The leading causes of death globally are now diseases of the circulation and lungs. The list below highlights some of the more unusual causes of death in history.
This is a list of unusual deaths. This list includes unique or extremely rare circumstances of death recorded throughout history, noted as being unusual by multiple sources. Some of the deaths are mythological or are considered to be unsubstantiated by contemporary researchers. Oxford Dictionaries defines the word "unusual" as "not habitually or commonly occurring or done" and "remarkable or interesting because different from or better than others."
Note: Many of these stories are likely to be apocryphal.
c. 620 BC: Draco, Athenian law-maker, was smothered to death by gifts of cloaks and hats showered upon him by appreciative citizens at a theatre on Aegina.
564 BC: Arrhichion of Phigalia, Greek pankratiast, caused his own death by accident during the Olympic finals. Held by his unidentified opponent in a stranglehold and unable to free himself, Arrichion's trainer shouted "What a fine funeral if you do not submit at Olympia!" Arrichion then kicked his opponent with his right foot while casting his body to the left, causing his opponent so much pain that he made the sign of defeat to the umpires, while at the same time breaking Arrichion's own neck as the other fighter was still strangleholding him. Since the opponent had conceded defeat, Arrichion was proclaimed victor posthumously.
455 BC: Aeschylus, the great Athenian author of tragedies. Valerius Maximus wrote that he was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avert a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object.
270 BC: Philitas of Cos, Greek intellectual, is said by Athenaeus to have studied arguments and erroneous word usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death. British classicist Alan Cameron speculates that Philitas died from a wasting disease which his contemporaries joked was caused by his pedantry.
210 BC: Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, died after ingesting several pills of mercury in the belief that it would grant him eternal life. His eunuch courtiers concealed the death while they plotted the succession and used carts of fish to disguise the smell of the corpse. He was then buried in a fantastic tomb which is still being excavated. His artifacts and treasures include the famous Terracotta Army which was created for him to rule from his grave.
415 AD: Hypatia of Alexandria, Greek mathematician, philosopher and intellectual, often called the last librarian of the Library of Alexandria, though it was destroyed long before her time, was murdered by a Christian mob that ripped off her skin with sharp seashells. Various types of shells have been named, including clams, oysters and abalones. Other sources claim tiles or pottery shards were used.
Greek intellectual Philitas of Cos, said to have studied arguments and erroneous word usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death.
Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China who sought immortality but died an untimely death which was concealed by his courtiers using smelly fish.
1327: Edward II of England, after being deposed and imprisoned by his wifeIsabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, was rumoured to have been murdered by having a horn pushed into his anus through which a red-hot iron was inserted, burning out his internal organs without marking his body. However, as Seymour Phillips observes in his recent biography of the king, there is no real academic consensus on the manner of Edward II's death and it has been plausibly argued (for example, by Ian Mortimer) that the story is effectively propaganda.
1387: Charles II of Navarre, after having been wrapped in bandages soaked in brandy in an attempt to cure an illness, was burned alive when a servant accidentally set the bandages on fire.
1518: In the Dancing Plague of 1518 a woman (and eventually a league of 400 people) uncontrollably danced for a month causing dozens of participants to die of stroke and exhaustion. The reason for this occurrence is still unclear.[dead link]
1552: Henry Pert a gentleman, of Welbeck, Nottinghamshire, died when he stretched his bow to its full extent and the arrow got lodged. While he was leaning over to look at it, the arrow released.
1567: Hans Steininger, the burgomaster of Brunau, Austria, died when he broke his neck by tripping over his own beard. The beard, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) long at the time, was usually kept rolled up in a leather pouch.
1771: Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden, died of digestion problems on 12 February 1771 after having consumed a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, topped off with 14 servings of his favourite dessert: hetvägg served in a bowl of hot milk. He is thus remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as "the king who ate himself to death."
1782: Mrs Fitzherbert died from laughter. On a Wednesday evening she had seen Mr. Bannister at The Beggar's Opera, and laughed with the rest of the audience upon his comical entrance. She was unable to stop laughing, and had to leave the theater. She continued laughing until her death on Friday morning.
