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 ...
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?
"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.
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.
Abraham de Moivre was a renowned French mathematician who famously worked on mortality tables with Edmond Halley (of comet fame). That means he spent his whole life studying death through numbers -- using math and formulas, de Moivre produced a theory that you could figure out a person's life span based on death rates. By doing so, he also single-handedly threw every school kid's "Why am I going to need to know math, I'll never use it" argument out the window.
As if that wasn't enough, he was awesome in Young Frankenstein.
When de Moivre was 87, he noticed that he was sleeping 15 minutes longer each night. Still obsessed with math and death, he speculated that when those 15 minutes added up to 24 hours, he would simply not wake up.
"Three months? That's just enough time to empty the wine cellar."
According to his calculations, the date of his death would fall on November 27, 1754. Guess what happened on that day.
Apparently de Moivre wasn't one to go back on his speculations. Once you make a prediction like that, it becomes harder to, say, just not go to bed one night to throw the mathematics out of whack. After all, his reputation as a statistician was on the line here. And so he dutifully kept his routine and continued to rise and shine 15 minutes later each day ... and sure enough, the day that those minutes added up to 24 full hours, he died. The date was November 27, 1754. His official cause of death? "Somnolence." Apparently they wouldn't accept "Math."
Math, the silent killer.
So the next time you oversleep, that definitely means you are inching closer to death. We do wonder if de Moivre would be a 300-year-old immortal today if he'd just bought an alarm clock.
Arnold Schoenberg was one of the most important and hugely influential composers of all time, having introduced an "atonal" style of music that scandalized critics and listeners in the 1920s -- he was like a better dressed Marilyn Manson, in that sense. His music was abhorred by the Nazis, and he was kicked out of Germany, so he must have been doing something right.
Also, his grave is a fucking cube.
Schoenberg had a crippling fear of the number 13. He was born on September 13 and spent his whole life sure that he would die on the 13th of a month. His irrational phobia got worse every year, and he started going out of his way to avoid the number -- when he wrote an opera titled "Moses and Aaron," he realized the amount of letters added up to 13 (or "12A," as he called it), so he changed "Aaron" to "Aron." He once remarked, "It is not superstition, it is belief."
"Mainly because 'superstition' has 12 letters, and that's way too close."
But that's silly, of course. It's not like a number can actually kill you. Um, right?
As it turns out, Schoenberg's phobia wasn't so irrational. On his 76th birthday, a fellow musician, Oskar Adler, wrote him and said that the following year might be one to watch out for, as 7 + 6 = 13, which, yeah, was kind of a dick move, Oskar. Never tell Oskar Adler you're afraid of spiders because he'll throw one in your face while you sleep, people.
Anyway, the warning made Schoenberg more anxious than usual -- he always looked out for years that were multiples of 13, but he'd never considered that the ones that add up to 13 could be a problem, too. And so, on Friday the 13th, 1951, Schoenberg decided to stay in bed all day, since this has proven to be an effective method of avoiding being run over by trucks or crushed by falling boulders. After making it through the entire evening without event, at 11:45 p.m., Schoenberg's wife leaned over and told him, "You see, the day is almost over. All that worry was for nothing."
If you like baseball, you might know Frank Pastore as a Major League pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins in the 1970s and '80s; if you're into Christian radio, you probably know him from the most listened to Christian talk show in the United States, The Frank Pastore Show; and if you're into freaky coincidences, then you know him from the following story.
On his November 19, 2012 broadcast, Pastore and his listeners were discussing some of his favorite subjects, namely the immortality of the soul and riding bitchin' bikes. Pastore remarked:
"You guys know I ride a motorcycle, right? At any moment, especially with the idiot people who cross the diamond lane into my lane, without any blinkers -- not that I'm angry about it -- at any minute, I could be spread all over the 210."
You can listen to the exact moment he says that here:
There are those who believe you should knock on wood to keep the things you say from happening. Frank Pastore was not one of these people, apparently.
About three hours after he said that, Pastore was riding his motorcycle on the 210 freeway when a 56-year-old woman driving a Hyundai Sonata drifted into his lane and collided with his bike. Pastore fell on the freeway, just as he'd predicted during his show, suffered massive head injuries, and died a month later after being in a coma. And no, the woman wasn't an angry listener trying to show him up: His death was ruled accidental.
As far as unfortunate coincidences go, that about takes the prize, but on the other hand, the whole point of Pastore's last show was "Don't worry about me -- my soul is doing fine somewhere else, gorging on steaks the size of galaxies."
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images / bigtexan.com
In the final test, people who order well-done go to straight to hell.
Stephen can be found on Twitter and is really good at buying conditioner when he meant to buy shampoo.
For more way creepy predictions, check out 6 Eerily Specific World Events Predicted by Comics and The 5 Most Ridiculous Pop Culture Predictions That Came True.