People Throughout History Who Died On Their Birthdays

Life is full of coincidences, but entering and exiting the world on the same calendar date seems like an awfully weird one. When you imagine your next birthday, you're probably hoping for balloons, cakes, presents, and maybe even a visit from some loved ones, none of whom are that perpetually uninvited guest with the black robe and the bony face. Talk about a grim celebration, right? However, dying on your special day isn't necessarily a bad thing, and certain cultures even view these deaths as a unique honor reserved for only the most honorable people.

Birthday deaths certainly don't happen to everybody, but a surprising number of famous people throughout history have blown out their candles on the same day they had their candles blown out. Though this varied assortment of popular figures includes a Renaissance artist, a civil rights icon, a politician, and a country music singer, they all have this rather odd coincidence in common.

Ingrid Bergman is the 'birthday effect' poster child

Whenever the "birthday effect" is mentioned, it's never long before Ingrid Bergman comes up. According to History, Bergman was born in Sweden on August 29, 1915, and was already pretty well known in Europe by the time Hollywood came a knockin'. Though her iconic role alongside Humphrey Bogart, as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca, turned her into one of the biggest movie stars of all time, Bergman also received multiple Academy Award nominations and wins throughout her career. Her final nomination in 1978 was for the film Autumn Sonata, directed by the equally famous filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (no relation).

Sadly, this unforgettable actress was taken from the world too early, due to a 1973 diagnosis of breast cancer, according to the Telegraph. She fought against the disease for nine years before dying on August 29, 1982, her 67th birthday.

Ella Baker survived into her 80s

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, on December 13, 1903, Ella Baker grew up in rural North Carolina, according to Biography. Her grandmother, a former slave, often told Baker stories of the many struggles she'd faced in her early years. As an adult, Baker graduated college in Raleigh and hit the road to New York, where she became an icon of the civil rights movement.

As an activist, counselor, and advocate who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker quickly gained a reputation for being a strong-willed, stubborn woman who never backed down. She continued fighting for equality well into her later years, and after a long life at the front lines, the New York Times reported in 1986 that she had died peacefully in her Manhattan home, on her 83rd birthday. Baker's old nickname, "Fundi," is a Swahili word for a person who hands a craft down to the next generation, and that's exactly what Baker did. Decades after her death, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights continues fighting for equality, social justice, and an end to mass incarceration.

Maury Chaykin died too soon

Maury Chaykin is an actor you always recognize, even if you can't quite recall his name. Though he was always a huge celebrity in his native Canada, U.S. audiences first met him in the movie Dances with Wolves, where his brief role as the suicidal Major Fambrough scarred audiences forever. He later played the tyrannical producer Harvey Weingard, a character modeled after Harvey Weinstein, on HBO's Entourage. Though Chaykin did an incredible job with side roles, he also was a formidable lead.

Sadly, The Hollywood Reporter announced in 2010 that he had died on his 61st birthday. Though the news was unexpected to the outside world, as Chaykin had still been maintaining a regular role on the Canadian series Less Than Kind, The Globe and Mail explains Chaykin had quietly struggled for years against both cancer and kidney disease. He had been undergoing dialysis treatments when he was finally killed by a staph infection in a heart valve.

Feminist Betty Friedan lived a life of activism

Betty Friedan is easily among the most prominent feminists of all time, and for good reason. In 1963, Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique hit the shelves and is widely credited with being the fuse that lit the spark of "second wave" feminism. According to the Independent, Friedan went on to become the co-founder and president of NOW (the National Organization for Women), as well as the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971. She remained one of the loudest voices in the battle for women's rights well into her later years and continued publishing books all the way into the 2000s.

Friedan tried not to let old age hold her back, even embarking on an Outward Bound trip at age 60, according to the East Hampton Star. However, health difficulties eventually caught up to her, including three aortic valve surgeries, and a battle against congestive heart failure took her life on February 4, 2006 — her 85th birthday. She died at home in Washington D.C., and had a funeral in New York a few days later.

Grace Bradley went from glamorous Hollywood actress to dedicated caregiver

Born on September 21, 1913, in Brooklyn, Grace Bradley came from an affluent family and became interested in the big screen at an early age. She had a crush on an older actor named William Boyd, and crazy as it sounds, she ended up marrying the guy years later. When Bradley made it into theaters, she quickly gained a reputation as one of Hollywood's first femme fatales, according to the Telegraph.

The Grace Bradley in the movies was quite different from the real Bradley, though, who generally prioritized her family life before her career. Bradley and Boyd never had children, and as her husband got older, Bradley took care of him until his death in 1972. Something about this experience must have inspired her because immediately afterward she took on a surprising second career as a certified nursing aide, working at the same hospital where her husband had died. Throughout this time, Bradley maintained a high profile in Hollywood circles, and taught twice-a-week tai chi classes well into her older years. She died on September 21, 2010, her 97th birthday.

