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Strange Ways to Die in History (Hardback)

The Heroic, Tragic and Funny

P&S History > Social History P&S History > True Crime

By Ben Gazur
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 20 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399045520
Published: 23rd January 2024

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Death comes for us all in the end. But it does not always come in a way you might expect. Throughout history there have been people who have suffered extraordinary, unusual, and downright weird demises. In Strange Ways to Die in History you will find out about the true stories behind unlikely stories of bizarre accidents, assassinations, and misadventures. Did a playwright really die from a tortoise being dropped on his head by an eagle? Why did an English vicar end up being eaten by lions? And what are the chances of fatality from falling into a toilet?

Looking at the lives that came before the deaths reveals some of histories most fascinating individuals. Some of those examined are well known. Some are remembered only for the odd way they departed this life. Some have been forgotten entirely. Sometimes how a person dies, and how history has recorded the event, can tell us a lot about society and how we remember.

This book uncovers eye-witnesses to the deaths described and contemporary reports from those who were left behind.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading strange ways to die in history. It was amusing and interesting. The book was well researched and read like the Darwin awards of the ancient worlds in some places!

NetGalley, Claire Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book delves into eyewitness accounts to illuminate the peculiar accidents and misadventures behind the unconventional demises of both well-known and forgotten historical figures. Though occasionally macabre, it’s light-hearted and fun to read.

NetGalley, Andrea Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a great and interesting read this book is and is perfect for any morbid readers out there that enjoy all manners of unusual deaths!

NetGalley, Laurel Stewart

"This book is about those unfortunate ones whose deaths spark either shocked gasps or titters from those they leave behind."

History is packed with tales of hapless individuals who departed this mortal coil in unusual ways. Gazur has here gathered together some stories of their sad untimely deaths, and sometimes well-deserved ignominious demises. There are incidents of men tripping over their long beards before tumbling down flights of stairs, and innocent individuals drowning in deluges of beer or molasses. Like something out of Monty Python, there's the strange tale of not one, but TWO men who managed to shoot themselves whilst demonstrating how a third man's pistol was accidentally discharged.

My favorite account was of a jockey who died during a race. His death was only discovered after he failed to dismount after his horse crossed the finish line in first place. Now that's a memorable way to go.

Despite the dark subject matter, this is a highly entertaining book.

NetGalley, Mel Kownacki

This was an entertaining read. The entries are succinct, providing a summary of the best/worst bits of the lives of some poor unfortunate souls. At times the writing could be a bit crude, especially when it wandered into toilet humour territory, but if you’re a reader who’s easily offended, it’s unlikely you’ll be picking this book up in the first place.

It ends with some famous last words. My favourite of the bunch came from a man whose death came by guillotine during the French Revolution.

“When Thomas de Mahy was sentenced to death, he gave the order for his execution a read and handed it back, saying: ‘I see that you have made three spelling mistakes.’”

NetGalley, Schizanthus Nerd

From being roasted alive inside a bronze bull, to having a tortoise dropped on their head, to death by clown, this book looks at some of the not just strange, but in some instances, gruesome & horrific ways that people have died throughout history.

Due to the passage of time since they happened, some may be rumours or exaggerations of what truly occurred - well one can hope. It's an interesting read, even if some of the stories cannot be verified (the author gives the reader some alternative explanations for some of the more unlikely ones.) All I will say is: I knew there's a reason I've never liked clowns.

NetGalley, Gayle Noble

One thing is for certain, death comes for all of us and Strange Ways to Die in History shows us that no matter who we are or how high we’ve climbed in status, we are all susceptible to dying in the most embarrassing ways. Some of the deaths are outright terrifying, some downright funny, all prove that real life is stranger than fiction.

The short entries make this book perfect for picking up anytime and the cover begs to be featured on a bookshelf. It’s a great conversation piece and more than one time I found myself looking to read more about some of the featured dead.

This is a fun read and will appeal to those who love facts, history, and macabre death.

NetGalley, Wendy Moore

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fun look at strange deaths throughout history! The author takes the reader through three time periods - ancient, medieval, and modern- presenting stories of strange ways people have died. I thought this was really interesting and easy to read! You can read a few or a ton at a time, as most stories are fairly short.

