Christian Friedrich von Kahlbutz is looking remarkably fit for his age. The Prussian knight died in 1702 and his body hasn’t decayed.
No one knows why. He wasn’t embalmed. A legend says it’s God’s punishment for an oath he broke while living. Scientists think he lost a lot of blood before dying and that the local soil lacked materials that would promote decay. But that doesn’t explain why other bodies nearby did rot.
Tupac Shakur died on Friday the 13th.
The Belgian village of Passchendaele before and after the Third Battle of Ypres, 1917. Aerial photography showed 1 million shell holes in one square mile.
After the battle, the following notice was found in a dugout full of dead British soldiers. It was signed by their Australian commander:
- This position will be held and section will remain here until relieved.
- The enemy cannot be allowed to interfere with this program.
- If the section cannot remain here alive it will remain here dead.
- Should any man through shell shock or such cause attempt to surrender he will remain here dead.
- Finally the position, as stated, will be held.
Clemenceau said, “War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.”
National Geographic photographer Reid Blackburn’s car after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, May 18, 1980. The lava would have been about 680°F when it reached him.
In all, the eruption equaled 27,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. It killed 57 people, 1,500 elk, 5,000 deer, and 11 million fish.
When a film crew was dropped by helicopter on the mountain five days later, its compasses spun in circles.
Sam Patch (1799-1829), “The Yankee Leaper,” earned his epithet — in his 30-year lifetime he jumped from the following points:
- Mill dam, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
- Passaic Falls, New Jersey
- Miscellaneous bridges, factory walls, ships’ masts
- Niagara Falls, New York
- Upper Falls, New York
That last one attracted a crowd of 8,000 — Upper Falls is 99 feet high. The first attempt went fine, but on the followup he dislocated both shoulders and drowned. His grave marker says “Sam Patch — Such Is Fame.”
The crypt next to Marilyn Monroe’s belongs to Hugh Hefner.
He paid $85,000 for it.
A dyer born, a dyer bred,
Lies numbered here among the dead;
Dyers, like mortals doomed to die,
Alike fit food for worms supply.
Josephus Dyer was his name;
By dyeing he acquired fame;
‘Twas in his forty-second year
His neighbours kind did him inter.
Josephus Dyer, his first son,
Doth also lie beneath this stone;
So likewise doth his second boy,
Who was his parents’ hope and joy.
His handywork all did admire,
For never was a better dyer.
Both youths were in their fairest prime,
Ripe fruitage of a healthful clime;
But nought can check Death’s lawless aim,
Whosoever’ life he choose to claim:
It was God’s edict from his throne,
“My will shall upon earth be done.”
Then did the active mother’s skill
The vacancy with credit fill
Till she grew old, and weak, and blind,
And this last wish dwelt on her mind–
That she, when dead, should buried be
With her loved spouse and family.
At last Death’s arm her strength defied;
Thus all the dyeing Dyers died!
– Epitaph, Truro, Cornwall, England
Nurse: Is anything bothering you?
Buddy Rich: Yes … country music!
Those were his last words.
Epitaphs, proposed by their owners:
Mel Blanc: “That’s all, folks!”
Jack Lemmon: “In”
Jackie Gleason: “And away we go!”
Spike Milligan: “I told you I was ill.”
Peter Ustinov: “Do not walk on the grass.”
Account of an execution by guillotine, recorded in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, July 7, 1827:
Arrived near the fatal machine, the unhappy man stepped out of the vehicle, knelt at the feet of his confessor, received the priestly benediction, kissed some individuals who accompanied him, and was hurried by the officers of justice up the steps of the cube-form structure of wood, painted of a blood-red, on which stood the dreadful apparatus of death.
To reach the top of the platform, to be fast bound to a board, to be placed horizontally under the axe, and deprived of life by its unerring blow, was, in the case of this miserable offender, the work literally of a moment. It was indeed an awfully sudden transit from time to eternity. He could only cry out, ‘Adieu, mes amis,’ and he was gone. The severed head, passing through a red-coloured bag fixed under, fell to the ground-the blood spouted forth from the neck like water from a fountain-the body, lifted up without delay, was flung down through a trap-door in the platform.
Never did capital punishment more quickly take effect on a human being; and whilst the executioner was coolly taking out the axe from the groove of the machine, and placing it, covered as it was with gore, in a box, the remains of the culprit, deposited in a shell, were hoisted into a wagon, and conveyed to the prison. In twenty minutes all was over, and the Grande Place nearly cleared of its thousands, on whom the dreadful scene seemed to have made, as usual, the slightest possible impression.
