List of unusual deaths

This is a list of unusual deaths. This list includes only unique or extremely rare circumstances of death recorded throughout history, noted as being unusual by multiple sources. Oxford Dictionaries defines the word unusual as "not habitually or commonly occurring or done" and "remarkable or interesting because different from or better than others".[2]

Some other articles also cover deaths that might be considered unusual or ironic, including list of entertainers who died during a performance, list of inventors killed by their own inventions, list of association footballers who died while playing, list of cyclists with a cycling-related death and the list of political self-immolations.


Name of person Image Date of death Details
Draco of Athens c. 620 BC Draco, an Athenian lawmaker, was reportedly smothered to death by gifts of cloaks and hats showered upon him by appreciative citizens at a theatre on Aegina.[3][4]
Charondas Late 7th to early 5th century BC Charondas was a Greek lawgiver from Sicily.[5][6] According to Diodorus Siculus, he issued a law that anyone who brought weapons into the Assembly must be put to death.[5][6][7] One day, he arrived at the Assembly seeking help to defeat some brigands in the countryside but with a knife still attached to his belt.[5][6] In order to uphold his own law, he committed suicide.[5][6][7]
Arrhichion of Phigalia 564 BC Arrichion of Phigalia, a Greek pankratiast, caused his own death during the Olympic finals. Held by his unidentified opponent in a stranglehold and unable to free himself, Arrichion kicked his opponent, causing him so much pain that the opponent made the sign of defeat to the umpires, but at the same time breaking Arrichion's neck. Since the opponent had conceded defeat, Arrichion was proclaimed the victor posthumously.[8][9]
Sisamnes c. 525 BC According to Herodotus, Sisamnes was a corrupt judge under Cambyses II of Persia. He accepted a bribe and delivered an unjust verdict. As a result, the king had him arrested and flayed alive. His skin was then used to cover the seat in which his son would sit in judgment.[10][11]
Pythagoras of Samos c. 495 BC Ancient sources disagree on how the Greek philosopher Pythagoras died,[12][13] but one late and probably apocryphal legend reported by both Diogenes Laërtius, a third-century AD biographer of famous philosophers, and Iamblichus, a Neoplatonist philosopher, states that Pythagoras was murdered by his political enemies.[13] Supposedly, he almost managed to outrun them,[13] but he came to a bean field and refused to run through it because he had prohibited beans as ritually unclean.[14][13] Since cutting through the field would violate his own teachings, Pythagoras simply stopped running and was killed.[13] This story may have been fabricated by Neanthes of Cyzicus, on whom both Diogenes and Iamblichus rely as a source.[13]
Heraclitus of Ephesus c. 475 BC According to one account given by Diogenes Laërtius, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus was said to have been devoured by dogs after smearing himself with cow manure in an attempt to cure his dropsy.[15][16]
Themistocles c. 459 BC Themistocles, the Athenian general who won the Battle of Salamis, actually died of natural causes in exile,[17][18] but was widely rumored to have committed suicide by drinking bull's blood.[17][18][19][20] Since bull's blood is not actually poisonous,[18] Themistocles cannot have died in this way,[18] but the legend is widely retold in classical sources.[18] The early twentieth-century English classicist Percy Gardner proposed that the story about him drinking bull's blood may have been based on an ignorant misunderstanding of a statue showing Themistocles in a heroic pose, holding a cup as an offering to the gods.[18] The comedic playwright Aristophanes references Themistocles drinking bull's blood in his comedy The Knights (performed in 324 BC) as the most heroic way for a man to die.[18][21]
Aeschylus c. 455 BC According to Valerius Maximus, Aeschylus, the eldest of the three great Athenian tragedians, was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his bald head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avert a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object.[22][23][24]
Empedocles of Akragas c. 430 BC Empedocles of Acragas was a Pre-Socratic philosopher from the island of Sicily, who, in one of his surviving poems, declares himself to have become a "divine being... no longer mortal".[25] According to Diogenes Laërtius, he tried to prove he was an immortal god by leaping into Mount Etna, an active volcano.[26][27] This legend is also alluded to by the Roman poet Horace.[28]
Sophocles c. 406 BC A number of "remarkable" legends concerning the death of Sophocles, another of the three great Athenian tragedians, are recorded in the late antique Life of Sophocles.[22] According to one legend, he choked to death on an unripe grape.[22] Another says that he died of joy after hearing that his last play had been victorious.[22] A third account reports that he died of suffocation after reading aloud a lengthy monologue from the end of his play Antigone without pausing to take a breath for commas or punctuation.[22]
Mithridates 401 BC Mithridates, a Persian soldier who embarrassed his king, Artaxerxes II, by boasting of killing his rival, Cyrus the Younger (who was the brother of Artaxerxes II), was executed by scaphism. The king's physician, Ctesias, reported that Mithridates survived the insect torture for 17 days.[29][30]
Democritus of Abdera c. 370 BC According to Diogenes Laërtius, the Greek Atomist philosopher Democritus of Abdera died at the age of 109;[31][32] as he was on his deathbed, his sister was greatly worried because she needed to fulfill her religious obligations to the goddess Artemis in the approaching three-day Thesmophoria festival.[31][32] Democritus told her to place a loaf of warm bread under his nose[31][32] and was able to survive for the three days of the festival by sniffing it.[31][32] He died immediately after the festival was over.[31][32]
Antiphanes c. 310 BC Antiphanes was a renowned comic poet of the Middle Attic comedy. The Suda claims he died after being struck by a pear.[33][34]
Agathocles of Syracuse 289 BC Agathocles, a Greek tyrant of Syracuse, was murdered with a poisoned toothpick.[35]
Philitas of Cos c. 270 BC Philitas of Cos, a Greek intellectual, is said by Athenaeus to have studied arguments and erroneous word usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death.[36] British classicist Alan Cameron speculates that Philitas died from a wasting disease which his contemporaries joked was caused by his pedantry.[37]
Qin Shi Huang 10 September 210 BC Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, whose artifacts and treasures include the Terracotta Army, died after ingesting several pills of mercury in the belief that it would grant him eternal life.[38][39][40]
Chrysippus of Soli c. 206 BC One ancient account of the death of Chrysippus, a third-century BC Greek Stoic philosopher, tells that he died of laughter after he saw a donkey eating his figs; he told a slave to give the donkey neat wine to drink to wash them down with, and then, "...having laughed too much, he died" (Diogenes Laërtius 7.185).[41]
Eleazar Avaran c. 163 BC Eleazar Avaran was the brother of Judas Maccabeus. According to 1 Maccabees 6:46, in battle, he thrust his spear into the belly of a king's war elephant, which collapsed and fell on top of Eleazar, killing him instantly.[42]
Porcia Catonis June 43 to October 42 BC The daughter of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis and second wife of Marcus Junius Brutus, according to ancient historians such as Cassius Dio and Appian killed herself by swallowing hot coals.[43] Modern historians find this tale implausible.[44]
Claudius Drusus c. 20 AD According to Suetonius, Claudius Drusus, the eldest son of the future Roman Emperor Claudius, died while playing. Having tossed a pear high in the air, when it came back, he caught it in his mouth but he choked on it, dying of asphyxia.[45]
Tiberius 16 March 37 AD The Roman emperor Tiberius died in Misenum at the age of seventy-eight. According to Tacitus, the emperor appeared to have died and Caligula, who was at Tiberius' villa, was being congratulated on his succession to the empire, when news arrived that the emperor had revived and was recovering his faculties. Those who had moments before recognized Caligula as Augustus fled in fear of the emperor's wrath, while Macro, a prefect of the Praetorian Guard, took advantage of the chaos to have Tiberius smothered with his own bedclothes, definitively killing him.[46]
Simon the Zealot 1st century AD According to an ancient tradition, Simon, an apostle of Jesus, was sawn in half in Persia.[47]
Saint Lawrence 258 AD The deacon Saint Lawrence was roasted alive on a giant grill during the persecution of Valerian.[48][49] Prudentius tells that he joked with his tormentors, "Turn me over—I'm done on this side".[50] He is now the patron saint of cooks, chefs and comedians.[51]

