Life is full of the weird, the wonderful and the out and out strange. People often overlook the fact that death is to. Here are a few of the strangest deaths that have occurred through the ages;
Born in 1622, the Fench actor and playwright Jean Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his stage name, Molière, was considered a giant of the comedy genre. Famed for his farces, Molière was a hero of the stage and, despite falling foul of certain religious groups, enjoyed immense popularity in his lifetime. (The king ofFranceeven agreed to be the godfather to his son!)
Unfortunately for him, he died the way he lived…being laughed at. The end came during a performance of his last ever play Le Malade Imaginaire, normally translated in English as The Hypchondriac.
Whilst he was treading the boards in the titular role, pretending to be someone pretending to be ill, he was struck by a very real fit of coughing and haemorrhaging and promptly died. Obviously, nobody moved to help him, putting the fit’s uncanny authenticity down to the craft of a master thespian, rather than pulmonary tuberculosis.
Tommy Copper, legendary British comedian and magician, easily identifiable by his iconic fez hat, died on stage in 1984 in a Molière-like fashion during a live show, televised to millions of people form Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Tommy was renowned for his off the wall word play, charmingly amateur illusions and the catchphrase “just like that.” He was a subtle master of physical comedy, able to raise a laugh before he’d even said anything merely by altering his stance and facial expressions.
During a routine which involved him pulling various items out of his cloak, Cooper suffered a heat attack on stage, clutched his chest, fell back into the curtain and died whilst the audience, unaware of the situation, continued to laugh, waiting to see where the gag was going. A fitting end for a comic genius who couldn’t help being funny, right until the end.
In 1993 another performer lost their life in the course of plying their trade, when reality and artifice traded places. On the film set of The Crow Brandon Lee, son of famous martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, was himself killed whilst attempting to film his character’s death scene.
Weeks before the accident the crew had been filming a scene in which a hand gun was shown being loaded. They used cartridges with just a bullet and a primer, however, when, off stage, somebody messing with the prop squeezed the trigger, the primer exerted enough force to move the cartridge into the barrel of the gun, where, unknown to anyone, it remained lodged.
When the time came to film the scene in which Lee’s character is shot, the same gun was loaded again with a blank cartridge, this time containing a propellant and a primer, in order to give the visual effect of gunfire. Nobody checked the barrel and, when the gun was fired, the explosion from the newly inserted blank sent the cartridge lodged in the barrel into Lee’s abdomen, killing him.
To this day even the most dedicated method actors avoid working with that particular crew…
Whilst Lee was killed in the process of pretending to die, Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican publisher, entrepreneur and key figure in many Pan-African movements, was killed by somebody pretending he’d already died.
Legend has it that Garvey expired as the result of several heart attacks induced by the shock of reading a premature and highly negative obituary of himself published in the Chicago Defender. The offending article described him as “broke, alone and unpopular”, flying in the face of the dictum “never speak ill of the dead.” (Although, at the time it was written Garvey was actually still alive, so perhaps they can be let off…)
There are many theories that media coverage actually creates the reality it is supposed to report on. Being killed by reading your own obituary is a rather extreme example of said phenomenon.
Finally, Tennessee Williams, the writer of A Street Car Named Desire (a play made famous by an Oscar winning film adaptation featuring a young Marlon Brando) died in tragic, but rather stupid circumstances, despite being one of the most talented minds of his generation.
Williams would routinely place eye drops on each of his eyes before bed each night. In order to avoid misplacing the cap from the bottle, he had a habit of placing it in his mouth.
One night in 1983, whilst leaning back to administer his eye drops, the cap slid down into his throat and chocked him to death. To be fair to him, though placing a small piece of plastic in your mouth and leaning back may not seem sensible to us, he never lost that bottle cap as long as he lived…
About the author: Nathan Hale loves writing. The fact that he works in life insurance might explain his morbid subject matter.