Unusual Deaths-20th century

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1911: Jack Daniel, founder of the famous Tennessee whiskey distillery, died of blood poisoning from a toe injury he received after kicking his safe in anger when he could not remember its combination code.

1915: François Faber, Luxembourgean Tour de France winner, died in a trench on the western front of World War I. He received a telegram saying his wife had given birth to a daughter. He cheered, giving away his position, and was shot by a German sniper.

1916: Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, died of drowning while trapped under ice. Although the details of his murder are disputed, he was allegedly placed in the water through a hole in the winter ice after having been poisoned, bludgeoned and shot multiple times in the head, lung, and liver.

1916 : The English satirist, novelist and wit Saki was killed in France, during World War I by a sniper's bullet, having reportedly cried "Put that damned cigarette out!" to a fellow officer in his trench lest the glowing embers reveal their whereabouts.

1926: Barcelona's star architect Antoni Gaudi was run over by a tram. Cab drivers did not take him to a hospital immediately, not recognizing the ragged figure who had no money in his pockets. Gaudi was brought to a pauper's hospital, where he died some days later.

1927: J.G. Parry-Thomas, a British racing driver, was decapitated by his car's drive chain which, under duress, snapped and whipped into the cockpit. He was attempting to break his own Land speed record which he had set the previous year. Despite being killed in the attempt, he succeeded in setting a new record of 171 mph.

1927: Isadora Duncan, dancer, died of accidental strangulation and broken neck when her scarf caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger. Her last words before the car drove off were Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire. (Farewell, my friends! I go to glory!)

1928: Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian physician, died following one of his experiments, in which the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis was given to him in a transfusion.

1933: Michael Malloy, a homeless man, was murdered by gassing after surviving multiple poisonings, intentional exposure, and being struck by a car. Malloy was murdered by five men in a plot to collect on life insurance policies they'd purchased.

1935: Baseball player Len Koenecke was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher by the crew of an aircraft he had chartered, after provoking a fight with the pilot while the plane was in the air.

1938: Austrian author Ödön von Horvath was killed by a falling branch during a thunderstorm in Paris.

1940: Leon Trotsky, the Soviet revolutionary leader in exile, was assassinated with an ice axe in his Mexico home. His killer, Spanish-born Soviet agent Ramon Mercader, acquired the ice axe in Trotsky's own office after being invited in. After receiving a brutal blow to the head, Trotsky fought and literally took a bite out of his murderer.

1940: Tom Mix, Actor, Western Star was killed in a minor car accident by an aluminum suitcase which dislodged from the back seat of his car and smacked him in the back of the head.

1941: Sherwood Anderson, writer, swallowed a toothpick at a party and then died of peritonitis.

1943: Lady be Good, a USAAF B-24 bomber lost its way and crash landed in the Libyan Desert. Mummified remains of its crew, who struggled for a week without water, were not found until


1943: Critic Alexander Woollcott suffered a fatal heart attack during a discussion on Adolf Hitler. Listeners to the broadcast noticed that Woollcott, known for his wit, seemed strangely silent during much of it.

1944: Inventor and chemist Thomas Midgley, Jr., accidentally strangled himself with the cord of a pulley-operated mechanical bed of his own design.

1945: After surviving the Second World War, composer Anton Webern was shot by a drunk American sentry on the veranda of his son-in-law's house in Mittersill, Austria, when he had stepped outside to smoke his after-dinner cigar.

1953: Frank Hayes, jockey, suffered a heart attack during a horse race. The horse, Sweet Kiss, went on to finish first, making Hayes the only deceased jockey to win a race.

1958: Gareth Jones, actor, collapsed and died while in make-up between scenes of a live television play, Underground, at the studios of Associated British Corporation in Manchester. Director Ted Kotcheff continued the play to its conclusion, improvising around Jones's absence.

1960: Famed baritone Leonard Warren collapsed on the stage of the New York Metropolitan Opera of a major stroke during a performance of La forza del destino. The last line he sang was "Morir? Tremenda cosa." ("To die? A tremendous thing.")