1783: James Otis, Jr., the American Revolutionary, "often mentioned to friends and relatives that ... he hoped his death would come from a bolt of lightning." His hope was fulfilled on 23 May 1783 when lightning struck the chimney of a friend's house in whose doorway he was standing.
1794: John Kendrick, an American sea captain and explorer, was killed in the Hawaiian Islands when a fellow trading ship mistakenly used a loaded cannon to fire a salute to Kendrick's vessel.
1871: Clement Vallandigham, a lawyer and Ohio politician, accidentally shot himself demonstrating how a victim may possibly have shot himself while in the process of drawing a weapon from a kneeling position. Though the defendant, Thomas McGehan, was ultimately cleared, Vallandigham died from his wound.
Clement Vallandigham - died after demonstrating how a victim may have accidentally shot himself
1920: Ray "Chappie" Chapman, shortstop for the Cleveland Indians baseball team, was killed when a submarine ball thrown by Carl Mays hit him in the temple. Chapman collapsed at the plate, and died about 12 hours later. He remains the only major league baseball player killed by a pitched ball.
1920: Dan Andersson, a Swedish author, died of cyanide poisoning while staying at Hotel Hellman in Stockholm. The hotel staff had failed to clear the room after using hydrogen cyanide against bed bugs.
1920: Alexander I, King of the Hellenes, was taking a walk in the Royal Gardens, when his dog was attacked by a monkey. The King attempted to defend his dog, receiving bites from both the monkey and its mate. The diseased animals' bites caused sepsis and Alexander died three weeks later.
1923: Frank Hayes, a jockey at Belmont Park, New York, died of a heart attack during his first race. His mount finished first with his body still attached to the saddle, and he was only discovered to be dead when the horse's owner went to congratulate him.
Isadora Duncan, ballerina, died when her long scarf, caught on the wheel of a car, broke her neck.
1925: Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart, a circus strongman and Jewish folklore hero, died after demonstrating he could drive a spike through five one-inch (2.54 cm) thick oak boards using only his bare hands. He accidentally pierced his knee and the rusted spike caused an infection which led to fatal blood poisoning.
1926: Phillip McClean, 16, from Queensland, Australia became the only person documented to have been killed by a cassowary. After encountering the bird on their family property near Mossman in April, McClean and his brother decided to kill it with clubs. When McClean struck the bird it knocked him down, then kicked him in the neck, opening a 1.25 cm (0.5 in) long cut in one of his main blood vessels. Though the boy managed to get back on his feet and run away, he collapsed a short while later and died from the hemorrhage.
1926: Harry Houdini, the famous American escape artist, was punched in the stomach by an amateur boxer. Though this had been done with Houdini's permission, complications from this injury may have caused him to die days later, on 31 October 1926. It was later determined that Houdini died of a ruptured appendix, though it is contested as to whether or not the punches actually caused the appendicitis.
1927: Isadora Duncan, dancer, died of a broken neck when her long scarf caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger.
1930: William Kogut, an inmate on death row at San Quentin, committed suicide with a pipe bomb created from several packs of playing cards and the hollow leg from his cot. At the time, the red ink in playing cards contained flammable nitrocellulose, which when wet can create an explosive mixture. Kogut used the heater in his cell to activate the bomb.
1932: Eben Byers, an American golfer and industrialist, died from multiple cancers caused by drinking more than 1400 bottles of a radioactive "health potion" called Radithor.
Sherwood Anderson, who died after swallowing a toothpick
1933: Michael Malloy, a homeless man, was murdered by five men in a plot to collect on life insurance policies they had purchased. After surviving multiple poisonings, intentional exposure, and being struck by a car, Malloy succumbed to gassing.
1946: Louis Slotin, chemist and physicist, died of radiation poisoning after being exposed to lethal amounts of ionizing radiation from the same core that killed Harry K. Daghlian, Jr. The core went critical after a screwdriver he was using to separate the halves of the spherical beryllium reflector slipped.
