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Death By Irony / Real Life

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    Actors and comedians 
  • On 17 February 1673, French playwright and actor Molière collapsed on stage playing the title role, the hypochondriac Argan, in his play Le malade imaginaire ("The Imaginary Invalid"). He incorporated his agony into his performance and died a few hours after the play ended.
  • In 1926, stuntman Bobby Leach, who had crossed great heights during his career (including becoming the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel), slipped on an orange peel and broke his leg, the injury became gangrenous and requiring amputation of the leg. Complications from the procedure killed him two months later.
  • 1930s Chinese movie actress Ruan Lingyu portrayed an actress hounded by tabloids in the film New Women (1935), where her character eventually dies of suicide as a result. After the premier, both the film and Lingyu herself were scolded and badmouthed by the press. Just like her movie character, Lingyu couldn't take it anymore and chose to end her own life. To make everything even more ironic: the film itself was based on the life and death of another actress, Ai Xia, who had also died of suicide because of tabloid slander!
  • Carole Lombard's last role was in the film To Be or Not to Be. She originally had a line where her character said: "What can happen on a plane?" Before the film was to be released, she died in a plane crash and thus the studio executives cut the line from the movie.
  • American comedian and actor W. C. Fields died on the day he despised the most: Christmas Day.
  • Actor James Dean, who had a famous scene where he's speed chasing towards a cliff in Rebel Without a Cause and who once made a commercial to warn the youth about safe driving, died while speeding too fast in his car on the road, causing an accident that killed him.
  • In 1958, actor Gareth Jones played a character in a live TV play, Underground, who was supposed to have a heart attack. No points guessing what he died of during that play...
  • Clark Gable was so stressed out at Marilyn Monroe's antics during the filming of The Misfits that when the film was finished, he remarked "Christ, I'm glad this picture's finished! She damn near gave me a heart attack!" Gable died of a heart attack eleven days later. The Misfits turned out to be the last completed film for both Gable and Monroe, who died two years after Gable.
  • Dutch actor Hans van Tongeren was best known for playing Rien in the Dutch movie Spetters (1981), where his character dies of suicide after being paralyzed. In 1982 he was cast to play another character dying of suicide in a movie adaptation of Van De Koele Meren Des Doods, but this never came about because the mentally ill actor made an end to his own life.
  • Comedian Tommy Cooper died in 1984 on stage during a live TV broadcast. While he suffered a heart attack, the audience thought it was all part of the act and laughed as he drew his final breath. Even more ironic, he was known for performing stage acts where a large chunk of the comedy was that everything went wrong!
  • Beloved British comedian Eric Morecambe had a heart attack during a stage performance in 1984 and died the following day. In that stage show, ironically enough, he joked about the death of Tommy Cooper (whose death recounted above happened a month prior) and how he'd "hate to die like that".
  • Orson Welles is most famous for his film Citizen Kane about a man who has a blitz career to the top, then loses everything and eventually dies alone in his house. Welles too became a famous and well-respected actor and director before he was 30 years old, but then his career gradually went downhill. By the end of his life, he was reduced to voicing commercials or narration in films and died alone in his home.
  • In 1987, comedian Dick Shawn was playing a politician reciting cliches. One of them was "If elected, I will not lie down on the job." He then fell down and didn't get up. The audience thought it was part of his act. When he didn't get up, there were actually catcalls from people who thought he was dragging it out too long. Finally, someone went on stage, examined him, and said "Is There a Doctor in the House?" Another audience member performed CPR on him, but it was to no avail. The audience didn't know if the people coming on stage to examine him were part of the act or not. They weren't: he died of a massive heart attack on stage. There is a sad irony in the fact that he had played Lorenzo St. Du Bois (the actor playing Hitler) in The Producers.
  • French comedian Pierre Desproges was infamous for his black humor. Cancer was one of the topics he seemed to be obsessed with. He made countless jokes about it, among which: "I don't have cancer and it won't happen to me. I'm against it." He was eventually diagnosed with one, at which point he ramped up the Gallows Humour and cancer jokes until it killed him.
  • Actor Redd Foxx is best remembered for his catchphrase in Sanford and Son in which the cantankerous Fred Sanford would clutch his chest and yell, "It's the big one!" While filming a different series in an episode ironically titled "Chest Pains", The Big One was real, but the cast and crew laughed at what they thought was a joke until Foxx fell to the ground and stopped breathing.
  • British comedian Benny Hill felt devastated when his popular show The Benny Hill Show was canceled after 20 years. It was all he lived for and as a result, his health started to decline. Still, he wasn't forgotten. Many viewers kept asking for a new series, so eventually, Thames Television gave in and sent Hill a new contract by post. It arrived in his mailbox the day he died.
