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9 of the Weirdest Deaths of All Time

The Grim Reaper has a sense of humor.

weirdest deaths
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  • Photo Credit: Jon Butterworth/Unsplash

Death is inevitable, but we rarely see it coming. While the dream for most is to expire from old age surrounded by everyone they know and love, not everyone is that lucky. The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, and even if you're in perfect health, there are more than 42,000 motor vehicle deaths reported each year in America.

But there are some things way less dignified than a graceful exit via illness or collision. While freak accidents can seem like the fodder of urban legends, they really do happen. And we're here to prove it! From the ironic to the downright baffling, here are nine of the weirdest deaths of all time.

A Deadly Brew

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  • Photo Credit: Hanna Balan/Unsplash

In the Brazilian hospital of Santa Casa de Barra Mansa, an 88-year-old woman, Ilda Vitor Maciel, died of a pulmonary embolism. What caused the pulmonary embolism? Soup.

In September of 2012, Maciel was admitted to the hospital after a stroke. On the 28th, a nursing technician made a fatal mistake: instead of injecting soup into the woman's feeding tube, they injected it into her vein. 12 hours later, Maciel was dead.

While the hospital acknowledges the unfortunate soup incident took place, that deny that it was the cause of her death. However, considering a pulmonary embolism is a blocked artery in the lungs, soup in the blood seems like a pretty good suspect…

Monkey Business

On October 20, 2007, Delhi deputy mayor Surinder Singh Bajwa died after a horrific attack. The assailants were, of course, monkeys. But as everyone knows monkeys—as all wild animals—can be incredibly dangerous, the story isn't so simple.

As hordes of Rhesus macaques have invaded the city as their natural habitat is destroyed by urban development, they have taken over government buildings and temples. A real and genuine problem, these monkeys found Bajwa at his home that fateful day. However, it was the tumble he took off the balcony during the scuffle that killed him.

He died the day after the incident, and the city ordered a solution be found to the monkey plague. Obviously, one of the measures taken was to train more vicious monkeys, langurs, to solve the problem for them.

What Turnips Must Turn-Down

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19th-century Parliament member Sir William Payne-Gallwey had a passionate love for hunting. He was apparently a top-notch sharpshooter, too. He'd been the captain of his university's rifle team, and it's said he could hit a bullseye with his eyes closed. Unfortunately, for all his skill with a firearm, he didn't have that same mastery of his surroundings.

On December 19, 1881, Gallwey was out hunting in the parish of Bagby. He and his companions were crossing through a turnip field when one of these wily root vegetables tripped Gallwey. He fell down on the hefty harvest and sustained an internal injury that would kill him within a few days.

It should be noted that, at this time, Gallwey was in his 70s, and generally in frail health.

The Truth Hurts

38-year-old Toronto lawyer Garry Hoy had an inexplicable habit of boasting about the strength of office building windows, claiming them to be unbreakable. Maybe he loved architecture. Maybe he liked laughing in the face of danger. Or maybe he just needed something to believe in.

Unfortunately, on July 9, 1993, one of Hoy's exuberant window demonstrations went awry. While in a skyscraper downtown, Hoy was showing off for a group of visiting law students. As he commonly did when the mood struck him, he hurled his body at the window to prove it wouldn't shatter. Usually, this is the point at which he would bounce right off, safe and unharmed. This time, however, the window popped right out of the frame.

While Hoy was ultimately right—the window pane itself maintained its integrity—he fell through the open frame and plunged 24 stories to his death.

Beauty is Pain

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Isadora Duncan is known by many as the “Mother of Modern Dance.” Beyond her incredible talent, Duncan also liked to make fashion statements, primarily by donning long, flowing scarves. These iconic accessories brought the drama, fluttering behind her in the wind. But they also brought about her untimely death.

On September 14, 1927, Duncan hopped into the car of her friend, French-Italian mechanic Benoît Falchetto. It was a beautiful car (an Amilcar CGSS) and a beautiful day in Nice, France, and Duncan had a beautiful scarf to match: a hand-painted silk by Russian-born artist Roman Chatov.

As Falchetto sped off in his open-roof vehicle, the wind kicked up Duncan's extraordinary scarf. But not quite enough. The fabric wrapped around one of the tires, violently pulling Duncan from her seat. She was dragged a few yards before her friend noticed the accident. She died instantly from a broken neck.

The Sweet Hereafter 

You ever hear the saying “Too much of a good thing"? After January 15, 1919, the city of Boston understands the meaning all too well.

Known as the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919, an unseasonably warm day saw a tank of molasses burst open. That may not sound all that alarming at face value, but consider the fact that the tank was five stories high and contained roughly 7.5 million liters of molasses. As the dark, syrupy liquid poured through the streets of Boston in a wave 25 feet high moving at 35 miles per hour, freight cars were demolished, a firehouse was torn off its foundation, and a train was almost pulled off the tracks.

The chest-deep river of molasses claimed 21 lives that day. About half of these victims were crushed or drowned. The rest died in the aftermath from infections or other complications. Another 150 people were seriously injured.

This incident made the London Beer Flood of 1814 look like a cakewalk.

Dance 'Til You Drop

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In the summer of 1518, the city of Strasbourg was overcome by a peculiar plague. It began with a woman, Frau Troffea, who stepped outside one day and began to dance. However, once she started she couldn't stop.

A week later, roughly 100 others in Strasbourg were taken over by this strange mania. By September, more than 400 had been afflicted. The city tried to support this mass hysteria by hiring musicians and setting aside space in guild halls.

The plague came about for no clear reason and vanished much the same. But not before it claimed several lives. While the exact number of deaths wasn't documented, it's understood that those who perished had weak hearts, and couldn't withstand the prolonged exertion. 

Some think the madness was just stress-induced mass hysteria. Others theorize food poisoning. But, interestingly enough, this was not the first outbreak of compulsive dancing in Europe—there are as many as 10 other cases documented prior.

A Drive-By Shelling

Most of the deaths you hear about from ancient Greece come from bloody battlefields or happen at the hands of dramatic political coups. This one, however, feels like it has been ripped right out of a cartoon.

In Athens in the 5th century BC, Aeschylus was a pioneer of drama. Scholars today know him as the “Father of Tragedy,” with more than 90 plays under his belt, and more poems, to boot. Yet his death has the makings of some great comedy.

Spending the last years of his life in a self-imposed exile in Sicily, Aeschylus was sporting a bald head. A bald head that must have been particularly shiny and appealing, as an eagle overhead mistook it for a rock. Hoping to use this handy dandy rock to crack open its meal, the eagle dropped a large tortoise down below. When the tortoise struck Aeschylus on the head, it resulted in a swift death.

A Complicated Yarn

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On August 11, 1987, a peculiar tragedy unfolded in Thompson, Connecticut. One of the co-owners of the George Thomas & Sons Textile Co., Paul G. Thomas, took a fall into one of the company's machines. Typically factory machine accidents result in a gory and gruesome—yet ultimately quick—death. That was hardly the case for Mr. Thomas.

The contraption he fell into was a pin-wheel dresser machine, which winds woolen yarn on a large spool onto a smaller one. When Thomas fell onto the spool, he became trapped as layer after layer of yarn was wrapped around him. The machine works fast, so he was buried under 800 yards of wool before any of the employees knew something had gone wrong.

Unfortunately, while the spools work fast, suffocation does not. 

Featured image: Jon Butterworth/Unsplash; Additional images: Hanna Balan/Unsplash; Don Ricardo/Unsplash; Janko Ferlič/Unsplash