Top 10 Bizarre Literary Deaths
#10 - Ambrose Bierce [1842-1914?] American Author
Ambrose Bierce [1842-1914?] American Author Image

Disappeared in Mexico while reporting on Pancho Villa’s rebellion. May have been murdered by bandits.
"Life. A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay . . ."

#09 - Leo Tolstoy [1828-1910] Russian Author
Leo Tolstoy [1828-1910] Russian Author Image

Gave away entire fortune, froze to death in a railroad station on a cold winter night.
"Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself, it will do more than if you paralyze it by encumbering it with remedies."

#08 - Virginia Woolf [1882-1941] British Author & Critic
Virginia Woolf  [1882-1941] British Author & Critic Image

Filled pockets with stones and drowned self in the River Ouse.
“If we didn't live venturously, plucking the wild goat by the beard, and trembling over precipices, we should never be depressed, I've no doubt; but already should be faded, fatalistic and aged.”

#07 - Euripides [480-406 B.C.] Greek Playwright
Euripides [480-406 B.C.] Greek Playwright  Image

Mauled by a pack of wild dogs owned by Archelaus, the King of Macedonia, according to legend.
"A bad beginning makes a bad ending."

#06 - Sherwood Anderson [1876-1941] American Author
Sherwood Anderson [1876-1941] American Author Image

Complications of peritonitis in Colon, Panama, after ingesting a toothpick along with a hors d’oeuvre at a cocktail party.
"Everyone in the world is Christ and they are all crucified."

#05 - Hart Crane [1899-1932] American Poet
Hart Crane [1899-1932] American Poet Image

While en route to New York aboard the S.S. Orizaba, leapt into the Caribbean Sea; reputedly said "Good-bye everybody."
"... we have seen/The moon in lonely alleys make/A grail of laughter of an empty ash can . . ."

#04 - Edgar Allan Poe [1809-1849] American Author
Edgar Allan Poe [1809-1849] American Author Image

Died of "acute congestion of the brain" several days after he was discovered lying unconscious in a Baltimore street, wearing someone else’s tattered clothes.
"In an instant I seemed to rise from the ground. But I had no bodily, no visible, audible, or palpable presence."

#03 - Sergei Esenin [1895-1925] Russian Poet
Sergei Esenin [1895-1925] Russian Poet Image

Cut wrists, wrote a final poem in own blood (called "Do svidania drug moi" or "Goodbye my friend") and hanged self in a hotel room in Leningrad.
"Don't waken the dream that is dying/Don't stir the aim that has failed./Life brought me too early to trial;/The loss, the defeat—what availed?"

#02 - John Berryman [1914-1972] American Poet
John Berryman [1914-1972] American Poet Image

Jumped from a bridge over the Mississippi River; reputedly waved at passersby on way down.
"We must travel in the direction of our fear."

#01 - Yukio Mishima [1925-1970] Japanese Author
Yukio Mishima [1925-1970] Japanese Author Image

Committed seppuku (hara-kiri) and was beheaded during failed attempt to overtake a Japanese garrison.
"If we value so highly the dignity of life, how can we not also value the dignity of death? No death may be called futile."