  • Sam Kinison made his substance abuse a big part of his act and was known as a heavy drinker, often joking about his propensity to drive drunk. On April 10, 1992, while Kinison was in the midst of trying to kick his various addictions, his car was hit by a 17-year-old drunk driver. The comedian died from multiple internal injuries within minutes of the collision.
  • In The Crow, Brandon Lee played a character who was impervious to bullets. Then came one of the last scenes he was scheduled to shoot. To add even more irony, the scene they were filming was the scene where his character was supposed to die before coming back to life, and the actor who played his killer, became his real-life killer, though in real life it was deemed an accident.
  • Stuntman Tip Tipping was killed when his parachute failed to open while he was filming an episode of the British series 999, which was - ironically enough - a show with the premise of reenacting dangerous accidents.
  • Actor Antony Wheeler accidentally hanged himself while performing Judas' climactic suicide scene in Jesus Christ Superstar.
    • Similarly in 2000, actor Renato di Paolo portrayed Judas in a play the day before Easter and accidentally hanged himself during the hanging scene.
  • Chris Farley wished to be the next John Belushi. And on December 18, 1997, he met the same fate that befell Belushi fifteen years earlier: a fatal overdose of cocaine and heroin at the age of thirty-three.
  • Carlos Revilla, the first Spanish voice actor of Homer Simpson, died after dubbing the 11th season. His last line for the show was "This will be the last season".
  • Paul Walker, one of the stars of The Fast and the Furious series, died in a car crash on November 30, 2013, even though he wasn't driving. Police investigated whether street racing played a part in the accident. Even more ironic is that only a day earlier an Internet hoax had reported he had died. This is one of the reasons why many people didn't believe it when he passed away for real.
  • Joan Rivers, whose plastic surgery is extremely well-documented, died of complications of a botched minor procedure in 2014.
  • Peer Augustinski, a German actor well known as the German voice dub of Robin Williams, died less than two months after Williams, though in his case of old age.

    Animals and animal handlers 
  • Older Than Dirt: There is good fossil evidence (like fossilized fish pellets with pterosaur bones in them and shark teeth lodged in the bones of Pteranodons) that some fish-eating pterosaurs met their ends when a big predatory fish decided to turn the tables on them.
  • Another prehistory example: Many theorize that the marvelously preserved fossils of oviraptorid dinosaurs brooding their nests formed when the animals' parental instincts backfired on them, leading them to be buried in sandstorms because they just couldn't bring themselves to leave the nest unguarded.
  • One of the most spectacular fossil findings is a pair of mammoths with intertwined tusks that were found in Nebraska in the 1960s. The animals, two males in breeding seasons, were fighting for the right to pass their genes to the next generation, but an unfortunate coincidence (one had his right tusk broken in a previous fight, the other his left tusk) resulted in both becoming trapped and dying of dehydration and/or hunger without mating. The same happens sometimes with deer today; barring human intervention, the only way one deer can survive is for the other to be eaten by wolves while he himself is spared, then carry the other deer's disembodied head still stuck on the antlers until they fall off.
  • Adult antlions (which resemble dragonflies) occasionally fall into the sand traps of the larvae and are eaten.
  • Believe it or not, the situation depicted in the page image (beaver killed by the tree it cut down falling on it) actually happens occasionally.
  • There are cases of hog farmers that fell inside the pen and were eaten by pigs.
  • Grizzly Man: Timothy Treadwell, self-professed activist and friend of bears, often claimed bears were misunderstood and that he had a special connection to them. He also criticized other groups for harassing the bears and intruding on their space. Treadwell remained in bear-territory longer than he was supposed to and was eaten by a bear.
  • Most people know that TV presenter and biologist Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray spine while filming a documentary. The name of the episode? "Ocean's Deadliest." After years of interacting with some of the planet's deadliest creatures, he was killed by a relatively harmless one.
  • A Mongolian couple died from the Black Plague after eating raw groundhog kidney for "good health." In 2019.
  • Ali Khan Samsudin, famous for doing performances where he stayed in rooms filled to the ceiling with snakes or scorpions had earned the title of "Snake King" for these feats. In 2006 he died after a king cobra bit him.

  • In 1668 the vicious French pirate François l'Olonnais was defeated by the Spanish army in South America. While on the run, l'Olonnais ambushed two Spanish soldiers, cut out the heart of one and ate it before the other, then said he'd do the same to him if he didn't give l'Olonnais a safe passage to the sea. The terrified soldier complied, but l'Olonnais didn't escape for long. He ran ashore in Panama right after and was captured by a cannibal tribe.
