It's always fun to speculate about how we'll die, like to break the ice during a party or while chatting in the subway with terrified strangers. We've all done that, right? Well, you should probably cut it out, you freaking weirdo, because sometimes those oddly specific death scenarios turn out to come true. We've told you about famous musicians who predicted their own deaths through songs, but this tragic superpower is (er, "was") shared by notable people in all fields ...
#6. Mark Twain Nailed His Death Date Within a Day
Mark Twain is arguably one of the greatest American writers that literature has ever seen, blessed with immense wit, a sharp sense of humor, and a killer mustache. He gave us classic children's characters like Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and N-word Jim. What you might not know is that, apparently, he could also see the future -- specifically, the part where he died.
He even left specific instructions for all his hair to be donated to Albert Einstein.
In 1909, Twain joked that the next time Halley's Comet passed close to Earth, he would "go out" with it. He didn't mean romantically: The comet had last been visible from Earth in the year Twain was born, 1835, so he claimed it would be the "greatest disappointment of my life" if it didn't also pass at the time of his death. According to Twain, God must have said, "Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together."
Edward Emerson Barnard/Yerkes Observatory
"Preferably in one world-ending fireball."
True, Twain was advanced in years when he said that, had some heart troubles, and was depressed about losing some family members and close friends, but he was by no means on his deathbed or expecting to go to the big steamboat in the sky anytime soon. He was writing and active in his anti-imperialism league all the way to the end.
As you might know, Halley's Comet visits us once every 76 years and is only visible from Earth for a couple of months at a time. This means that at the moment of Twain's humorous prediction, the comet was due again in the following year; and what do you know, it showed up on April 20, 1910. The next day, Twain died of a heart attack.
Clearly, just dying in the same year the comet passed or at any time during its two-month window wasn't impressive enough for Twain -- he had to do it mere hours after the thing first showed up, didn't he?
#5. NBA Player Nails His Death to the Last Detail, 14 Years Earlier
"Pistol" Pete Maravich was one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, best known for his impressive showmanship, his still unsurpassed scoring average (achieved before someone decided that some shots should score three points), and his utterly ridiculous socks. Magic Johnson once called him the original "Showtime," and Hall of Famer John Havlicek said he was "the greatest ball-handler of all time."
He was pretty good at basketball, too.
What he wasn't known for was his good luck, though ...
In 1974, Maravich was 26 and had been playing in the NBA for four years. He was at the height of his career, but didn't feel like basketball was all there was to life. In an interview with the Beaver County Times, Maravich said, "I don't want to play 10 years [in the NBA] and then die of a heart attack at the age of 40."
"The NBA is nice, but I'm hoping my Beatles tribute act takes off. I'm Ringo."
In an extreme case of you can't always get what you want, that's exactly what Maravich would go on to do. When Maravich gave that interview, he seemed perfectly healthy and had no reason to think that he wouldn't live to see the sports memorabilia shows and charity golf tournaments that accompany a former athlete in his twilight years. However, he ended up retiring six years later due to an injury ... completing exactly 10 years in the NBA, as predicted.
Eight years later, on January 5, 1988, Maravich was playing a pickup game of basketball when he stated "I feel great" -- seconds later, he collapsed and died of a heart attack. Turns out he had a previously undiscovered congenital heart defect called "being born without a freaking heart valve." He should have died at 20, but somehow stuck around for two more decades until his prophecy came true.
That mustache alone should have taken seven years off his life expectancy.
#4. Newspaper Mogul Predicts (and Dies on) the Titanic
William Thomas Stead was considered the father of the modern tabloid, back when the word "tabloid" meant more "meaningful reporting" and less "Kardashian butt." In fact, Stead was a pioneer of investigative journalism whose controversial expose on child prostitution got the age of consent in Britain raised from 13 to 16. It also got him arrested for pissing off the government.
He never once removed his suit and tie during the entire prison stay.
Besides being an editor, Stead also dabbled in fiction and had an interest in the occult. In 1886, he wrote a piece for the Pall Mall Gazette called "The Sinking of a Modern Liner" about an ocean liner that leaves England for New York City and becomes involved in a collision. In the chaos that followed, many passengers drowned because there were too few lifeboats. Stead actually wrote, "This is exactly what will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats."
"Not to mention the future generations that'll have to suffer through tedious retellings."
A few years later, in 1892, Stead wrote another piece called "From the Old World to the New," in which a passenger on a ship called the Majestic has a future vision of an ocean liner running into an iceberg. The Majestic later runs into such a ship and helps rescue their passengers.
Twenty years later, in 1912, the Titanic crashed into an iceberg on a trip from England to New York City and about 1,500 people lost their lives because there weren't enough lifeboats. One of those people was W.T. Stead.
There's little record of what he did during his last hours, but presumably he went around telling everyone "I told you so!" and wishing he hadn't left his inflatable lifeboat home.
The Daily Mirror
The story later won the Pulitzer for outstanding achievement in the field of "I fucking warned you, you cheap-ass motherfuckers!"
There's more: The Majestic that Stead wrote about was a real ship, and like the Titanic, it belonged to the White Star Line. Also, the Majestic was captained by one Edward Smith, a name you might recognize if you tend to read the credits for James Cameron movies, because he was totally the captain of the Titanic, too. Stead himself wasn't included in the movie, possibly because his story was too unbelievable for a director who specializes in time traveling robots.