Gruesome, Odd, And Some Unsolved: 16 Of The Most Unusual Deaths From History

Published December 20, 2012
Updated July 25, 2022

From a mayor who tripped on his own beard to a woman devoured by a pack of frenzied Dachshunds, history is full of some incredibly unusual deaths.

Unusual Deaths

Wikimedia CommonsA spontaneous human combustion, recreated by an artist. July 20, 2018.

We fear things that seem to be obviously terrifying, like monsters and poisonous spiders, though most of us won’t experience unusual deaths or die in an extraordinary circumstance. Instead, we will likely die from something mundane.

But then there are times when death comes in ways that no one could have predicted. Some truly unusual deaths have been brought about by the most innocuous, seemingly harmless things imaginable. Some have died from a hairball, or one pastry too many, or have simply burst into flames while on their living room chair.

Some have died in ways so strange that they still can’t be explained.

History’s Most Unusual Deaths: Franz Reichelt, The Flying Tailor

Franz Reichelt

Wikimedia CommonsFranz Reichelt’s doomed experiment in action.

Franz Reichelt was an Austrian-born French tailor who was well known during his time for his inventions. Posthumously, though, Reichelt is best known for his fatal 1912 leap from the Eiffel Tower.

Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 30: Franz Reichelt, “The Flying Tailor,” also available on iTunes and Spotify.

Having obtained permission from the Parisian police to test his new parachute suit from the landmark, Reichelt announced that the only dummy that would repel from the building was himself.

Upon jumping, the suit failed and he fell to his end, in what can be considered one of the more— while unsurprising— unusual deaths of his time.

Arius, The Orthodox Heretic


Wikimedia CommonsThe Council of Nicaea, with Arius depicted beneath the feet of the Emperor Constantine.

During his lifetime, Arius was a religious figure with beliefs so controversial that he was formally denounced as a heretic by the Orthodox Church. His legacy would, unfortunately, be marred by one of the most unusual deaths the ancient world had ever seen.

Arius’ last moments came in 336 A.D. when he was struck by sudden bowel cramps during a procession.

Before he made it to a bathroom, Arius vacated his bowels, a great deal of blood, small intestines, portions of his liver and spleen and eventually his life. At the time, some believed Arius was smitten for his heresy, but modern historians believe he was likely poisoned by his enemies.

Caroline Redmond
Caroline is a writer and Florida-transplant currently living in New York City.