Society - People
By: - at July 18, 2013

15 Unusual Ways People Have Died

Starting in early human civilizations there have been records of unusual causes of death. While the actual cause of death never takes away from the fact that a life ended, it is interesting to learn about some of the more unusual ways people were put to death. Some of the most unusual causes of death include being beaten by your own wooden leg, death by carrot juice, and being drowned in molasses.

15)  Death by a Severed Head
In the Orkneyinga Saga, a historical narrative, Earl Sigurd the Mighty was an earl of Orkney who experienced a very unusual cause of death. In the beginning of this historical account, Sigurd was a forecastle man who helped to conquer the Orkney and Shetland forces. Sigurd eventually was given the title of Earl by his brother, Rognvald. Sigurd became known as a powerful and wise ruler. During his reign as Earl of Orkney, Sigurd developed a feud with the local Scottish magnate, Maelbrigte. The two eventually agreed that the feud needed to be addressed and they needed to settle their differences. According to their arrangement each man was to go to a specific spot, with no more than 40 men.

Sigurd had no trust in those of Scottish origin. He believed that Maelbrigte would bring more men than the agreed upon 40. This belief led to Sigurd making the decision to act dishonorably and bring 80 men with him. In an attempt to cover up the extra forty men, Sigurd assigned two riders to each of the forty horses. When Maelbrigte realized what Sigurd had done, he was furious and ordered each of his men to kill two of Sigurd’s men. Maelbrigte’s fury and indignation were not enough to win the battle though. Sigurd walked away the victor, and Maelbrigte was killed. In a show of triumph, Sigurd severed the heads of each enemy and strapped then to his saddles. Sigurd secured Maelbrigte’s head to his own saddle and began to head north. Yet even in death, Maelbrigte had his revenge. As Earl Sigurd spurred his forces, his leg was scratched by Maelbrigte’s tooth. This scratch became severely infected, and Earl Sigurd died soon after from the blood infection took hold.

severed head

14)  Drowned in Wine
The first Duke of Clarence, George Plantagenet, was executed in a very unique manner. The Duke of Clarence was brother to King Edward IV and King Richard III. They often had trouble with his loyalty to them throughout their years. In George’s early years, he actively supported Edwards’s accession to the throne after his father’s death. Edward’s succession to the throne was openly opposed by King Henry VI, so siding with Edward had been a brave move. George’s loyalty, however, soon began to waiver. Historians are not sure why. When George’s father in law, the Earl of Warwick, abandoned King Edward and allied with Margaret of Anjou, George abandoned his support for his brother. King Henry VI, who challenged King Edwards' rights to the throne, promised George that he would make him next in line to the throne. Over time, the promise made by King Henry VI proved to be fruitless. Eventually, George realized that his commitment to the Earl of Warwick was misplaced, and his support for his brother was reinstated. This was not without its consequences though as his own brother struggled to trust him.

Some years later, after the unexpected death of his wife and new born son, George began to lose his grip on sanity. He became severely paranoid, and even executed a lady in waiting because he irrationally believed she had something to do with his wife’s death. His loss of sanity eventually led to him planning a rebellion against his brother, King Edward. George actively slandered, plotted, and planned for a new rebellion against King Edward. This only confirmed the fears and concerns over his loyalty. The King quickly realized that George would stop at nothing to take control of the crown. For his treason against the crown, George was imprisoned and put on trial. After George was convicted and sentenced to death, the Duke of Clarence was dipped into a vat of wine and drowned.

barrels of wine

13)  Beat to Death by a Wooden Leg
Sir Arthur Aston, who lived from 1590 to 1649, was a professional soldier for most of his life. He is remembered for supporting King Charles I and the other royalists, but he is best remember for his brutal death. Throughout his career, Aston had served as leader of the dragoons, major-general to Prince Rupert, governor of Oxford, and finally governor of Drogheda. He was known as a severe and imperious leader, but was also respected for his loyalty to the royalists regardless of the time or the winds of politics.

