A Brief History
On October 4, 2010, the Ajka alumina plant in Hungary lost control of 35 million cubic feet of alumina sludge that ended up killing nine people and polluting the Danube and Marcal Rivers. Yes, it was inevitable that someone alone the line would die in alumina sludge. As Murphy’s Law states, if it can happen, it will happen. But it is unlikely that anyone actually wakes up thinking “today this will happen to me.” People are inventive and creative, and throughout history they have come up with new products, machines and techniques that also accidentally killed them. Here nine off-the-wall ways people were sent off to their maker are listed.
9. Drinking Oneself to Death.
It is hard to pin down when people started drinking themselves to death, be it with alcohol or water. Ingesting huge quantities of almost any liquid can be fatal. A case in point is Basil Brown who in 1974 drank himself to death by slugging down huge quantities of carrot juice. A health nut, Brown drank 10 gallons of carrot juice in 10 days, giving himself a fatal overdose of vitamin A.
8. Exploding Chewing Gum.
In 2009, a 25-year-old Ukrainian chemistry student who was fond of dipping his chewing gum in citric acid to give it a burst of flavor, accidentally dipped his gum into explosive powder instead. When he plopped it back into his mouth and chewed, the gum blew up, killing him. Apparently the death scene was quite gruesome, with half the victim’s lower face blown off. If this is not proof of Darwinism (natural selection), then what is?
7. Office Chair Explosion.
A 14-year-old Chinese boy had the misfortune of sitting in a chair with a defective compressed air pneumatic lift mechanism when the chair’s air canister blew up. Shards of metal were sent into his nether regions, killing him. Other people have been injured in this way, but this is the only fatality we could find. Does your chair have a pneumatic lift mechanism?
6. Intercourse with a Horse.
Despite the snappy rhyme, this method of getting oneself killed seems painful. The 45-year-old “victim” was an aeronautical engineer in Washington State who voluntarily had a stallion penetrate him anally. The sick man even had his equally sick buddy record the event on video! People throughout history have died during sex, but how many of them have died on video having sex with a horse for all the world to see? The dead man suffered a perforated colon, which is kind of predictable considering the length of a horse’s sexual member. A movie version of the incident titled Zoo was presented at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals in 2007. Honorable mention to Nelson Rockefeller, former vice president of the U.S. who died while having more conventional sex with a young woman. And those of you who believe that Catherine the Great of Russia died while having sex with a horse, we refer you to the History and Headlines article: “History and Headlines Presents 10 Things History Got Wrong About Women.”
5. Stingray Tail Spine to the Heart.
Australian adventurer Steve Irwin, better known as the “Crocodile Hunter,” had the misfortune in 2006 of being stabbed in the heart by the tail spine of a large stingray while filming underwater scenes for a television series. He may not have been the first person to die this way, but it has to be one of the rarest ways to die. The video of the tragic incident has not been released to the public.
4. Beer Flood.
Perhaps you have heard of drowning your sorrows in beer or some other alcoholic beverage? Well, in London in 1814, a giant vat of beer failed, and 135,000 gallons of beer surged out, crashing into other huge vats and breaking those open as well. A total of well over 300,000 gallons of beer flowed out of the brewery and into the street like a tidal wave, crushing or drowning at least 8 unsuspecting people.
3. Bungee Jumping.
Sure, Americans have died while bungee jumping after someone forgot to tie the end of the bungee to something or when the bungee cord broke, but it is doubtful any American or European was the first person to die in this spectacular fashion. Modern bungee jumping was only introduced to the Western world in 1979, but it originated hundreds of years ago in the Pacific Islands of Polynesia. It was probably some unlucky Polynesian guy whose bungee vine was the first to snap. The Aztecs are also have believed to have practiced a form of bungee jumping, and they are well known for gruesome deaths. But back to the United States. One unlucky jumper smacked the ground at the Superdome in New Orleans during practice for a Super Bowl performance. She died. As did the girl whose bungee cord broke, sending her into the Zambezi River in Africa with her ankles still bound together. She put a twist on bungee death by drowning. At least a couple people have died from bungee cords that were measured wrong and were too long. Some jumpers have ended up as quadriplegic paralysis victims from broken necks caused by whiplash.
2. Drowned in Liquid Almina Sludge.
As briefly mentioned in the introduction, the Ajka alumina plant was storing mass quantities of toxic industrial by-products in a waste reservoir when one of the dams gave out in 2010, and the liquid sludge contained thereby was able to pour out uncontrollably, killing 9 people. An unusually rainy season may have contributed to the break in the dam.
1. Drowned in Molasses.
In the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, 21 people made the ultimate sacrifice to become a footnote in history as the largest (perhaps only?) group of people who drowned in molasses. A 2.3 million-gallon storage container of molasses intended for use in the distillation of alcohol broke open and sent the sweet liquid racing down the street at 35 mph, somewhat faster than people can run. The river of syrup even tore some buildings right off their foundations.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other odd deaths can you think of? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Please also see the related History and Headlines articles: “10 Bizarre Forms of Execution;” “Bizarre Forms of Execution – The Sequel;” “10 People Who Were the First to Die (10 Different Ways);” and “10 Unusual Murder Weapons.”
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For more information, please see…
Westerbone, M J. Bizarre Deaths From History (Bizarre History Book 1). I Storvik Ltd, 2013.