ironic, and weird yet true examples…
458 BC: Greek playwright Aeschylus dies after an eagle dropped a tortoise on him, mistaking his bald head for a stone.
98: The creator of the brazen bull, Perillos of Athens, is according to legend the bull’s first victim, after presenting his invention to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum.
258: St Lawrence was martyred by being burned on a large metal gridiron in Rome. He is often depicted holding it. Legend says that he was so strong-willed that instead of giving in to the Romans and releasing information about the Church, at the point of death he exclaimed “I am done on this side! Turn me over and eat.”
1322: Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, was fatally speared through the anus by a pikeman hidden under the bridge during the Battle of Boroughbridge.
1559: King Henry II of France was killed during a jousting match, when his helmet’s soft gold grille gave way to a broken lance tip, which pierced his eye and entered his brain.
1841: William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, died of pneumonia one month after delivering his two-hour inauguration speech in cold weather without an overcoat.
1868: Matthew Vassar, brewer and founder of Vassar College, died in mid-speech while delivering his farewell address to the College Board of Trustees.
1884: Detective Allan Pinkerton died of gangrene that developed after he stumbled on the sidewalk and bit his tongue.
1899: French president Félix Faure died of a stroke while receiving oral sex in his office.
1911: Jack Daniel, founder of the Tennessee whiskey distillery, died of blood poisoning six years after receiving a toe injury when he kicked his safe in anger at being unable to remember its combination.
1912: Franz Reichelt, a French tailor, fell to his death off the first deck of the Eiffel Tower. He was testing his invention, the coat parachute. It was his first ever attempt with the parachute and he’d told the authorities in advance he would test it first with a dummy.
1916: Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, was poisoned while dining with a political enemy. He was supposedly given enough poison to kill three men his size. When he did not die, another assassin sneaked up behind him and shot him in the head. While checking Rasputin’s pulse, Rasputin grabbed the man by the neck and strangled him. Rasputin fled and the other assassins caught up, but only after they shot him threetimes. They then bludgeoned Rasputin, then threw him into a frozen river. When his body washed ashore, an autopsy showed the cause of death to be drowning (although there has recently been doubt about the credibility of this account).
1923: Professional jockey Frank Hayes suffered a heart attack during a race. The horse, Sweet Kiss, went on to finish first, making Hayes the only deceased jockey to win a race.
1927: Isadora Duncan, dancer, died after being strangled and finally and broken neck. One of her signature long scarves caught on the wheel of the car in which she was riding.
1927: Racecare driver J.G. Parry-Thomas was decapitated by his car’s drive chain which, under stress, snapped and whipped into the cockpit. He was attempting to break his own land speed record; he succeeded with a new record of 171 mph.
1945: Anton Webern, an Austrian composer, was shot by an American soldier in Sept. 1945, during the Allied occupation of Austria. Despite the curfew in effect, Webern had stepped outside the house to enjoy a cigar without disturbing his sleeping grandchildren.
1960: The Nedelin disaster occurs. A prototype of the of the Soviet R-16 ICBM missile was being prepared for a test flight, when its second stage engines ignited prematurely. It exploded on the launch pad killing more than 100 Soviet missile technicians, including Red Army Marshal Nedelin, who was seated in a deck chair just 40 meters away overseeing launch preparations. Automatically activated cinema cameras set around the launching pad filmed the explosion.
1967: Vladimir Komarov became the first person to die during a space mission after the parachute of his capsule failed to deploy following re-entry.
1967: A flash fire began in the pure oxygen environment during a training exercise inside the unlaunched Apollo 1 spacecraft, killing Command Pilot Gus Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee. The door to the capsule was unable to be opened during the fire because of a design flaw.
1974: Christine Chubbuck, an American television news reporter, committed suicide during a live broadcast. 8 minutes into her talk show, on WXLT-TV in Sarasota, Florida, she drew out a revolver and shot herself in the head.
1975: On 24 March Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer, literally died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, who was a witness, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing while watching a sketch in the episode “Kung Fu Kapers“. After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter, Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired from heart failure.
1976: Keith Relf, former singer for British band The Yardbirds, died while practicing his electric guitar; he was electrocuted because the guitar was not properly grounded.
1978: Janet Parker, a British photographer, died of smallpox ten months after the disease was eradicated in the wild, after a researcher at the laboratory that Parker was working at accidentally released some of the virus into the air of the building. She is believed to be the last smallpox fatality in history.
1981: Boris Sagal, a motion picture-director, died while shooting the TV miniseries World War III when he walked into the tail-rotor blade of a helicopter and was decapitated.
1983: Five divers on the Byford Dolphin oil exploration rig were killed when the decompression chamber was accidentally opened, causing explosive decompression. One diver (designated D4 during the subsequent investigation) was violently dismembered and pulled through a narrowly opened hatch (about a 60cm diameter opening).
1993: Toronto lawyer Garry Hoy fell to his death after he threw himself through the glass wall on the 24th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre in order to prove the glass was “unbreakable.”
2001: Bernd-Jürgen Brandes was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and then eaten by Armin Meiwes. Brandes had answered an internet advertisement by Meiwes stating he was “”looking for a well-built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed”. Brandes explicitly stated in his will that he wished to be killed and eaten. Before the killing, both men dined on Brandes’ severed penis. Meiwes ate the body over the next 10 months, storing body parts in his freezer under pizza boxes. He consumed up to 20 kilograms (44 lb) of the flesh. Because of his acts, Meiwes is known as the Rotenburg Cannibal or Der Metzgermeister (The Master Butcher). The incident is the subject of the song “Mein Teil” (“My Part”) by German NDH band Rammstein.
2005: Kenneth Pinyan of Seattle died of acute peritonitis after submitting to anal intercourse with a stallion. The case led to the criminalization of bestiality in Washington.
2006: Steve Irwin, a television personality and naturalist known as The Crocodile Hunter, died when his heart was impaled by a short-tail stingray barb while filming a documentary entitled “Ocean’s Deadliest” in Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. The stingray was not the creature being filmed.
2007: Surinder Singh Bajwa, the Deputy Mayor of Delhi, India, was attacked by a group of Rhesus Macaque monkeys at his home and fell from a first floor balcony, suffering serious head injuries. He later died from his injuries.