Some of history’s most notable names died in really, really odd ways. There are several on this list that I was pretty surprised to read about.
1. Harry Houdini
The famous magician may have seemed invincible–he could escape just about anything–but a punch to the gut from a college student proved to be his undoing. The student had seen one of Houdini’s acts where he took punches to the stomach and hit the magician without warning him first. Houdini’s appendix ruptured, and he died on October 31, 1926.
2. Leon Trotsky
One of the most famous figures of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Trotsky was later exiled from the USSR by Stalin. He was murdered in Mexico in 1940 when an assassin stabbed him in the head with an ice pick.
3. Attila the Hun
One of the most vicious men in history, Attila died of a simple nosebleed. While celebrating his marriage in 453, the leader got drunk, got a nosebleed, and choked to death on his own blood.
4. Marie Curie
The famous physicist and chemist discovered radioactivity and won two Nobel Prizes, one in 1903 and one in 1911. She died in 1934 from a rare bone marrow disease caused by radiation: Ultimately, it was her beloved work that ended up killing her.
5. Tennessee Williams
One of the most famous American playwrights of all time, Williams was drunk and high on amphetamines when he accidentally choked to death on the plastic cap of an eye drop bottle in 1983.
6. William Henry Harrison
A war hero who served as the ninth American president, Harrison gave a two-hour inauguration speech in the rain without an overcoat or a hat. He caught a nasty cold and died in office a month later. Harrison was the first president to die in office.
7. Zachary Taylor
Another war hero who went on to become president of the United States, Taylor attended an event in July 1850 at which he reportedly consumed a large amount of raw fruit and iced milk. The food and drink gave Taylor dysentery, and he died five days later, only 16 months into his term as president.
8. King Henry I of England
Henry ruled England for 35 years, but eating lamprey eels on a hunting trip in France in 1135 sickened and killed him. After his death, his entrails were buried at a nearby priory, while the rest of his body was transported back to England to be buried at Reading Abbey.
9. Tycho Brahe
The brilliant astronomer and astrologer died in 1601 because he refused to leave a banquet table to use the bathroom because it would have been a sign of bad manners. He hurried home after the banquet and experienced severe pain when he tried to urinate. Brahe was dead 11 days later from a bladder ailment. For many years, there was speculation that Brahe had actually been poisoned, but after a 2010 investigation, the bladder disease explanation was confirmed.
10. Sir Francis Bacon
The influential scientist and philosopher was traveling through bad weather when he decided to investigate whether snow could preserve meat. Bacon left his carriage and walked to the house of a woman who sold him a chicken carcass that he stuffed with snow. The time Bacon spent outside made him ill, and he died from pneumonia three days later.
11. Queen Sunandha
Sunandha was the queen of Siam, today known as Thailand. Her boat capsized in 1880 while on the way to the royals' summer palace. Because touching a queen was a capital offense, dozens of people watched her and her one-year-old daughter drown.
The Greek playwright is known as the “father of tragedy.” He supposedly died when an eagle picked up a tortoise in its claws and dropped the tortoise onto Aeschylus’ bald head, thinking it was a rock to break the animal’s shell.
13. Adolf Frederick
The King of Sweden died of overeating in 1771 after a gluttonous meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, champagne, and 14 servings of sweet rolls in a bowl of hot cream.
14. Sherwood Anderson
Anderson was a short-story writer in the early part of the 20th-century who died a bizarre death in 1941. At the age of 64, he accidentally swallowed a toothpick on a cruise ship while drinking a martini. The toothpick damaged his internal organs, and he died of an infection.
15. Grigori Rasputin
The Russian mystic became close to the royal family but was viewed as a bizarre enemy by government officials and the general public. He was murdered in December 1916; first, he was given poisoned food and wine, but that didn’t kill him. Then his assassins shot him. It is unclear whether one of the three shots was fatal or if the man was finally killed by drowning when he was thrown into the Malaya Nevka River.