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The Most Unusual Deaths in History

Halloween is coming up pretty soon. As Octoberween (as I like to call it) continues day by day, my interest in all things spooky, mysterious, supernatural and darn right unusual sparks up.

When browsing around the internet, as a qualified procrastinator does, I came across something that boggled my mind: an entire list of unusual deaths. Real, unsolved or unexplainable, mysterious deaths that happened to real people, documented and listed. I truly felt like I had access to James Wans’ list of new projects.

Now death is never a laughable matter and I would never condone it – a life is a life and death will always be a tragedy. However, this list interests me to my core. It’s addictive to play detective. How did this ever happen? Where were the safety precautions? Could I easily be next? And most of all…WHO KEEPS THIS LIST UP TO DATE?

Here are some of the most unusual deaths documented in history:

Middle Ages:

  • 1016: Edmund Ironside was stabbed while on the toilet by an assassin hiding underneath him. I guess you’re not safe anywhere.

  • 1410: Martin of Aragon literally laughed to death. Martin was suffering from indigestion from eating a whole goose. This coupled with a “hilarious” joke told by his jester sent him into a fit of laughter. And what was the joke? Martin asked where the jester had been and he replied, “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”. Do you get it? It’s okay, neither do I.


  • 1567: Hans Steininger broke his neck by tripping over his own beard. His beard was 1,4m meters long at the time and unfortunately, not rolled up and kept in a leather pouch as he normally did.

  • 1667: James Betts died from asphyxiation after an assumed lover sealed him in a cupboard to hide him from her father. I never knew some sneaky Netflix and chill could lead to death.


  • 1903: an unnamed person was beaten to death with a Bible during a healing ceremony gone wrong in Honolulu


  • 1911: Jack Daniel, a man whose product we should all still know, died after kicking a safe with his toe in a rage after he couldn’t get it to open. It resulted in an infection that caused his death. Next time someone laughs when you lamely knock your baby toe on a table leg, remind them of Jack Daniel’s fate.

  • 1919: The Great Molasses Flood. In Boston, a molasses storage tank burst sending waves of molasses rushing at great speed through the neighborhood, killing 21 people and injuring 150. If you don’t know what molasses is, I’m about to make this story even worse: it’s a thick, syrupy, sugar solution, like honey. Shivers.


  • 1927: Isadora Duncan broke her neck when her long scarf got caught underneath the wheel of the car she was inside of. Apparently, this wasn’t an uncommon way of dying at the time.


  • 1951: Mary Hardy Reeser has a mysterious unsolved case. She spontaneously combusted and was “virtually cremated”. For this to occur, her body needed to be heated to the temperature of between 1 370℃ to 1650℃. Even stranger, all that was left of her was a foot in a satin slipper, completely unscathed.



  • 1974: Basil Brown drank himself to death, but not in the way you’re thinking of. He consumed 38 liters of carrot juice in 10 days and overdosed on Vitamin A and suffered from severe liver damage. There is too much of a good thing, kids. Even a healthy one.

  • 1975: Alex Mitchell fell dead on the couch after laughing continuously for 25 minutes after watching an episode of a TV show.

  • 1978: Kurt Gödel died from starvation after refusing to eat food prepared by anyone else other than his wife, who was in hospital for a time. It was a death from extreme paranoia.


  • 1981: the director, Boris Sagal, was shooting a TV miniseries when walked into a blade of an in-motion helicopter, decapitating him.

  • 1982: David Frundman died after practicing shooting on cacti. After several shots, an 8m cactus fell and crushed him.


  • 1994: Jeremy Brenno got mad after missing a shot in golf. He threw his gold club at a bench, it broke, and bounced back at him, piercing his heart.

  • 1999: Kemistry, a DJ, died after a cat’s eye dislodged itself from the road and flew through her windscreen and struck her in the head.

The strangest thing of all, is that for a time, the unusual deaths over the decades became fewer and fewer. I was wrong in assuming this pattern would continue with more safety warnings and precautions that came with the ages. The unusual deaths rose exponentially in the 2000s and 2010s from accidental, self-inflicted deaths. People died from being buried alive, choking on cockroaches, pretending to be blind and falling into a ditch and drowning, getting bit by a severed cobra’s head, and getting bit by a beaver after grabbing it for a photo.

Y’all need to calm down folks, be safe and don’t grab animals.


Caroline works at one of South Africa's top magazines while also finishes off her triple major in Multimedia Production, Media & Writing, and Film Studies at UCT. Caroline  is passionate about finding fantastic, everyday people's stories, collaborating with kick-ass women, and all things lifestyle journalism. Caroline is an intersectional feminist, yogi, and is always looking to learn something new.
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