User Comments - Add a Comment
James - 2007-11-26 11:36:42
What about Kondraty Ryleyev (1795-1826), the Russian Revolutionary and Poet? He was sentenced to hang by the Czar after the failed Decemberist revolt. When it was his time to get strung up, the rope snapped. As is customary, it was considered divine intervention and he was set free. His remarks as the rope broke: "You see, in Russia they don't know how to do anything properly, not even how to make rope!" In reply, the Czar stated, "In that case, let us prove the contrary." Ryleyev was executed the next day.
SKD - 2007-11-26 13:47:59
Not sure I understand the final death date of the Japanese author. If he died in 1970 why was attempting to overtake a Japanese garrison at that time?
Cynth - 2007-11-26 17:11:09
The suicide of Mishima took place during a failed coup attempt. You can read about it at the following website: JSTOR I hope the HTML works. If not, just copy the URL from between the quotation marks. Peace, Cynth
Major - 2007-11-26 17:34:00
Seppuku is ritual disembowelment use by Japanese when their honor is lost, basically he gutted himself after he failed. To expedite the process, after you disembowel yourself, they cut off your head for mercy.
Steeeeeeeeev - 2007-11-26 20:49:18
We have blocked the moon From her dance in the alley And left Only the ash
Mick - 2007-11-27 20:35:06
Christoper Marlow (1564-1593). In 1593 he was denounced as a heretic but before action was taken by the authorities he was stabbed to death in a tavern in Deptford, south of London, apparently over a disputed bill. His death remains a mystery.
Chloe - 2007-11-27 21:49:54
Segei Esenin's poem written in his own blood, is also thought to have been written by the captain of the NKVD patrol sent to arrest him for counter-Revolutionary writings.
ummm - 2007-11-28 01:48:26
what about sylvia plath? wasn't she the one who died via head in an oven?
GPearl - 2007-11-28 09:47:53
What about Ödön von Horváth (1901-1938), the Austro-Hungarian writer who lived in fear of being struck by lightning all his life, only to be killed by a falling branch during a thunderstorm on the Champs Élysées. Embarrassing detail: when he was found there was a pornographic magazine in his hands...
Bill Adams - 2007-11-29 10:13:04
What about Jacques Futrelle? His most famous mystery story was "The Problem of Cell 13," in which his detective S.F.X. Van Dusen, "The Thinking Machine," uses his brilliant mind to escape from an escape-proof prison. One of the stories left unpublished at the time of his death was called "The Tragedy of the Life Raft." He died on the Titanic, after pushing his wife and child onto such a raft. (They survived.)
SJCpirate - 2007-11-30 17:40:04
I think Hunter S. Thompson deserves at least an honorable mention. He shot himself so he wouldn't have to endure the indignities of old age and as per his wishes, had his remains shot out of a cannon.
Nobody - 2007-12-01 02:11:39
"What about...?" Who says this is a definitive list?
NikkiKat - 2007-12-02 14:11:01
Sylvia Plath didn't die via head in the oven exactly. She had 2 known suicide attempts- first time she just took a bottle of Advil. That screwed her up, but she lived. Her successful attempt came some years later. She left her children in their bedrooms with food and water, and stuffed the cracks of the doors with towels, then she turned on the gas of the oven and let it go, basically poisoning herself. I love Plath.
SW - 2007-12-02 17:16:40
How can the Japanese Author commit seppuku, and have been beheaded during a take-over?
Anonymous - 2007-12-03 05:13:11
>>How can the Japanese Author commit seppuku, and have been beheaded during a take-over?<< There was a comment from 'Cynth' pointing towards the background to the story. I don't understand the question. Mishima committed seppuku during a failed coup, he understood he might/probably fail and arranged for one of his 'co-conspirators (one of the military cadets who were part of the attempt, to behead him at the moment of disembowelment. From memory, at the point when Mishima had 'run the knife', in grotesque pain he signaled that the sword should be brought down. Unfortunately, the cadet given the responsibility underestimated how much force would be required and 'only' severely wounded Mishima. Now THAT would hurt. Another cadet took over and succeeded on the second blow.
mark.laskowski@gmail.com - 2007-12-03 13:59:35
Weldon Kees might be good to add to this somewhat suspect in accuracy list.
John - 2007-12-03 21:08:40
With all of "the what abouts," I would say that this list needs greatly expanded because so many literary figures have met peculiar demises. Take for example the Greek playwright that was killed when a tortoise shell fell and killed him after an eagle dropped it in flight. (I cannot recall his name off hand)
Jaye - 2007-12-04 10:17:06
<> This is beautiful. Is it yours, Steve?
noncivilised-eye - 2007-12-05 04:05:50
the "what about..." regarding sylvia plath (though i do love plath) is sort of irrelevant. The list is bizarre literary deaths. A head in the oven, though tragic, can hardly be called bizarre. It's a very common form of suicide.
Jasmine - 2007-12-05 04:12:37
thanx for sharing information about the great personality...
Eto Shinpei - 2007-12-08 02:46:11
We are born, we fall and bounce and tumble, breathe and eat and laugh and fumble, love and hate and sleep and bumble, then die.
Thomas - 2007-12-08 17:12:50
You know the confusion over Mishima might have to do with the wording. He tried to TAKE OVER a garrison, not OVERTAKE it. I was reading that part trying to picture him in a car suicidally heading for something in front of the troops from the garrison who presumably were out marching, but, failing to overtake them because somehow his head was sliced off by a ceremonial sword or a bayonet on the way. That did seem quite funny, but also pretty bloody unlikely... Then something clicked when I read through the comments. P.S. Aside from his unusual death, Mishima was a great writer too - highly recommended!
Kenny - 2007-12-11 20:54:28
Death is like passing through a doorway, it's just another dimension. I soon hope to pass through that doorway and as I do I'll wave good bye.
Charlotte - 2007-12-12 03:38:23
@John, that was Aeschylus.
Catherine - 2007-12-12 06:44:06
Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet, died after a drinking binge. Not bizarre in itself except for the initial autopsy description of the cause of death: "Insult to the brain."
Kevin - 2008-01-07 21:24:34
Dylan Thomas: The "insult to the brain" refers to the fact that he was given an injection that re-acted with alcohol which led to his death. The only miracle is that he lasted three days and not three hours after the injection. He had been brought to the same hosiptal before for alchoholic blackout. The problem with alcholoic blackout is that you can't say: "Doctor, I'm an alcoholic. Please check my chart on file." On his last day alive tje doctors helped him out with a tracheotemy.
FleeingHomework - 2008-02-01 00:27:35
Poe needs to be way higher. In someone else's clothes? No one still knows what happened. It is a huge mystery. And seppuku was the honorable way to die for centuries in Japan, so it is foreign, but not that weird considering thousands died the same way.
chris - 2009-01-01 11:46:23

