Death is inevitable; there are many ways to go - some stranger than others. We all go one way or another and we don’t usually get to choose how, and sometimes fate chooses the most unusual ways to die. Here are some of the strangest ways to die in history.
Pythagoras of Samos, an Ionian Greek philosopher who was credited with many scientific discoveries - most notably the Pythagorean theorem and Pythagorean tuning - is our first bizarre death in this list. His death is shrouded by obscurity, legend, and lore, but from scholarly texts, it is by far one of the most strange on this list. Pythagoras was said to have prohibited his followers from eating beans because they were ‘ritually unclean,’ and his story ends without a shred of hypocrisy. He came into conflict with supporters of democracy and was said to have been chased by an angry mob. Having almost outrun them, he encountered a bean field and is rumored to have stopped running upon seeing the bean field where the mob caught up with him and enacted their form of justice. In the end, I suppose those beans were, indeed, quite ritually unclean.
2. Tycho Ottesen Brahe
Tycho Brahe was a Danish nobleman and astronomer in the mid-1500s, most notable for his accurate planetary observations. Brahe lived in a time before modern medicine, where the infections we would consider minor today, proved fatal many times; Brahe was no exception. Apparently, Brahe considered social etiquette to be more important than bodily functions, which anyone would consider downright bizarre! This would prove fatal, as he had refused to excuse himself from a banquette in Prague to relieve himself, and contracted either an infection of the bladder or a kidney dysfunction. Upon returning home he was no longer able to urinate, except in small amounts, and died eleven days later in excruciating pain. As my drunk friend, Joe, once said while urinating behind a dumpster, “When ya gotta pee, ya gotta pee,” apparently words of wisdom!
3. Hans Staininger
Another Renaissance man, Hans Staininger, the burgomaster of what is now Austria, was said to have had a four and a half foot beard that he kept rolled up in a leather pouch. That beard proved to be his undoing though, when one night, the beard was not in its pouch and the poor noble tripped over his beard, breaking his neck. To all hipsters aspiring to grow their beards, the lesson serving here is to always tie up your long facial hair because your fashion choices could prove deadly.
4. Sir Thomas Urquhart
Sir Thomas Urquhart, a Scottish aristocrat, writer, and translator, best known for his translation of French Renaissance writings evidently had quite the sense of humor. This Scotsman was said to have died laughing when he heard that Charles II had been restored to the throne to become king once again. It’s unclear what exactly he found so funny about it, but apparently, it was hilarious enough to kill him. I wonder how things may have played out if he’d had a friend who told him, “Jeez, man, it’s not that funny.”
5. George Herbert
Most recognized as the financial backer of Howard Carter’s famous expedition of Tutankhamun’s tomb, it’s said that George Herbert (also known as Lord Carnarvon) was a victim of the curse of the pharaohs; a curse that allegedly killed anyone who disturbed a pharaoh’s tomb. While not the only one rumored to have died from disturbing Tut’s tomb, he was the first. He died of a mosquito bite to the face that became infected when he nicked it shaving, leaving our world April 5th, 1923. It’s not the factual way he died, it’s the rumor of the curse that makes this so interesting. Though a total of fifty-eight people were present upon the opening of the tomb, only eight of them died not long after. Curse or not, there is true irony in his death as two weeks earlier, a letter by Mary Corelli had been published in New York World Magazine quoting an obscure text, asserting that anyone who disturbed the tomb of a pharaoh would be punished in a most dire way.
6. Basil Brown
Mr. Basil Brown was an ordinary man of no specific celebrity. He was not trying to break any records, he was not trying to obtain any sort of fame; he was just an ordinary health nut. At age 48, Brown, a London man, had become obsessed with a specific vitamin: vitamin A. He had been ingesting tablets, and is said to have been drinking one gallon per day of carrot juice, ingesting a total of 70 million units of vitamin A over the course of ten days, resulting in not only his skin taking on an orange color, but cirrhosis of the liver as well. He passed on February 17th, 1974 and Dr. David Haler, who performed the autopsy, said that the results of the poisoning were indistinguishable from alcohol poisoning. Let this be a lesson to all you fad dieters out there - that carrot stick may very well be your last!
7. Dick Wertheim
Dick Wertheim was an American tennis linesman who died in a most peculiar fashion; he was struck in the groin. Tennis is largely not regarded as a dangerous sport, however, this incident proves that something as seemingly harmless as officiating a tennis match can prove lethal. On September 10th, 1983, he was presiding over a tennis match between Stefan Edberg and Patrick McEnroe when a rogue serve by Edberg struck Wertheim in the groin causing him to fall from his seat and strike his head. He died on September 15th, 1983 from the resulting head injury. His family did attempt to sue the United States Tennis Association for $2.5 million, but in a decision suggesting that the tennis ball was not the official cause of death, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York reversed the decision, awarding his estate $165,000. I guess justice was… Served?
8. Brandon Lee
Brandon Lee, an American actor and martial artist, was the son of more famous, Bruce Lee. Most notable for his final role, Lee played Eric Draven in the film the Crow, a popular 90s film about a rock star raised from the dead to avenge his and his fiancée’s death. Lee was killed by an improperly loaded prop gun on the set of the film, March 31st, 1993, eight days before the estimated completion of production. Rumors continue to circulate about how intentional the incident was, but the film was completed posthumously with a stunt double, some special effects, and a few rewrites. His death was considered to be suspicious by his family; Robert Lee is even said to have made mention of the Chinese mafia (the Triads), allegedly implicating them in Brandon’s death. Regardless of how purposely the prop was improperly loaded, this was a true tragedy for Hollywood, as a talented rising star was taken from us and the limelight. No one can say what Lee would have gone on to do had his life not been cut short, but one thing is certain: the Crow remains a true classic appreciated by many all over the world to this day.
9. Garry Hoy
Garry Hoy was a Toronto lawyer and corporate and securities law specialist. Before the completion of his law degree, he had also completed his engineering degree. Lawyers build their whole career on their education and confidence, so it’s no surprise to me that those things got the better of him. On July 9th, 1993, Hoy was demonstrating that the glass windows of the Toronto-Dominion Centre were unbreakable, hurling himself against the pane of glass on the 24th floor of the building. The glass was, indeed, unbreakable, but unfortunately for him, his weight pushed the glass out of the frame and he fell to his death, proving that no matter how educated you are, certain things, such as construction flaws, should not be taken for granted.
10. David Phyall
Have you ever met someone who would literally shoot themselves in the foot to spite their face? What about someone who decided to hack their own head off to fight the injustice of leaving their repossessed home? Well, that’s exactly what David Phyall decided to do on July 5th, 2008. Phyall, 50, had consumed a small amount of alcohol, but his plan was said to have been a well thought out endeavor to make a statement that his home would not be taken from him alive. He set up a chainsaw in his flat in Bishopstoke, Hampshire, England, and literally let it rip, severing his head. His elderly parents called police when they could not reach him, and the police broke into his home to find this gruesome scene.