NetGalley, Christine Piepmeier

Have you ever seen that TV show, “1000 Ways to Die?” This is basically a historical version of that in book form, and it’s great. There is some dark comedy in here, but it isn’t distasteful, and even though the book is divided into ancient, medieval, and modern times, the author intentionally doesn’t cover any remotely recent deaths from living memory. Each of the stories covered are brief, so you could read this in a couple sittings, or stretch it out for a while. The author also provides conflicting accounts and notes when things might be more fanciful than fact. Overall this is a really enjoyable read, especially considering it is about death.

NetGalley, Erinn Hill

As featured in The Daily Mail: New book uncovers strangest deaths in history

Harry Howard, The Daily Mail

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


As odd as it sounds this book was a fun read! While learning about important people their death is usually covered, but to have a book that focuses on the deaths of these people is something different. I found this book engaging and interesting and I needed to keep reading to see what the next strange death would be. If you are a fan of history, or odd subject topics this book is for you!

NetGalley, Megan Craddock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating insight into a large number of weird causes of death throughout history. I loved the author's dry sense of humour that accompanied many of stories.
The Christian saints seem to have suffered more than their fair share of terribly violent and inventive executions. It is very hard to imagine the amount of pain that they had to endure during their last hours on earth. It was also surprising that some of the 'Saints' could also be very sadistic, inflicting carnage on innocent victims.
Many of the people covered in the book are perfect candidates for the Darwin Awards (which recognises individuals who have contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool by dying or becoming sterilized by their own actions).
I enjoyed this book so much, I am going to recommend it to my local Book Club.

NetGalley, Peter Coxall

From the outset this feels like a morbid book to read and enjoy, but enjoy I did! Strange Ways to Die in History is very well researched, extremely informative without being tedious. It was like reading mini QI exerpts (in the best way!).

NetGalley, Rhiannon Gunn

Strange Ways to Die in History is a collection of some of the weirdest deaths in recorded history. This exploration throughout the times is definitely a 'fun' read for those with a sense of morbid curiosity. This is a book you could easily sit through and read from start to finish or, if you prefer, read small chunks throughout your day and enjoy this way. The addition of images towards the end of the book was something I found rather interesting and provided a greater insight of the strange deaths held within these pages.

If you're a history buff this is your next read!

NetGalley, Bobbie-Jay Kennedy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a really enjoyable read, it’s amazing that people actually died from these methods in real life. Ben Gazur does a great job in writing this and I could see the research being done perfectly. I enjoyed what I read and thought it worked with what was promised.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

This was a very interesting read.
It's really interesting and fun fast read as the author has a very engaging way to write about this bizarre, some even funny, deaths.
I highly recommend it to all fans of weird and interesting historic facts and that also enjoy the macabre facts.

NetGalley, Alandra Lightbringer

An enjoyable book about strange, funny or just weird deaths throughout history. It is presented in quick stories which make it an excellent book to read on the the go or when you have to go to the bathroom (which some of the deaths involve). quick read that shows that one common denominator for us all is death..hopefully in not such a way that will end up in a further volume of this book.

NetGalley, dale dewitt

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A must read! Horrible histories meets 1000 ways to die. I loved this book! Each character’s death is told without rambling, but with enough detail to keep it interesting, widely being tiresome. It’s a great book to pick up and put down as each story is only a page or 2, but you may find, as did I, that you can’t put it down, and end up finishing the whole thing in one sitting, because it’s so interesting. I’ll be looking out for further works by this author.

NetGalley, Saffron Melnyk

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Very, very interesting book. I couldn't put it down once I started and enjoyed every moment I spent reading it.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Strange Ways to Die in History by Ben Gazur is an enthralling exploration into a scintillatingly macabre topic. Each of us will die one day, though few live like today is our last. Of the countless ways to die, these are some of the most ghoulish, embarrassing and stupefying. The author provides a caveat...not all details are completely accurate but they are wherever possible. He also notes that the all involved are "outside of living memory" and stories include people who lived in ancient times, middle ages and in the Victorian era and everything between.

Death...and how a culture and era views it...says a lot about the socio-economic condition, mores and lifestyle. Archaeologists and anthropologists must have many aha moments in their jobs. The writing style is conversational and at times comedic, a very accessible and easy read. Hopefully there is another batch in the works!