  • According to legend, pirate Bartholomew Roberts' famous sobriety was a direct cause of his death. When the British Navy finally caught up to him, most of his crew was so hungover they couldn't stand up. As one of the few guys in any condition to move around and tend to the ship, Roberts presented a perfect target for the British guns.
  • Salvatore Maranzano, the only mob kingpin to ever declare himself Capo di Tutti Capi ("Boss of all Bosses" in Italian) of the American Mafia, was fascinated by The Roman Empire and considered himself the mob's version of Julius Caesar. So just like Caesar, he was betrayed by his henchmen note  and stabbed to death. But that's not the end of it: Caesar was the last dictator of Rome, having become that after a long Civil War with Pompey and his successors, and his death led to the establishment of the Roman Empire. Maranzano was also the last capo di tutti capi, having become that after a long Mob War with his Arch-Enemy Joe "the Boss" Masseria, and his death led to the establishment of The Commission, a power-sharing agreement within the various Mafia families to prevent turf wars from breaking out. In the mob, crime bosses are viewed as peers, and having a Mafia overlord ran contrary to this idea; Luciano got this idea after he saw what happened to Masseria and Maranzano — the power went into their heads, and they immediately became arrogant in treating their subordinates.
  • The darkest examples yet would be serial rapists and killers Dennis Rader (the "BTK" killer) and José Antonio Rodríguez Vega picking their victims among their clients, because they made a living installing home security measures (alarms the former, reinforced doors the latter). There is also a possibility that some victims hired them because they had heard about their murders.
  • Two victims of the Monster of Florence (Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Migliorini) chose the place where they were murdered because it was more exposed and they thought this would dissuade the murderer. While it didn't, it resulted in the Monster being interrupted and forced to leave the scene earlier without finishing Mainardi (who died at the hospital) or mutilating Migliorini, as he did with his other female victims.
  • It's rumored that the executioner who carried out serial killer Ted Bundy's death sentence was a woman with her hair parted in the middle. Women with their hair parted in the middle were the women Bundy mostly targeted. At least one victim, Susan Elaine Rancourt, was known to be afraid of the dark and was painfully shy. One night, she ventured out to a movie by herself to force herself to get over both of these fears... and basically had them confirmed when she encountered Bundy.
  • Michael Anderson Godwin, sentenced to death by the electric chair but whose sentence was commuted to life in prison, was electrocuted while fixing a television while sitting on a metal toilet seat.
  • Over the course of his life, Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer raped, murdered, and ate 17 boys and men. He bludgeoned his first victim, Stephen Hicks, to death with an exercise weight in 1978. In 1994, while serving life in prison for his crimes, Dahmer was killed by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver, who bludgeoned him to death with an exercise weight.
  • A member of the Jolley Gang (a notorious group of British party crashers) choked to death on a canape at a funeral he had not been invited to.
  • Tony Baekeland was a Lonely Rich Kid whose family's wealth came from his great-grandfather's inventing plastic. After suffering a lifetime of neglect and abuse from his insane Gold Digger mother Barbara as well as being refused treatment for his schizophrenia, he snapped and killed her. After being institutionalized and released, he attempted to do the same to his maternal grandmother within a week and was arrested once again before killing himself in prison. His method? A plastic bag over his head.
  • In 1982, David Grundman and his roommate decided to go out and shoot protected saguaro cacti in the Arizona desert. After felling a 10-foot-tall specimen with a single blast from his shotgun, David Grundman then shot at a 26-foot-tall cactus that was at least a century old. The blast severed one of the cactus's arms, which promptly fell on Grundman's head and crushed him to death. The Austin Lounge Lizards sang a song commemorating the event.
  • 1980s Miami drug queenpin Griselda Blanco used motorcycle drive-by shootings as a favorite method of killing her enemies. In 2012, she was killed by a motorcycle drive-by shooting after she left a butcher shop in Columbia.
  • In 2012, a 19-year-old Ohioan ran a stop sign, was hit by a semi-truck, and died. He was out that night stealing stop signs.
  • Orville Lynn Majors, the Vermillion County Hospital serial killer native to Indiana, nicknamed the "Angel of Death," gave his elderly victims a fatal dose of potassium chloride and epinephrine to cause their hearts to fail. He died at 56 because his heart failed.
  • If a thief in the medieval ages had stolen a horse or cow, and an executioner could not be found, the thief would be executed in a rather amusing way. The animal the thief had stolen, would be attached to a rope, which would also be connected to a pin on a guillotine. The animal would then be whipped, pull the pin out, and the thief would be beheaded by the animal he had stolen!
