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Bungled Suicide / Real Life

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  • Mithridates, the king best known for taking minimal doses of poison every day to avoid being poisoned, was cornered by the Romans, so he... poisoned himself. Astoundingly enough, this failed to work, so he got one of his retainers to kill him with a sword.
  • Mark Antony, upon hearing of his fleet's defeat, tried to throw himself on his sword. Didn't work. Or rather, it worked, but not as speedily as he probably hoped.
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  • Maximilien Robespierre; most sources agree that he tried to shoot himself during The Thermidorian Reaction note , but missed and hit his jaw. A doctor dressed the wound, but the next day the executioner ripped off the bandage, causing the man whose Committee for Public Safety had sent hundreds to their deaths to scream in pain until he himself was finally guillotined.
  • The Darwin Awards have a whole Honorable Mention section for this. A particularly interesting one: a guy who took poison holding a loaded gun while his neck was in a noose on a tree overlooking a sheer drop into the sea. He drank the poison, jumped off, and shot himself. Except he missed, hitting the rope instead. He survived the drop into the water, but swallowing seawater made him vomit the poison. A boat picked him up and took him to a hospital, where he later died of hypothermia. (Source: Darwin Award Urban Legend (sadly enough).)
    • Probably this urban legend comes from the book by Musset and Stahl Le Voyage où il vous plaira where an almost exact attempt of suicide is told by one of the characters (see Literature)
  • Napoleon Bonaparte carried a vial of poison with him after the retreat from Moscow in 1812. He drank it in 1814 after surrendering to the Allied armies, but after two years it had lost most of its toxicity and he survived - though it still made him quite ill.
  • It's possible, though unpleasant, to survive gunshot wounds to important body parts. The skull, especially the face, is surprisingly good at protecting the brain, and it's not always clear to a layperson what parts of the brain are necessary for life rather than less vital functions like conscious thought, memory, or motor control.
    • In one notorious case, a man shot himself in the head five times. The first four shots all missed the brain. (Sadly, the last one was dead-on... though it took two hours for him to die.)
    • Ricky Ray Rector, after killing a police officer, shot himself in the forehead and severed three inches of his left frontal lobe, effectively giving himself a lobotomy.
    • Another well-known case was that of Katie Stubblefield, who became the youngest person to ever receive a face transplant in the United States three years after her own face was destroyed in a botched suicide attempt. Stubblefield had tried to kill herself at age 18 by firing a hunting rifle underneath her chin; the weapon's angle was such that the bullet exited through her face instead of going through her brain, leaving her with a devastating but survivable injury.
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  •'s "Motorcycle" guy, who blew his face off with a shotgun and apparently survived, giving himself a Fate Worse than Death. The wrong way to eat your gun.
  • Two guys attempted suicide after allegedly hearing subliminal messages in Judas Priest's Stained Class album. One succeeded, the other failed, but blew out his maxilla.
  • Herbert Sobel, the universally hated captain portrayed by David Schwimmer in Band of Brothers became greatly depressed and resentful after the war and finally shot himself in the head in the '60s—except it failed to kill him and rendered him blind. He lived for seventeen more years in an assisted living facility and eventually died of malnutrition. He may have been terrible to his men, but that's still depressing as fuck.
  • Kirk Douglas attempted suicide once, but when he stuck the barrel of the gun in his mouth, he hit his front teeth and it hurt so much that he forgot all about the suicide. Then he decided that if he was so worried about some aching teeth, he probably did not have enough reason to kill himself.
  • On one episode of Stan Lee's Superhumans, one of the people interviewed attempted to kill himself by grabbing the coils of a power station at a younger age. He was unharmed due to the superhuman level of electrical resistance his body has.
  • Nedeljko Cabrinovic, a would-be assassin of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, had a spectacularly Bungled Suicide to go with his Bungled Assassination. After accidentally blowing up the car behind Franz Ferdinand's vehicle, Cabrinovic tried to kill himself by jumping in the nearby river — which was only three foot deep. Then he tried to shoot himself, only to discover that his gun had gotten wet and wouldn't fire. Finally, he took a cyanide pill, which turned out to be old, and only succeeded in making Cabrinovic throw up. Then he nearly got killed by the angry mob who had witnessed his attempt on Franz Ferdinand's life, before the local police intervened and saved him.