Raphael supposedly died from too much lovin'

Most people today either know Raphael as one of the most iconic Italian painters in history, or as the coolest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle of all time. But back on April 6, 1483, according to Biography, he was nothing more than a squalling infant named Raffaello Sanzio, still decades away from leaving his mark on history. Years later, after Raphael became a big name, April 6 came back around to bite him. On his 37th birthday, he died from some mysterious sickness, the explanation of which is muddled by a combination of gossip, hearsay, and weird old medical theories.

The standard tall tale goes that Raphael died from having too much sex, causing an imbalance in his "humors." It probably isn't a bad way to go, but it doesn't square away with modern medicine. The Guardian points out that the whole "Raphael got laid too much" thing dates back to a 16th-century biography. Now, that doesn't mean that Raphael wasn't having a wild old time: By all accounts, he did spend his final years embroiled in a passionate affair with a woman identified as "La Fornarina," who allegedly even appears in his artwork. But it probably wasn't birthday banging that killed him, and the real cause remains a mystery.

Corrie ten Boom risked her life to save others

The dark reality of World War II still hangs heavy over history, due to the harsh truth that the infamous Nazi concentration camps killed over two-thirds of the European Jewish population. As the German army exterminated millions, though, there were also non-Jewish individuals and families who risked their safety to help those being persecuted. One of those families was the ten Booms of the Netherlands, who Biography credits as having rescued approximately 800 Jewish individuals by harboring countless refugees in their house at various times. The ten Boom family was caught and imprisoned for their actions, and while some of them died during their incarceration, daughter Corrie ten Boom survived.

Corrie went on to chronicle her experiences in the best-selling nonfiction book, The Hiding Place, published in 1971. After World War II ended, ten Boom continued devoting her life to helping others, even founding a rehabilitation center for Holocaust survivors. In 1977, she immigrated to the United States, but tragically, this move was quickly followed by a series of strokes that left her paralyzed and unable to verbally communicate with others. She finally passed away on April 15, 1983, which marked her 91st birthday.

Shakespeare's death is as mysterious as his life

There's a heck of a lot we don't know about the legendary playwright William Shakespeare, up to and including the fact that he may not have existed. So yes, while it is generally said that Shakespeare died on his birthday — April 23, according to History — it's kind of hard to know for sure, especially since the dramatic coincidence of the great bard actually dying on his birthday sounds like something from one of his own plays.

So, fact or legend? Well, here are the facts, according to Bustle: There definitely was a burial on April 25, 1616, which would have been two days after Shakespeare's 52nd birthday (and death, presumably). His will had been updated just a few months before, so it's possible he might've been getting sick for a while beforehand. So yeah, if Shakespeare was really Shakespeare, he definitely could have died on his birthday.

Pneumonia took Merle Haggard on his birthday

Country music has never been the same since the loss of Merle Haggard. A poor farming kid from Bakersfield, California, History says the young Haggard went to prison four times. He was 20 years old when he first heard Johnny Cash play guitar, at which point he turned his life around and became one of the biggest country superstars in history. Even when fame and fortune came along, Haggard carried his past tragedies into his work, crafting such working-class hits as "Sing Me Back Home," "Okie from Muskogee," "Workin' Man Blues," and "Mama Tried." In 1970, the Country Music Association named him Entertainer of the Year, though he personally saw his own music as being more like "country jazz" than straight-out country.

Merle Haggard definitely went through a lot in his life, but according to the Telegraph, what finally killed him was a bout with pneumonia in 2016. He died on April 6 of that year, which marked his 79th birthday.

The son of a U.S. president

Having a U.S. president as your parent can make for a rough childhood, and it definitely sets a high standard. Getting straight As doesn't mean much when your dad is signing peace treaties and/or executive orders every morning. Maybe that's why so many presidential kids end up going into politics themselves, even though only two of them — George W. Bush and John Quincy Adams — made it all the way to the Oval Office. One of the more successful presidential children, however, was Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., the son of ... well, you know. Born on August 17, 1914, the Los Angeles Times says FDR Jr. grew up into a person who looked and sounded just like his old man, and went on to serve three terms as a New York congressman. His attempt to become New York's governor didn't go so well, but he did earn some major federal assignments as both John F. Kennedy's undersecretary of commerce and Lyndon Johnson's chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Then in 1988, Roosevelt was struck with a late-stage, terminal diagnosis of lung cancer, and everything went speeding downhill. The cancer moved fast, but he made it to his birthday on August 17 and died at exactly 74 years old.