“Those whom life does not cure, death will.”—Cormac McCarthy.
Though we may not understand it, death comes for us all. It’s a dark inevitability
In a select few cases, though, death is more poetic—enough so that the records of these strange deaths persist in our cultural memory. Whether it’s an inventor felled by their own invention, a warrior walking into an ingenious strategic trap, or more simply, the potential recipient of a Darwin Award, there are many fascinating instances of the story behind a death proving that sometimes, the truth is stranger than fiction. Interested in dramatic and strangely coincidental deaths? Hang around for these stories about unexpected and paradoxical deaths and pass them on. Here are 24 morbid facts about ironic deaths.
Ironic Deaths Facts
24. The Killing Joke
There have been more than a few accounts of death by laughter, but one of the more popular ones is that of Chrysippus. This ancient Greek man was said to have been watching a donkey eat a fig, at which he made a demand for some wine to accompany the donkey’s food. Chrysippus apparently found his own joke so hilarious that he died from a fit of laughter—he must’ve been a blast at dinner parties. There are differing accounts as to whether this Chrysippus was the divine heroic figure from mythology or the actual ancient Stoic philosopher. Dying from laughter doesn’t seem like a very stoic thing to do, to be honest.
23. The Payment for Her Hard Work
Everyone knows about Marie Curie, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who pioneered research on radioactivity along with her husband Pierre, although few might know that she performed her work in the field without the safety measures that would be later developed as a result of better understandings of radioactivity. Even though Curie ended up contracting a number of chronic illnesses from her exposure to radiation, she did not acknowledge the health risks of radiation exposure until her eventual death.
Bobby Leach was famous as the second person to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel, surviving the falls with very serious injuries that took him 6 months to recover from. 15 years after the feat, he fell again, in a much less dramatic fashion this time. Leach slipped on an orange peel on the street. What, were there no banana peels around? As minor as it may have seemed, his fall caused an infection in his leg that was so serious that he eventually passed away from the medical complications it had caused.
21. No Biggie
Christopher Wallace, known by Biggie Smalls, or The Notorious B.I.G., was one of the most prominent rap artists of the 20th century, rapping frequently about the glory and stress of being a (fictional) crime lord. In 1994, Wallace made his debut with the album, Ready to Die. In 1997, Wallace was killed in a drive-by shooting by an unidentified killer. Wallace’s second album, Life After Death, completed prior to his death, was released 16 days after his death, and went on to number one on the US charts.
20. Running Out of Time
James Fuller “Jim” Fixx, a health guru who wrote about the health benefits of jogging in 1970s, swore on the benefits of running as a way to improve your life. Unfortunately, he couldn’t outrun a lifetime of accumulated health problems caused by chain-smoking and stress, and died in the middle of his daily run at the age of 52.
19. Sinking Feeling
The Titanic, a legendary ship that was considered unsinkable, famously—and ironically—sunk on its maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg. 1,514 of its 2,224 crew and passengers perished in what is probably the largest accumulation of ironic deaths at one time in history.
18. Un-Palliative Care
The 20th American President, James A. Garfield, was shot in an assassination attempt. This did not kill him outright, however. After being shot and put into medical care, many doctors fingered and prodded Garfield’s open wound, looking for the bullet, worsening the wound and puncturing his liver. Predictably, Garfield never recovered from this and died more than two months later.
Michael Anderson Godwin, a murder convict, managed to have his death sentence overturned. While he avoided the death by electrocution, he fatally shocked himself in his cell. He was trying to fix a pair of broken earphones while sitting on a steel toilet, and inadvertently created a makeshift electric chair.
16. Not a Drill
John Kendrick, an American sea captain, had completed a battle operation and was on his ship exchanging celebratory cannon fire with another ship. Unfortunately, one of those rounds were real and accidentally killed Kendrick along with several of his men.
15. Died Lifting
Jón Páll Sigmarsson, a man who won the title of World’s Strongest Man four times, once famously said that “there is no reason to be alive if you can’t do [a] deadlift.” He was actually deadlifting when he died of cardiac arrest.
