No matter who we are, where we are, or how old we are, death comes for all of us. Sometimes it’s sneaky and we aren’t able to anticipate. Death leaves us no room to prepare or find closure. Accidental deaths, especially, can happen in ways that are entirely unexpected and for reasons that are quite trivial and commonplace. At times, deaths happen so suddenly that, if we were unlucky enough to bear witness to them, they are so jaw-dropping that we struggle to gather our wits enough to do something. Here is a small list of some such unusual deaths that are both bizarre and unbelievable.
1. John of Bohemia, after being blind for 10 years, fought in the Battle of Crécy. He wanted to take part in the battle despite being blind, so he asked two of his knights to tie his horse to theirs to be directed to the enemy. All three of them died.
John the Blind was the Count of Luxembourg up until 1309. He then ascended to be the King of Bohemia from 1310 and just a year later the King of Poland. He lost his sight when he was thirty-nine or forty years old due to an inflammation of the eyes which began in 1336 while he was crusading in Lithuania. He was treated by a famous physician named Guy de Chauliac, but the treatment was unsuccessful. With the coming of the Hundred Years’ War in 1337, he allied with King Philip VI of France. Ten years later in 1346 during the Battle of Crécy, he controlled Philip’s advanced guard and the troops of Charles II of Alençon, and those of Louis I, Count of Flanders.
According to the medieval historian, Jean Froissart, even though he was blind, John wanted to fight in the battle and so commanded his knights to take him forward so that he can strike with his own sword. They tied all their reins together and charged forward. It is said that he did manage to deliver a few strokes as he wished, though not surprisingly he was killed. The next day he and his men were all found dead with their horses tied to each other.(1, 2)
2. Clement Vallandigham, a lawyer and politician, died after accidentally shooting himself while demonstrating how the victim might have shot himself in the process of drawing his weapon.
In 1871, Vallandigham was representing Thomas McGehan, who was charged with murdering a man during a barroom brawl in Hamilton, Ohio. In his hotel room at the Lebanon House, now Golden Lamb Inn, he was showing his fellow defense attorneys how he would demonstrate what really happened while pleading his case in the court. He selected a pistol that he thought was unloaded, put it in his pocket, and started enacting the events that might have happened during the brawl. During the reenactment, he snagged the gun in his clothing at which point the loaded gun discharged a bullet into his belly. As he proved his point, McGehan, his client, was acquitted and released only to be shot to death four years later. Vallandigham received a fatal wound and the surgeons were unable to remove the bullet from his body. He died the next day due to the bullet wound.(source)
3. Frank Hayes, a jockey, had a heart attack and died in the middle of a horse race. His horse won the race with his body still on the saddle making him the first and the only jockey to have won a race after death.
Although he sometimes raced, Hayes was actually a horse trainer by profession and never won any race in his lifetime. The name of the horse he was riding that day, ironically, was “Sweet Kiss” and was owned by a Miss A.M. Frayling. A thirty-five-year-old, Hayes had apparently died of heart attack while still on the saddle in the middle of the race on June 4, 1923. Sweet Kiss won the race by a head. Nobody knew he died until Miss Frayling and the race officials came to congratulate him. It is said that Hayes had to reduce his weight from 142 pounds to 130 pounds in a very short time in order to fit the weight requirements for the race that day. That stress combined with the excitement of racing were thought to have given him a heart attack. After the incident, Sweet Kiss never raced again and was claimed to have been nicknamed the “Sweet Kiss of Death” for the rest of her life.(source)
4. Isadora Duncan, an American dancer, died when her long scarf got caught in the wheel and axle of the car she was riding in and broke her neck.
Angela Isadora Duncan was an acclaimed dancer who performed throughout Europe and was known for developing a dance technique that involved free and natural movements. She lived an eventful, yet tragic life. She lost three of her children and her personal and professional life declined putting her in financial difficulties. On the night of September 14, 1927, she wore a long, flowing, silk hand-painted scarf gifted to her by a friend on a carriage ride with him. He urged her to also wear a cape because she was going to ride in the open air in cold weather. Duncan, however, agreed to wear only the scarf which became entangled in the open-spoke wheel and axle, hurling her out of the car and breaking her neck.(source)
5. Mary Hardy Reeser, 67, was found totally cremated. Even though this would have required extremely high temperatures of over 2,500 °F for three to four hours, yet her apartment showed little evidence of fire.
On July 2, 1951, Reeser’s landlady went to her apartment to deliver a telegram and found that the doorknob was hot, She immediately called the police. Reeser’s remains, mostly ashes except for her spine and left foot was found along with the remains of the chair in which she had been sitting. Her skull was found shrunken, which is unusual, as skulls had either expanded or exploded during other suspected spontaneous human combustion incidents.
It also puzzled the FBI that the rest of the apartment was unharmed except for melted plastic objects which had been setting only a little away from her body, It takes temperatures between 2,500 °F (1,370 °C) and 3,000 °F (1,650 °C) for three to four hours to cremate a body so thoroughly. It was hypothesized that Reeser, a known user of sleeping pills, fell asleep while smoking and set fire to her nightclothes. The FBI eventually declared that the fat and other fuels in her body underwent combustion with her clothes acting as a wick.(source)