  • Michael Mastromarino, whose company sold often contaminated bone and tissue grafts that infected several unsuspecting medical patients (including the cancer-infected bones of Alistair Cooke, obtained by Grave Robbing) ended up dying of bone cancer at age 49. Mastromarino was said to have chuckled at the irony once he was diagnosed.

  • French virtuoso organist and composer Louis Vierne gave the performance of his life one evening at Notre Dame de Paris - then collapsed and died of a massive stroke while preparing stops for his encore. He purportedly told his assistant before beginning the concert: "I think that I'll die tonight."
  • Another French composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully, died after wounding his foot with the staff he was using for conducting. Doubly ironic, he didn't finish the opera... about Achilles.
  • Singer Felix Powell, best known for the song Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag (And Smile, Smile, Smile), later died of suicide.
  • Composer Arnold Schoenberg had a phobia of the number "13" despite being born on that date. He died on Friday the 13th, 13 minutes before midnight.
  • Musician Ritchie Valens, best known for the song La Bamba, suffered from severe aviophobia after two airplanes collided over the playground of his high school, killing or injuring several of his friends. Valens was not at school that day because he was attending his grandfather's funeral. He eventually overcame his fear enough to travel by airplane. In 1959, when he had to travel a plane that could only carry a small number of passengers, Valens did a coin toss and went on board, while the other potential passenger took a bus instead.As it would turn out the plane crashed and Valens was killed, along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.
  • Operatic baritone Leonard Warren died from a cerebral hemorrhage during a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "La forza del destino." His final aria started with the words "Morir, tremenda cosa (to die, a momentous thing)." Conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli suffered a fatal heart attack while conducting a performance of Aida in 2001.
  • Rezső Seress was a Hungarian composer, best known for the song later translated as Gloomy Sunday. Back in the 1930s, it was notorious for inspiring a lot of suicides. In 1968, Seress himself threw himself out of a window, survived, then choked himself to death on his hospital bed.
  • Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 of drug-related causes. When Janis Joplin heard of this, she said, "I can't go out this year because he was a bigger star." Hardly a month later, she died at the same age from a heroin overdose. When Jim Morrison heard about the deaths of Hendrix and Joplin during an interview, he told the journalist, while holding up his glass: "You're drinking with number three." About a year later, Morrison too died, also at the age of 27.
  • Juice WRLD didn't think he'd make it into the "27 Club," as after Lil Peep and XXXTentacion's deaths he sang "What's the 27 Club? We ain't making it past 21." A year later, he would die 6 days after turning 21. Maybe drug-using singers should stop bringing it up at all...
  • Marc Bolan of T. Rex was afraid of dying prematurely in a car accident and so never learned to drive. His fears came true when he died in a car accident (as a passenger) two weeks short of his thirtieth birthday. In addition, T. Rex's song "Solid Gold Easy Action" contains the lyric "Easy as picking foxes from a tree"; Marc Bolan's car had the license plate FOX 661L.
  • Terry Kath from the rock group Chicago was toying with a gun when he said: "Don't worry, guys. It isn't even loaded. See?", before he accidentally shot himself.
  • The medicine Keith Moon accidentally overdosed on which led to his death in 1978 was prescribed for him to cure his alcoholism, which Keith was trying to cure after more than a decade of rock excess.
  • John Lennon: As a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, the Beatle who once sang "shoot me" in the chorus of "Come Together" was eventually shot dead. Lennon also wrote the Beatle song "Happiness Is A Warm Gun." Tori Amos covered the song in 2001 and included voice samples of Lennon in the number.
    • When The Beatles first arrived in the USA some journalist asked Lennon, "Are you scared when crowds scream at you?" He snapped back, "More so in Dallas than other places."
    • Another Harsher in Hindsight quote by John: "I don't intend to be a performing flea anymore. I was the dreamweaver, but although I'll be around I don't intend to be running at 20,000 miles an hour trying to prove myself. I don't want to die at 40." Take a guess as to how old Lennon was when he was killed.
    • And, this is getting rather eerie, there was an interview in the 1960s where Lennon was asked how he expected to die. His answer? "I'll probably be popped off by some loony."
    • During their 1964 world tour, the Beatles gave a press conference in Adelaide, Australia. When a reporter said: "You're very aware of everything around you," Lennon responded, "I think you've got to be, you know. You might get shot."
  • Merle Travis' song "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)" is a song critical of smoking, with lines like "... And I don't reckon that it'll harm your health/Smoked all my life and I ain't dead yet." He was a smoker himself and eventually died from pancreatic cancer.
