The Null Device

List of unusual deaths

Wikipedia has a list of unusual deaths from antiquity to the present day. They range from examples of sadistic ingenuity (how much thought has been expended throughout history on inventing fitting tortures for those who shouldn't be allowed to die too painlessly?) and parables of the mighty undone by their folly, through to the inexplicable and the highly peculiar:
1410: Martin I of Aragon died from a lethal combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing.
1599: Nanda Bayin, a Burman king, reportedly laughed to death when informed, by a visiting Italian merchant, that "Venice was a free state without a king."
1660: Thomas Urquhart, Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of Rabelais into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.
Death from uncontrollable laughter seems to be somewhat of a recurring theme. (Thomas Urquhart, incidentally, was an early proponent of a constructed universal language, and was a character in Andrew Drummond's excellent comic novel concerning the squabbles between utopian language proponents, A Handbook of Volapük.)

Other odd deaths, not involving uncontrollable laughter, include:

892: Sigurd the Mighty of Orkney strapped the head of a defeated foe to his leg, the tooth of which grazed against him as he rode his horse, causing the infection which killed him.
1649: Sir Arthur Aston, Royalist commander of the garrison during the Siege of Drogheda, was beaten to death with his own wooden leg, which the Parliamentarian soldiers thought concealed golden coins.
1930: William Kogut, an inmate on death row at San Quentin, decided to commit suicide using only the rudimentary tools available to him in his prison cell. He began by tearing up several packs of playing cards, giving particular focus to obtaining pieces with red ink (at the time, the ink in red playing cards contained nitrocellulose, which is flammable and when wet can create an explosive mixture), and stuffed them into a pipe. He then plugged one end of the pipe firmly with a broom handle and poured water into the other end to soak the card pieces. He then placed the pipe on a kerosene heater next to his bed and placed the open end firmly against his head. The heater turned the water into steam and eventually enough pressure built up inside the pipe so that when it burst, the explosion shot out bits of playing cards with enough force to penetrate Kogut's skull, killing him. In a suicide note, Kogut stated that he and he alone should punish himself for his crimes.
1959: In the Dyatlov Pass incident, Nine ski hikers in the Ural Mountains abandoned their camp in the middle of the night in apparent terror, some clad only in their underwear despite sub-zero weather. Six of the hikers died of hypothermia and three by unexplained fatal injuries. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, one victim had a fatal skull fracture, two had major chest fractures (comparable in force to a car accident), and one was missing her tongue. The victims' clothing also contained high levels of radiation. Soviet investigators determined only that "a compelling unknown force" had caused the deaths, barring entry to the area for years thereafter.
Along similar lines: List of inventors killed by their own inventions.

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