Gruesome, Bizarre, And Some Unsolved: 44 Of The Most Unusual Deaths From History

Death is a strange thing, an inexorable part of life that is very close to every single living being, yet it’s still incredibly mysterious. While all deaths are tragic and there is nothing unusual about it, some deaths come in ways that no one could have predicted.

Here in this article, we have listed out some of the most unusual deaths recorded throughout history that occurred under extremely rare circumstances:

1 | Charondas

From the late 7th to early 5th century BC, Charondas was a Greek lawgiver from Sicily. According to Diodorus Siculus, he issued a law that anyone who brought weapons into the Assembly must be put to death. 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. In order to uphold his own law, he committed suicide

2 | Sisamnes

According to Herodotus, Sisamnes was a corrupt judge under Cambyses II of Persia. In 525 BC, 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

3 | Empedocles Of Akragas

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.” According to the biographer Diogenes Laërtius, in 430BC, he tried to prove he was an immortal god by leaping into Mount Etna, an active volcano. He died a horrible death!

4 | Mithridates

In 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. Mithridates was executed by scaphism. The king’s physician, Ctesias, reported that Mithridates survived the horrible insect torture for 17 days.

5 | Qin Shi Huang

Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, whose artifacts and treasures include the Terracotta Army, died on September 10, 210BC, after ingesting several pills of mercury in the belief that it would grant him eternal life.

6 | Porcia Catonis

Porcia Catonis was the daughter of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis and the second wife of Marcus Junius Brutus. According to ancient historians such as Cassius Dio and Appian, she killed herself by swallowing hot coals around 42BC.

7 | Saint Lawrence

The deacon Saint Lawrence was roasted alive on a giant grill during the persecution of Valerian. Roman Christian poet, Prudentius told that Lawrence joked with his tormentors, “Turn me over—I’m done on this side!”

8 | Ragnar Lodbrok

In 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.

9 | Sigurd the Mighty, The Second Earl Of Orkney

Sigurd the Mighty, a ninth-century Norse earl of Orkney, was killed by an enemy he had beheaded several hours earlier. He’d tied the man’s head to his horse’s saddle, but while riding home one of its protruding teeth grazed his leg. He died from the infection.

10 | Edward II Of England

Edward II of England was rumoured to have been murdered on September 21, 1327, 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. 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.

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11 | George Plantagenet, Duke Of Clarence

George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, was allegedly executed on February 18, 1478, by drowning in a barrel of Malmsey wine, apparently his own choice once he accepted he was to be killed.

12 | Victims Of The 1518 Dancing Plague

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). The reason for this occurrence is still unclear.

13 | Pietro Aretino

The influential Italian author and libertine, Pietro Aretino was said to have died on October 21, 1556, due to 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.

14 | Hans Steininger

Hans Steininger who was mayor of a town named Branau am Inn, which was also the birthplace of Adolf Hitler. His beard was a visual spectacle in those days, measuring a good four and a half foot but that was enough to lead to his untimely death. Hans would keep his beard rolled up in a leather pouch, but failed to do so one day in 1567. A fire broke out in his town that day and he reportedly tripped on his beard while trying to evacuate. He lost his balance and fell, breaking his neck from the unexpected accident! He died instantaneously.

15 | Marco Antonio Bragadin

Marco Antonio Bragadin, Venetian Captain-General of Famagusta in Cyprus, was gruesomely killed on August 17, 1571, after the Ottomans took the city. He was dragged around 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, starting from his head. Albeit he died before the end of his torture.

Later, 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.

16 | Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague, and died eleven days later on October 24, 1601. 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. After he had returned home he was no longer able to urinate, except eventually in very small quantities and with excruciating pain.

17 | Thomas Urquhart

In 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.

18 | Executions Of Bhai Mati, Sati And Dyal Das

Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dyal Das are revered as early Sikh martyrs. In 1675, By order of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Bhai Mati Das was executed by being bound between two pillars and sawn in half, while his younger brother Bhai Sati Das wrapped in cotton wool soaked in oil and set on fire and Bhai Dyal Das was boiled in a cauldron full of water and roasted over a block of charcoal.

19 | The London Beer Flood

Eight people died in the London Beer Flood of 1814, when a giant vat at a brewery burst, sending over 3,500 barrels of beer pouring through the nearby streets.

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20 | Clement Vallandigham

On June 17, 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.

21 | The Queen Of Siam

The Queen of Siam, Sunanda Kumariratana, and her unborn daughter drowned when her royal boat capsized on the way to the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace on May 31, 1880. The many witnesses to the accident did not dare to touch the queen, a capital offence—not even to save her life.

22 | Killed By Meteorite

On August 22, 1888, at around 8:30 pm, a shower of meteorite pieces fell “like rain” on a village in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq (then part of the Ottoman Empire). One man died from the impact of one of the pieces, while another was also hit but was left paralyzed. Corroborated by several official sources, the man’s death is considered the first (and, as of 2020, only) credible evidence of a person being killed by a meteorite.

