In the 1800s and early 1900s, more people died at a younger age than today. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions allowed disease to spread quickly and with devastating effects. This period, which the British term the Victorian era, also saw a high incidence of bizarre deaths, a selection of which have been listed by the BBC News Magazine:
1: Killed by a mouse
In 1875, at a factory in south London, England, a mouse dashed across a work table startling the employees. One worker made to grab the fleeing rodent, but the mouse escaped his grasp, and ran up the man’s sleeve, out through the neck of his shirt, and straight into the young man’s open mouth.
The Manchester Evening News reported:
“That a mouse can exist for a considerable time without much air has long been a popular belief and was unfortunately proved to be a fact in the present instance, for the mouse began to tear and bite inside the man’s throat and chest, and the result was that the unfortunate fellow died after a little time in horrible agony.”
2: Killed by a coffin
Henry Taylor was a pall bearer at London’s Kensal Green Cemetery. One day, whilst carrying out his duties at a funeral, Taylor tripped over a headstone and fell backwards on to the ground. As he fell, his fellow pall bearers let slip the coffin they were carrying, and it dropped directly on to the prone Taylor’s head.
The Illustrated Police News reported in November 1872:
“The greatest confusion was created amongst the mourners who witnessed the accident, and the widow of the person about to be buried nearly went into hysterics.”
3: Death by eating her own hair
The woman’s death was a mystery. Doctors could not fathom why, or even how, she had died. It was only after a post mortem that the cause of death was revealed. Inside the 30-year-old’s stomach was a solid lump of human hair, curled like a bird, and weighing two pounds.
The Liverpool Daily Post reported in 1869:
“This remarkable concretion had caused great thickening and ulceration of the stomach, and was the remote cause of her death. On inquiry, a sister stated that during the last twelve years she had known the deceased to be in the habit of eating her own hair.”
4: Killed as a zombie
At a funeral in rural Russia, the mourners were horrified when the coffin lid burst open, and the deceased climbed out.
The villagers ran in terror, locking themselves in their houses. The priest hid in the church. As the villagers armed themselves, the priest realized the deceased had most likely been in a coma, and had regained consciousness. One old woman failed to lock her door, and the suspected zombie staggered into her house. The woman’s screams alerted the villagers, who, now armed, were ready to dispatch the zombie. By the time the priest arrived to explain what had happened, the “zombie” was dead.
5: The man who laughed himself to death
Farmer Wesley Parsons was sharing a joke with friends in Laurel, Indiana, in 1893, when he began a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Nothing could stop Parsons horrifying attack of the giggles, and after two hours of non-stop laughing, he died of exhaustion.
Read more truly bizarre deaths here. Below, a collection of photographs of “The Victorian Book of the Dead.”
Via the BBC News Magazine