The Tragic Way One Man's Beard Led To The Death Of Its Owner

Deaths are always tragic, whether it is caused by an illness, accident, or other circumstances. According to the World Health Organization, the most common cause of death in the world is heart disease, but throughout the centuries, there have been reports of deaths stemming from unusual happenings. Deaths by laughing, a wedgie, and a vending machine are just some of the examples (via Mental Floss). For one man, death was caused by the beard that he grew for years and meticulously took care of.

The town of Braunau am Inn in Austria is famously known for being the birthplace of dictator Adolf Hitler. However, the citizens have a more interesting story to tell about their town. In the mid-16th century, a man named Hans Steininger was the town's "burgomaster" or mayor. The community loved Steininger, and he was even more popular because of the long beard that he sported. As noted by Cabinet of Curiosities, it was about 4 feet long. Sadly, the beard made him even more famous after he died in a tragic accident.

[Featured image by Gerd Eichmann via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped | CC BY -SA 4.0]

The accident that killed Hans Steininger

Walking around and doing daily activities may have been quite difficult for Hans Steininger with a long beard in the way, so he typically rolled it up neatly and tucked it into a special pocket specifically for his facial hair. That also prevented him — and other people — from tripping on the long beard as he walked around town.

On September 28, 1567, there was a fire in Braunau am Inn, and as the town's mayor, Steininger worked amid the chaos and did what he could to appease the citizens and quell the fire. In the middle of all the commotion, however, Steininger's beard somehow came loose from his pocket (via ATI). Steininger was most likely too concerned about the fire to think about his beard and continued his activities with his beard hanging down. At some point, he was on top of a staircase and that's when he tripped on his beard. As reported by Atlas Obscura, he tumbled down the flight of stairs and broke his neck in the process, which instantly killed him.

[Image by Gerd Eichmann via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY -SA 4.0]

Hans Steininger's beard is on display

The townspeople were saddened by the tragic death of their beloved mayor, and they wanted to honor him for his service. A monument that was carved out of Steininger's likeness was erected at the side of St. Stephan's Church in Braunau am Inn, and it still stands there to this day, per ATI. The beloved mayor is depicted standing with one hand resting on his hip and his long, wavy beard flowing down to his toes.

Apart from that, the townspeople also decided to keep Steininger's long beard. It was cut off before he was buried and was preserved with chemicals to prevent decomposition. Steininger's famous beard now sits in a glass case at the District Museum Herzogsburg where many visitors pay a visit, according to Atlas Obscura. Today, the town holds tours conducted by guides dressed as Steininger — complete with a long beard — who show off the town's popular spots.

[Image by M.M via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped | CC BY -SA 3.0]