Sunday, July 11, 2010


I have heard "you only die once" but who knows for sure, right?  It's all a matter of faith.  What is true, I have noticed, is "nothing is sure in life but death and taxes."  No matter the cliche, sometimes the way people die is as interesting, or more interesting, than the way they lived- or a direct result of how they lived.  What follows is a foray into the deaths of famous people- some made more famous for how they died:

John Jacob Astor
1912 --- drowned with the "unsinkable" Titanic

Attila the Hun
453 AD --- bled to death from a nosebleed on his wedding night

Alexander I of Greece - king of the Hellenes 1917–20
1920 --- died October 25, from blood poisoning after being bitten by his gardener's pet monkey

Sir Francis Bacon
1626 --- pneumonia. He was experimenting with freezing a chicken by stuffing it with snow

Velma (Margie) Barfield
1984 --- 1st woman executed in US since restoration of death penalty in 1967. (For poisoning her fiancée)

Bridget Bishop
1692 --- 1st of the witches hung in Salem, Massachusetts. She was executed on June 10

"Sonny" Bono
1998 --- crashed into a tree while skiing

Anne Boleyn
1536 --- beheaded for adultery by request of Henry VIII

Charles Brooks, Jr.
1982 --- 1st criminal executed in US by lethal injection

Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Canary)
1903 --- pneumonia following a bout of heavy drinking

Al Capone - Chicago gangster
1947 --- syphilis

Catherine the Great - Empress of Russia
1796 --- a stroke, while going to the bathroom

Nicolae Ceausescu - Romanian president
1989 --- executed by firing squad, on live television, along with his wife

Anton Joseph Cermak - mayor of Chicago
1933 --- assassinated by accident when riding with Franklin Roosevelt in motorcade

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

Raymond Johnson Chapman - Cleveland Indians baseball player
1920 --- died one day after being struck in head by baseball pitch, becoming the only player ever killed as result of major league baseball game

Charles I - English king
1649 --- beheaded by order of Parliament under Oliver Cromwell on January 30

Bob Crane - actor
1978 --- murdered in hotel room

Jim Croce - singer
1973 ---plane crash. The plane crashed into a tree 200 yards past the end of the runway while taking off from Natchitoches, La. Municipal Airport

Marie Curie - chemist, discovered Radium
1934 --- leukemia, caused by exposure to radiation

Albert Dekker - actor, California legislator
1968 --- suffocated, hanging from shower curtain rod, handcuffed, wearing women's lingerie

Edward Despard
1803 --- last executed criminal drawn & quartered in England

Jane Dornnacker - helicopter traffic reporter
1986 --- died doing a live traffic report for WNBC-AM NYC when her helicopter crashed

Tommy Dorsey - Trombonist
1956 --- choked to death in his sleep, due to food that lodged in his windpipe

Anthony J. Drexel III - philanthropist
1893 --- shot himself accidentally while showing off a new gun in his collection to his friends

Jessica Dubroff - (age 7)
1996 --- plane crash - attempting to become the youngest pilot to fly cross-country

Isadora Duncan - actress
1927 --- accidental strangulation when her scarf caught in car wheel

Andres Escobar - Colombian soccer player
1994 --- murdered by unknown thugs, apparently in anger over the accidental goal he had scored for US during World Cup Game

Marty Feldman
1982 --- found dead in motel room in Mexico. Death from heart failure, either from climate change or from shellfish poisoning

Francis Ferdinand - Archduke of Austria
1914 --- assassinated; the incident initiated the first World War

Michael Findlay - horror film maker
1977 --- decapitated by helicopter blade

Jim Fixx - made jogging popular
1984 --- died of a heart attack... while jogging

Eric Fleming - actor ("Rawhide")
1966 --- drowned when his canoe capsized during the filming of a movie near the headwaters of the Amazon in the Haullaga River, Peru

Dian Fossey - primatologist
1985 --- found hacked to death, presumably by poachers, in her Rwandan forest camp

Sigmund Freud
1939 --- avid cigar smoker- cancer of the jaw, palate, throat and tongue

Bobby Fuller - musician
1966 --- his badly beaten body was discovered in a parked car in Los Angeles. His death was attributed to asphyxia through the forced inhalation of gasoline

Rajiv Gandhi - prime minister of India from 1984 until 1989
1991 --- killed by a bomb, hidden in a bouquet of flowers, which exploded in his hand. Like his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated

