I was searching for a topical idea for a larger conversation. Couldn’t find any. Tomorrow is another day, if I’m lucky. Still, there is always magical alchemy of elements: Life, Love, Death. When you are in a melancholy mood – death is the best subject. Particularly unbecoming or untimely death, like in “Heroic life – absurd death”. Heroic or distinguished life is a must, otherwise the larger audience wouldn’t care one bit.
Death of a person becomes common knowledge if the person’s deeds become common knowledge, hopefully prior to his death. Posthumous appreciation loses its luster somehow.
So let’s talk about deaths that untimely and often in a most ridiculous manner befell persons of note. The legend is never the whole story. But, often, the legend is all we have.
King Pyrrhus of Epirus (319/318 – 272 BC), intervening in a civic dispute in Argos, was trapped during the confused battle in the narrow city streets, when an old Argead woman, watching from a rooftop, threw a tile which stunned him, allowing an Argive soldier to behead him. They say that the old woman was the soldier’s mother.
Aeschylus, the author of Prometheus, one of the most tragic of all Greek tragedians, as he got older, developed a profligate bold spot where his hair used to reside.
On a sunny summer day of the year 456 or 455 BC, a certain eagle, a bird of prey, happened to take a hold of a tortoise and soared into the sky, keeping his eye glued to the ground searching for a nice rock over which to crack the tortoise’s shell. Something that looked enticingly smooth and round shone down below, right under the expanse of his wings.
You guessed it. It was our tragedian, sitting on the grass, writing his next tragedy. His face was in the shade, but his bold head exposed. The good thing was that Aeschylus probably didn’t know what hit him as the turtle fell from the sky, dropped by the eagle. The bad thing was that the tortoise shell didn’t crack. The Aeschylus’s head, however, did.
Richard the Lionheart was a Good King but a Bad Thing. To finance his war efforts in France, Richard found he needed vast amounts of money which could not be provided on tax alone. Fittingly he died whilst looking for money at Castle Chalus-Chabrol in France, which housed a pot of gold according to rumor. During the siege of the tiny castle, a young boy fighting with a frying pan grabbed a crossbow and shot the King Richard in the shoulder. Richard died days later as the minor wound turned gangrenous. After 812 years the dusty fragments of Lionheart’s heart are to be examined, and the germ that killed him in the presence of the frying pen could be decisively identified.
Frederick Barbarossa was one of the most stone-cold shit-wreckers of the 12th century, which is saying something because (as you all know) the 12th century was a pretty prime time in history for stone-cold shit-wreckers. He died trying to charge through a river in full armor to get to the front lines of a nearby battle when the current swept his horse out from under him mid-stream. I didn’t change a word in this quote, I have this on excellent authority of the fellow badass blogger here.
Tycho Brahe (1546 –1601), a Danish nobleman and a well known in his lifetime astronomer and alchemist, was said to have died from urinary problems developed as a result of being too strict in the matters of etiquette that his bladder burst when he neglected the call of nature for too long.
Lately, the investigation concluded that the astronomer died from mercury poisoning. Examination of his moustache revealed extremely toxic levels of mercury in his hairs. Tycho lost part of his nose in the duel when he was younger. Various metals, including highly toxic mercury, were used to create his prosthetic noses.
Bobby Leach (1858 – 1926), was the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, after Annie Taylor, and the first male to do so, accomplishing the feat on July 25, 1911. Leach had been a performer with the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was no stranger to stunting. In 1926, while on a publicity tour in New Zealand, Leach lipped on an orange peel (according to some reports, it was a banana peel) and injured his leg. An onset of gangrene called for drastic measures. The leg was amputated; still Bobby Leach died in two months.
Allan Pinkerton (1819 –1884) was a Scottish American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. At the time of his death, he was working on a system that would centralize all criminal identification records, a database now maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He slipped on a pavement and bit his tongue, resulting in deadly gangrene.
Jimi Heselden, the owner of the Segway Company, was inspecting the grounds of his North Yorkshire estate on a rugged country version of the Segway. He has died after riding one of the two-wheeled machines off a cliff and into a river River Wharfe. The good thing — he didn’t have gangrene.
Jack Daniel, a distiller of famous whiskey, came to work early one morning of the year of Our
Lord 1911, and managed to injure his toe while kicking his safe in anger, unable to get it open because he forgot the combination. The infection set up, and he eventually died from blood poisoning. All Jack had to do to cure his infection was to dip his toe in a glass of his own whiskey to clean it. His death was portrayed on Spike Television’s 1000 Ways To Die, which I found pretty unsettling, certainly not for the fainthearted among us.
Does it matter how you die? A lot more important is how you lived and what your purpose to be born was. Someone already dead said this. Hopefully, he lived long and died a great man, appreciating Fate’s black humor.
And, in conclusion, to brighten up the mood:
“Father,” the chorus boy asks the priest, “What if a man falls to the ground from the top of a bell tower, and not a scratch on him, isn’t it a miracle?
“It’s dumb luck,” said the priest.
“What if he falls off the same tower the second time without harm, isn’t that a miracle?”
“It’s a coincidence,” said the priest.
“What about the third time? Surely that would be a miracle, wouldn’t it, Father?
“It would be a habit, my boy.”