While the war raged on in 1648, Sir Aston was appointed governor of Drogheda. Drogheda was a strategic point that would have to stand firm to fend off Oliver Cromwell and his forces. Drogheda was eventually stormed during one of the most vicious battles of the war. When the Parliament soldiers invaded Drogheda, they viciously massacred many civilians. After a parlay with Cromwell, Aston agreed to surrender Drogheda. He did so under the impression that those who were still alive would be allowed to live. The Parliament soldiers, however, were ordered by Cromwell to kill all of the surviving inhabitants of the town. Cromwell refused to let anyone survive from the already bloodied battle. The Parliament soldiers followed their orders and beat Aston's head in with his own wooden leg after they ripped it off. It was a gruesome act that is still abhorred by many today.

wooden leg
By Halibutt (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

12)  Death by Over-eating
Adolf Frederick was the first King from the House of Holstein- Group. His reign was considered weak, and it was considered largely a ceremonial position. This was a position that he was elected to because the previous king had no surviving heir. Throughout his reign as king, Frederick was known for his love of food and family. He was also known to be kind to all of his servants, and would often make snuff boxes for them as a hobby. He often filled the snuff boxes himself to make sure they had enough. His love for excesses led to the deterioration of the kingdom's finances. This deterioration lasted until 1766 when the the government was overtaken and the conquerors implemented measures that would reform the state of the economy.

Even with the reform, Frederick retained his passion for all gluttonous things. His gluttonous tendencies are what eventually led to his death. In 1771, Frederick consumed a meal that was fit for a small army. The meal that he consumed in one setting included caviar, lobster, kippers, sauerkraut, and 14 servings of semla with a bowl of warm milk. After his meal was finished, he quickly developed problems with his intestines. Those intestinal problems lasted throughout the rest of the day, and resulted in his death by day's end. From that day onward, Frederick was mostly known for being the king that ate himself to death. While there are several theories as to what it was that killed him precisely, medical experts still disagree on the actual causes even today.

fat man overeating obese death by gluttony

11)  Beer Flood
In 1814 the Meux and Company Brewery stood in central London. The brewery housed several vats that were around 20 feet high. In each vat there were around 3,500 barrels of ale, and about 29 metal hoops wrapped around these barrels. On October 16, one of the hoops snapped. This created a chain reaction of snapping hoops, until the vat finally exploded.

Once the vat exploded, the beer exploded out of the vat and broke open the other vats. Pressure caused the beer to pour out of the vats and what must have been a wave of beer broke through the 25 foot wall surrounding the brewery. The beer poured out into the streets, which was surrounded by a crowded slum area. The sea of beer smashed into the houses nearby, flooding basements, and destroying two homes. A barmaid in the local Tavistock Arms pub was buried for almost three hours before she was able to escape. In another location, a mother and her small son were drowned when the sea of beer came crashing into their home. In total, nine people were killed by the vat explosion, and many more were injured.

Though most of the other locals fought to escape bodily harm, others swarmed the streets to collect the free beer. Many people would wade in the knee-deep sea of beer and use pots to transport the beer. Others would simply use their hands to scoop up the beer. It was several weeks before the ale was completely pumped out of the streets, and several months before the smell was gone.

beer brewery

10)  Death by Obituary
Marcus Garvey was an inspiration to many African Americans in the United States. Garvey was responsible for the creation of the Back to Africa Movement that took place in the United States. In 1919, Garvey became the founder of the Black Star Line, which would be used to transport African Americans from the U.S. to Africa. The attempts to get the Back to Africa Movement going was a failure, along with several of Garvey’s other ideas. In 1922, Garvey was arrested for mail fraud.

Garvey was then sentenced to prison and transported to Jamaica. Once he had served his time in jail, Garvey made his way to London, where he lived out the rest of his life. Towards the end of May in 1940, Garvey had sat down to go through the daily paper. As he flipped through the pages, Garvey found himself reading the obituaries. Instead of reading about the deaths of local neighbors or strangers that he knew nothing about, Garvey found himself reading an obituary for himself. The obituary for his own death shocked him so greatly that he had a stroke. Two days after the stroke, Garvey was dead, and a real obituary was released.

newspaper obituary

9)  A Hoarder's Death
The Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, were two Americans who were known for their compulsive hoarding techniques. The brothers lived in Manhattan and were rarely seen, let alone spoken to. Their strange hoarding tendencies and odd behavior was greeted with curiosity, which often led to their neighbors to trying to gain access to their home. Both brothers continuously added to their collection of furniture, books, musical instruments, and other items. They were both obsessed with their collections, and constantly depended on one another. Langley had an aptitude for creating booby traps within the home, but would often forget where he put them. Homer, on the other hand, was less active in his later years. He became completely dependent on his brother because he had become paralyzed.

