10 Author Deaths that are Stranger than Fiction

Writers can be a strange breed, including the way that they died.  Here is a shortlist of the most bizarre.

1o.  Tenessee Williams (1911 – 1983)

While known for abusing a variety of substances, the one that did him in wasn’t meant to get him high.  Williams choked to death on a plastic cap from eye drops.  The cap lodged in his throat and he was unable to spit it out, apparently due to the vast quantities of drugs in his system.  He could have at least made it an animal figurine, for the sake of irony.

9.  Sir Francis Bacon  (1561 – 1626)

Scientist, writer, philospoher, delicious name owner – a jack of all trades, really.  And only fitting that his death is related to food.  Bacon conducted an experiment by stuffing a phaesant full of snow to see if it would help preserve the meat.  In all the joy and wonder of the experiment, he started prancing around the snow, became ill, and died shortly after.

8.  Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)

Poe’s death seems like something from one of his stories.  He was wandering through the streets like a madman, then taken to an institution for further examination.  He continued to mumble incoherently in a state of semi-consciousness until he died.  No death record exists, so it is uncertain as to what the actual cause was.  Rumorous range from alcohol to rabies.

7.  Albert Camus (1913 – 1960)

French existentialist, Albert Camus, spoke out against communism frequently.  The day leading up to his death involved Camus changing his travel plans from taking the train to driving, at the insistence of his friend, Michel Gallimard.  Gallimard was driving, slid on an icy road, then hit a tree.  Camus died instantly.  Was it assassination?  No one will ever know.

6.  Julian Offray de la Mattrie (1709 – 1751)

De la Mattrie wrote about medicine and philosophy, particularly hedonism.  And he loved to eat, which is what led to his demise.  At party in his honour, de la Mattrie set out to eat as much pate de faisan aux truffles as he could, which put him in a state of delerium, then death.  Monty Python, anyone?  “Fuck off, I’m full…”

5.  Chrysippus (279 – 206 BCE)

Stoic philosopher, Chrysippus thought that it would be a good idea to get his donkey drunk, then feed it some figs.  So far so good, right?  Well, he found the ordeal so funny that he laughed himself to death.  Laughter, it seems, is not the best medicine for stoicism — or at least it has potentially fatal side effects.

4.  Li Bai (701 – 762)

In a drunken stupor, Li Bai jumped out of his boat trying to either hug the reflection of the moon, or to have sex with it.  What his mission was, exactly, isn’t clear.  He just thought that it was very beautiful.  Not surprisingly, he wasn’t able to get it on with the orb but he was able to drown himself.

3.  Aeschylus (525 – 456)

Greek playwrite, Aeschylus has perhaps the most bizarre story of them all.  As he was out one day, he saw an eagle.  The eagle didn’t like the look of Aeschylus and dropped it’s lunch on him – a big tortoise.  The tortoise hit him in the head and killed the tragedian.  The tortoise thanked Aeschylus and walked away unharmed.  True story.

2.  Jan Potocki (1761 – 1815)

Jan looked in the mirror one day and apparently didn’t like what he saw.  He thought he was becoming a werewolf.  He took a silver bullet to the priest, had it blessed, then ran home and shot himself with it.  Potocki really thought that he was becoming a werewolf and wanted to end himself before his transformation was complete.

1.  Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321)

Dante’s death wasn’t so bizarre – it was malaria.  The strange thing is what happened later.  Dante ran into some trouble in his hometown, Florence, so he was buried in Ravenna.  Florence, then decided that they wanted the body back but the church wanted to keep him, so they dug him up and bricked the corpse in a wall.  Then they forgot about it.  500 years later, the church started doing renovations and the body was stolen in little bits as people took chunks out, to get a piece of his body.


Bonus:  Jack Daniel (1849 – 1911)

Jack Daniel, maker of infamous writer-juice, died of a mysterious blood poisoning.  The infection, however, started when he stubbed his toe on a safe.  Okay, he kicked his safe in anger, but still, let’s call it a toe-stubbing.  Be warned:  drinking too much Jack and stubbing your toe could be the end of you!

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Dylan Callens

About the Author...

Dylan Callens is a writer and educator living in Sudbury, Ontario. 

His debut novel, Operation Cosmic Teapot, was a resounding success. Since then, Dylan has written a number of other books, including the upcoming series, The Haber Effect