1947: The Collyer Brothers, extreme cases of compulsive hoarders, were found dead in their home in New York. The younger brother, Langley, was crushed to death when he accidentally triggered one of his own booby traps that had consisted of a large pile of objects, books, and newspapers. His blind and paralyzed brother Homer, who had depended on Langley for care, died of starvation some days later.
A view of the campsite, the location of the Dyatlov Pass incident, as the rescuers found it on February 26, 1959. The tent had been cut open from inside, and most of the skiers had fled in socks or barefoot.
1960: In the Nedelin catastrophe, more than 100 Soviet rocket technicians and officials died when a switch was accidentally turned on, causing the second stage engines of a rocket to ignite, directly above the fully fueled first stage. The casualties included Red Army Marshal Nedelin, who was sitting just 40 meters (130 ft) away overseeing launch preparations.
1961: U.S. Army Specialists John A. Byrnes and Richard Leroy McKinley and Navy Electrician's Mate Richard C. Legg were killed by a water hammer explosion during maintenance on the SL-1 nuclear reactor in Idaho.
1966: Worth Bingham, son of Barry Bingham, Sr., died when a surfboard, lying atop the back of his convertible, hit a parked car, swung around, and broke his neck.
USSR postage stamp honoring Vladimir Komarov, the first person to die during a space mission
1966: Skydiver Nick Piantanida died from the effects of uncontrolled decompression four months after an attempt to break the world record for the highest parachute jump. During his third attempt, his face mask came loose (or he possibly opened it by mistake), causing loss of air pressure and irreversible brain damage.
1967: Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee, NASA astronauts, died when a flash fire began in their pure oxygen environment during a training exercise inside the Apollo 1 spacecraft. The spacecraft's escape hatch could not be opened because it was designed to seal shut under pressure.
1967: Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov became the first person to die during a space mission after the parachute of his capsule failed to deploy following re-entry.
1977: Tom Pryce, a Formula One driver at the 1977 South African Grand Prix, was killed when he was struck in the face by a track marshal's fire extinguisher. The marshal, Frederik Jansen van Vuuren, was running across the track to attend to Pryce's team-mate's burning car when he was struck and killed by Pryce's car. Van Vuuren himself was torn in half as the car ploughed into him at a speed exceeding 270 km/h (170 mph).
1978: Janet Parker, a British medical photographer, died of smallpox in 1978, ten months after the disease was eradicated in the wild, when a researcher at the laboratory where Parker worked accidentally released some virus into the air of the building. Parker is the last known smallpox fatality.
1978: Kurt Gödel, the Austrian/American logician and mathematician, died of starvation when his wife was hospitalized. Gödel suffered from extreme paranoia and refused to eat food prepared by anyone else.
1979: Robert Williams, a worker at a Ford Motor Co. plant, was the first known human to be killed by a robot, after the arm of a one-ton factory robot hit him in the head.
1979: John Bowen, a 20-year-old from Nashua, New Hampshire, was attending a half-time show at a New York Jets football game at Shea Stadium on 9 December. During an event featuring custom-made remote control flying machines, a 40-pound model plane shaped like a lawnmower accidentally dived into the stands, striking Bowen and another spectator, causing severe head injuries. Bowen died in the hospital four days later.
1979: Nitaro Ito, a candidate for Japan's House of Representatives, died in an attempt to gain sympathy during his election campaign. Having persuaded one of his employees to punch him in the face, Ito then stabbed himself in the leg. He hit an artery causing him to bleed to death before any aid could be given.
1981: David Allen Kirwan, a 24-year-old, died from third-degree burns after attempting to rescue a friend's dog from the 200°F (93°C) water in Celestine Pool, a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park on 20 July 1981.
1981: Kenji Urada, a Japanese factory worker, was killed by a malfunctioning robot he was working on at a Kawasaki plant in Japan. The robot's arm pushed him into a grinding machine, killing him.