Amongst the most interesting stories include Draco who was honoured and lauded by his people but succumbed to suffocation beneath clothes thrown in (on) his path, a poisoned quill used as a toothpick caused gangrene and death, lumps of molten lead poured down throats, being frightened to death at parties, tripping and falling down marble stairs, toxic mushrooms, swung by the heels by a clown and a hapless snake forced down an equally hapless man's throat.

Intrigued? Don't miss this if you are mesmerized by the weird and unusual.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Honestly, this one is just fun. It's interesting to read about the strange ways people have perished in history. I think any history buff will enjoy this one.

NetGalley, Skylar Neugent

This book is an absolute treat for history enthusiasts like myself, having delved into the pages of history as a major in college. What a delight it was! The book's concise and well-structured narrative kept me engaged from start to finish. Each story, more peculiar than the last, unfolded with clarity and precision, making it easy to absorb the intriguing and often odd demises of historical figures. The organization of the book allowed for a seamless journey through these unusual yet fascinating events. For any fellow history lovers seeking a riveting read that takes a curious dive into the more eccentric tales of the past, this book certainly delivers.

NetGalley, Lauren Johnson

This was an enjoyable and amusing read. It details strange ways in which people have died throughout history. Definitely entertaining.

NetGalley, Betsy McCann

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was fantastic! I learned so many interesting things and I could not put the book down! I will be recommending this book for sure.

NetGalley, Joseph Bruce

Strange Ways to Die in History is a fun romp of a book if you have a sense of morbid curiosity. The vignettes appearing in this edition cover the strange, funny, and perhaps uncomfortable ways in which people have met their end of the mortal coil. The humor within never felt heavy-handed, but I think humor is subjective and you should tread lightly if morbid humor isn't your thing. This was a quick read, I read it in one day, but this would also be suitable for those who wish to pick it up and read a few pages here and there.
This book would make for a great gift for those who enjoy dark humor, history, or who want to explore the ways in which people face and came to terms with their demise.

NetGalley, Caleb Aarsand

A great title for a hilarious book recounting the hilarious, disturbing, and ironic ways people have died in history.

Apparently, the further we go back in time, the oddest and unusual the deaths are, including death by toilet, getting knocked off your horse, bumping your head on a door

The author makes a great point by noting that sometimes how a person dies, and how history has recorded the event, tells us a lot about society, the social and political context at the time and how we remember.

Death will come to us all, but hopefully it will be a peaceful one for most of us, and not the weird, bizarre, and unusual ways like what happened to the people in this book.

NetGalley, Elaine L

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Death is a very serious subject. Except when it isn’t. This text is so funny that I had to laugh out loud several times. Yes, I have a dark sense of humor, but the author is actually very smart, and never cruel, with his puns. From antiquity, this is a compendium of weird, funny, or unusual deaths. Some famous people, others who are unknown. Philosophers, doctors, scientists, kings, soldiers and just normal folk. Some are legends, others are documented. The author doesn’t explore more recent demises but ends with the early twentieth century. This is a fast, easy read, that made me learn history too. It reminded me a bit of the Chronicles of St. Mary's time travel series, where the characters try to find out if the deaths of famous people were really as reported. Since we don’t have a time machine, this will do.

NetGalley, Elisa Rambacher

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

‘Fun’ seems like too cheerful a word considering the subject matter, but the fact is, this book of short vignettes really was a lot of fun to read. It would make a wonderful coffee table or bathroom book.

NetGalley, Tammy Buchli

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was great to be able to learn more about specific deaths. Especially unusual/ strange deaths, the eye witness accounts definitely adds more authenticity.

NetGalley, A D

He was so overcome by laughter that he died on the spot. Learning to control your emotions really is the key to life.’

I fell hard for this cover!!!

Really interesting read, quick and compelling.

If you don’t want your final moments to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, this book may come in handy haha!

‘In 1184 CE, the court of Henry VI, king of Germany, took an unexpected toilet break. He gathered his nobles together to settle a dispute, but the weight of so many people in a wooden structure led the floor of the building to collapse. Everyone, save the king and a bishop, plunged down into the cellar, where the contents of the toilets were stored. Sixty people are reported to have drowned in the liquid mixture of urine and faeces.’

Georgi Lvs Books !!

About Ben Gazur

Ben Gazur holds a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Edinburgh. Giving up the glitz and glamour of the lab he became a freelance writer who has written widely on history and science for the likes of the BBC, All About History, and the Guardian newspaper.

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