The 5 Most Insane Duels Ever Fought

Forget about all of your fancy "lawsuits" and "mediators." A couple of hundred years ago, the proper method to resolve any dispute was to stand a few feet apart and shoot at each other until somebody died. It was a more civilized time.

But duelers were kind of like extreme sports enthusiasts: They insisted on always taking an already-insane practice to the next level. That's how we wound up with ...

#5. The Hot Air Balloon Duel

An astonishing number of stories that end with somebody going home full of bullets begin with two men, one woman and some kind of compromising position involving genital contact. As far as we know, only one of those stories takes place 2,000 feet above Paris.

The story goes that in 1808, two Frenchmen, Monsieur de Grandpre and Monsieur de Pique, were caught up in a love triangle involving one Mademoiselle Tirevit, who had been secretly sleeping with both of them. The men decided to duel, but for some convoluted reason, they figured it was best to do it in hot air balloons.
We really wish there was some sort of figurative meaning behind that phrase. There is not.

According to the local press at the time, the two men chose hot air balloons because they felt that they possessed higher intellectual properties than normal men. So even though they were trying to murder each other, they also wanted to do it in a way that was somehow insulting to the rest of the population.

So, on May 3, 1808, the duelists entered identical hot air balloons in front of a huge crowd. Each man was allowed a blunderbuss (a primitive shotgun) and a co-pilot to help him operate the balloon. In this case, though, at least one of these wingmen was about to end up like Goose.

Strangely, this incredibly inaccurate image isn't even as stupid as how it really went down.

Once they'd reached a height of about 2,000 feet above Paris, the world's first balloon dogfight commenced. De Pique fired first, but failed somehow to hit his opponent's enormous balloon with a shotgun. De Grandpre was more accurate, and so both de Pique and his co-pilot (who was, at this point, probably regretting every second of de Pique's friendship) plummeted to their deaths.

That's right -- they weren't just trying to shoot at each other's passenger compartments in hopes of hitting the other duelist. They were trying to shoot down the balloons themselves. Which means the co-pilots were signing up to also die if their guy lost. And they didn't even get to fuck Mademoiselle Tirevit first.
Though we have to admit, it's pretty funny picturing that deflating-balloon farting sound while two French guys scream "MEEEERDE!"

#4. The Billiard Ball Duel

A lot of bar fights start over games of pool. They can be sparked by many things -- accusations of hustling, arguments over the rules or maybe mistakenly grabbing a guy's ass while he was lining up a shot because he looked like a girl from behind. Either way, you're going to end up breaking a bar stool over some guy's head while a trucker with deceptively girlish hips beats you with a pool cue.

Cracked PSA: Get 'em checked one a year, people. This is your life we're talking about here.

One such dumb misunderstanding is said to have occurred in 1843 in France, when two men named Melfant and Lenfant decided that an argument over a parlor game couldn't be solved by anything short of mortal combat. Bizarrely, they also decided to do this by pelting each other with billiard balls.

The two men stood 12 paces apart and agreed to stand still while taking turns throwing the balls at each other. They drew straws for the right to throw first, and Melfant won. Allegedly, he announced, "I am going to kill you on the first throw" and then, true to his word, hit Lenfant square on the forehead, killing him instantly. Melfant wasn't able to celebrate his win for very long, however, because he was subsequently arrested and tried for murder. You'd think he would have thought of that earlier.
Kids, that's why you never give the break to a man who brings his own stick.

Yes, we realize we have begun this list with two incredibly ridiculous stories of duels from 1800s France. If you want to call bullshit on these stories, then we have to ask, was Lenfant really killed in some other way, and then Melfant invented the whole "I killed him with a pool ball" story for the papers? That's actually stupider than really doing it.

If these accounts are true, however, then it looks like duels were so common in 19th century France that dudes kept trying to invent new ways to do it, like rich girls trying to make sure their Sweet 16 parties top their friends'.
We're pretty sure French dudes from the 1800s could have used everything in this photograph as a murder weapon.

And of course the biggest question of all: If this is how people used to solve disputes, why in the world did we ever stop them?

#3. The Naked Duel

When British MP Humphrey Howarth and the Earl of Barrymore (both well-known drunks) got into a tipsy disagreement at a bar at the Brighton races in 1806, they did what (apparently) everyone at the time did in that situation -- get their duel on. And so the two men met the following morning at dawn at the dueling ground, only this time, one of them wasn't wearing pants. As his opponent and the crowd looked on in shock, it's said that Howarth stripped naked before taking his place before Barrymore with his pistol raised. (Both of them.)
And gay porn never looked back.

The story is that Howarth had actually been an army surgeon prior to taking up politics and drinking full time. He thus knew that a lot of gunshot fatalities at the time were not, in fact, due to the bullet itself, but from infection after the fact. Specifically, due to the musket ball pushing sweaty/filthy pieces of clothing into the wound. These pieces of material would fester, eventually causing infection and death.
For a brief time, nudity was the most effective body armor known to man.

So, by dueling in his birthday suit, Howarth was dramatically increasing his chances of surviving to see his next drink, as well as demonstrating what massive cojones he had.

It wound up working even better than he thought -- Barrymore allegedly decided that he didn't want to be forever remembered as "that dude who shot the naked guy" and backed down. Both men declared the matter settled. We're guessing that everyone was happy to let it go if it meant they didn't have to look at Howarth's old-man scrotum any more.
"I'll just be on my way then."

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