14. Anything but That
Maria Strydom, an experienced Australian climber who wanted to scale Mount Everest to prove that “vegans can do anything,” died from high-altitude pulmonary edema during her climb shortly after reaching the last camp before the mountain’s summit. Her husband, who climbed with her, survived.
13. Real Life Goldilocks
Timothy Treadwell, a man who was consumed by his obsession with grizzly bears, lived with bears every summer in Alaska’s Katmai National Park for 13 years in a row, even bringing his girlfriend along. On the 13th year, Treadwell and his girlfriend were both almost entirely consumed by a bear during their trip. Treadwell’s life and death became the subject of a Werner Herzog documentary titled Grizzly Man.
12. Caught Sleeping
Eugene Aserinsky was the revolutionary sleep researcher who discovered REM sleep. Tragically, he died in a car accident, having crashed into a tree, most likely after falling asleep at the wheel.
11. Prison Break
Troy Leon Gregg was part of the first successful escape from a Georgia death row. Gregg was apparently not the brightest fellow, as he called a newspaper later to explain his methods, which brought police attention to the escapees. Nor was he the most tactful, as he was caught in a bar fight the very same night of his escape, and was beaten to death.
10. Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye, a musician who was quite affluent—and consequentially paranoid—near the time of his death, purchased his father a pistol for self-defense. Several months later, they got into a physical altercation with each other, which ended with Gaye’s father shooting him in the heart.
9. Drunk Driver
Sam Kinison, a comedian whose shtick was politically incorrect humor and frequent swearing, used to perform a bit that hypothetically supported drunk driving. While driving to one of his shows, Kinison was struck head-on by a 17-year-old drunk driver in a pickup truck. He did not survive.
8. Crocodile Hunter
Steve Irwin, known as The Crocodile Hunter on his television series, made his name wrestling and investigating dangerous wildlife. His final and most dangerous encounter with wildlife cost him his life, as he died from being stabbed through the heart by a stingray while filming it.
7. Method Acting
Clement Vallandigham, a Civil War-era politician and lawyer, exonerated his client from charges of murder by demonstrating the means by which the supposed murder victim could have accidentally killed himself. Vallandigham did this by acting out the posture and the motions, though he did not account for his pistol being loaded during this demonstration, which was not only fateful to him, but also very convincing to the court.
6. Last Christmas
You might be familiar with “Last Christmas” by Wham an often-played holiday song about the vocalist giving his heart to someone and having it be given away the very next day. Well, George Michael—that very same vocalist, died on Christmas day of heart failure.
5. Not a Real Vampire
Alexander Bogdanov, a Soviet physician, believed that human life could be extended or rejuvenated through blood transfusion, testing it extensively on himself. However, after transfusing the blood of a student suffering from both malaria and tuberculosis, Bogdanov died from blood incompatibility and never got around to living forever.
4. Right to Live
Derek Kieper, a vocal protester of seat belt laws, once wrote about their violation of individual freedoms and rights. He is survived by two seatbelt-wearers who were also in the car during the accident that claimed his life.
3. Death by Safety
After 100 lifeguards cleared out a pool, Jerome Moody’s drowned body was discovered at the bottom, Moody had been a guest at a party being hosted to celebrate a “trouble-free” season for the lifeguards. To be fair, only four lifeguards were actually on duty.
2. Double Take
Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov was dead, or at least the doctors and everyone else she knew thought so. While at her own funeral, she woke up to the sound of her friends and family praying for her, and promptly passed away from the shock of it all, dying for real this time. She must have been one of the few people in history who got to attend their own funeral.
1. Big Bully
Perillos of Athens invented the brazen bull—a torture and execution device shaped like a hollow metal bull. The prisoner would be placed inside the bull, which would then sit over a fire, slowly roasting its occupant to death. The occupant’s screams would sound as if they were coming from the bull. When he showed this to Phalaris, a tyrant king, Perillos was immediately thrown into the bull, and executed to test the merits of his own invention.