What A Way To Go – Part Six


Continuing our occasional series about unusual (an amusing) deaths.

There are some occasions when you just don’t have enough hands and you end up deploying other parts of your body to assist, notably your mouth. This practice can be dangerous as the fate of the famous playwright, Tennessee Williams – Streetcar Named Desire, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof etc – shows. The playwright had opened a bottle of eye drops to administer to himself and decided to hold the top in his mouth. Leaning back to allow the drops to enter his eyes more effectively, the cap loosened and lodged in his windpipe. Tennessee never recovered.

Those who are of an artistic temperament are known for being so wrapped up in their performance that they are oblivious to their surroundings. Add to this the less than effective ‘Elf and Safety regime that operated in days gone by. Result, potential for disaster as the famous prima ballerina, Emma Livry, demonstrated in 1863. While rehearsing her dress got too close to the footlights at a rehearsal – they were naked flames in those days – and caught light. She suffered from severe burns and died eight months later still in agony.

If you are going to die, it may give your poltergeist and your grieving relatives some satisfaction to know that your death was the first of its kind. This may have been the source of consolation for the friends and family of Mary Ward. In 1869, she accepted, as you do, a kind invitation from her cousins who numbered the future steam turbine inventor, Charles Algernon Parsons, to take a ride in a steam car they had built. Unfortunately, for reasons which are not clear she fell from the car and was crushed under the wheels. She did not survive but earned a place in history by being the first person to be killed in a road accident involving a powered vehicle.

Your skull is thick for a reason – to give you extra protection. Sometimes, however, all your skull can do is delay the inevitable. Witness the fate of David Lunt from Deadwood, South Dakota. He was accidentally shot in the head when trying to stop a fight between Tom Smith and the town’s Marshal, Con Stapleton. The bullet passed through his brain and left entry and exit wounds but he remained unconscious throughout and suffered no pain. However, his trauma caught up with him 67 days later when he suffered a terrible headache and died. The autopsy revealed that the bullet wound had killed him but could not reveal why it took so long to do so.

William Holden, who starred in Bridge over the River Kwai, slipped on a rug in his home, hit his head on a bedside table and bled to death. His body was only discovered four days later. The autopsy revealed that he may have been alive for thirty minutes after his fall but due to the amount of alcohol he had consumed, may not have realised the extent and severity of his injuries at the time.

To be continued.

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