Let's face it – we are all going to die. For most of us, the way in which we succumb to the eternal slumber will be a non-event. A lengthy illness, a sudden medical malady, or just old age will be the exit for must of us. But, the recent “strange” death of actor David Carradine (who accidentally hanged himself, in an apparent auto-erotic asphyxiation session gone bad) got me thinking about other not so common deaths. Here are 10 well known people who met their end in not so common ways.
#1 Boris Sagal (director): Television and film director Boris Sagal tragically met his demise on May 22, 1981 while on the job. The director was on location, at the Timberland Lodge in Oregon, where production for his movie World War III was taking place. Sagal somehow managed to walk into the spinning tail rotor of a helicopter, nearly decapitating him and killing him instantly. His television and film credits include; The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Sagal is also the father of Married With Children actress Katey Sagal. He is interred at Forrest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, CA.
#2. Martha Mansfield (actress): The beautiful silent film era actress Martha Mansfield met her end, on November 30, 1923, while filming the movie The Warrens of Virginia. After shooting her scenes, a cast member carelessly threw a match that accidentally struck her civil war costume dress. Unknown to her that she had been struck, she returned to her car where her dress ignited into an inferno - severely burning her and her driver. Despite efforts to save her, the 24 year old died hours later as a result of the burns she suffered. Mansfield is interred at the Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY.
#3. Owen Hart (wrestler): Thirty-four year old W.W.F. wrestler Owen Hart (aka “The Blue Blazer”) had the unfortunate experience of an untimely death, on May 23, 1999, at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO. In a stunt, during the Pay-Per-View event Over the Edge, viewed by thousands, Hart was to be lowered into the ring from the rafters of the arena at an estimated height of 78 feet. An equipment malfunction resulted in his fall into the ring where he died. Cause of death was internal bleeding due to blunt force trauma. Hart is interred at the Queen Park Cemetery in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
#4. Jack Daniel (distiller): While many people have died in various ways as a result of drinking, Mr. Daniel's odd death came when he was stone cold sober. According to Daniel's history, Jack arrived at work early one morning to a locked safe. Frustrated that he could not remember the safe combination, a recurrent problem for Jack, he kicked the safe resulting in a broken toe. As a result, infection set in and blood poisoning soon took his life on October 10, 1911. The distillery likes to remind people that Jack left 2 lessons with his passing; his Tennessee whiskey recipe, and the motto “never go to work early.” Daniel is interred at the Lynchburg Town Cemetery in Lynchburg, TN.
#5. Leo Ryan (congressman): California Congressman Leo Ryan was shot and killed in office on November 18. 1978. Now a typical shooting of someone isn't really a strange way to die, however the circumstances surrounding the shooting is what makes his death strange. Ryan was shot and killed, in an airstrip ambush, while trying to board a plane in Port Kaituma, Guyana, by Peoples Temple cult members acting on orders by their leader, Jim Jones. Ryan had been in Guyana to investigate whether US citizens, who were Peoples Temple members, were being held their against their will. The attack on Ryan, and his entourage, precipitated the mass suicide at Jonestown where 909 followers of Jones died. Congressman Ryan is interred at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA.
#6. Tennessee Williams (playwright): It seems the famous American playwright who gave us such classics as; The Glass Menagerie, Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is also a member of the strange death club. While in his New York City hotel room on February 24, 1983, Williams was performing a ritual that was all too common for him – applying eye drops. Williams routinely applied eye drops by opening the bottle, placing the cap in his mouth, leaning back, and applying the drops to his eyes. That night however, he choked to death when the bottle cap became lodged in his throat. Williams is interred at the Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.
#7. Isadora Duncan (dancer): Thought of by many to be the “mother” of modern dance, Ms. Duncan was known not only for her contributions to the arts but also for her charismatic and over the top lifestyle. No stranger to public drunkenness, scandalous bisexual love affairs, and financial disaster her death would prove to be just as interesting. A fan of long flowing scarves, Ms. Duncan set out for a drive on September 14, 1927, in Nice, France, wearing a long flowing Russian silk scarf. As a back seat passenger in the open car, her free flowing scarf managed to get caught in the rear spoke wheels of the car. The sudden tightening force of the incident threw her from the car into the pavement nearly decapitating her. Duncan was cremated and her ashes are interred at the Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.
#8. Vic Morrow (actor): Staying with the decapitation theme (see Sagal & Duncan) actor Vic Morrow who played in such film and television shows as; The Bad News Bears, Charlies Angles, Magnum PI, and Fantasy Island also met his death by the helicopter's whirling blades of death. On the morning of July 23, 1982 while filming a Vietnam scene, for Twilight Zone – The Movie, Morrow was escaping a pursuing helicopter with two Vietnamese child actors in tow. Multiple pyrotechnic explosions cause the helicopter to lose control and crash onto the three actors, resulting in Morrow and one child being decapitated and the second child fatally injured. Marrow is the father of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. He is interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, in Culver City, CA.
#9. Jon-Erik Hexum (actor): Actor and model Jon-Erik Hexum met his early demise by his own hands. Not suicide, but a tragic work related accident. On October 12, 1984 while on set of his show, Cover Up, Hexum placed a .44 magnum pistol loaded with blanks to his temple and pulled the trigger. What Hexum didn't know was that blanks use paper wadding to keep the bullet's gun powder in its shell. When Hexum pulled the trigger the wadding was propelled with such force that is broke a piece of his skull causing a massive brain hemorrhage. Six days later, on October 18, 1984, he was declared brain dead and many of his organs were harvested for donation. Hexum was cremated and his ashes were scattered in California by his mother.
#10. Christine Chubbuck (news anchor/talk show host): Sarasota news person and talk show host Christine Chubbuck began her WXLT daily talk show, Sun Coast Digest, on July 15, 1974 in a way she had never before – reading news copy. For the first eight minutes of the news cast she covered three national news stories, and a shooting at a local restaurant from the day before. The story of the restaurant shooting experienced technical problems when the film footage jammed and wouldn't run, Chubbuck shrugged it off and replied with the following statement: "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first — attempted suicide." Chubbuck produced a .38 caliber handgun from her purse and shot herself behind her right ear on live television. She violently fell forward and her body began to twitch. Chubbuck was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where she remained in critical condition until her death, 10 hours later. After examining her news copy she read that day on air, it was found that she had a complete script for the days program that included her suicide. Station manager Mike Simmons confirmed she had written something like “TV 40 news personality Christine Chubbuck shot herself in a live broadcast this morning on a Channel 40 talk program. She was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where she remains in critical condition.”Chubbuck was 29 at the time of her death. She was cremated and her ashes scattered in the Gulf of Mexico.
For these 10 people their deaths were as unique as they were. Do you know of any strange but true deaths? Leave a comment and let me know!