  • Kurt Cobain, the rock singer who once wrote a song called "I Hate Myself And Want To Die" eventually died of suicide and left a note that in a nutshell had the same message. Even more ironic is that CNN, only a month earlier, had incorrectly reported he had died from an overdose. It was in fact only a coma as a result of an overdose.
  • Jerry Garcia, who struggled for years with drug addiction, actually died of a heart attack while in rehab.
  • During the Metropolitan Opera's premiere of Leos Janacek's "The Makropulos Affair," tenor Richard Versalle suffered a heart attack and fell from a fifteen-foot ladder onstage, moments after singing the line, "Too bad you can only live so long."
  • Nigerian musician Fela Kuti didn't believe AIDS existed. He eventually died of it yet denied his condition to the very end, despite all signs to the contrary. His final recorded song mocked AIDS hysteria. But Kuti was such a superstar in Africa that his death actually increased AIDS awareness there.
  • John Denver first became famous for the song "Leaving on a Jet Plane." But after Denver died in a plane crash in 1997, his rendition has all but disappeared from mainstream radio with the Peter, Paul and Mary version primarily played instead, even though Denver wrote the song himself.
  • Michael Jackson died about a month before his comeback concerts would've taken place. In an ironic twist of events, his sudden passing actually did more to revitalize his public image and career than the shows probably would have, at least until 2019. Ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley has also said in interviews that Jackson feared going out the same way her father did. Both singers died from a drug overdose, though in different circumstances.
    • Evan Chandler, the father who accused Jackson of having sexually molested his son in 1993, died of suicide only six months after Jackson passed away. Ironically, by that time, Chandler himself had also undergone plastic surgery that made him almost unrecognizable.
  • Devon Clifford, drummer for the Canadian indie rock band You Say Party! We Say Die!, collapsed on stage during a gig in Vancouver in 2010 and died two days later in a hospital. After his death, the band changed their name to You Say Party, then split up the next year (they've since reunited with a new drummer).
  • Amy Winehouse spent a large portion of her life unrepentant about her drug use (her most famous song even being about rehab). When she decided to finally go cold turkey, she had been a user for such a long time, the withdrawals were ultimately what killed her according to the autopsy.
  • A memorial tree planted in the honor of George Harrison, a member of The Beatles, was killed in July 2014 by a beetle infestation.
  • Tom Petty was the frontman for a band called the Heartbreakers. He died of a heart attack in October 2017.
  • George Michael, whose group Wham! sang "Last Christmas," died on Christmas Day 2016.
  • Jermaine Stewart, a One-Hit Wonder known for the abstinence anthem "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off," died of AIDS-related liver failure.

  • The Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus, who believed that water was the principle behind everything in the universe, died of dehydration while sitting in the sun to attend a sports game.
  • Chrysippus was a Greek philosopher who belonged to the school of thought known as Stoicism. He died of laughter.

  • Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, ordered the construction of a "Brazen Bull," a hollowed-out bronze replica of a bull. A victim would be put into it, the bull would be slowly heated, and the victim's screams would turn into the sounds of a bull. After Telemachus overthrew Phalaris, Phalaris himself became a victim of the bull.
  • The Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huangdi, was obsessed with obtaining immortality through alchemical elixirs. In Chinese Alchemy, mercury was considered a potent ingredient, so one of his solutions was to always have a daily dose of mercury every day. In the end, he died of mercury poisoning when he tried a new formula of mercury pill. The irony of it was in his quest for immortality, he instead found a way to die faster.
    • Even worse, his greatest friend and most trusted adviser told him that he shouldn't be taking the potion and that the apothecaries were killing him with it. A special on The History Channel showed him dying from the potion right after his adviser told him to stop.
    • During Emperor Qin Shi Huang's reign, Sinister Prime Minister Li Si devised the Five Pains, a lethal form of torture. After the Emperor's own Ironic Death, Li Si became anxious that the Emperor's successor Fusu would order him to forfeit his position as Prime Minister to Fusu's friend Meng Tian, so he underwent a Face–Heel Turn and forged a letter from Qin Shi Huang saying that both Fusu and Meng Tian must kill themselves, which was successful. He was found out, and he was then sent to his doom through the aforementioned form of torture that he himself had devised, the Five Pains.
  • Several men in Ancient Rome took their power by assassinating the ruling Emperor. Only to be murdered by their own successors afterward...
  • Subverted by King Mithridates VI of Pontus, who always lived in fear of being poisoned to death, just like his predecessor did. So he took small doses of poison throughout his life to gain Acquired Poison Immunity. Eventually, his empire was conquered by the Roman general Pompejus and Mithridates VI decided to die of suicide by swallowing poison... only to discover that he had indeed become immune to it! I.e. survival by irony. He eventually died by the sword.
