Neatorama has a great article about the 30 strangest deaths in history. I think the article is funny, creative, and a great read... so naturally I'm stealing it and posting it here.
Death by Embracing the Reflection of the Moon
Chinese poet Li Po (701-706) is regarded as one of the two greatest poets in China’s literary history. He was well known for his love of liquor and often spouted his greatest poems while drunk.
One night, Li Po fell from his boat and drowned in the Yangtze River while trying to embrace the reflection of the moon in the water.
Death by Beard
Austrian Hans Steininger was famous for having the world’s longest beard (it was 4.5 feet or nearly 1.4 m long) and for dying because of it.
One day in 1567, there was a fire in town and in his haste Hans forgot to roll up his beard. He accidentally stepped on his beard, lost balance, stumbled, broke his neck and died!
Death From Holding a Pee In
Danish nobleman and astronomer Tycho Brahe [wiki] was one interesting fellow. He kept a dwarf as a court jester who sat under the table during dinner. He even had a tame pet moose.
Tycho also lost the tip of his nose in a duel with another Danish nobleman and had to wear a "dummy" nose made from silver and gold, but that’s another story.
It was said that Tycho had to hold his pee during one particularly long banquet in 1601 (getting up in the middle of a dinner was considered really rude) that his bladder, strained to its limits, developed an infection which later killed him!
Later analyses suggested that Tycho died because of mercury poisoning but that’s not nearly as interesting as the original story.
Death by Conductor’s Cane
While conducting the hymnal Te Deum for French King Louis XIV in 1687, Jean-Baptiste Lully was so focused in keeping the rhythm by banging a staff against the floor (this was the method before conductor’s baton came into use), that he struck his toe hard but refused to stop.
The toe developed an abscess, which later turned gangrenous, but Lully refused to have it amputated. The gangrene spread and killed the stubborn musician.
Ironically, the hymn he was conducting was in celebration of the recovery of Louis XIV from an illness.
Death by Dessert
King Adolf Frederick [wiki] of Sweden loved to eat and died from it too!
The "King Who Ate Himself to Death" died in 1771 at the age of 61 from a digestive problem after eating a giant meal consisting of lobster, caviar, saurkraut, cabbage soup, smoked herring, champagne and 14 servings of his favorite dessert: semla [wiki], a bun filled with marzipan and milk.
Death by Jury Demonstration
After the Civil War, controversial Ohio politician Clement Vallandigham [wiki] became a highly successful lawyer who rarely lost a case.
In 1871, he defended Thomas McGehan who was accused of shooting one Tom Myers during a barroom brawl. Vallandigham’s defense was that Myers had accidentally shot himself while drawing his pistol from a kneeling position.
To convince the jury, Vallandigham decided to demonstrate his theory. Unfortunately, he grabbed a loaded gun by mistake and ended up shooting himself!
By dying, Vallandigham succeeded in demonstrating the plausibility of the accidental shooting and got his client acquitted.
Death from Biting One’s Tongue
Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884)[wiki], famous for creating the Pinkerton detective agency and developing investigative techniques such as surveilling a suspect and doing undercover work, died of an infection after biting his tongue when he slipped on a sidewalk!
Death from Stubbing One’s Toe
Famous Tennessee whiskey distiller Jack Daniel [wiki] decided to come in to work early one morning in 1911. He wanted to open his safe but couldn’t remember the combination. In anger, Daniel kicked the safe and injured his toe, which later developed an infection that killed him!
Moral of the story? Don’t go to work early.
Death by Orange Peel
Bobby Leach [wiki] wasn’t afraid to court death: in 1911, he was the second person in the world to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The daredevil went on to perform many other death-defying stunts, so his death is especially ironic.
One day while walking down a street in New Zealand, Leach slipped on a piece of orange peel. He broke his leg so badly it had to be amputated. Leach died due to complications that developed afterwards.
Death by Overcoat Parachute Failure
In 1911, French tailor Franz Reichelt decided to test his invention, a combination overcoat and parachute, by jumping off the Eiffel Tower. Actually, he told the authorities that he would use a dummy, but at the last minute decided to test it himself. It was no surprise that he fell to his death.
There’s even a YouTube clip of his fatal jump.
Death by 1) Poison, 2) Gunshot Wound (4x), 3) Beating by Clubs, 4) Drowning.
According to legends, Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916) was first poisoned with enough cyanide to kill ten men, but he wasn’t affected.
