7 Historical Figures Who Died Strangely

If there's one thing history has taught us, it's that no matter how important, famous, or wealthy you are, in the end you're still going to die. But all deaths are not created equal. Sure, dying of old age or from illness might be fine for boring, normal people, but famous historical figures deserve more ... interesting deaths. And some, like the following, definitely got them.

Harry Houdini

The most famous illusionist in American history, Harry Houdini is best known as an escape artist. But back in the day, he was also known for having an iron stomach, which he claimed could withstand any blow. Unfortunately, his fans didn't realize the trick required preparation. Before a show on October 22, 1926, a couple of college students visited Houdini backstage and decided to test the truth of his claims by suddenly — and repeatedly — slugging him in the midsection as hard as they could. Houdini, taken off-guard by the attack, wasn't able to defend himself. He suffered a ruptured appendix and died less than ten days later.

Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe was one of the most important and influential astronomers of all time, thanks to his groundbreaking work measuring the stars and planets, researching comets, and mentoring his even more famous protégé Johannes Kepler. He also was famous for wearing a metal nose to cover a disfiguring injury suffered during a duel. You'd think that would be quirky enough, but Brahe gained a stranger level of fame when he died because he didn't want to go to the bathroom. In October of 1601, while attending a royal banquet, Brahe found himself desperately in need of a potty break. But he didn't want to cause a breach of etiquette by getting up to use the can, so instead he just sat there until his bladder burst. The subsequent infection killed him.

Later historians, boggled by such a crazy death, tried to come up with more plausible theories, like maybe he was actually poisoned by Kepler. But just a couple years ago, scientists proved once and for all that it was pee, not mercury, that killed Brahe. When you've got to go, you've got to go, etiquette be damned.

Tennessee Williams

Thomas "Tennessee" Williams is one of the most famous playwrights in history, winning worldwide acclaim for plays like A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He also suffered one of the most unusual deaths on record in 1983, at the age of 71, when he suffocated after getting a bottle cap stuck in his throat. Williams, who had suffered from alcohol and drug issues for decades, was apparently trying to chomp down some barbiturates when he accidentally swallowed the bottle cap instead. It got lodged in his throat and cut off his airway, killing him.


When you hear the name Draco, your mind probably autocompletes "Malfoy." But back in ancient Greece, there was a real guy named Draco, who came up with the harsh legal system for the city of Athens. He was so successful, his name became an adjective in English: draconian. And the people of Athens loved him for his innovations. In fact, they reportedly loved him to literal death. See, it was traditional in Athenian culture to show your appreciation by throwing your hats or cloaks at someone. One night at the theater, Draco's supporters were so overwhelmed with love that they literally buried him in clothes. They threw so many hats and cloaks on him, he suffocated beneath them. Yikes.

Clement Vallandigham

Clement Vallandigham was a lawyer and politician during the Civil War. Fiercely pro-Southern, Vallandigham was court-martialed by the Union Army, and ran for Governor of Ohio while living in exile in Canada. All of that became a footnote, though, when he suffered one of the most ironic deaths of all time in 1871. While arguing a case, Vallandigham attempted to prove that the victim had accidentally shot himself, so he decided to re-enact the scene. You can guess what happened next: Vallandigham proved his case, all right, by accidentally shooting and killing himself in the exact same way the victim had!

Crazier still, just a couple days later, another person accidentally shot and killed himself while attempting to demonstrate how Vallandigham had accidentally shot and killed himself. The moral? Be very, very careful telling your friends about this story, and make 1000% sure the gun is empty when you do.

Sigurd the Mighty

Sigurd "the Mighty" Eysteinsson was one of the Viking leaders in the conquest of Scotland, reigning over Orkney for nearly 20 years with an iron hand and a steel sword. Immortalized in the Heimskringla and Orkneyinga sagas as Sigurd the Mighty, there's no doubting his ability on the battlefield. But he was also a cheater, and the gods don't like cheaters. After agreeing to a 40 vs. 40 battle against the rival leader Máel Brigte, Sigurd actually showed up with 80 men and massacred his hapless foe. Apparently, he thought it was a 40 + 40 battle. Sigurd then beheaded Máel Brigte, and strapped the head to his saddle as a trophy.

On the ride home, though, Sigurd scratched his leg on the severed head's teeth — the scratch became infected, and Sigurd died. Should have played fair, Mr. Mighty!

Gouverneur Morris

Men, you might want to cover your eyes, because this is a painful one. It's fair to say that Gouverneur Morris holds a special and esteemed place in American history. A member of Congress during the American Revolution, Morris was a staunch ally of George Washington, and went on to help write the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Unfortunately, this Founding Father died a needless and tragic death on November 6, 1816, following an attempt to clear a blockage in his urinary tract by inserting a whale bone into his urethra. Naturally, this resulted in massive internal injuries and a subsequent infection that he did not survive. Now, if you'll excuse us, we need to lie down and not think about that for the rest of our lives.