In April of 1947, a workman for the brothers found their bodies amongst all of the rubble that the brothers cherished. The first body that the worker found belonged to Langley. According to the coroner, Langley had become trapped, and was killed as a result of running into one of his misplaced booby traps. It was determined that Homer died of starvation because he was not physically able to help himself after his brother died. Because the brothers’ lived in such a cluttered environment, Homer was unable to get around without his brothers assistance. The second body that the workman found was Homer’s. Though the coroner was unable to tell how long the brothers had been dead, the rats were already trying to eat the flesh of the carcasses by the time the workman had found them.

 By Grap (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

8)  The Deadly Distracting Bird
Alan Stacey was a British race car driver who was famous for developing and racing Lotus vehicles. His association with Lotus began when he built an MkVI kit that was offered by the company. He raced the MkVI during a few races, but eventually built and drove an Eleven. Throughout his career Stacey helped to improve the Lotus brand, and provided the company with exposure, as he raced seven formula One World championship Grand Prix’s. In 1958, Stacey had his debut, but he scored no championship points.

In 1960, while racing in the Belgian Grand Prix, tragedy struck. As Stacey was racing at speeds of 120 mph, he was hit in the face by a bird in the 25th lap. The rouge bird caused Stacey to go off the road towards the inside. His vehicle then climbed an embankment that was waist-high. His car penetrated hedges that were about ten feet thick, and he ultimately plunged into a field. Within minutes of the crash, Alan Stacey was dead.

Lotus 11 Formula One race car
 By Erwan velu (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

7)  Carrot Juice
One of the more bizarre causes of death would be carrot juice. Generally, you think of carrot juice and think of the health benefits that come along with drinking it. Like with most things in life, however, moderation is key. The concept of moderation with carrot juice was first brought to life in response to the death of Bazil Brown.

Bazil Brown was a self described health nut who was obsessed with having a healthy lifestyle. Brown often tried to push the boundaries with his practices in everyday healthy living, and would misguidedly do things that were quite unhealthy. His practices often included over-exercising, trying new life style changes, and creating new diet plans. In 1974, however, that all came to an end. During this time, Brown created a plan to drink 10 gallons of carrot juice in just 10 days. This would provide Brown with 10,000 times the recommended amount of vitamin A. He followed the plan flawlessly, only to discover that an excess amount of carrot is dangerous to one’s health. This large quantity of carrot juice ultimately led to severe liver damage. The damage to Browns liver was so severe that it ended up being the cause of his death.

carrot juice

6)  Selective Lightning
When the Dominican Republic hosted a soccer game, there were no concerns over weather conditions as the audience filled the stands and the players took their places. There were certainly no concerns over whether the audience or team would get struck by lightning. The lack of this concern, however, proved to be fatal.

During this particular game, the weather was overcast, but there was nothing unusual that would give cause for concern. Without any warning at all, the sky lit up with lightning. The lightning struck, and the entire opposing team was dead in moments. This bizarre lightning attack killed 11 players, and over 30 audience members had to be checked for additional injuries. Not one player or supporter from the Dominican team was harmed.

One of the first responses to this unusual occurrence was to blame it on witchcraft. For many people, it seemed to be one of the only explanations for such a thing. Accusations were made, and a few cases were heard, but, ultimately, nothing came from them. It was hard for people to believe that there was such a basic, scientific explanation for such a tragedy.

lightning strikes

5)  Excessive Sauna Session
From 1999 until 2010, the World Sauna Championships were held every year in Heinola, Finland. The contest originated for sauna-sitting contests that were unofficially held, and later banned from swimming halls in Heinola. The first official championship was held in 1999, and it eventually grew to include contestants from over 20 countries. Participants who wished to compete, were required to sign waivers for health risks. These waivers stated that any health risks were undertaken by the participants on a voluntary basis. The contestants would ultimately compete to see who could withstand temperatures of 230 degrees the longest.

The severity of these health risks became apparent in 2010. During the contest in 2010, Vladimir Ladyzhensky and Timo Kaukonen were the last two finalists of the competition. During the last moments of the competition, both contestants collapsed. Both contestants were rushed to the hospital, and Ladyzhensky was later pronounced dead. The official competition has since been canceled, and investigations against the organizers were launched. No official determination has been made yet.