So his killers shot him in the back with a revolver. Rasputin fell but later revived. So, he was shot again three more times, but Rasputin still lived. He was then clubbed, and for good measure thrown into the icy Neva River.
Rasputin was finally dead for good.
Death by Baseball
Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman [wiki] was the only man ever killed by a baseball pitch.
At that time, baseball pitchers dirtied up a ball before it was thrown at the batter to make it harder to see. On August 6, 1920 in a game against the New York Yankees, Carl Mays pitched such a ball towards Chapman that fatally hit his skull.
Death by Scarf
"Mother of modern dance" Isadora Duncan [wiki] was killed in 1927 by her trademark scarf she loved to wear:
As the New York Times noted in its obituary of the dancer on 15 September 1927, "The automobile was going at full speed when the scarf of strong silk began winding around the wheel and with terrific force dragged Miss Duncan, around whom it was securely wrapped, bodily over the side of the car, precipitating her with violence against the cobblestone street. She was dragged for several yards before the chauffeur halted, attracted by her cries in the street. Medical aid was summoned, but it was stated that she had been strangled and killed instantly."
Death by Garbage
Homer and Langley Collyer [wiki] were compulsive hoarders. The two brothers had a fear of throwing anything away and obsessively collected newspapers and other junk in their house. They even set up booby-traps in corridors and doorways to protect against intruders.
In 1947, an anonymous tip called that there was a dead body in the Collyer house, and after much initial difficulty getting in, the police found Homer Collyer dead and Langley no where to be found. About two weeks later, after removing nearly 100 tons of garbage from the house, workers found Langley Collyer’s partialy decomposed (and rat-chewed) body just 10 feet away from where they had found his brother.
Apparently, Langley had been crawling through tunnels of newspapers to bring food to his paralyzed brother when he set off one of his own booby-traps. Homer died several days later from starvation.
Death at a Talk Show
Jerome Irving Rodale [wiki] was a proponent of healthy eating. He was an early advocate for organic farming and sustainable agriculture, founder of Organic Farming and Gardening magazine and Rodale Press.
After bragging that he would "live to 100, unless I’m run down by a a sugar-crazy taxi driver", Rodale died of a heart attack while being interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971. Appearing fast asleep, Dick Cavett joked "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?" before discovering that his 72-year-old guest had indeed died. The show was never aired.
Death by Suicide During a Live TV News Broadcast
Christine Chubbuck [wiki] was the first and only TV news reporter to commit suicide during a live television broadcast.
On July 15, 1974, eight minutes into the broadcast, the depressed reporter said "In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first: an attempted suicide." With that, Chubbuck drew up a revolver and shot herself in the head.
Death on the Toilet
There are several examples of death on the toilet, but that of Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977) was the most famous.
The King of Rock ‘n Roll was found lying on the floor of his Graceland mansion’s bathroom after throwing up while being seated on the toilet, taking care of business.
Doctors attributed his death to a heart attack from weight gain and taking too many prescription drugs.
Death by Robot
Robert Williams [wiki] was the first man ever killed by a robot. On January 25, 1979, Williams climbed into a storage rack at the Ford Motor’s Flat Rock casting plant to retrieve a part because the parts-retrieval robot malfunctioned. Suddenly, the robot reactivated and slammed its arm into Williams’ head, killing him instantly.
The second death by robot happened just a couple of years afterwards in 1981. Kenji Urada [wiki], a 37-year-old Japanese maintenance engineer was working on a broken robot at a Kawasaki plant when he failed to turn it off. The robot’s mechanical arm accidentally pushed him into a grinding machine.
Death by Decapitation by Helicopter Rotor Blades
Actor Vic Morrow [wiki] died on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie when a helicopter spun out of control due to special effect explosions, crashed, and decapitated him with its rotor blades.
Two other child actors also died at the event, which triggered a massive reform in US child labor laws and safety regulations on movie sets.
Death by Cactus
In 1982, 27-year-old David Grundman and a roommate decided to do a little "cactus plugging," by shooting the desert plant with a shotgun.
The first one, a small cactus, went off without a hitch and Grundman was encouraged to try a larger prey: a 26-foot-tall Saguaro cactus, probably a 100-year-old plant. Unfortunately, Grundman blasted off a large chuck of the cactus that fell on him and crushed him to death!
To date, this was probably the only known instance of revenge killing by a plant.
Death by Bottle Cap
American playwright Tennessee Williams [wiki] died in 1983 after he choked on a bottle cap in his hotel room. Yes, he had been drinking.