  • According to legend, a 16th-century Chinese official named Wan Hu once ascended to heaven by strapping a bunch of gunpowder rockets to a chair. MythBusters attempted to replicate this, and after witnessing an impressive pyrotechnic display, they acknowledged that the rockets might have indeed helped him get to heaven, but he still most likely got there the usual way.
  • Hans Steininger, the Burgomaster of Braunau, maintained a 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long beard that he usually kept on a pouch. He tripped on it and broke his neck in 1567 while trying to flee from a house fire.
  • Gustav III was King of Sweden from 1771 until his assassination in 1792. What gets him on this page is his "experiment" to prove coffee was "poison". He found twin brothers who were both convicted of a capital crime; the twins were pardoned on the condition that one drink coffee for the rest of his life and the other drink tea. Gustav's assassination made him the first to die, then two doctors assigned to monitor the brothers passed away. The first brother to die was the tea drinker. Sweden went on to become a country that Must Have Coffee - its citizens were drinking five cups per person per day by 1975.
  • 18th-century politician Maximilien Robespierre ruled a reign of terror and ordered many people to be guillotined for plotting against the Republic. Eventually, he was beheaded for the same reason.
  • Napoléon Bonaparte was born in Corsica, a small island near Italy that became a French colony in the mid 18th century. During his youth, he was frequently mocked by Frenchmen for having a thick Corsican accent. In a twist of revenge this man who came from an island that most Europeans saw as a backward primitive nation eventually conquered most of Europe. And in an even more ironic fashion, he was eventually banished to live on another small pathetic island, St. Helena, in front of the African coast, where he died.
  • Activist Marcus Garvey suffered a stroke in January 1940, which led to a newspaper accidentally reporting that he had died and described him as "broke, alone and unpopular." This shocked him so much that he suffered a second stroke and died.
  • Josef Stalin terrorized Russia for decades, ordering people and their families to be executed without warning, and so those who worked for him seldom contradicted him for fear of his displeasure. One morning he couldn't breathe and was in desperate need of medical help, but nobody dared to enter the room without his explicit permission...
    • He was actually alive for three days after falling unconscious after suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage. The problem was that despite being the most powerful and feared person in the country, he wasn't given proper medical treatment, because all the notable doctors and intellectuals had either been executed by his orders or fled the country.
  • John F. Kennedy: The last thing anyone ever said to JFK while he was alive was: "Well, you can't say the people in Dallas don't love you, Mr. President."
  • Throughout much of his adult life, Malcolm X preached about how the white man was the devil and how they were out to get black people. But in 1965, when Malcolm made the Hajj to Mecca and then had a change of heart about his earlier beliefs, it was people of his own race (and the same group he was such a prominent part of) who ended up assassinating him.
  • The bullet that almost killed Ronald Reagan in 1981 injured him after ricocheting off his bulletproof limo. Had it been a normal car, he would have been unharmed.
  • In 1993 Belgium changed from a unitary state into a federal one. King Baudouin, a symbol of the old Belgium, died that same year, only a few months after the law came into effect. Many Belgians back then noticed this symbolic coincidence.
  • PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were sworn rivals. Both had a reputation for having spilled a lot of innocent blood to accomplish their goals, yet they both died a relatively peaceful, virtually similar death. In 2004 Arafat was sent to a hospital in Paris, where he fell into a coma and died. Two years later, Sharon too succumbed while in a coma and remained in a hospital in a vegetative state until his death in 2014.
  • Early in the Libyan Civil War, Muammar Gaddafi dismissed the rebels as "rats". At the end of the war, he was fished out of a drainage pipe and shot by those rebels.
  • Apparently almost happened to Adolf Hitler:
    • There's a popular rumor that one of his underlings, Albert Speer, tried to assassinate him with poisonous gas through the Führerbunker's ventilation system. This plan was foiled by his discovery that the system had been upgraded to avoid such attempts. However, most historians consider this to be hogwash since Speer tried to paint himself as the "Good Nazi" despite evidence to the contrary.
    • That said, there's still a good amount of irony on how he really died - his party spent years building him up a strong, fearless leader who was so committed to Germany's well-being he never had time for women. He'd take the easy way out while hiding in a bunker with his mistress/wife.
  • Former 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain, who staunchly refused to wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic and attended a Trump rally in Tulsa unmasked, died to complications relating to COVID-19 a few weeks later.