1960: In the Nedelin disaster, over 100 Soviet rocket technicians and officials died when a switch was turned on unintentionally igniting the rocket. Red Army Marshal Nedelin was seated just 40 meters away overseeing launch preparations.

1967: A flash fire began in the pure oxygen atmosphere inside the unlaunched Apollo 1 spacecraft, killing its crew during a training exercise.

1967 Vladimir Komarov became the first person to die during a space mission.

1967: Harold Holt, the serving Prime Minister of Australia, vanished while swimming on a beach near Melbourne. His body was never found.

1968: Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, author, was accidentally electrocuted to death while taking a bath.

1971: Jerome Irving Rodale, an American pioneer of organic farming, died of a heart attack while being interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show. When he appeared to fall asleep, Cavett quipped "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?".[3] The show was never broadcast.

1972: Leslie Harvey, guitarist of Stone the Crows was electrocuted on stage by a live microphone.

1973: Péter Vályi, finance minister of Hungary fell into a blast furnace on a visit to a steelworks factory at Miskolc.

1974: Christine Chubbuck, an American television news reporter committed suicide during a live broadcast on July 15. At 9:38 AM, 8 minutes into her talk show, on WXLT-TV in Sarasota, Florida, she drew out a revolver and shot herself in the head.

1975: Vaughn Bodé, cartoonist, died while performing an act of autoerotic asphyxiation.

1977: Tom Pryce, a Formula One driver, and a 19-year-old track marshal Jansen Van Vuuren both died at the 1977 South African Grand Prix after Van Vuuren ran across the track beyond a blind brow to attend to another car and was struck by Pryce's car. Pryce was hit in the face by the marshal's fire extinguisher and was killed instantly.

1978: Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was assassinated by poisoning in London by an unknown assailant who jabbed him in the calf with a specially modified umbrella that fired a metal pellet with a small cavity full of ricin poison.

1978: Claude François, a French pop singer, was accidentally electrocuted when he tried to fix a broken light bulb while standing in a filled bathtub.

1978: Terry Kath, guitarist and vocalist for the band Chicago, committed accidental suicide while cleaning his 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

1979: Bill Stewart, an ABC News correspondent, and his interpreter were executed by a Nicaraguan National Guardsman during a checkpoint stop. The incident was captured on tape.

1981: A 19-year-old man named Jeff Bailey died of a heart attack after scoring 16,660 on the arcade game Berzerk. This was the first known instance of a video game-related death.

1981: A 25-year-old Dutch woman studying in Paris, Renée Hartevelt, was killed and eaten by a classmate, Issei Sagawa, when he invited her to dinner for a literary conversation. The killer was declared unfit to stand trial and extradited back to Japan, where he was released from custody within fifteen months.

1981: Boris Sagal, a motion picture-director, died while shooting the TV-epic World War III on location; rather carelessly, he walked headlong into the tail-rotor blade of a helicopter and was mortally injured. (Ironically, Sagal had helmed the pilot episode for TV's Combat! twenty years earlier; this series had starred Vic Morrow, who died in a very similar fashion a year later.) Boris was the father of three actresses: Katey Sagal from Married... with Children; twins Jean Sagal and Liz Sagal.

1982: Vic Morrow, actor, was decapitated by a helicopter blade during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie and was killed instantly, along with two child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen.

1982: Vladimir Smirnov, an Olympic champion fencer, died of brain damage nine days after his opponent's foil snapped during a match, pierced his eyeball and entered his brain.

1983:Tennessee Williams, a major American playwright died choking on a bottle cap.

1983: Sergei Chalibashvili, a professional diver, died after a diving accident during World University Games. When he attempted a three-and-a-half reverse somersault in the tuck position, he smashed his head on the board and was knocked unconscious. He died after being in a coma for a week.

1984: Tommy Cooper, British television magician, died on stage of a heart attack at Her Majesty's Theatre during a live television routine. Most of the audience and viewers believed it was part of his act.

1984: Cats Falck, a Swedish TV reporter and her friend died in a car that fell into the water in a suburb of Stockholm. It was later found that this was a murder committed by Stasi, East German Secret police.