Middle Ages

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Ragnar Lodbrok c. 865 Ragnar Lodbrok, a semi-legendary Viking leader whose exploits are narrated in the Ragnars saga loðbrókar, a thirteenth-century Icelandic saga, is said to have been captured by Ælla of Northumbria, who had him executed by throwing him into a pit of snakes.[52]
Louis III of France 5 August 882 Louis III, king of West Francia, died aged around 18 at Saint-Denis. Whilst mounting his horse to pursue a girl who was running to seek refuge in her father's house he hit his head on the lintel of a low door and fell, fracturing his skull.[53]
Sigurd the Mighty of Orkney 892 Sigurd the Mighty, the second Earl of Orkney, strapped the head of his defeated foe, Máel Brigte, to his horse's saddle. Brigte's teeth rubbed against Sigurd's leg as he rode, causing a fatal infection, according to the Old Norse Heimskringla and Orkneyinga sagas.[54]
Edmund Ironside 30 November 1016 Edmund Ironside was stabbed whilst on a toilet, by an assassin hiding underneath.
Béla I of Hungary 11 September 1063 Béla I of Hungary, when the Holy Roman Empire decided to launch a military expedition against Hungary to restore young Solomon to the throne, was seriously injured when "his throne broke beneath him" in his manor at Dömös.[55] The King—who was "half-dead", according to the Illuminated Chronicle—was taken to the western borders of his kingdom, where he died at the creek Kanizsa on 11 September 1063.[56][57]
Crown Prince Philip of France 13 October 1131 Crown Prince Philip of France died while riding through Paris, when his horse tripped over a black pig running out of a dung heap.[58]
Henry I of England 1 December 1135 While visiting relatives, Henry supposedly ate too many lampreys against his physician's advice, causing a pain in his gut and ultimately his death.[59]
Al-Musta'sim 20 February 1258 Al-Musta'sim, the last Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad, was executed by his Mongol captors by being rolled up in a rug and then trampled by horses.[60]
Edward II of England 21 September 1327 Edward II of England was rumoured to have been murdered, after being deposed and imprisoned by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, by having a horn pushed into his anus through which a red-hot iron was inserted, burning out his internal organs without marking his body.[61][62] However, there is no real academic consensus on the manner of Edward II's death and it has been plausibly argued that the story is propaganda.[63]
John of Bohemia 26 August 1346 John of Bohemia, after being blind for 10 years, died in the Battle of Crecy when his companions tied their horses' reins to his own and charged. He was slaughtered in the ensuing fight.[64]
Charles II of Navarre 1 January 1387 Charles II of Navarre known as "Charles the Bad". The contemporary chronicler Froissart relates that the king, suffering from illness in old age, was ordered by his physician to be tightly sewn into a linen sheet soaked in distilled spirits. The highly flammable sheet accidentally caught fire and Charles later died of his injuries. Froissart considered the horrific death to be God's judgment upon the king.[65][66][67]
Martin of Aragon 31 May 1410 Martin of Aragon died from a combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing. According to tradition, Martin was suffering from indigestion on account of eating an entire goose when his favorite jester, Borra, entered the king's bedroom. When Martin asked Borra where he had been, the jester replied with: "Out of the next vineyard, where I saw a young deer hanging by his tail from a tree, as if someone had so punished him for stealing figs." This joke caused the king to die from laughter.[68][69]


