Think history is just a boring list of names and dates? Think again. There’s hundreds of amusing stories that they don’t tell you in history class. Some of those have to do with deaths, because let’s be honest, people sometimes die in ironic and downright ridiculous ways. Some, like the curious case of the Greek writer Philitas, died because of an obsession. Others, like the case of John Sedgwick, were hit with the right arm of perfect irony. A while back, we did an article on five of history’s most ridiculous deaths. Here’s six more:
1. Death by Beard
Back during the Renaissance, circa 1567, Hans Steininger, a man living in Austria, became famous for having the world’s longest beard. Sources have cited that, at its peak length, his beard was over a meter and a half long! That’s almost five feet! Well, reportedly, he died because of his beard. One day, he tripped over his majestic mane, lost his balance, and fell, snapping his neck. His death was almost instantaneous.
2. Death by Academia
Philitas of Cos was a Greek philosopher who lived during the 300s-200s BC. He was, in fact, the first Greek writer who was both scholar and poet. Not much is known about his life, but according to other Greek historians and writers, Philitas was so obsessed with his work that he literally wasted away and died because he was too busy and scholarly to eat. How’s that for dedication?
3. Death by Safe
According to what history tells us, Jack Daniel (yes, the guy that created the alcohol brand), died by kicking a safe. The story goes that he came to work one morning to fill out paperwork. At one point, he had to get the safe open, but couldn’t remember the combination and got so frustrated that he tried to kick it open.
Well, he actually injured his foot so badly by kicking the safe that the limb began to develop gangrene, and even after the foot was amputated, the gangrene spread up his limbs and killed him. He died on October 10, 1911 when he was 61 years old.
4. Death by Irony
During the American Civil War, John Sedgwick was a general fighting on the Union side. During one particular fight, he made fun of his soldiers for running away from the Confederates, who were 1,000 yards away and raining down heavy fire.
He was recorded as shouting, over the sound of the gunfire: “[The Confederates] couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance!”.
A few seconds later, a Confederate sharpshooter shot him in the eye. The shot killed him immediately. How’s that for irony?
5. Death by a Quest for Immortality
You’ve probably heard of the famous Terracotta Army — the hundreds of thousands of life-sized clay figurines all created to guard the ancient Chinese Emperor Qin during his afterlife. We hear a lot about Emperor Qin and his vast necropolis full of treasures. What we don’t hear about often is what caused his death. Ironically, he died because of his obsessive quest for eternal life. During his last years, Emperor Qin feared death and began to desperately search for the “elixir of life” that would grant him immortality. He fell prey to many false physicians who sold him hoax medicines that were supposed to make him immortal. In the end, one of his alchemists gave him three mercury pills. He ingested them, hoping that they would give him eternal life, and promptly died of mercury poisoning.
6. Death by Molasses Flood
During a cold January day in 1919, in a freak accident that has become a part of local folklore in Boston, a disaster occurred. A storage tank in Boston exploded, unleashing a wave of molasses that ripped through the area at a whopping 35 km per hour, killing over 21 people and injuring 150. For decades after, Boston locals have claimed that, during particularly warm summer days, they can still smell molasses.