Illustration of the death of Aeschylus in the 15th century Florentine Picture Chronicle by Maso Finiguerra. Original is in the British Museum.

I stumbled across a Wikipedia page entitled ‘List of unusual deaths’. I was only going to share three of them, but there are so many bizarre ones on there that I couldn’t help sharing more.

Sigurd the Mighty of Orkney (892 CE): 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.

Hans Staininger (1567): The burgomaster of Braunau (then Bavaria, now Austria), died when he broke his neck by tripping over his own beard. The beard, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long at the time, was usually kept rolled up in a leather pouch.

Thomas Otway (1685): The English dramatist fell on hard times and was suffering from poverty in his later years, and was driven by starvation to beg for food. A gentleman who recognized him gave him a guinea, with which he hastened to a baker’s shop, purchased a roll, and choked to death on the first mouthful.

John Cummings (1809): After seeing a circus knife-swallower, seaman John Cummings began actually swallowing knives. On one occasion, he swallowed four knives, and quickly passed three with no ill-health. He later swallowed 14 knives, and after some days with abdominal pain, he passed all of them. He finally swallowed 20 knives and a clasp knife case, but after a few days, he had only passed the case; he died after four years in pain. On autopsy, a knife blade and spring were found in his intestines, and between 30 and 40 fragments of metal, wood, and horn in his stomach.

Mathilda of Austria (1867): The daughter of Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen set her dress on fire while trying to hide a cigarette from her father, who had forbidden her to smoke.

Sir William Payne-Gallwey, 2nd Baronet (1881): The former British MP died after sustaining severe internal injuries when he fell on a turnip while hunting.

Thornton Jones (1924): The lawyer from Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales, woke up to find that he had his throat slit. Motioning for a paper and pencil, he wrote, “I dreamt that I had done it. I awoke to find it true”, and died 80 minutes later. He had done it himself while unconscious. An inquest at Bangor delivered a verdict of “suicide while temporarily insane”.

Isadora Duncan (1927): The American dancer broke her neck in Nice, France when her long scarf became entangled in the open-spoked wheel and rear axle of the Amilcar CGSS automobile in which she was riding.

David Grundman (1982): While shooting at cacti with his shotgun near Lake Pleasant Regional Park, Arizona, he was crushed when a 4-foot (1.2 m) limb detached and fell on him.

Vladimir Likhonos (2009): The 25-year-old student of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute from Konotop was killed when his chewing gum exploded. He had a habit of dipping his chewing gum in citric acid to increase the gum’s sour taste. On his work table police found about 100 grams (3.5 oz) of unidentified explosive powder which he used for chemistry studies at home. It resembled citric acid, and it is thought that he confused the two, having accidentally coated his gum in the explosive powder before chewing it. The explosive was found to be four times stronger than TNT, and the explosion was possibly triggered either by reacting with Likhonos’s saliva, or the pressure exerted by him chewing on the gum and explosive powder.

Ilda Vitor Maciel (2012): The 88-year old died in a hospital in Barra Mansa, Rio de Janeiro, allegedly as a result of nursing technicians injecting soup through her intravenous drip instead of her feeding tube.

Sam Ballard (2018): The 29-year old from Sydney, Australia, died from angiostrongyliasis after eating a garden slug as a dare eight years earlier.

Shivdayal Sharma (2023): The 82-year-old was reportedly urinating next to a train track in the region of Alwar, India, when a cow was hit by the Vande Bharat express train. The animal was launched 100 feet (30 m) into the air before landing on Sharma, killing him instantly.

Source: Wikipedia

Image: The death of Aeschylus, killed by a turtle dropped onto his head by a falcon