    • For an encore, Gavrilo Princip, the assassin who actually ended up killing Franz Ferdinand later that day, tried two out of the three suicide methods that Cabrinovic had used — and also failed to kill himself, as his cyanide pill was from the same batch, and the assassins' pistols were of such crappy quality that they tended to misfire even when they weren't wet (though unfortunately for Franz Ferdinand and his wife, it did work when Princip shot them). Both men subsequently died of natural causes note  in a Serbian prison during the course of World War I.
  • Hideki Tojo (Prime Minister of Japan during World War II) shot himself, but was revived by the Americans. Who then hanged him for war crimes.
  • Italian singer Gino Paoli attempted suicide in 1963 by shooting himself in the heart. The bullet went through the heart without stopping it and got stuck in the pericardium. He survived, and to this day lives with the bullet buried in his chest.
  • Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan attempted suicide in 1991 by slashing his wrists.
  • Tuli Kupferberg from the band The Fugs once jumped off the San Francisco Bridge in the river, but survived. According to him he swam to the shore, went home, took a shower and went to bed. In reality he did suffer injuries and was sent to a hospital.
  • Two well-documented cases by Elton John:
    • One pre-fame attempt which was chronicled in "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" after the pickle heiress he was engaged to told Elton (untruthfully) he was the father of her child, and expected him to choose her and the baby over music; Bernie Taupin describes this dark-humouredly as a "Woody Allen attempt" as Elton turned on the gas on the oven and laid down on the kitchen floor, however, he left the window open.
    • Another attempt at the height of Elton's fame, during Elton John Week in California. A very stressed out and depressed Elton, having invited friends and family to a poolside celebration at the hotel he was staying in, downed fifty Valiums and dived in the swimming pool to drown, before being rescued to safety. His grandmother, at a loss for words and not knowing how the handle the situation and its aftermath, deadpanned to the partygoers, "Well, I suppose we'd better get going now."
  • A pre-fame Billy Joel, down-on-his-luck, financially strapped and having already thought himself as clinically insane, enough so that he would turn himself into an asylum at one point, attempted suicide by downing a bottle of furniture polish (he'd later comment he did so as "it tasted better than bleach") After being horrified by the mid-1980s than many of his teenage fans would romanticize this time in his life and attempt suicide themselves, he would write "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" to address these fans not to kill themselves.
  • Richard Pryor admitted in his autobiography that his famous freebasing accident was deliberate, albeit while high.
  • One attempt that definitely produced some good involved a US Army inductee who tried to kill himself in 1951 by overdosing on the rat poison warfarin (which kills rodents by causing massive internal hemorrhaging). After several attempts caused mild surface bruising but failed to end things, he reconsidered the matter and checked himself into a hospital, where large doses of Vitamin K (a coagulant) cured him. After further investigation confirmed its relatively low-key effects on humans, warfarin quickly became a standard treatment for blood clots.
  • In March of 1994 Kurt Cobain overdosed on champagne and Rohypnol. After five days in the hospital, he was released. Fans wrote it off as typical rock star behavior—until Kurt Ate His Gun a month later, providing them with a moment of Fridge Horror when they realized that the overdose was in all likelihood a suicide attempt.
  • Sarah Ann Henley attempted to kill herself by jumping off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The wind blew up her skirt and redirected her so she landed on the muddy banks instead of in the river. She was slightly injured by the landing and cold from being covered in mud, but she was taken to the hospital and recovered. Afterwards, she was able to appreciate life.
  • British Socialite Unity Mitford shot herself in the head when England and Germany went to war. It didn't work, of course, and she lived on for a few years.
  • Josef Stalin's son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, attempted suicide after an argument with his father, shooting himself in the chest with a pistol but hit his lung instead of his heart. Stalin reportedly quipped "He can't even shoot straight."
  • Two weeks after his Ponzi scheme got busted, Bernie Madoff and his wife Ruth attempted suicide, on Christmas Eve, while he was on house arrest pending trial. But they didn't know how many pills to take, so they "woke up sick, but still alive."


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