  • On September 2, 1945, Hồ Chí Minh read the Vietnamese Proclamation of Independence in public in Hanoi, symbolically announcing the death of the feudal government and the birth of the communist one. He died on the same day in 1969, 24 years later. 1969 was also the year the Tết Offensive (Vietnamese: Tổng tiến công Tết Mậu Thân) took place - the turning point of The Vietnam War, which shocked the U.S. government, led to a sharp decrease in U.S. public support for the war and the beginning of U.S. efforts to end the now-unwinnable war. Initially averted, as the government were afraid of a loss of morale at a critical junction of the war, and so announced that he had died on September 3. They corrected this in 1989, 20 years after his death and 14 years after the war's end. In addition, Hồ was 79 when he died and had a heart condition, which the stress of the Offensive and the ensuing U.S. diplomatic negotiations most likely aggravated. His public image in Mainland Vietnam is of a kindly, avuncular leader.

  • It is sometimes reported that the first victim of Phalaris's Bull was its designer, Perillos of Athens. However, ancient sources say that Phalaris only tested the Bull with Perillos, then took him out and threw him over a cliff.
  • Legend says that the Chinese inventor of gunpowder came with the formula while also trying to fabricate an elixir of immortality... and promptly got a severe case of an explosion to the face.
  • Ignaz Semmelweis, the medical hero against after-birth sepsis, died from sepsis.
  • Otto Lilienthal, inventor of the "hang glider", died when this flying device crashed.
  • Sir Frederick Treves, a surgeon who performed the first appendectomy in England, died from peritonitis, a disease commonly resulted from a ruptured appendix.
  • Wolfgang Pauli, physics Nobelist. He was obsessed with the fine structure constant, which due to some cosmic quirk is almost exactly equal to the fraction 1/137. When he came into a hospital with stomach problems and saw the room number 137, he said, "I'll never get out alive!" He was right.
  • Mathematician Kurt Gödel was paranoid about being poisoned. So much that he only trusted his wife to make dinner for him. When she was hospitalized he eventually died from starvation because he refused to eat food prepared by anyone else. So, in the end, his fear of a food-related death did come true.
  • Karen Wetternhahn, a chemistry professor who specialized in toxic metal exposure, died of mercury poisoning after a few drops of dimethylmercury spilled onto her glove, permeating it as well as her skin.
  • Pulmonologist John Murray was responsible for defining acute respiratory distress syndrome. He died from respiratory failure resulting from the very condition.
  • Grant Imahara, the Asian and Nerdy electrical engineer and roboticist of MythBusters (in essence, a creator of robot brains and systems) died of an intracranial (ruptured brain) aneurysm.

  • Hannibal Barca. In history, only twice an outnumbered army was able to surround the enemy. The first time was at Cannae, where Hannibal obtained his greatest victory against the Romans. The second time was at Zama, where the Roman survivors of Cannae surrounded Hannibal's army after (barely) foiling his own attempt to repeat Cannae.
  • Lu Bu, best known in the Dynasty Warriors series as a serious badass with an equally serious case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, was most known for two betrayals of father-figure masters, considered especially heinous under the Confucian tenets of loyalty and filial piety. It was only fitting that he would be betrayed twice before his ultimate humiliation and execution—first by his men surrendering their defensive position of Xiapi to Cao Cao's army, then by Liu Bei, who had been expected to put in a word for him to Cao Cao after Lu Bu offered his fearsome talents as a warrior to his captor. Unfortunately for Lu Bu, those words were "Do you remember what happened to Ding Yuan and Dong Zhuo?", which encouraged Cao Cao to just have Lu Bu executed rather than risk being another potential victim of betrayal.
  • Attila the Hun invaded the Western Roman Empire after receiving a marriage proposal from Valentinian III's sister, Honoria. When he failed to get Honoria, he married the Ostrogoth Ildico... and died from complications after their massive wedding banquet.note 
  • Sigurd the Mighty, a Viking leader in the invasion of Scotland, is said to have strapped the head of the slain Pictish noble Mael Brigte to his horse's saddle. The head's teeth scratched against his leg as he rode, causing him a fatal wound and infection.
  • Oda Nobunaga, a big fan of using fire to solve his problems and forcing enemies to commit seppuku, and who also loathed the Buddhist warrior monks, was ultimately cornered in a burning temple and forced to commit seppuku by an attack by a devout Buddhist.
  • On a related note, Akechi Mitsuhide fled from Yamazaki to avoid being killed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a peasant that had become one of Nobunaga's trusted officers and was now deadset on avenging Nobunaga and claiming his power. While running from the battle, Mitsuhide was ambushed by peasant bandits and died an ignoble death.