Poe's death was determined (in 2003) to be rabies.

t/h - 2009-05-25 19:16:13

one more for all "what about'ers"...besides the fact that is obviously just a list populated by expanded opinions, & therefore not a complete list (which, quite obviously, could never be completed in neither ten entries nor to everyone's intellectual satisfaction) you should check out "The Dedalus Book of Literary Suicides:Dead Letters" by Gary Lachman. Just don't write the author or the publisher with all of your suggestions or inane questions on bizarre deaths or murders...as it says in the title, this book deals mainly with literary suicides...

Eddie Reed - 2009-07-12 15:41:14

Like the others I'm tempted to suggest my favorite story, but don't want to blunt my purpose of extending my gratitude to whom ever shared this wonderful information with all of us. Thank You

jazzybill - 2010-03-02 19:03:54

Nikolai Gogol? Burned his unfinished manuscripts, refused all food, and died of starvation in great pain nine days later?

Jay Arr - 2010-05-10 23:12:37

One more comment on Yukio Mishima: He believed that the Japanese army had become too effeminate and weak and hoped to prove his point by taking command of a garrison with only a few loyal members of his security force (sometimes referred to as his private army) to help him. I oncewrote a long (unpublished) paper on him in which I speculated that he may have suffered from marasma, a condition which results when a baby is never held or shown any love. For those interested, Yukio is one of the most fascinating characters in all of literature and wrote incredible novels.

diogenes - 2010-05-30 13:13:23

compelled to add Tennessee Williams and Francis Bacon to the list. Williams choked to death on the cap of a Tylenol bottle after opening it w/ his mouth. Bacon died from pneumonia which he got from untreated bronchitis which he got from an untreated cold which he got from stuffing a chicken w/ snow while doing experiments on food preservation.

Beady Eyed Monster - 2012-06-30 01:08:52

What about Jesus of Nazareth, who quoted all the red words in the New Testament? He showed up at a riverside protest rally ,was immediatly claimed by the organiser of the event as the prophesied Messiah, then asked to be baptised by the afforementioned speaker, and reported to have the literal spirit of God descend upon him in the form of a dove. He then fasted in the desert alone for 40 days , then begins to walk around Jerusalem, physically living out prophesy and embodying ancient archetypes, healing people of incurable diseases and raising the dead, strolls into the Temple of the Judaeic religion and accuses its High Preists of being sell-outs to the Roman Empire, which causes them to claim he was a heretic and demand he be crucified. His followers try to get him to tone it down a bit and he tells them that not only was this his purpose in life , but that he was God incarnate on Earth, come to absolve all sin and enter into a new relatoinship with mankind, evolving them spiritually to a condition in which they could attain everlasting life. The local authorities capitulate to the Priests to prevent a rebellion and give him an extra special crucifixion. He then forgave everyone and died, reportedly raising from the dead a few days later, then ascending to Heaven.