Name of person Image Date of death Details
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence 18 February 1478 George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, was allegedly executed by drowning in a barrel of Malmsey wine, apparently his own choice once he accepted he was to be killed.[70]
Victims of the 1518 dancing plague July 1518 In July 1518, several people died of either heart attacks, strokes or exhaustion during a dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace (Holy Roman Empire).[71][72]
Cosimo Gheri 24 September 1537 According to the Florentine historian Benedetto Varchi, Cosimo Gheri, the 24-year-old Bishop of Fano (Papal States), died of pain due to the shock of having been raped by Pier Luigi Farnese, son of Pope Paul III (see Rape of Fano).[73][74][75] But the event is far from certain.[76]
Pietro Aretino 21 October 1556 The influential Italian author and libertine Pietro Aretino is said to have died of suffocation from laughing too much at an obscene joke during a meal in Venice. Another version states that he fell from a chair from too much laughter, fracturing his skull.[77]
Hans Staininger 1567 Hans Staininger, the burgomaster of Braunau (then Bavaria, now Austria), died when he broke his neck by tripping over his own beard.[78] The beard, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long at the time, was usually kept rolled up in a leather pouch.[79]
Marco Antonio Bragadin 17 August 1571 Marco Antonio Bragadin, Venetian Captain-General of Famagusta in Cyprus, was gruesomely killed in August 1571 after the Ottomans took the city. He was dragged round the walls with sacks of earth and stone on his back; next, he was tied to a chair and hoisted to the yardarm of the Turkish flagship, where he was exposed to the taunts of the sailors. Finally, he was taken to his place of execution in the main square, tied naked to a column, and flayed alive.[80] Bragadin's skin was stuffed with straw and sewn, reinvested with his military insignia, and exhibited riding an ox in a mocking procession along the streets of Famagusta. The macabre trophy was hoisted upon the masthead pennant of the personal galley of the Ottoman commander, Amir al-bahr Mustafa Pasha, to be brought to Constantinople as a gift for Sultan Selim II. Bragadin's skin was stolen in 1580 by a Venetian seaman and brought back to Venice, where it was received as a returning hero.[81]
Tycho Brahe 24 October 1601 Tycho Brahe contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague, and died eleven days later. According to Kepler's first-hand account, Brahe had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette.[82][83] After he had returned home he was no longer able to urinate, except eventually in very small quantities and with excruciating pain.[84]

Early modern period

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Thomas Urquhart 1660 Thomas Urquhart, a Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of François Rabelais's writings into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.[85][86]
James Betts 1667 James Betts died from asphyxiation after being sealed in a cupboard by Elizabeth Spencer, at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in an attempt to hide him from her father, John Spencer.[87][88]
François Vatel 24 April 1671 Vatel, the majordomo of Prince Louis II de Bourbon-Condè, was responsible for a banquet for 2,000 people hosted in honour of King Louis XIV at the Château de Chantilly, where he died. According to a letter by Madame de Sévigné, Vatel was so distraught about the lateness of the seafood delivery and about other mishaps that he committed suicide with his sword, and his body was discovered when someone came to tell him of the arrival of the fish.[89]
Molière 17 February 1673[90] The French playwright Molière suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage caused by tuberculosis while playing the character Argan, a severe hypochondriac, in his own play Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid).[90][91] He disguised his convulsion as part of his performance and finished out the show,[90] which included a scene in which the character he was playing faked his own death to find out how his wife really felt about him.[90][92] After the show, Molière's actual wife, who played the daughter of his character, realized that he really was ill[90] and carried him across the street to their house in the same chair he had pretended to die in as part of the performance.[90] He began coughing up blood and she sent for a priest to hear him renounce his acting career so he could be buried on sacred ground,[90] but Molière died before a sympathetic priest could be found.[90][91]
Bhai Mati Das

Bhai Sati Das

Bhai Dayala

1675 Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayala are revered as early Sikh martyrs. By order of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Bhai Mati Das was executed by being bound between two pillars and sawn in half,[93] while his younger brother Bhai Sati Das wrapped in cotton wool soaked in oil and set on fire[94] and Bhai Dayala was boiled in a cauldron full of water and roasted over a block of charcoal.[95]
Jean-Baptiste Lully 22 March 1687 Jean-Baptiste Lully, the French composer, died of a gangrenous abscess after accidentally piercing his foot with a staff while he was vigorously conducting a Te Deum. It was customary at that time to conduct by banging a staff on the floor.[96] He refused to have his leg amputated so he could still dance.[97]
Stanisław Leszczyński 23 February 1766 The former King Stanisław I of Poland, father-in-law of Louis XV of France, died in 1766, at the age of 88, as a result of serious burns: his silk attire caught fire from a spark while the King was snoozing near the fireplace in his palace in Lunéville on 5 February. Leszczyński was badly burned when the servants rescued him after a while, but he died after many days of agony.[98]
Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden 12 February 1771 Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden, died of digestion problems on 12 February 1771 after having consumed a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring, and champagne, topped off with 14 servings of his favourite dessert: semla served in a bowl of hot milk, called "hetvägg".[99] He is thus remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as "the king who ate himself to death."[100]

19th century

Name of person Image Date of death Details
William Snyder 11 January 1854 William Snyder, a 13-year-old, died in San Francisco, California, when a circus clown swung him around by his heels.[101][102]
Mathilda of Austria 6 June 1867 Archduchess Mathilda of Austria, daughter of Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen, died at the age of 18 in Schloss Hetzendorf. She had put on a gauze dress to go to the theatre. Before leaving for the theatre, she wanted to smoke a cigarette but shortly thereafter her father, who had forbidden smoking, approached her, and she hid the cigarette behind her dress, immediately setting light to its very flammable material and giving her second and third-degree burns.[103]
Clement Vallandigham 17 June 1871 Clement Vallandigham, a lawyer and Ohio politician defending a man accused of murder, accidentally shot himself and died while demonstrating how the victim might have accidentally shot himself. His client was cleared.[104][105]
Henry Taylor November 1872 Henry Taylor, a pall bearer at Kensal Green Cemetery in London, tripped over a stone and stumbled as he was carrying a coffin.[106] The other pall bearers let go of the coffin[106] and it fell on top of Taylor, crushing him to death in front of all the mourners.[106] The widow of the man in the coffin reportedly "nearly went into hysterics".[106]
Sir William Payne-Gallwey, 2nd Baronet 19 December 1881 Sir William Payne-Gallwey, a former British MP, sustained "severe internal injuries" when he fell over and landed on a turnip while out hunting. He died a few days later.[107][108]
Allan Pinkerton 1 July 1884 Allan Pinkerton, the founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, was in Chicago, Illinois when he tripped on the pavement and severely bit on his tongue.[109] His tongue became infected with gangrene, ultimately leading to his death.[109]
Empress Elisabeth of Austria 10 September 1898 During a trip in Geneva, Empress Elisabeth of Austria was stabbed to death, with a thin file, by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. The weapon pierced the victim's pericardium, and a lung. Because of the sharpness and thinness of the file the wound was very narrow and, due to pressure from Elisabeth's extremely tight corseting, which was usually sewn onto her, she did not notice what had happened (in fact she believed a simple passerby had hit her) and continued to walk for a while before collapsing.[110][111]

