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Semi-unusual deaths of some famous people


Erik Weisz, known better by his stage name Harry Houdini, is remembered as one of the greatest magicians and escapists of all time.

On October 31, 1926, Houdini was killed by a college student’s punch. The student had seen Houdini’s act where he received multiple blows to the torso without reacting and attempted to replicate the trick by viciously punching Houdini. Unfortunately, he did not give the magician time to brace for the attack and his punches ruptured Houdini’s appendix, killing him.

Library of Congress

Sunanda Kumariratana was the queen of Siam, modern-day Thailand, and the consort of King Rama V.

She drowned in 1880 when her boat capsized on the way to Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. Dozens stood and watched while she drowned, as touching a queen would have been a capital offense, even if they were to save her life.

Wikimedia Commons

Seeking to remove this blemish from the Tsar’s reputation, a group of nobles plotted to kill Grigori Rasputin in 1916. They invited the mystic to a house where they gave him tea, cakes, and wine poisoned with arsenic. After eating the cakes and drinking three glasses of poisoned wine, the conspirators were shocked to see him seemingly unaffected. One of them then shot him in the chest and left to construct an alibi. When he returned, he was attacked by Rasputin, who had survived the bullet. The men then shot Rasputin two more times, wrapped him in a rug, and threw his body into an icy river. Karl Bulla/Wikimedia Commons

Leon Trotsky was one of the central figures of the Russian Communist revolution in 1917 and the founder of the Red Army. After Lenin’s death, Trotsky opposed the leadership of Joseph Stalin and was exiled from the USSR. While Trotsky was in exile, Stalin put together a show trial that convicted Trotsky of trying to kill him.

On August 20th, 1940, Trotsky was attacked in his villa in Mexico. The attacker, a Spanish communist agent, stabbed Trotsky in the head with an ice pick, killing him. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Attila The Hun was the leader of an enormous tribal empire who sacked the Eastern Roman Empire and invaded numerous Western territories.

However, he died not in battle, but from a nosebleed. After celebrating his marriage to his new wife in 453, he got a nosebleed, and in his drunken stupor, choked to death on his own blood. Eugène Delacroix/Wikimedia Commons

Marie Skłodowska Curie was a Polish-French physicist and chemist who discovered radioactivity and the methods used to isolate radioactive isotopes. She and her husband were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, and she received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911.

What killed Curie was the very thing that she devoted her life to. She suffered many ailments due to exposure from radiation, including cataracts that rendered her nearly-blind. In 1934, she died from aplastic anemia, a rare bone marrow disease caused by radiation.

Wikimedia Commons

Tennessee Williams was one of the great American playwrights of the 20th century who wrote The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

In 1983, at the age of 71, Williams died after accidentally inhaling the plastic cap of an eyedrop bottle and suffocating while in an alcohol and amphetamine-fueled haze.

Orlando Fernandez/Library of Congress

William Henry Harrison was a war hero of the War of 1812 who became the 9th president of the United States.

He died of a cold that he caught while standing in the rain without an overcoat or hat for two hours during his inauguration speech, the longest of any US president. After the illness persisted for three weeks, presidential doctors gave him opium, castor oil, leeches, and Virginia snakeweed, treatments that drove Harrison delirious and only served to worsen his condition. His death one month later made him both the first president to die in office, and the president to have served the shortest term.

Wikimedia Commons

Zachary Taylor was a war hero in the Mexican-American war who became the 12th president of the United States in 1849.

In 1850, while attending a Fourth of July event at the Washington Monument, which was then under construction, Taylor consumed copious amounts of raw fruit and iced milk during the long, hot day. This combination of foods gave Taylor diarrhea and dysentery, which he died from five days later. Wikimedia Commons

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