1984: Jon-Erik Hexum, an American television actor, died after he shot himself in the head with a prop gun during a break in filming. Whether he deliberately committed suicide or was simply unaware of the potentially deadly effects of the blank round was not determined.

1985: Karel Soucek, daredevil, was fatally wounded attempting to recreate his successful 1984 plunge over Niagara Falls. Soucek staged a fundraising stunt in the Houston Astrodome, the crux of which was having him, in his capsule, dropped 180 ft. into a tank of water. The falling capsule hit the rim of the tank causing the injuries from which he would die the next day.

1986: Jane Dornacker, a musician, actress and comedienne turned radio station traffic reporter, died after a helicopter owned by New York's WNBC-AM in which she was a passenger crashed into the Hudson River. The fatal crash occurred as Dornacker was delivering a traffic report, and was broadcast live on air. Her final words to the helicopter pilot Bill Pate, who survived, "Hit the water! Hit the water! Hit the water!", were heard by listeners.

1987: Dick Shawn, aged 63, an actor and comedian, died onstage on April 17, during a monologue about the Holocaust in San Diego, California. Due to the nature of his act, audience members were at first unaware that he had suffered a massive heart attack.

1987: R. Budd Dwyer, a Republican politician, committed suicide during a televised press conference. Facing a potential 55-year jail sentence for alleged involvement in a conspiracy, Dwyer shot himself in the mouth with a revolver.

1989: A Belgian teenager was killed by a crashing soviet MiG-23 fighter jet, which escaped from Poland on autopilot after the crew ejected over a false engine failure alarm.

1991: Redd Foxx, an American TV actor and comedian, died during a rehearsal on the set of the CBS sitcom The Royal Family from a heart attack. As a faked heart attack was a frequent gag used in Foxx's previous TV series, Sanford and Son, the rest of the cast thought he was joking around at first.

1993: Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, was shot and killed by a prop .44 Magnum gun while filming the movie The Crow. The scene involved the firing of a full-powder blank (full charge of gunpowder, but no bullet) at Brandon's character. However, unknown to the film crew/firearms technician, a bullet was already lodged in the barrel. The gun had previously been fired with a dummy round that had had all its gunpowder removed, but its primer charge left intact in error. The firing of the 'squib' lodged the bullet inside the barrel. When the full powder blank round was later fired, the bullet in the barrel shot out and fatally wounded Lee.

1994: Stephen Milligan, UK journalist and conservative politician, died due to autoerotic asphyxiation

1996: "The Engineer" Yahya Ayyash, chief Palestinian bombmaker of Hamas was assassinated by way of a Shin Bet (Shabak) rigged mobile phone, which detonated when he answered a call.

1996: Richard Versalle suffered a heart attack onstage at the New York Metropolitan Opera after delivering the line "Too bad you can only live so long" during a performance of The Makropulos Case.

1997: Karen Wetterhahn, an accomplished chemist and professor at Dartmouth College died slowly of mercury poisoning over the course of one year after accidentally allowing "a drop or two" of the toxic chemical dimethylmercury to fall onto her latex safety gloves.

1997: Michael Hutchence of the Australian band INXS died of autoerotic asphyxiation (strangling himself while masturbating).

1997: David Bailey, an Irish man died when he was urinated on by a rat while attempting to retreive a lost golf ball from a ditch. Bailey apparently startled the rat, causing it to dart up his pant leg and urinate on him. After the incident, Bailey's companions urged him to immediately shower, but Bailey refused stating that he had no bites or scratches. He died two weeks later from kidney failure brought on by an acute case of leptospirosis. [4]

1998: Tom and Eileen Lonergan were stranded while scuba diving with a group of divers off Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The group's boat accidentally abandoned them due to an incorrect head count taken by the dive boat crew. The couple was left to fend for themselves in shark-infested waters. Although their bodies were never recovered, they likely eventually died of dehydration, drowning, shark attack, or a combination thereof.

1999: Owen Hart, World Wrestling Federation or WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE) wrestler, died when he fell 78 feet while being lowered into the ring by a cable from the stadium rafters before a match onto a metal ring turnbuckle. He had been scheduled to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship that night.