20th century

1901 – 1960

Name of person Image Date of death Details
Unknown Early 1903 An unnamed person was beaten to death with a Bible during a healing ceremony gone wrong in Honolulu.[112] The victim was being treated for malaria when his family summoned a Kahuna who decided he was possessed by devils and tried to exorcise the demons;[113] the Kahuna was brought up on a charge of manslaughter.[114]
Grigori Rasputin 30 December

[O.S. 17 December] 1916

According to the Russian mystic's murderer himself, Prince Felix Yusupov, Rasputin consumed tea, cakes, and wine which had been laced with cyanide but he did not appear to be affected by the poison. He was then shot once in the chest and believed to be dead but, after a while, he leapt up and attacked Yusupov, who freed himself and fled. Rasputin followed and made it into the courtyard before being shot again and collapsing into a snowbank. The conspirators then wrapped Rasputin's body and dropped it into the Malaya Nevka River.[115]
Twenty-one people 15 January 1919 A large storage tank burst in Boston's North End, releasing a wave of molasses which killed 21 people and injured 150. This event was later dubbed the Great Molasses Flood.[116][117]
George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon 5 April 1923 George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who financed Howard Carter's search for Tutankhamun, died after a mosquito bite, which he had cut while shaving, became infected. Some attributed his death to the so-called curse of the pharaohs.[118][119]
Thornton Jones 1924 Jones, a lawyer in Bangor, Wales, woke up to find that he had his throat slit. Motioning for a paper and a pencil, he wrote: "I dreamt that I had done it. I awoke to find it true," and died 80 minutes later. He had slit his throat himself while unconscious.[120] An inquest at Bangor said that "suicide while temporarily insane," was the verdict.[121]
Bobby Leach 1926 Bobby Leach, an American stunt performer, died after a botched amputation of the infected leg which he had broken after slipping on an orange peel.[122]
Phillip McClean 1926 Phillip McClean, aged 16, and his brother were clubbing a cassowary on the family property in Mossman, Queensland,[123] when the bird knocked him down, kicked him in the neck, and opened a large cut, leading to death from loss of blood.[124]
Isadora Duncan 14 September 1927 Isadora Duncan, a dancer, broke her neck when her long scarf caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger.[125]
Sherwood Anderson 8 March 1941 Sherwood Anderson, an American writer, died after an accidentally swallowed toothpick had damaged his gastrointestinal tract, causing an infection which led to peritonitis.[126]
Gareth Jones 1958 Gareth Jones, an actor, died of a heart attack between scenes of a live television play, Underground. Other members of the cast improvised lines, such as "I'm sure if So‑and‑so were here he would say..." to compensate for Jones's absence. Coincidentally, Jones's character was supposed to die of a heart attack in a later scene of the play.[127][128]


Name of person Image Date of death Details
John A. Byrnes, Richard Leroy McKinley, and Richard C. Legg 1961 U.S. Army specialists John A. Byrnes and Richard Leroy McKinley and Navy electrician's mate Richard C. Legg were killed by a water hammer explosion during maintenance on the SL-1 nuclear reactor in Idaho.[129][130][131][132][133]
Nick Piantanida 1966 Nick Piantanida, a skydiver, died four months after an attempt to break the record for the highest parachute jump; his suit had depressurized causing brain damage.[134][135]


Name of person Image Date of death Details
Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev 1971 Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev, Soviet cosmonauts, died when their Soyuz-11 spacecraft depressurized during preparations for re-entry. These are the only known human deaths outside the Earth's atmosphere.[136]
Basil Brown 1974 Basil Brown, a 48-year-old health food advocate from Croydon, England, died from liver damage after he consumed 70 million units of Vitamin A and around 10 US gallons (38 litres) of carrot juice over ten days, turning his skin bright yellow.[137][138][139]
Alex Mitchell 1975 After watching the "Kung Fu Kapers" episode of The Goodies, Alex Mitchell laughed continuously for 25 minutes and then fell dead on his sofa from heart failure due to what doctors discovered years later, via his granddaughter, of a genetic condition called Long QT Syndrome. His granddaughter died in a similar manner.[140][141]
Tina Christopherson 1977 Tina Christopherson died when she fanatically drank 4 US gallons (15 litres) of water a day to combat stomach cancer.[142]
Tom Pryce and Frederick Jansen van Vuuren 1977 Tom Pryce, a driver in the 1977 South African Grand Prix, was killed alongside fire marshal Frederick Jansen Van Vuuren after being struck on the head by a fire extinguisher when his car, travelling at 170 miles per hour (270 km/h), hit Jansen Van Vuuren as he was running across the Kyalami race track to extinguish a burning car.[143][144][145][146]
Kurt Gödel 1978 Kurt Gödel, an Austrian-American logician and mathematician, died of starvation when his wife was hospitalized. Gödel refused to eat food prepared by anyone else.[147]
Robert Williams 1979 Robert Williams, a worker at a Ford Motor Co. plant, became the first person known to be killed by a robot[148] when the arm of a factory robot struck him in the head.[149]
John Bowen 1979 John Bowen, a 20-year-old from Nashua, New Hampshire, was killed at a half-time show at Shea Stadium when a 40-pound (18 kg) model plane shaped like a lawnmower crashed into the stands.[150][151]