  • During The American Civil War, General John Sedgwick was very dismissive of the Confederates' shooting skills. At one point during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (1864), he said: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance". He was shot seconds later, which is why we have a trope named after him.
  • Captain Buckey O'Neill believed that an officer should never take cover in order to keep the morale of his men high. During the Battle of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, he kept walking through the American trenches while chain-smoking and laughing at his men's fears that he was going to be shot. "The Spanish bullet is not molded that will kill me", he said. A moment later, he was shot in the mouth.
  • Lothar von Richthofen, younger brother of Manfred "the Red Baron" Richthofen, was himself a WWI flying ace as well as a baron (Freiherr). He achieved 16 victories and survived the war to become a commercial pilot. Four years later, he died in a plane crash when his engine failed. Both of his passengers survived.
  • General José Sanjurjo, leader of the 1936 coup that would devolve into the Spanish Civil War, died in a plane crash three days in while trying to take off from his exile in Estoril, Portugal and fly to Burgos. The tiny DeHavilland Puss Moth, which Sanjurjo had chosen to fly in rather than wait for a bigger DeHavilland Dragon Rapide that had just arrived in Lisbon, crashed shortly after taking off because of the excessive weight of Sanjurjo's large trunk, that contained the uniforms and medals that he intended to wear during his victorious entry in Madrid. The cherry on top of the cake? The airstrip was at Boca do Inferno ("Hell's Mouth" in Portuguese), and the plane went up in flames, but only Sanjurjo died. The pilot escaped with minor burns.
    • Sanjurjo was a figurehead. The real thinking head was another general, Emilio Mola... who died in a separate plane accident the next year. By decapitation.
    • Given the fate of his predecessors, it is ironic too that Francisco Franco, who had been once the youngest general in Spain and was not considered a possible leader before the coup, instead lived to die of ripe old age and with his leadership never challenged.
  • The USS Utah, an American Dreadnought battleship built in 1910, had her guns removed and was converted to a target ship, as part of the 1930 London Naval Treaty, which limited the number of battleships each signatory nation could have. During the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, the aforementioned target ship found herself the target of several Japanese bombers and capsized with 65 officers and crew dying with her (465 of her crew survived).
  • Eric Fletcher Waters, a devout, anti-war Christian and member of the Communist Party, avoided the draft as a conscientious objector via his Christian beliefs, refusing to fight in World War II and becoming a truck driver. He later changed his mind, enlisted as a Second Lieutenant, and was tragically killed by a sniper near Anzio, Italy. It affected his son Roger very deeply, who grew up without a father and would incorporate his experiences and a similarly pacifistic stance into many of his Pink Floyd and solo works.
  • The weapon that Cold and Friendly Sniper Simo Häyhä used to terrorize the Red Army during the Winter War was a Mosin-Nagant. It was a Finnish model but it was still basically the same rifle used by the Russian military.

  • Greek playwright Aeschylus feared that he would be killed by a falling object and thus stayed indoors. When he did get out once he was hit on the head by... a tortoise which had been dropped by an eagle who tried to break open the shell.
  • In 1959 French writer Boris Vian attended the premiere of a movie adaptation of one of his novels when he was suddenly struck by a heart attack only minutes after the film had started. He died on his way to the hospital. The title of the movie adaptation? J' irai cracher sur vos tombes (translation: I will spit on your grave.)
  • Playwright J. I. Rodale died while he was a guest on the Dick Cavett show. During the recordings, Rodale ironically claimed he felt great and said: "I'm in such good health that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way", "I've decided to live to be a hundred", and "I never felt better in my life!" He had also previously bragged, "I'm going to live to be 100 unless I'm run down by some sugar-crazed taxi driver." A few minutes later, he suffered a heart attack and passed away. The show was never broadcast.
  • Famous French comic strip writer René Goscinny, best known for Asterix and Lucky Luke, died from cardiac arrest during a cardiac stress test.
  • A magazine known as Continuum (which ran from 1992 to 2001) was published by its eponymous owner group that claimed that AIDS and HIV were a conspiracy of homophobia and did not exist (it also claimed to be a scientific journal in spite of the pseudo-science in its pages and no peer review in sight). Of its three editors, the first two died sequentially of conditions now known as iconic secondary complications of AIDS and HIV infection. The final editor took up the reins as the last request of the second editor but in lieu of continuing the magazine (and perhaps seeking to avoid the Rule of Three), he published a single final issue and closed the magazine, meaning that Continuum's end also came about because of AIDS.
  • Paula Yates, the partner of singer/activist Bob Geldof, died of a heroin overdose in 2000. Her daughter Peaches Geldof felt devastated by the loss, yet died of the same cause in 2014.



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