Death by Drowning at a Lifeguards’ Party.
In 1985, to celebrate their first drowning-free season ever, the lifeguards of the New Orleans recreation department decided to throw themselves a party.
When the party ended, a 31-year-old guest named Jerome Moody was found dead on the bottom of the recreation department’s pool.
We suppose when it’s your time to go, then it’s your time to go: there were four lifeguards on duty and more than half of the 200 party-goers were themselves lifeguards!
Death on Stage, While Telling a Joke
Dick Shawn (1924-1987) was a comedian who had a heart attack and died during a joke that seemed strangely appropriate:
He was making fun of politicians by saying campaign cliches ending with "I will not lay down on the job!" Shawn then laid down on the floor face down. At first, the audience thought that it was all part of the show, until some time later a theater employee checked him for a pulse and began administering CPR.
The paramedics then arrived, and the audience were told to go home - Dick Shawn was dead.
Death by Belly Slam.
British pro wrestler Mal "King Kong" Kirk died underneath the big belly of Shirley "Big Daddy" Crabtree.
In August 1987, during the final moments of the match, Crabtree delivered his signature "Belly-Splash" move (basically jumping up and down, slamming his belly onto a guy) on Kirk, who then had a heart attack and died.
Crabtree was cleared after it was revealed that Kirk had a serious heart condition prior to the match. However, Crabtree blamed himself for Kirk’s death and retired from pro wrestling.
Before the match, Kirk had told his friends: "If I have to go, I hope it is in the ring."
Death by Giant Umbrellas
In 1991, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude put up an environmental installation art of thousands of giant yellow and blue umbrellas in California and Japan.
The giant umbrellas, which measured about 20 foot (6 m) in height, 28 foot (8.7 m) in diameter and weighed about 500 lb, became a huge tourist attraction.
Less than two months after the installation opened, Lori Rae Keevil-Mathews, a 33-year-old woman drove out to see the umbrellas in California. A wind gust uprooted one of the umbrellas and blew it straight at her, crushing her against a boulder and killing her.
Christo immediately ordered all of the umbrellas taken down. The umbrellas, however, took another life - this time in Japan. Crane operator Masaaki Nakamura was electrocuted when the machine’s arm touched a 65,000-volt high-tension line when removing the umbrellas.
Death by Re-creation
In 1991, a 57-year-old Thai woman Yooket Paen was walking in her farm when she accidentally slipped on a cow dung, grabbed a naked live wire and got electrocuted to death.
Soon after Paen’s funeral, her 52-year-old-sister Yooket Pan was showing her neighbors how the accident happened when she herself slipped, grabbed the same live wire and also got electrocuted to death!
Death by Sheep
In 1999, Betty Stobbs, 67, of Durham, England, took a bale of hay to feed her flock of sheep on the back of her motorcycle.
Apparently, the sheep were very hungry. About forty of them rushed the hay and knocked her off a cliff into a 100-feet deep quarry. Stobbs survived the fall only to be killed when the motorcycle, which was also knocked off the cliff, tumbled down after her.
Death by Necklace Bomb
On the afternoon of August 28, 2003, pizza deliveryman Brian Wells [wiki] tried to rob a bank with a home-made shotgun disguised as a cane.
When he was caught by the police, Wells revealed that he had been forced by some people he delivered pizza to earlier to rob the bank. A necklace with an explosive device was attached to his neck.
The necklace bomb blew up before the bomb squad could deactivate it (indeed, there was controversy whether the police took his story seriously and delayed calling the bomb squad). Until today, it’s unclear whether Wells was a victim, a co-conspirator or the lone perpetrator of the robbery and subsequent death.
Update 3/12/07: Case solved, said the authorities, with indictments expected soon: Link
Death by Stingray
In 2006, Australian wildlife expert and TV personality Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin [wiki] died when he was stabbed in the heart by a stingray spine while filming a documentary Ocean’s Deadliest.
Death by Bookcase
Mariesa Weber was reported missing by her family for nearly two weeks before they found her in her bedroom, wedged behind a bookcase.
"I’m sleeping in the same house as her for 11 days, looking for her," her mother, Connie Weber, told the St. Petersburg Times. "And she’s right in the bedroom."
Both Weber and her sister had previously adjusted the television plug by standing on a bureau next to the shelf and leaning over the top. Her family believes Weber, who was 5-foot-3 and barely 100 pounds, may have fallen headfirst into the space.