Sacred to the Memory of
Captain Anthony Wedgwood
Accidentally Shot by His Gamekeeper
Whilst Out Shooting
“Well Done Thou Good and Faithful Servant”
Erected to the Memory
Drown’d in the Water of Leith
By a Few Affectionate Friends
In bloom of life
She’s snatched from hence
She had not room
To make defence;
For Tiger fierce
Took life away,
And here she lies
In a bed of clay
Until the Resurrection Day.
– Epitaph of Hannah Twynnoy, killed by a tiger escaped from a traveling circus, Malmesbury, England, 1703
Shall we all die?
We shall die all;
All die shall we –
Die all we shall.
– Epitaph, St. Winwalloe’s churchyard, Gunwalloe, Cornwall
In 1803, Australian Joseph Samuel was sentenced to hang for murder. The first attempt failed when the rope broke. A replacement rope stretched, letting Samuel’s feet touched the ground. And the third rope broke.
So they let him go.
In 1911, three murderers were hanged on Greenberry Hill, London.
Their names were Green, Berry, and Hill.
In 1898, Columbus prison inmate Charles Justice helped build and install Ohio’s only electric chair.
Justice finished his sentence and returned to society, but irony caught up with him. Thirteen years later he was back in prison, and on Nov. 9, 1911, he was executed in the same electric chair he had helped to build.
- Virginia Woolf
- Ernest Hemingway
- Alan Turing
- Sylvia Plath
- Vincent van Gogh
Ben Franklin wrote, “Nine men in ten are would-be suicides.”
Wander too far away from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and you might disappear forever.
Herman Mudgett, an enterprising serial killer, built a row of three-story buildings near the Chicago fair and opened it as a hotel. Guests discovered — too late — that it was a maze of more than 100 windowless rooms, where Mudgett would trap them, torture them in a soundproof chamber, and then asphyxiate them with a custom-fitted gas line.
Then he’d send the bodies by chute to the basement, where he’d cremate them or sell them to a medical school.
This went on for three years, until a fire broke out and police and firemen discovered the trap. No one knows how many people Mudgett killed; he confessed to 27, but estimates go as high as 230.
He was hanged in Philadelphia in 1896.
Jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and you’ll fall for four seconds and hit the water at 75 mph.
More than 1,300 people have attempted suicide in this way, and as of 2003, at least 26 have survived the jump. Many say they changed their minds in midair.
People who have been cremated:
- Neville Chamberlain
- Wyatt Earp
- Albert Einstein
- W.C. Fields
- Sigmund Freud
- Greta Garbo
- Adolf Hitler
- Henry James
- John Maynard Keynes
- Rudyard Kipling
- Timothy Leary
- Nelson Rockefeller
- Carl Sagan
- Dr. Seuss
- George Bernard Shaw
- Percy Bysshe Shelley
- John Steinbeck
“When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things: One part of me wants to take her home, be real nice and treat her right; the other part wonders what her head would look like on a stick.” — Serial killer Edmund Kemper
In 1911, Bobby Leach survived a plunge over Niagara Falls in a steel barrel.
Fourteen years later, in New Zealand, he slipped on an orange peel and died.
- 300 million – smallpox, worldwide, 20th century
- 200 million – bubonic plague, worldwide, 1300s
- 62 million – World War II
- 60 million – Mongol conquests, 13th century
- 19 million – AIDS, worldwide to date
- 1 million – Irish potato famine, 1846-1849
- 830,000 – Shaanxi earthquake, China, 1556
- 650,000 – Deaths in the Roman Colosseum for public entertainment, 80-404
- 36,000 – Krakatoa eruption, Indonesia, 1883
- 15,000 – Holy Inquisition, 1184-1800
- 1,517 – RMS Titanic, 1912
- 300 – Great Chicago Fire, 1871
- 270 – Pan Am Flight 103, Lockerbie, Scotland, 1988
- 36 – Hindenburg disaster, Lakehurst, N.J., 1937
- 7 – Space shuttle Challenger, Florida, 1986
- 4 – Kent State shootings
Famous people who have died by choking:
- Tommy Dorsey, Nov. 26, 1956 (age 51)
- Jimi Hendrix, Sept. 18, 1970 (27)
- Bon Scott, Feb. 19, 1980 (33)
- John Bonham, Sept. 25, 1980 (32)
- Tennessee Williams, Feb. 25, 1983 (71)