Ah, mortality. The constant ticking of a clock we can hear but have no idea how much time is left. One day you’re gonna die. Sorry to give you the bad news but someone should’ve explained it to you long ago. No, Milo the black lab didn’t go to live on a friendly farm when you were 6-years-old. He’s probably buried somewhere in Grandpa’s backyard.
Mind you, I imagine the death of your old dog was a particularly peaceful and painless affair for the old fella, but there are many ways one can kick the bucket. So let me be the one to give you more to worry about. Here are the worst ways you can die (according to science), along with some honourable mentions of the weirdest ways you can leave this earth.
Gore warning, obviously.
You wake up on a lovely sunny Sunday morning/afternoon after a particularly hardcore night of tequila, skittle bombs and cocaine from a stranger, and now you’ve got a hankering for some cold pizza. You’re starving you say to your equally insufferable mates crashed on your share house couch. But you really have no idea how bad starvation can be.
Starvation is an extreme deficient in caloric intake vs outtake. It has been used as a method of torture and execution for reasons that will soon become clear.
When your body begins to ‘starve’ it metabolises fat already stored in the body, as well as glucose. The blood sugar level is maintained by this process and eventually the fat is broken down into fatty acids which becomes the bodies main energy source. In the second stage of starvation, the liver breaks down fatty acids into ketone bodies. Your breath starts to smell like iron and you start to lose cognitive function. Then when the body is out of fats to metabolise, it starts on protein. Muscles are the largest source of protein for our bodies so boom, gym gainz gone.
As well as this proteins which are vital for cellular functions are broken down and cell function degenerates. Your immune system suffers as a result and you become extremely susceptible for infectious diseases. In fact the vast majority of people don’t die from starvation alone, but an infectious disease that crept in while the body was destroying your immune system.
If you live long enough, your body will start metabolising your organs. Seeing as your heart is a muscle and your bodies gotta eat something, you’re most likely to die from cardiac arrest or another complication of the heart due to the lack of tissue. This process is also referred to as “autophagy” which literally means “self-eating”. Usually this process is the bodies natural detox mechanism, but when it comes to starvation your body is it’s own toxins.
Oh yeah, and on average this entire process takes 8-12 weeks.
Shit, we’re back on the hangover analogy again. Right so you’ve fought off starvation with a slice of 3-day-old Hawaiian pizza and now you’re feeling parched. You call out to your housemate Damo, who is sleeping on the futon half naked wearing a sombrero for some reason, to see if you’ve got any more beer. Just drink from the goddamn tap because death by dehydration is a prick.
Our bodies are 60% water. This is fantastic cause not only does it make us super nice for cuddles, it also helps flush the toxins out of us and moving the blood around our body.
Lack of water causes our cells to shrink as our body wrings them out of water to keep us going. This includes the shrinking of your braincells. In old mate Damo’s case there probably won’t be much of an impact, but for the average person this causes confusion, delirium, headaches and coma. As the brain shrinks, it pulls away from the skull which in turn rips the blood vessels that attach the two together.
Then your organs start to shut down, one by one, starting with your kidneys. As previously mentioned, this is kind of a big deal cause your kidneys are the ones responsible for filtering all the toxins out of your body. So instead of urinating out any of the bad stuff your body doesn’t need, it builds up inside you. This results in muscle cramps and blood volume slowly reducing. On the plus side, you’ll probably slip into a coma before you actually die, and apparently dehydration can release a sense of “mild euphoria”.
Voluntary termination by dehydration is actually a recognised method of suicide for those who cannot access assisted suicide (or euthanasia). These deaths tend to be fairly peaceful and patients often feel no pain before passing away. But bear in mind these folks have the added assistance of actual painkilling medication. You probably won’t be so lucky.
When we think of Crucifixion we think of our old mate Jesus up on his cross, nails through the hands, dying for our sins. But think for a minute how JC and other victims of crucifixion would have died. Seriously, think about it…
Whatever you guessed is probably wrong.
Firstly, the nails that held the condemned arms to the cross where not only seven inches long, and they weren’t stuck through the middle of the hands but between the ulna and radius bone of their forearm. This nail severed the median nerve which caused an insane amount of pain and rendered the hands paralysed.
The feet weren’t nailed one over the other like you might see in church, but on either side of the upright post of the crucifix with the knees bent, sometimes at 45 degree angles. Their legs were often broken by executioners to “speed up” the process.
Once all the strength in the legs was gone, either due to being broken or exhaustion, the weight is transferred onto the arms pulling downwards. This ripped shoulders from their sockets, then the elbows and wrists. Arms now 6-7 inches longer, all weight is transferred onto the chest, sending the ribcage into almost perpetual state of inhalation. Add this in with the high likelihood the condemned was covered in bleeding wounds leading to blood loss and we’ve got a pretty shitty way to die. If the hands were nailed directly above the head, the victim would be dead between 10 and 30 minutes due to asphyxiation (inability to breathe). If they were out to the side, we’re talking roughly 5-20 hours.
So depending on who was doing the cruxifiction and how much of an asshole they felt like that day, one could die from suffocation, blood loss or multiple organ failure, all whilst being naked and humiliated in their final moments.
Drawing and Quartering
When you read that heading, you probably thought “oh yeah, that’s when they tie your arms and legs to four horses and make them run in different directions to rip you apart,” nope. Only kinda close. It’s so much worse.
This particular method of execution was reserved only for those charged with treason, a most terrible offence. Firstly the condemned would be tied to a horse and dragged from their cell to the gallows, where they would be hanged but not long enough to kill them.
They would be strapped to a table or a ladder of some sort, where they would be castrated (penis and testicles removed) so that ‘no child could be born of this traitor’. Then the stomach would be cut open and the executioner would pull all of the intestines out of the condemned while they were still alive. The intestines were then thrown into a furnace or fire, sometimes whilst still attached to the condemned. Then the executioner would reach up into the chest cavity and rip the heart out. Thus ending the life of the traitor. All other organs were then removed, the head was cut off to be parboiled (a method that prevented rotting and discouraged birds to have an easy snack) and displayed on the city gates for all to see. The body was then cut into four pieces and most likely used to the same result as the head.
The condemned usually died of strangulation, shock, damage to organs, or the eventual and literal ripping out of their heart.
Weird Deaths of History
In 258AD deacon Saint Lawrence was roasted alive on a giant grill like some disgusting Catholic Barbecue. He joked to his executioners “Turn me over—I’m done on this side” and is now the patron saint of cooks, chefs and comedians.
On 18 February 1478, George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence drowned in a barrel of wine. It was his choice after he knew he had to be killed.
In 1667 James Betts died from suffocation after being sealed in a cupboard by his lover, Elizabeth Spencer, in an attempt to hide him from her father.
In a case of pure laziness, in 1978, logician and mathematician Kurt Gödel died of starvation after his wife was hospitalised and he refused to eat food made by anyone else.
In 2008, a 43-year-old Irish woman died of an allergic reaction after having sex with a German Shepherd Dog.
On 26 September 2010, Jimi Heselden, the owner of Segway, died after riding a Segway off of a cliff.
In 2013, Denver Lee St. Clair fell victim to an “atomic wedgie” given to him by his stepson during a fight. The elastic band from his underwear was pulled over his head and stretched around his neck, suffocating him.
And in July of this year (2019) Lena Struthers-Gardner was carrying a mason jar style glass with a metal straw when she collapsed and the 10-inch straw entered her eye socket and pierced her brain.