Judy Garland (Frances Gumm)
1969 --- overdose of sleeping pills

Marvin Gaye (Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr.) - singer
1984 --- murdered on his birthday by his father

Balthasar Gérard - assassin of William of Orange
blank 1584 --- executed as follows: that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disemboweled alive, that his heart should be torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be cut off

Gary Mark Gilmore
1977 --- 1st American executed after restoration of US death penalty in 1976. (Executed by firing squad)

John Glasscock - musician (Jethro Tull)
1979 --- heart infection caused by an abscessed tooth

Olivia Goldsmith - author, "First Wives Club"
2004 --- complications resulting from anesthesia during plastic surgery

Sergei Grinkov - Russian figure skater
1995 --- died of heart attack during skating practice

Henry Gunther
1918 --- last soldier killed in WWI

Alexander Hamilton - former US Treasury Secretary
1804 --- shot by US Vice President Aaron Burr in a pistol duel near Weehawken, New Jersey on July eleventh

Mata Hari (Gertrud Margarete Zelle) - World War I spy
1917 --- executed by firing squad, she refused a blindfold and threw a kiss to the executioners

William E. Harmon
1981 --- 1st BASE jumping fatality. He died in a jump from a 1000-foot antenna tower on April 11. BASE is an acronym for Building, Antennae, Span, Earth, and thus represents the fixed-objects from which BASE jumps are made

William Henry Harrison
1841 --- 1st US President to die in office after giving one of the longest inauguration speeches in US history outside the Capitol without wearing a coat to show his strength to the "common man"

Owen Hart - WWF wrestler
1999 --- died while performing a stunt in the wrestling ring. He was being lowered into the ring by a cable, when he fell 70 ft. to his death, snapping his neck

Elizabeth Hartman - actress
1987 --- fell to her death from a fifth floor window in a bizarre reflection of a character in her staring 1966 movie "The Group"

Frank Hayes - jockey
1923 --- heart attack during a race. His horse, Sweet Kiss, won the race, making Hayes the only deceased jockey to win a race

Les Harvey - musician (Stone the Crow)
1972 --- electrocuted on stage at a show in Swansea, Wales. He touched a poorly connected microphone and died a few hours later

Ernest Miller Hemingway
1961 --- suicide with shotgun

Margaux Hemingway (Margot Hemingway)
1996 --- suicide, overdose of a sedative. She was the fifth person in her family to commit suicide

Jon-Erik Hexum - actor
1984 --- playfully shot himself with a blank-loaded pistol on the set of TV spy show "Cover Up." The concussion forced a chunk of his skull into his brain; he died six days later

Hal Mark Irish
1991 --- was killed in a leap from a hot air balloon in what was believed to be the first US death from the thrill sport of Bungee jumping. Irish fell more than 60 feet to his death on October 29, 1991, after breaking loose from his bungee cord during a demonstration

Gee Jon
1924 --- 1st person executed in US in the gas chamber. Nevada State Prison in Carson City on February 8. (Hydrocyanic gas was used; the procedure took 6 minutes)

William Kemmler - convicted axe murderer
1890 --- 1st person executed in US in the electric chair. At Auburn State Prison in New York, on August 6. (The procedure took 8 minutes)

Vladimir Komarov
1967 --- 1st cosmonaut to die in space. (Russian Soyuz 1)

T. E. Lawrence (Thomas Edward Lawrence)
1935 --- killed in a motorcycle accident after swerving to avoid two boys

Brandon Lee - actor
1993 --- shot by a gun firing blanks, while filming the movie "The Crow." His missing scenes were later filled-in by computer animation

Louis XVI - French king
1793 --- beheaded by French revolutionaries

Malcolm X (Malcolm Little)
1965 --- murdered - shot 16 times by three assassins
Jayne Mansfield (Vera Jayne Palmer) - actress
1967 --- car accident. Her wig flew off in the impact, starting rumors that she had been decapitated

Mark Maples
1964 --- 1st person to be killed on a ride in Disneyland. He stood up while riding the Matterhorn Bobsleds and was thrown to his death

Jean-Paul Marat
1793 --- knifed while taking a bath

Pete Maravich - basketball player
1988 --- heart attack while playing a game of pick-up basketball