1982: Actor Vic Morrow and child-actor Myca Dinh Le (age 7) were decapitated by a rotating helicopter blade, and child-actress Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6) was crushed by a helicopter during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
1982: David Grundman was killed near Lake Pleasant, Arizona while shooting at cacti with his shotgun. After he fired several shots at a 26 ft (8 m) tall Saguaro Cactus from extremely close range, a 4 ft (1.2 m) limb of the cactus detached and fell on him, crushing him.
1982: Navy Lieutenant George M. Prior, 30, died in Arlington, Virginia from a severe allergic reaction to Daconil, a fungicide used on a golf course he attended. He had unwittingly ingested the substance through his habit of carrying the tee in his mouth when playing.
Tennessee Williams who died when he choked on an eyedrop bottle-cap
1983: Four divers and a tender were killed on the Byford Dolphin semi-submersible, when a decompression chamber explosively decompressed from 9 atm to 1 atm in a fraction of a second. The diver nearest the chamber opening was torn apart before his remains were ejected through a 24 inch (60 cm) opening. The other divers' remains showed signs of boiled blood, unusually strong rigor mortis, large amounts of gas in the blood vessels, and scattered hemorrhages in the soft tissues.
1983: Sergei Chalibashvili, a professional diver, died as a result of a diving accident during the 1983 Summer Universiade in Edmonton, Alberta. When he attempted a three-and-a-half reverse somersault in the tuck position from the ten-meter platform, he struck his head on the platform and was knocked unconscious. He died after being in a coma for a week.
1983: American author Tennessee Williams died when he choked on an eyedrop bottle-cap in his room at the Hotel Elysee in New York. He would routinely place the cap in his mouth, lean back, and place his eyedrops in each eye.
1983: Jimmy Lee Gray, during his execution in a Mississippi gas chamber, died bashing his head against a metal pole behind the chair he was strapped into. The poisonous gas had failed to kill him but left him in agony and gasping for eight minutes.
1983: Dick Wertheim was an American tennis linesman who died from blunt cranial trauma at a match at the 1983 US Open. A serve from Stefan Edberg hit his groin, causing him to fall and hit his head on the pavement.
1986: More than 1,700 were killed after a limnic eruption from Lake Nyos in Cameroon released approximately 100,000,000 cubic metres (3,500,000,000 cubic feet) of carbon dioxide that quickly descended on the lake and killed oxygen-dependent life within a 25-kilometre (15-mile) radius, including three villages. The same phenomenon is also blamed for the deaths of 37 near Lake Monoun in 1984.
1990: Bo Díaz, a 37-year-old former baseball player, was killed at his home in Caracas on 23 September. A satellite dish that he was adjusting on the roof of his home fell on him and crushed his neck and head against the base of the dish.
1991: Edward Juchniewicz, a 76-year-old man from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, was killed when the unattended ambulance stretcher he was strapped to rolled down a grade and overturned.
1993: Actor Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was shot and killed by a prop gun during the making of the movie The Crow. The accident happened after a mistake in prop handling procedures: In a prior scene a revolver was fired using a cartridge with only a primer and a bullet, but the primer provided enough force to push the round out of the cartridge into the barrel of the revolver, where it stuck. The gun was then reused to shoot the death scene of Lee's character. This time it was reloaded with a blank cartridge that contained propellant and a primer. When actor Michael Massee fired the gun, the bullet was propelled into Lee.
1993: Garry Hoy, a 38-year-old lawyer in Toronto, fell to his death on 9 July 1993, after he threw himself against a window on the 24th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre in an attempt to prove to a group of visitors that the glass was "unbreakable," a demonstration he had done many times before. The glass did not break, but popped out of the window frame.
1993: Michael A. Shingledecker, Jr. was killed when he and a friend were struck by a pickup truck while lying flat on the yellow dividing line of a two-lane highway in Polk, Pennsylvania. They were copying a daredevil stunt from the movie The Program. Marco Birkhimer died in a similar accident while performing the same stunt in Route 206 of Bordentown, New Jersey.
1994: Jennifer Jones, a 15-year-old student, died at her Palm Beach, Florida home after attempting to inhale freon gas from the air-conditioning unit.