Name of person Image Date of death Details
Boris Sagal 1981 Boris Sagal, a Ukrainian-American film director, died while shooting the TV miniseries World War III in Portland, Oregon, when he walked into the tail rotor blade of a helicopter and was partially decapitated.[152][153]
David Grundman February 4, 1982 David Grundman, shooting at cacti with his shotgun near Lake Pleasant, Arizona, was crushed when a 4-foot (1.2 m) limb of the cactus detached and fell on him.[153][154][155]
Michael Scaglione April 15, 1982 Scaglione died after smashing his golf club against a golf cart. The head broke off and impaled him in the throat, severing his jugular vein.[156]
Vic Morrow, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen July 23, 1982 In the early morning hours of July 23, 1982, Morrow and two child actors, seven-year-old Myca Dinh Le, and six-year-old Renee Shin-Yi Chen, were filming Twilight Zone: The Movie in California. They were performing in a scene for the Vietnam sequence, in which their characters attempt to escape out of a deserted Vietnamese village from a pursuing U.S. Army helicopter. The helicopter was hovering at approximately 24 feet (7.3 m) above them when the heat from special effect pyrotechnic explosions reportedly delaminated the rotor blades[157] and caused the helicopter to crash on top of them, killing all three instantly. Morrow and Le were decapitated and mutilated by the helicopter rotor blades, while Chen was crushed by a helicopter strut.[158]
Tennessee Williams 1983 Tennessee Williams, an American playwright, died after accidentally choking on a plastic bottle cap which he was using to ingest barbiturates.[159] Reports at the time of his death indicated he had died applying eye drops while holding the cap between his teeth, but this was corrected in the official medical examiner's report six months later.[160]
Truls Hellevik 1983 Truls Hellevik, a Norwegian diver, was explosively dismembered when accidentally exposed to an eight-atmosphere change in air pressure which instantaneously forced his body through a 60-centimetre-diameter (24 in) opening.[161][162]
Dick Wertheim 1983 Dick Wertheim, a tennis linesman, died after a ball struck him in the groin and he fell out of his chair.[163][164][165]
Jimmy Ferrozzo 1983 Jimmy Ferrozzo, a bouncer at the Condor Club in San Francisco, died while engaging in sexual intercourse with his girlfriend Theresa Hill on a grand piano that was lowered from the ceiling by a hydraulic motor. Ferrozzo accidentally activated the lifting mechanism which pinned him against the ceiling leading to his suffocation.[166] Hill survived the accident.[166]
Jon-Erik Hexum 1984 Jon-Erik Hexum, an American actor, died after playing a simulated Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum pistol loaded with blanks. The blanks contained paper wadding and when Hexum pulled the trigger against his temple, the wadding was propelled with a force that broke Hexum's skull, causing a massive brain bleeding.[167]
Unknown 1984 An unidentified 25-year-old man was using submersion as an erotic asphyxia method. With a home-made plastic body suit, he tied himself to a boat and was using a home-made diving apparatus for air supply. He died from rebreathing, caused by the faulty air supply device.[168]
Franco Brun 1987 Brun, 22, an inmate at the Metro Toronto East Detention Centre in Canada, died trying to swallow a pocket-size bible.[169][170]
Paul G. Thomas 1987 Paul G. Thomas, owner of a wool mill in Thompson, Connecticut, died of suffocation after falling into a machine in the wool mill and becoming wrapped in 800 yards (730 m) of wool.[171]
Cachy the Poodle, Marta Espina, Edith Solá, unidentified man 1988 A poodle named Cachy, in Caballito, Buenos Aires, fell from 13 floors and fatally hit 75-year-old Marta Espina, dying instantly. In the course of the events, 46-year-old Edith Sola, who came to see the incident, was fatally hit by a bus. An unidentified man, who witnessed Edith's death, had an heart attack and also died, on his way to the hospital.[172][173]
Ivan Lester McGuire 1988 On Saturday, April 2, veteran sky diver Ivan Lester McGuire was filming a jump by an instructor and student from the McGuire Franklin County Sports Parachute Center when he jumped from a plane without a parachute. Focused on the filming process, McGuire apparently forgot to put on a parachute, and his camera equipment may have been mistaken for a chute. The tape was recovered.[174][175]


Name of person Image Date of death Details
Daniel John O'Brien January 14, 1990 Daniel John O'Brien, 31, committed suicide by jumping into the engines of a British Airways 747 Jumbo.[176][177]
Brandon Lee 1993 Brandon Lee, 28-year-old film actor, martial artist, and son of Bruce Lee, was accidentally shot to death by co-star Michael Massee while filming a scene for The Crow, as the result of an improperly-loaded prop gun.[178][179][180]
Garry Hoy 1993 Garry Hoy, a lawyer in Toronto fell to his death from the 24th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre while demonstrating to a group of visitors that the building's windows were "unbreakable". Hoy threw himself against the window, which did not break but popped out of its frame.[181][182]
Gloria Ramirez 1994 Gloria Ramirez, 31, died from kidney failure related to her cervical cancer. While treating her, several of the hospital staff became ill, suffering from loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and muscle spasms. Shortly before dying, Ramirez was allegedly covered with an oily sheen, which smelled of fruit and garlic. When drawing her blood with a syringe, nurses noticed it had a smell similar to ammonia and there were unusual particles floating in it.[183]
Karen Wetterhahn 1997 Karen Wetterhahn, a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, died ten months after a few drops of dimethylmercury (an organomercury compound and one of the strongest known neurotoxins) landed on her protective gloves. Although Wetterhahn had been following the required procedures, the material permeated the gloves and her skin within seconds.[184][185][186]
Jonathan Capewell 1998 Jonathan Capewell, 16, died from a heart attack brought on by the buildup of butane and propane in the blood after excessive use of deodorant sprays.[187] Capewell was reported to have an obsession with personal hygiene.[187] An autopsy showed that Capewell had 0.37 mg of butane per litre in his blood, and the same amount of propane, whereas 0.1 mg per litre can be fatal.[187]
Betty Stobbs 1999 Betty Stobbs, 67, died after delivering a bale of hay to her sheep. The starving sheep rushed Stobbs, who was on her motorcycle. In the ensuing scuffle, Stobbs was knocked down into a deep ravine near Durham, England, and died when her motorcycle landed on her.[188]