Marie Antoinette
1793 --- beheaded by guillotine

Sal Mineo - actor
1976 --- stabbed to death in the street outside of his home

Margaret Mitchell - author, Gone With the Wind
1949 --- On August 11, she was crossing an Atlanta street on her way to the theater when she was hit by a speeding cab. She died of her injuries five days later

Russell Mockridge - cyclist
1958 --- vehicular accident. He was competing in the Tour of Gippsland in Melbourne when he was struck by a bus and killed instantly

Luis Monge
1967 --- executed in gas chamber, Colorado State Penitentiary, Cannon City, CO, on June 2. He was the last US execution until 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated. (He had murdered his wife and 3 of his 10 children)

Mary Ann Nicholls - prostitute
1888 --- fed poisoned grapes and disemboweled by Jack the Ripper

Florence Nightingale
1910 --- heart failure after 53 years as an invalid

Francis Russell O'Hara - US art critic
1966 --- died from being hit by taxicab

Janet Parker - medical photographer
1978 --- last person to die of smallpox

Laura Patterson - professional bungee jumper
1996 --- killed during rehearsal for the Superbowl at the New Orleans Super Dome on Jan. 23. She died of massive head injuries

Kenneth Pinyan
2005 --- perforated colon received during a videotaped sex act with a full sized stallion. His death prompted the passing of a bill in Washington State prohibiting both sex with animals and the videotaping of the same

Martha Place
1899 --- 1st woman executed in the electric chair, Sing Sing Prison, NY, on March 20. She had murdered her stepdaughter

Edgar Allan Poe
1849 --- cerebral edema following a drinking binge  (The September 1996 Maryland Medical Journal published a study that showed Poe's symptoms suggest rabies instead)

Pope Johann XII
963 --- beaten to death , at age 18, by the husband of a woman he was having an affair with

Elvis Presley
1977 --- accidental drug overdose. He died while sitting on the toilet

Alexander Pushkin - Russian author
1837 --- killed in duel

Grigory Rasputin
1916 --- assassinated: poisoned (cyanide), shot (3 times), and thrown into a river

Keith Relf - musician (The Yardbirds)
1976 --- electrocuted playing guitar in the bathtub

John Augustus Roebling - designer of the Brooklyn Bridge
1869 --- died of a tetanus infection after having his leg crushed by a ferryboat while working on the Brooklyn Bridge

Oscar Romero - archbishop of San Salvador
1980 --- murdered while saying mass at the Cathedral of San Salvador

Ronald Ryan
1967 --- executed by hanging in Melbourne. He was the last man to be hanged in Australia

Selena (Quintanilla Perez) - singer
1995 --- shot by the president of her fan club

Thomas A. Selfridge
1908 --- 1st mortality in an airplane crash. He was the passenger when Wilbur Wright crashed a US War Department test plane

Eddie Slovik
1945 --- shot by an American firing squad in France for desertion. (The only US soldier since the Civil War to be executed as he was

Joseph Smith - founder of Mormon religion
1844 --- shot by an angry mob while he was jailed in Carthage, Illionois

Evelita Juanita Spinnelli
1941 --- 1st woman ever to be officially to be executed in California, on November 21st
1941 --- 1st woman to be executed in the gas chamber

Jennifer Lea Strange - game show contestant
2007 --- died of water intoxication after taking part in a Sacramento, California, radio station's water-drinking contest

Timothy Treadwell - environmentalist (and Amie Huguenard)
(2003) --- lived among the grizzly bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska for approximately 13 seasons. At the end of his thirteenth season in the park in 2003, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed and partially eaten by a grizzly bear. An audio recording of the attack survived

Tommy Tucker - musician
1982 --- carbon tetrachloride poisoning sustained while he was finishing floors in his home

Kelton Rena Turner
1975 --- last American soldier killed in the Vietnam War

Karl Wallenda - aerialist
1978 --- fell to death at the age of 73 as he was walking a high wire strung between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Edward Higgins White, Jr.
1967 --- died in space capsule fire during rehearsal of scheduled Apollo 1 launch with Roger Chaffee & Gus Grissom

Stanford White - Architect, designed Madison Square Garden
1906 --- shot atop Madison Square Garden by Evelyn Nesbit's jealous husband, Harry Thaw

Tennessee Williams - writer
1983 --- choked to death on a on a nose spray bottle cap that accidentally dropped into his mouth while he was using the spray. He was 71

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