1994: Gloria Ramirez was admitted to a hospital in Riverside, California with symptoms originally thought to be related to her cervical cancer. Before she died Ramirez's body released mysterious toxic fumes that made several hospital employees very ill. Scientists still don't agree on any of the theories as to what could've caused this.
1995: A 39-year-old man committed suicide in Canberra, Australia by shooting himself three times with a pump action shotgun. The first shot passed through his chest, but missed all of the vital organs. He reloaded and shot away his throat and part of his jaw. Breathing through the throat wound, he again reloaded, held the gun against his chest with his hands and operated the trigger with his toes. This shot entered the thoracic cavity and demolished the heart, killing him.
1995: Joe Buddy Caine, 35, died in Anniston, Alabama, when he and friend got drunk and played catch with a rattlesnake, the snake bit them and Caine was the only fatality.
1996: Sharon Lopatka, from Maryland, was killed by Robert Glass who claimed that she had solicited him to torture and kill her for the purpose of sexual gratification.
1997: Karen Wetterhahn, a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, died of mercury poisoning ten months after a few drops of dimethylmercury landed on her protective gloves. Although Wetterhahn had been following the required procedures for handling the chemical, it still permeated her gloves and skin within seconds. As a result of her death, regulations were altered.
2001: Bernd-Jürgen Brandes, from Germany, was voluntarily stabbed repeatedly and then partly eaten by Armin Meiwes (who was later called the Cannibal of Rotenburg). Brandes had answered an internet advertisement by Meiwes looking for someone for this purpose. Brandes explicitly stated in his will that he wished to be killed and eaten.
2001: Michael Colombini, a 6-year-old American boy from Croton-on-Hudson, New York, was struck and killed at Westchester Regional Medical Centre by an oxygen tank when it was pulled into the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine while he underwent a test. He had begun to experience breathing difficulties while in the MRI and when an anaesthesiologist brought a portable oxygen canister into the magnetic field, it was pulled from his hands and struck the boy in the head.
2003: Brian Douglas Wells, an American pizza delivery man in Erie, Pennsylvania, was killed when a time bomb fastened around his neck exploded. At the time of his death he had been apprehended by the police for robbing a bank. Wells told police that three people had locked the bomb around his neck and would not release it had he refused to commit the robbery.
2004: Ronald McClagish, from Murrow, Cambridgeshire in England, was trapped inside a cupboard when a wardrobe outside fell over and made it impossible for him to get out. McClagish survived for a week before succumbing to bronchitis, which he had contracted when he removed a waterpipe in an attempt to free himself and the cupboard was partially flooded.
2004: An unidentified Taiwanese woman died of alcohol intoxication after immersion for twelve hours in a bathtub filled with 40% ethanol. Her blood alcohol content was 1.35%. It was believed that she had immersed herself as a response to the SARS epidemic.
2004: Francis "Franky" Brohm, 23, of Marietta, Georgia was leaning out of a car window and decapitated by a telephone pole support wire. The car's intoxicated driver, John Hutcherson, 21, drove nearly 12 miles (19 km) to his home with the headless body in the passenger seat, parked the car in his driveway, then went to bed. A neighbour saw the bloody corpse still in the car and notified police. Brohm's head was later discovered at the accident scene.
2006: Mariesa Weber, a petite 38-year-old woman, asphyxiated when she became wedged upside-down behind a bookcase in her bedroom while trying to adjust a plug on her television set. Her family, believing she had been abducted, searched for eleven days before finally finding the body.
2007: Humberto Hernandez, a 24-year-old Oakland, California resident, was killed after being struck in the face by an airborne fire hydrant while walking. A passing car had struck the fire hydrant and the water pressure shot the hydrant at Hernandez with enough force to kill him.
2007: Kevin Whitrick, a 42-year-old British man, committed suicide by hanging himself live in front of a webcam during an Internet chat session.
2007: A ten month old camel killed the woman who owned it, by knocking her to the ground and straddling her. A camel expert confirmed the attack was sexual in nature.
