Curious History : 11 Bizarre Deaths

One of the most curious things about our planet is the life around us.  Things that happen everyday to normal people we find positively curious.  Death is one of the aspects of life (or the lack thereof) that is also curious but in a far more frightening way.  We take such care to make respect our dead after life that monuments have been built to the skies honoring them.  True that many curious things happen after we die, but what if the most curious thing about you is the manner in which you die?  What if you are forever immortalized by your curious demise that it almost often overshadows what actions (great or otherwise) you managed to accomplish?  Even though death is a curious human state the mystery behind that death, the who, what, why, how…will probably be the most curious questions of all!

And if history is not jammed packed with curious deaths!  Of all types!  Young, old, vengeful, accidental, ironic…no wonder the morbid get swept up in the curiosity that is death itself!  Here are a few curious deaths that history has kept tucked away!

William the Conqueror

  • Born c. 1027 – Died c. 1087
  • Manner of Death: Punctured Intestines

The first King of England.  I love Horrible Histories for bringing this curious monarch to my attention!  During a battle at Mantes, while William was surveying the damage, his horse accidentally stepped on a burning cinder and jostled William in the saddle. He was thrown against his saddle pommel, which was massive and made of steel. Serious internal injuries were the result.  So serious that his intestines leaked into his body filling it with putrid bile (pleasant, I know).  After his death, his body was placed into a sarcophagus…sort of.  Since the king was so fat and his body bloated he wouldn’t fit!  So, the clergy tried…pushing him in.  With a large heave his body burst forth all that putrid waste onto the entire audience.  Fleeing and retching ensued!

Herod the Great

  • Born BC 73 – Died BC 4
  • Manner of Death:  Gangrene of his genitalia

I’m not sure I need to go into greater detail.  This type of death was known as “Herod’s Evil” and it was rumored to be excruciating!  He had many other symptoms but the gangrene was what stood out!  This disease also caused madness!  However, this is the king that asked Salome to dance for St. John the Baptist’s head and ordered the killing of the Innocents.

Sir Francis Bacon

  • Born January 22, 1561 – Died April 9, 1626
  • Manner of Death: Contracted pneumonia while stuffing a chicken with snow

Basically, he was trying to prove that one could preserve meat with snow or ice.  Though this proved to be correct, he is considered a martyr of science!  After stuffing the snow into the foul he wound up with a horrible (and deadly apparently) case of pneumonia and died soon after.

Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor of China

  • Born BC 259 – Died BC 210
  • Manner of Death: Ingested mercury on own volition

That’s right!  He did it all by himself…with the help of his doctors!  You see, mercury was considered a miracle drug in ancient China.  It’s shiny, floats, and is a sight to behold.  However, it is deadly poisonous, a fact which was overlooked!  The aging emperor did everything in his power to live forever. Even having the Terracotta warriors made to protect him in death! The irony: he killed himself!

Franz Reichelt

    • Born 1879 – Died February 4, 1912
    • Manner of Death: jumped to his death from Eiffel Tower while trying to prove his invention worked

And what was his invention you might ask!  The Overcoat parachute!  And it is exactly as it’s name describes.  You see, Franz was a tailor and he bet his coat parachute was full proof…he bet his life!  He had the news cameras of the day out to film his triumph, but there was a problem.  As confident as he was that the coat would save his life, the Parisian authorities did not.  But he tricked them by saying he was going to use a dummy instead…which he didn’t.  Did it work?  Not at all!  And thanks to the wonder of preservation…you can see this morbid moment take place!

Pope John XXI

  • Born 1215 – Died May 20, 1277
  • Manner of Death: died from injuries from a poorly constructed ceiling

He was Pope for about 8 months when he retired to his private chambers and the roof collapsed on him during the night!  He died of his injuries a few days later.  Take note that this is the Pope mentioned in Dante’s Inferno!  You might not think this is bizarre but he is one of only a few Pope’s who didn’t die from a horrible assassination but rather faulty construction.

Edward II of England

  • Born April 25, 1284 – Died September 21, 1327
  • Manner of Death: Insides burned with red hot poker

Edward II was not necessarily evil…he just happened to love both women…and men.  Openly in love with men!  This is not a big deal today but to his country and his wife it was a huge deal.  After Queen Isabella staged an uprising to overthrow Edward she had a horn shoved up his anus and a red hot poker inserted to burn him from the inside out!  She did this to leave no scars or damage to his body…basically tried to leave no evidence!

Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden

  • Born May 14, 1710 – Died February 12, 1771
  • Manner of Death: he ate himself to death

One of the curious problems with being a wealthy indulgent monarch is that you are very indulgent!  Adolf was so extravagant that his meals were quite impressive!  Lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, kippers and champagne, which was topped off with 14 servings of his favorite dessert, semla served in a bowl of hot milk.  14 servings!  Yes indeed, he did die after this!


  • Born January 22, 1869 – Died December 29, 1916
  • Manner of Death:  everything under the sun!

This man was as famous in life as he was during his curious murder!  First there was cyanide, shot in the back 4 times, bludgeoned, had is penis severed, wrapped in a blanket and drowned in the icy Neva River.  It gets a bit curiouser!  What killed him?  The drowning!  When the villagers took his body into the woods to be cremated, he sprang up!  This was probably due to the fact they didn’t cut his tendons and the heat pulled him up!  Of course, what makes it curious is the fact that the facts might not be right!  History is curious…let’s leave it at that!

George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon

  • Born June 26, 1866 – Died April 25, 1923
  • Manner of Death: mosquito bite…or is it?

There are many people in the world who do not believe in curses.  This is all well and good!  Sometimes, logic has to play a role.  But coincidence is a powerful tool in history and never was it more powerful than when King Tut was discovered!  It is said that many people associated with the opening of the tomb died soon afterwards due to the curse on the door of the tomb.  Regardless if you believe in the curse or not, the story is mysterious.  The financier of the expedition was Lord Carnarvon and a month after he entered the tomb he died from a mosquito bite infected by a razor cut.  If you believe in curses, this was fate.  If you believe in coincidence…well, history was never meant to be boring you know!

Henry I, King of England

  • Born 1068 – Died December 1, 1135
  • Manner of Death: “a surfeit of lampreys”

For starters, it doesn’t sound especially pleasant at all!  A lamprey, for those wanting to know, is a small squiggly little jaw-less eel that normally sucks the blood from other fish. This was a delicacy in ancient times.  Well, the good king liked them so much that he ate…a great deal of them.  So many that they probably poisoned him.  Death by eel ingestion…appetizing!

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