Close your eyes and picture your ideal death. Chances are, you’re picturing either an elderly version of yourself peacefully snoring into Death’s thanatopic embrace or a ‘roided-out version of yourself collapsing handsomely after saving fistful over fistful of puppies from a flame-engulfed puppy mill. Either way, you’re hoping for a dignified departure.
But for the truly unlucky among us, our jackass deaths will be cataloged by incredulous historians for all eternity, so that the smug living will be briefly entertained. Here are the poor bastards whose deaths have turned into unintentional punchlines centuries after the fact.
#6. Clement Vallandigham Accidentally Shot Himself (For Justice)
Defending someone against a murder charge isn’t a case of devising a cunning legal argument or finding exonerating evidence. It’s a matter of finding the level of shenanigans that the judge will put up with before throwing your ass in jail for contempt. Or at least that’s what popular culture makes it seem like. Honestly, we don’t really pay attention to the news.
When this approach has been tried in real life, however, it hasn’t ended well. In 1871, Clement Vallandigham was tasked with exonerating a local man from the charge of having blown someone away during a bar brawl. It seemed like a cut-and-dried case of murder until Vallandigham got all CSI on their asses. Using a rudimentary experiment, he was able to prove that the victim shot himself while pulling out a gun (presumably to do some murdering of his own). When the time came to demonstrate this, Vallandigham imitated the victim with perfect accuracy … including the part where he shot himself.
The legal term for this is “habeas corpus.”
In his haste to prepare for court, Vallandigham had picked up the wrong revolver. Instead of the empty revolver specially purchased for court, he’d chosen the loaded revolver he’d used in his experiments. According to accounts, Vallandigham lasted a heroic 12 hours before expiring from a combination of shock, blood loss, and just, like, the worst case of embarrassment. And, as it’d be dumb otherwise, his client also went free.
#5. The Gladiator Who Choked On A Poop Sponge
When ranking badass careers from history, gladiator must be up there with sex inventor and astronaut, right? Well … not quite. While some gladiators were regarded as heroes, the majority were criminals and prisoners of war sentenced to fight as a form of capital punishment. The best that these guys could hope for was a merciful death. When those opportunities for a good death weren’t available, some just had to make do.
For instance, take the gladiator who — according to the writer Seneca — was preparing his daily routine of being stabbed and mauled when he pretended to go pee (one of the few things that he could do without a guard) in order to choke himself to death using a sponge that was also used to wipe people’s asses. We don’t want to glamorize this sort of thing, but that’s dedication and a whole new way of thinking about how to tell people to eat shit and die.
Records do not reveal whether he used a condom.
But however committed this doomed, unknown warrior might’ve been, his resolve is nothing compared to the 29 prisoners who, according to the historian Symmachus, strangled each other in their cell before the next day’s fight. We don’t want to seem dark, but how would that even work? Did they arrange themselves in a big circle or what? Would it have killed someone to sketch this out?
Many fetish sites would pay top dollar.
#4. Jean-Baptiste Lully Conducted Way Too Hard
Jean-Baptiste Lully was a world-famous 17th-century composer. As there’s a good chance you didn’t know of his existence until 1.12 seconds ago, we’re going to spare you a review of his musical accolades and focus on his death by that age-old killer: rhythm.
“As a white guy, I thought I’d be immune.”
While directing a performance of “Te Deum” in 1687, Lully got so into the music that he accidentally crushed his own foot with a conducting baton. This probably seems like the sort of thing that most of us could walk off. After all, we’ve all seen musical conductors waving those little sticks around. Aside from jabbing one in your eye hole, how much harm could they really do? In line with the popular trend of the time, Lully wasn’t waving a little stick around. His baton was more like a baseball bat (i.e., not the sort of thing that you want to drop on your foot).
The result of this injury was an abscess on his foot, which soon became infected. The only solution was to amputate the foot … which Lully refused to allow because it might have stopped him from dancing in the future. His body was living out the plot of Footloose and his mind wasn’t having it. Which is funny because his foot was loose in the sense that it turned gangrenous and killed him.
“Funny” probably wasn’t the right word to use there.