If you’re of a nervous disposition, step away from the screen. I mean it. Shut down your computer now and step away. However if, like me, you are attracted by all things weird, including strange and unusual deaths, read on. It’s not the death part of it that attracts me; it’s the quirky and strange circumstances. Plus the fact that it raises an illicit giggle where giggles have no place. Like having an urge to laugh at a funeral. You know you shouldn’t. Indeed you don’t want to but somehow you can’t help it.
One of my favourite weird deaths is death by carrot. There’s one real one and one fictional one. You’ll find them in an article I wrote a while ago. The craziest carrot death is in the opening scene of the film ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ where Clive Owen dispatches the baddie with a carrot stick. Sounds unlikely? Well it is a film. In real life the unassuming carrot was also responsible for the death of a man called Basil Brown. A health fanatic, the poor man took it too far with the carrot juice. Having downed gallons of the stuff in a short space of time he ended up bright orange. And dead.
So far, so weird. But there’s more. Before I carry on, for the pedants among us, of which I am definitely one, I hasten to explain that in many of these sad cases death was actually the result of a heart attack, or strangulation or drowning or by breaking your neck by inadvisably jumping off a tall building wearing a Heath Robinson style overcoat-parachute. It was the things that led up to them that were strange. There are so many of them, it’s hard to know where to begin. Death by cactus, by bottle cap, by sheep and by beard. And more, far too many to mention.
In 1982 David Grundman and his mate decided to do a little shooting, with a cactus as the target. The cactus got its revenge; a chunk of it sheared off and crushed him to death. Tennessee Williams, the famous playwright, choked on a bottle top. Poor Betty Stobbs was knocked off her feet by her herd of sheep and pushed over a cliff. Ungrateful creatures – she’d only come to feed them. Hans Steinen grew the longest beard in the world, tripped on it and broke his neck escaping from a fire.
There are enough weird deaths to fill months of blog posts. They come in all guises – romantic, incredible, spooky, and, yes, funny. One of the most romantic sounding deaths is that of Chinese poet Li Po. Apart from being one of the greatest poets in Chinese literature, he also loved a drink. Poor man fell from his boat on the Yangtze River and drowned while trying to embrace the reflection of the moon. That’s one version. Grigori Rasputin’s death is downright weird. The Russian mystic, was reportedly poisoned, shot in the head four times, clubbed, and finally when these failed he was chased into a frozen river.
In 1991, Yooket Paen was walking in her farmyard. She slipped, grabbed a wire. It was live. She was electrocuted and died on the spot. Shortly after her funeral Her sister was out in the farmyard with neighbours, demonstrating how the accident had happened. She too slipped. Grabbed the same wire and she too died. You’d think they would have taped it up or something. That wasn’t just an accident waiting to happen. It had already happened.
General Sedgwick fell in battle during the American Civil War. Shots fired by Confederate sharpshooters caused his men to duck for cover. The Confederates were roughly 1,000 yards away. Sedgwick was disgusted and walked into the open, striding around saying “I am ashamed of you. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Despite this his men continued to cower. So he repeated “I’m ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist …” and fell forward with a bullet hole in his eye. I know it isn’t funny, but … well it is.