Excessive Sauna Session
By Therme Erding (Therme Erding) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de], via Wikimedia Commons

4)  Drowned by Molasses
In January of 1919, in Boston, Massachusetts, the Great Molasses Tragedy occurred. The disaster all began at the Purity Drilling Company. When the temperatures of the molasses vat rose to above 40 degrees, the tank holding the molasses exploded. The tanks holding the molasses measured to about 15 feet and could hold up to two million gallons. The wave of molasses damaged the Boston Elevated railway system, and dozens of buildings were removed from their foundation.

The molasses was said to be waist deep in certain areas of the city, which made navigating through the city virtually impossible. Rescue workers and residents alike had to sit and watch as their neighbors and loved ones were injured or killed. Once the destruction was contained, it was stated that around 150 Boston citizens were injured, while 21 were killed.

Molasses syrup

3)  Torpedoing Your Own Ship
The HMS Trinidad was a navy cruiser that launched in March of 1940. The main objective of the HMS Trinidad was to be an escort for a Russian convoy, which had been attacked by a U-boat. In March of 1942, the HMS Trinidad was providing coverage for an Arctic Convoy. The Trinidad eventually met up with the convoy, but it was not without consequence. Out of 19 ships in the convoy, only 14 arrived safely.

In March of 1942, the convoy got involved in combat against German destroyers. The HMS Trinidad launched a full on torpedo attack. It was during this attack that the crew of the HMS Trinidad received a deadly, unpleasant surprise. While the ship was firing off torpedoes at German destroyers, a torpedo containing a faulty gyro mechanism was launched. This faulty torpedo formed a circular arch, which made the torpedo circle back to the HMS Trinidad. The torpedo that was meant for German enemies, instead hit the HMS Trinidad. During this attack of sorts, 32 men were killed. After the self-inflicted attack, the HMS Trinidad was escorted by the HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, the HMS Somali, and the HMS Matchless. As the HMS Trinidad was being escorted, the speeds were lowered to about 20 knots. During this time, the HMS Trinidad was attacked by more than 20 bombers. Each attack by the bombers missed, except for one, which struck at the same place that the faulty torpedo had struck.

submarine launching torpedo

2)  Getting Hit By a Cannonball that Was meant as a Salute
John Kendrick was known as an American Sea captain who contributed heroically to the French and Indian War, the Boston Tea Party, and the American Revolutionary War. Kendrick began his military career in 1773, when he joined the French and Indian War under Captain Jabez Snow’s command. Kendrick went on to command Fanny. Fanny was the first ship of the Navy during the American Revolution. Under Kendrick’s command, Fanny had about 100 crew members, and around 18 guns. During his time as commander of Fanny, Kendrick was taken hostage by MS Brutus, and HMS Little Brutus, where he was eventually traded in a prisoner exchange. In 1783, the war ended and Kendrick was released, he returned to whaling and coastal shipping. During this time, he became the first commander of an American ship.

In December of 1794, Kendrick arrived in Honolulu, and met up with Captain William Brown and Captain Gordon. During this time, Kaeokulani, the chief of Kauai invaded Oahu. Captain Brown and Kendrick sent some men to help Oahu forces. The men ended up pushing Kauai forces back, and left Oahu as the victor. The next morning, Kendrick fired a salute to which Captain Brown responded. Unbeknownst to Brown, one of the cannons was loaded with live grapeshot. When the return salute was fired, a grapeshot smashed into the side of Kendrick’s ship and killed Kendrick and several of his men. This unexpected accident shook his entire crew, as well as the crew of Captain Brown. The two crews took Kendrick’s and the other men's bodies to the shore and performed a proper burial service.

ship cannon war cannon

1)  Mistaking the Chimney for the Balcony
Sirkka Sari was a famous up and coming Finnish actress in the 1930’s. In 1939, Sirkka Sari was at hotel Aulanko celebrating the premiere of her newest film. As the celebration was going strong, Sirkka decided to leave in search of a outdoor patio area. As Sirkka explored the top level of the hotel, she came upon what she thought was a scenery balcony area. Mistaking the area for a scenery deck, Sirkka climbed up the ladder and stepped towards what she thought was a small platform. The ladder, however, did not lead to a scenery balcony. The ladder, instead, led to the opening of a chimney. Instead of finding an area where she could be take in a beautiful view, Sirkka stepped out on the opening of the chimney. The opening led straight to the furnace, where she instantly died. A party that was meant to celebrate her recent achievements ended up being a festivity that ultimately claimed her life. She was only 19 years old when she met her tragic demise.

Ancient Chimney outlook





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