2008: Abigail Taylor, a 6-year-old from Edina, Minnesota, died nine months after several of her internal organs were partially sucked out of her lower body while she sat on an excessively powerful swimming pool drain. Surgeons had replaced her intestines and pancreas with donor organs, but she later succumbed to a rare transplant-related cancer.
2008: David Phyall, 50, the last resident in a block of flats due to be demolished in Bishopstoke, near Southampton, Hampshire, England, decapitated himself with a chainsaw to highlight the injustice of being forced to move out.
2011: Harry, Kimberly and their father Trevor Wallwark (and their two dogs) died of carbon monoxide poisoning when a crisps packet became lodged in the chimney and caused the carbon monoxide to flood the room of their cottage in Gurteen, County Sligo, Ireland.
2012: Shirley Perkins, 55, a disabled woman of Berryhill, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was killed when she got her head trapped in her stair lift. She toppled backwards down the stairs and got her head wedged between the metal rung of the electric seat and the wall.
2012: Edward Archbold, 32, a man of West Palm Beach, Florida, died after winning a cockroach eating contest. The cause of death was determined to be accidental choking due to "arthropod body parts."  Florence Vaccarello Dunkel, Associate Professor of Entomology at Montana State University, said of Archbold's death: "I've never heard of that happening."
2013: In Belarus, a 60-year-old ex-serviceman died of blood loss after being attacked by a beaver. The man was bitten multiple times by the rodent, which sliced an artery with its sharp teeth. It has been suggested that the man was trying to catch the beaver to have his photo taken with it. Attacks are said to be on the rise in Belarus due to the increasing beaver population, but this is the first recorded fatality.
2013: In Ukraine, a woman in her thirties was killed when she was run over by a train while having sex on the tracks, with her partner losing both his legs in the accident. The two had reportedly been drinking prior to the incident. 
^Suidas. "Δράκων", Suda On Line, Adler number delta, 1495.
^Brett Matlock, Jesse Matlock (2011), The Salt Lake Loonie, University of Regina Press, p. 81
^EN Gardiner (1906), "The Pankration and Wrestling", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Fatal accidents did occur as in the case of Arrhichion, but they were very rare...
^J. C. McKeown (2013), A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Cradle of Western Civilization, Oxford University Press, p. 136, ISBN9780199982103, The unusual nature of Aeschylus's death...
^La tortue d'Eschyle et autres morts stupides de l'Histoire, Editions Les Arènes, 2012, ISBN9782352042211
^Jamie Frater (2010), "10 truly bizarre deaths", Listverse.Com's Ultimate Book of Bizarre Lists, Ulysses Press, pp. 12–14, ISBN9781569758175
^J. C. McKeown (2013), A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Cradle of Western Civilization, Oxford University Press, p. 102, ISBN9780199982127, Ctesias, the Greek physician to Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, gives an appallingly detailed description of the execution inflicted on a soldier named Mithridates, who was misguided enough to claim the credit for killing the king's brother, Cyrus...
^Christensen, Liana (2011). Deadly Beautiful: Vanishing Killers of the Animal Kingdom. Wollombi, NSW: Exisle Publishing. p. 272. ISBN9781921497223.
^Kofron, Christopher P., Chapman, Angela. (2006) "Causes of mortality to the endangered Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuariusjohnsonii in Queensland, Australia." Pacific Conservation Biology vol. 12: 175–179
^"Death Stirs Action on Radium 'Cures'.". New York Times. 2 April 1932. Retrieved 1 October 2011. Federal and local agencies, as well as medical authorities in various parts of the country, were stirred to action yesterday as a result of the death of Eben M. Byers, wealthy Pittsburgh steel manufacturer and sportsman, who died here Wednesday at the Doctors' Hospital from causes attributed to radium poisoning resulting from the drinking of water containing radium in solution. ...
^Read, Simon (2005). The Bizarre Killing of Michael Malloy. Penguin Book Group. ISBN0-425-20678-5.