21st century


Name of person Image Date of death Details
Bernd Brandes 9 March 2001 Bernd Brandes, a German engineer from Berlin, was willingly slaughtered so that he could be butchered and eaten by cannibal Armin Meiwes. Brandes had responded to an internet advertisement which Meiwes had placed for this purpose. In prison, Meiwes became a vegetarian.[189][190][191]
Michael Colombini 2001 Michael Colombini, 6, died during a MRI scan, after an oxygen tank was magnetically pulled into the machine and fractured his skull.[192]
Brian Douglas Wells 28 August 2003 Brian Douglas Wells, a pizza delivery man from Erie, Pennsylvania, was killed by an explosive collar around his neck, as part of a bank-robbery scheme.[193]
Hitoshi Nikaidoh 2003 Hitoshi Nikaidoh, a doctor in Houston, Texas, was decapitated after his head was trapped in the doors of an elevator at his workplace.[194]
Phillip Quinn 2004 Phillip Quinn, 24, from Kent, Washington, was killed when a lava lamp he was heating on a stove exploded, with a shard piercing his heart.[195]
Kenneth Pinyan 2005 Kenneth Pinyan died from injuries caused by anal sex with a stallion.[196]
Mildred Bowman and Alice Wardle 2005 Mildred Bowman, 62, and Alice Wardle, 68, were two sisters killed in Benidorm, Spain after becoming trapped for four days when their fold-up bed collapsed.[197]
Humberto Hernandez 2007 Humberto Hernandez, a 24-year-old Oakland, California resident, was killed after being struck in the face by an airborne fire hydrant while walking. A passing car had struck the fire hydrant and the water pressure shot the hydrant at Hernandez with enough force to kill him.[198][199][200]
David Phyall 5 July 2008 David Phyall, 50, the last resident in a block of flats due to be demolished in Bishopstoke, near Southampton, Hampshire, England, decapitated himself with a chainsaw to highlight the injustice of being forced to move out.[201][202]
Judy Kay Zagorski 2008 Judy Kay Zagorski was killed when a 75-pound (34 kg) spotted eagle ray leapt out of the water and knocked her over. The ray also died.[203][204][205]
Unknown 2008 A 43-year-old Irish mother of four died of an allergic reaction after having sex with a German Shepherd dog.[206]
Taylor Mitchell 28 October 2009 Taylor Mitchell, a 19-year-old Canadian folk singer, was killed by a pair of coyotes while hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, in the only known fatal coyote attack on an adult.[207][208][209]
Larry Ely Murillo-Moncada 28 November 2009 (discovered in July 2019) Larry Ely Murillo-Moncada, a 25-year-old supermarket employee from Council Bluffs, Iowa, is believed to have fallen into the 18-inch gap between a cooler and a wall and become trapped. His body was not discovered for almost ten years, when the cooler was finally moved.[210]
Unknown 3 March 2009 A 14-year-old boy from Jiaozhou, Shandong, China was killed when the pneumatic cylinder in his office chair exploded.[211][212]