23 | Empress Elisabeth Of Austria

During a trip in Geneva, on September 10, 1898, 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.

24 | Jesse William Lazear

Some people will go to great lengths to prove they are right. In 1900, an American physician by the name of Jesse William Lazear attempted to prove that mosquitoes carried Yellow Fever by allowing a bunch of infected mosquitoes to bite him. Soon after, he died of the disease, proving himself right.

25 | Franz Reichelt

On February 4, 1912, Austrian tailor Franz Reichelt thought he’d invented a device that could make men fly. He tested this by jumping off the Eiffel Tower wearing it. It didn’t work. He died!

26 | Mr. Ramon Artagaveytia

Mr. Ramon Artagaveytia survived the fire and sinking of the ship “America” in 1871, leaving him emotionally scarred. 41 years later, he was finally able to overcome his fears and nightmares, deciding to sail again only to die in the sinking of that new ship: The Titanic!

27 | Grigori Rasputin

According to the Russian mystic’s murderer himself, Prince Felix Yusupov, Grigori 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. Rasputin allegedly died on December 17, 1916.

28 | Death In The Great Molasses Flood

On January 15, 1919, a large molasses 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.

29 | George Herbert, 5th Earl Of Carnarvon

On April 5, 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.

30 | Frank Hayes

On June 4, 1924, Frank Hayes, a 35-year-old jockey of Elmont, New York won his first and only race when he was dead. Riding a horse, Sweet Kiss, Frank suffered a fatal heart attack mid-race and collapsed on the horse. Sweet Kiss managed to still win with Frank Hayes’ body on it, meaning he technically won.

31 | Thornton Jones

In 1924, Thornton 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. An inquest at Bangor delivered a verdict of “suicide while temporarily insane.”

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32 | Mary Reeser

Mary Reeser’s body was found almost totally cremated by police on July 2, 1951. While the body was cremated where Reeser sat the apartment was relatively damage-free. Some speculate Reeser spontaneously combusted. However, Reeser’s death is still unsolved.

33 | Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, And Viktor Patsayev

Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev, Soviet cosmonauts, died when their Soyuz-11 (1971) spacecraft depressurized during preparations for re-entry. These are the only known human deaths outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

34 | Basil Brown

In 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.

35 | Kurt Gödel

In 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 as he was suffering from an obsessive fear of being poisoned.

36 | Robert Williams

In 1979, Robert Williams, a worker at a Ford Motor Co. plant, became the first person known to be killed by a robot when the arm of a factory robot struck him in the head.

37 | David Allen Kirwan

David Allen Kirwan, a 24-year-old, died from third-degree burns after attempting to rescue a friend’s dog from the 200°F (93°C) water in Celestine Pool, a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park on 20 July 1981.

38 | Decapitated By Heli-Blades In Shooting

On May 22, 1981, director Boris Sagal died while directing the television mini-series World War III when he walked into the rotor blade of a helicopter on the set and was decapitated.

Next year, actor Vic Morrow and child-actor Myca Dinh Le (age 7) were decapitated by a rotating helicopter blade, and child-actress Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6) was crushed by a helicopter during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

39 | Buenos Aires Death Sequence

In Buenos Aires in 1983, a dog fell out of a 13th-floor window and instantly killed an elderly woman who was walking on the street below. As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, gaping onlookers were struck by an oncoming bus and one woman was killed. A man died of a heart attack after witnessing both events.

40 | Paul G. Thomas

Paul G. Thomas, the owner of a wool mill, fell into one of his machines in 1987 and died after being wrapped in 800 yards of wool.

41 | Ivan Lester McGuire

In 1988, Ivan Lester McGuire filmed his own death while skydiving when he leapt out a plane, bringing his camera but forgetting his parachute. The experienced skydiver and instructor had been filming all day with the heavy video equipment strapped to his backpack. Ivan was so focused in filming other skydivers that he forgot his parachute while jumping off the plane, and he ended up filming his final decent.

42 | Garry Hoy

On July 9, 1993, a Canadian lawyer named Garry Hoy died while trying to prove that the glass in the windows of a 24th-floor office was unbreakable, by throwing himself against it. It didn’t break – but it did pop out of its frame and he plunged to his death.

43 | Gloria Ramirez

In 1994, Gloria Ramirez was admitted to a hospital in Riverside, California with symptoms originally thought to be related to her cervical cancer. Before she died Ramirez’s body released mysterious toxic fumes that made several hospital employees very ill. Scientists still don’t agree on any of the theories as to what could’ve caused this.

44 | Hisashi Ouchi

In September 1999, a lab worker named Hisashi Ouchi received a fatal radiation dose in The Second Tokaimura Nuclear Accident with a mortality rate considered to be 100 percent. Ouchi was exposed to so much radiation that all the chromosomes in his body were destroyed. Despite desiring to die, he was kept alive in horrendous pain for 83 days against his will.

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