Name of person Image Date of death Details
Muraka Jenny Vearncombe 2010 Muraka Jenny Vearncombe, 42, was decapitated by a piece of a metal pipe flung by a tractor-pulled lawnmower as she walked to work in Townsville, Australia.[213]
Mike Edwards 3 September 2010 Mike Edwards, 62, cellist and a founding member of the band Electric Light Orchestra, died when a large round bale of hay rolled down a hill and collided with the van he was driving.[214][215][216]
Jimi Heselden 26 September 2010 Jimi Heselden, 62, owner of Segway Inc., died after apparently riding a Segway Personal Transport System off a cliff.[217]
Jose Luis Ochoa 2011 Jose Luis Ochoa, 35, died after being stabbed in the leg at an illegal cockfight in Tulare County, California, by a bird with a knife-like spur strapped to its leg.[218][219]
Edward Archbold 2012 Edward Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach, Florida, choked on "arthropod body parts" during a cockroach-eating contest.[220][221]
Erica Marshall 2012 Erica Marshall, a 28-year-old British veterinarian in Ocala, Florida, died when the horse she was treating in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber kicked the wall, released a spark from its horseshoes and triggered an explosion.[222][223][224]
Ilda Vitor Maciel 28 September 2012 88-year-old Ilda Vitor Maciel died in a Brazilian hospital, allegedly as a result of nursing technicians injecting soup directly into her vein instead of her feeding tube.[225]
Elisa Lam February 2013 Elisa Lam, from Vancouver, British Columbia, was missing for several weeks before being found dead in a large water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, after guests complained about the taste of the water.[226]
Takuya Nagaya 2013 Takuya Nagaya, 23, from Japan, started to slither on the floor and claimed he had become a snake. Takuya died after his father spent the next two days head-butting and biting him "to drive [out] the snake that had possessed him."[227]
Roger Mirro 2013 Roger Mirro was crushed by a trash compactor while looking through a dumpster for his phone.[228]
Unknown 2013 An unnamed Belarusian fisherman, 60, bled to death after being bitten by a beaver which he had tried to grab in order to have his picture taken with it.[229][230]
João Maria de Souza 2013 João Maria de Souza, 45, was crushed in his bed by a cow falling through the roof of his home in Caratinga, Brazil. The cow had climbed on top of the house from a steep hillside behind it. Both the cow and de Souza's wife (who had been in bed next to him) were unharmed.[231]
Denver Lee St. Clair 2013 Denver Lee St. Clair was asphyxiated by an "atomic wedgie" administered by his stepson during a fight. After St. Clair had been knocked unconscious, the elastic band from his torn underwear was pulled over his head and stretched around his neck, strangling him.[232][233]
Kendrick Johnson 10 January 2013 Kendrick Johnson, 17, was discovered trapped upside down in a rolled-up gym mat in his high school gymnasium. Police originally concluded he had climbed in to retrieve a shoe and became trapped, but the case was later reopened as a possible homicide.[234][235][236][237][238]
Miguel Martinez 2013 Miguel Martinez, 14, from Lubbock, Texas, was impaled through the chest by the horn of a bull statue while playing hide-and-seek at night in front of the National Ranching Heritage Center.[239]
Noah Barthe, Connor Barthe 2013 The two young brothers, aged 4 and 6, were killed by an African rock python during a sleepover at their friend's home in New Brunswick, Canada. The large snake had escaped its enclosure in the apartment and slithered through ducts until it fell through the ceiling of the bedroom where they slept. Though it suffocated the children it did not attempt to eat them.[240][241]
Hayato Tsuruta 2013 Hayato Tsuruta, 28, from Japan, with intellectual disabilities, ran away from his residential facility and went to a supermarket. There he consumed so many doughnuts displayed that he choked to death.[242][243]
Heval Yıldırım 2014 Heval Yıldırım, 13, of Turkey was killed when a sacrificial goat bought for Eid al-Adha jumped off the roof over a protective fence and fell onto him. Yıldırım's father placed the goat on the roof of the building where he lived because he could not find another suitable place to keep it.[244]
Christophe de Margerie 20 October 2014 Christophe de Margerie, an oil executive, was killed when his corporate jet collided with a snowplow reportedly driven by a drunk driver.[245][246]
Peng Fan 2014 Peng Fan, a chef in Foshan, China, was bitten by a cobra's severed head, which he had cut off 20 minutes earlier while preparing a soup.[247][248]
Peter Biaksangzuala 2014 Peter Biaksangzuala, an Indian association football player, died after sustaining spinal cord injuries while awkwardly landing a somersault celebrating a goal.[249]
Charmayne Maxwell 2015 Charmayne Maxwell, a member of American R&B group Brownstone, died after falling backward while holding a wine glass. During the fall the wine glass shattered on the ground behind Maxwell's head, and the shards pierced her neck, causing profuse bleeding.[250]
Chelsea Ake-Salvacion 2015 Chelsea Ake-Salvacion, 24, an employee of a Henderson, Nevada salon, was suffocated while using a cryotherapy machine set to the wrong level, which eliminated the oxygen in the chamber.[251][252]
Ravi Subramanian 2015 Ravi Subramanian, an Air India technician, was sucked into an aircraft's jet engines.[253][254]
Stephen Whinfrey 2015 Stephen Whinfrey, 50, became trapped and asphyxiated when rabbiting near Doncaster, England, after his head became stuck down a rabbit hole.[255]
V. Kamaraj 2016 V. Kamaraj, a 40-year-old Indian bus driver, was claimed by local Indian newspapers to have been killed by a meteorite which left a two-foot (61 cm) crater, although officials from NASA oppose that view saying that the most likely explanation was a land-based explosion. According to a preliminary report by the National College Instrumentation Facility (NCIF) in Trichy, a scanning electron microscope (SEM) study on the evidence of the samples retrieved from the campus in Vellore from where the blast occurred showed "the presence of carbonaceous chondrites".[256][257][258][259]
Lottie Michelle Belk 2016 Lottie Michelle Belk, 55, was fatally stabbed in the chest by a beach umbrella blown by a strong wind.[260] Wind speeds at the time reached 20–25 miles per hour (32–40 km/h).[261][262]
Caleb Schwab 2016 Caleb Schwab, 10, was decapitated when he was ejected from his raft on Verrückt, a 168-foot-tall (51 m) water slide.[263][264]
Irma Bule 2016 Irma Bule, 29, an Indonesian dangdut singer who performed with live snakes, died during a concert after being bitten by a king cobra and refusing treatment.[265][266]
Anton Yelchin 2016 Anton Yelchin, 27, an American actor known for portraying Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot movie series, was found pinned between his car and a brick wall. His driveway is on an incline and his car was found running and in neutral.[267][268]
Unknown 2016 A seven-year-old girl died after being struck by a stone thrown by an elephant from its enclosure at the zoo at Rabat, Morocco.[269][270]
Kristopher Moules and Timothy Gibbons 2016 Kristopher Moules, 25, a Corrections Officer and Timothy Gibbons, 29, an out of county inmate being housed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, fell to their deaths after an altercation between the two caused them to slam into the fifth floor elevator doors. Despite the elevator having its up-to-date working credentials, upon impact the elevator doors popped open, causing the two men to fall five flights down the elevator shaft to their deaths. The county declared CO Moules’ death a homicide and declared Gibbons’ death an accident.[271]
Charlie Holt 2017 Charlie Holt, 5, was killed at the Sun Dial Restaurant, a rotating restaurant at the top of Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia; his head was caught in a small space between the rotating and non-rotating sections.[272]
Akbar Salubiro 2017 Akbar Salubiro, a 25-year-old man, was killed and swallowed by a reticulated python in Indonesia, in the first fully confirmed case of a snake swallowing an adult human.[273] A second case in Indonesia happened the following year, when another reticulated snake killed and swallowed an adult woman in her garden.[274]
Robert Dreyer 2017 Robert Dreyer, 89, drowned on his birthday after crashing his car into a fire hydrant. Dreyer successfully stepped out of his car, but was swallowed by a sinkhole likely created as a result of the destruction of the fire hydrant and subsequent water pressure.[275]
Debra Bedard 2017 Debra Bedard, 58, died after falling from a golf cart onto shards of wine glasses that had broken in her hands in Calaveras County, California.[276]
Rebecca Burger 2017 Rebecca Burger, 33, a fitness blogger and model, died after a pressurized canister of whipped cream exploded and struck her in the chest.[277]
Hidr Korkmaz 2017 Hidr Korkmaz, 42, a Turkish-Dutch drug dealer and informant, died while fishing when he threw his fish hook into an electric wire. Though he was a witness in the case against infamous Dutch criminal Willem Holleeder, he was not important to the case and authorities treated it as an accident.[278]
Arslan Valeev 2017 Arslan Valeev, 31, died in Saint Petersburg, Russia, after enticing a pet black mamba to bite him live on webcam in an apparent suicide.[279]
Rajesh Maru 2018 Rajesh Maru, 32, died at Nair Hospital in Mumbai after carrying a metal oxygen tank into a room housing an MRI scanner; the machine's magnetic field pulled Maru in, pinning his hand and breaching the tank, releasing liquid oxygen.[280] A hospital employee had asked Maru to transport the tank, as Maru's hospitalized relative would need it during her scan.[280][281] An autopsy showed that Maru died instantly from pneumothorax brought on by exposure to very high levels of leaked oxygen.[280] Conflicting reports state two or three hospital employees were arrested for negligence.[282][280] The Maharashtra state government compensated Maru's family 500,000 rupees.[282]
Elaine Herzberg 2018 Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman in Tempe, Arizona, died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber, as she crossed the road, in what was reported to be the first death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving car on public roads. In response to the fatal accident, Uber suspended self-driving car tests in all U.S. cities.[283][284]
Ateef Rafiq 2018 Ateef Rafiq, 24, died from cardiac arrest in a cinema in Birmingham, England whilst looking for his dropped mobile phone. His head became wedged under the electronic footrest of a seat.[285]
Kyle Plush April 10, 2018 On April 10, 2018, high-school student Kyle Plush, age 16, died after becoming trapped in his Honda Odyssey, which was in his school's parking lot in Cincinnati, Ohio. Attempting to reach his tennis equipment, Plush leaned over the third row of seats into the trunk. When the row of seats "squashed his chest", Plush became pinned and later died. During the incident, the teen called 9-1-1 twice, by using Apple iPhone's Siri voice-activation. Responding to the 9-1-1 calls, police were not able to find Plush; he was eventually discovered in the vehicle by his father about six hours later.[286]
Jennifer Riordan 2018 Jennifer Riordan, 43, a passenger aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, died after debris from an engine failure struck and destroyed the window she was sitting next to. She was partially sucked out through the window, but was pulled back into the aircraft and was given CPR until an emergency landing was made. She died upon arrival at hospital with her cause of death determined to be blunt trauma to the head, neck and torso.[287][288]
Hildegard Whitling 2018 Hildegard Whiting, 77, died of suffocation from the carbon dioxide vapors produced by four dry ice coolers in a Dippin' Dots delivery car.[289][290] The car was borrowed by the deliveryman's wife to take Whiting home.[289][290]
John A. Korody 2018 John A. Korody, 61, died after falling into a vat of cooking oil and grease while standing on a grate in Orange County, Florida, near Orlando. Co-workers were unable to rescue him due to the strong fumes.[291]
Sam Ballard 2018 Sam Ballard, 29, died from angiostrongyliasis after eating a garden slug as a dare eight years earlier.[292]
Linda Goldbloom 2018 Linda Goldbloom, 79, died after being hit by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium. Goldbloom's death was the first in nearly 50 years directly attributed to a foul ball.[293]
Salvator Disi 2019 Salvator Disi, 62, was decapitated while using a power cart to jump start a helicopter in Hernando County, Florida. The unexpected up-and-down motion of the helicopter caused the rotor blades to strike Disi.[294]
Darren Hickey 5 April 2019 On 5 April 2019, Darren Hickey, a 51-year-old wedding planner from Horwich, England, died after eating a scalding-hot fishcake at a wedding. The cause of death was ruled to be asphyxiation. The pathologist who performed Hickey’s autopsy called the case "extremely rare" and likened Hickey's symptoms to those of victims who have inhaled smoke during house fires.[295]
Paul McDonald 17 April 2019 Paul McDonald, 47, was attacked and killed by a pet deer on his property in north-east Victoria, Australia.[296][297]
Elena Struthers-Gardner July 2019 Elena "Lena" Struthers-Gardner, 60, was carrying a mason-jar style drinking glass with a screw-top lid in her kitchen when she collapsed. The 10-inch stainless steel straw entered her left eye socket and pierced her brain.[298][299]
Michael Kosanovich 6 December 2019 Michael Kosanovich, 21, was crushed to death by a 2002 Lexus IS300s automobile after its owner started it by remote control. The car rolled forward, and he was pinned between two vehicles.[300][301]
Erica L. Tishman 17 December 2019 An architect was killed by falling debris around the corner of 49th Street (Manhattan) and Seventh Avenue (Manhattan)[302]

Animal deaths

This section is for the deaths of animals, for whom there are several sources mentioning the deaths as unusual.

Name of animal Image Date of death Details
Three cows, three sheep, two sows 1662 Cotton Mather writes how one William Potter was hanged for bestiality, as were the animals involved.[303][304]
Topsy the elephant 4 January 1903 Topsy was executed by poisoning, electrocution, and strangulation. A 74-second film of the electrocution was recorded and preserved. It may have been the first time death was ever captured in a motion picture film.[305]
Mary the elephant 13 September 1916 The day after Mary, a five-ton cow elephant, killed a trainer for the Sparks World Famous Shows circus in Sullivan County, Tennessee, she was hanged by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial crane.[306][307]
Unnamed cow January 1932 In January 1932, the Townsville Daily Bulletin, an Australian newspaper, reported an incident where a dairy cow was partially blown up and killed on a farm at Kennedy Creek (near Cardwell, North Queensland). The cow had reputedly picked up a detonator in her mouth while grazing in a paddock. This was only triggered later, when the cow began to chew her cud, at a time when she was in the process of being milked. The cow had its head blown off by the resulting explosion, and the farmer milking the cow was knocked unconscious.[308]
Unnamed deer August 1987 Stefan Johansson hit a deer with his McLaren MP4/3 after it wandered onto the circuit during Friday practice. The terrified deer was crossing the track to seek refuge from the noise of the cars when it was struck by Johansson traveling at close to 140 mph (225 km/h), killing it instantly.[309]
Royal the dog September 1993 Philip Rinn's dog, Royal, tried to bite Rinn's wife and had chewed part of Rinn's car. Rinn tied a chain around its neck and dragged it around with his Chrysler, but the dog didn't die. Rinn then ran over the dog a few times before it died.[310]

See also


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