7 Real Humans Who Survived Shockingly Violent Deaths
Human beings are such frail things. You step on a nail, you get tetanus, you die. You get too excited about eating pretzels, you choke, you die. You stand next to a guy, he sneezes on you, you die. We are the canaries in the coal mine of the universe, and we face mortality every single moment of every single day. We do -- these people don't ever face mortality because they're too busy giving it a wedgie and kicking its feet while it walks so it trips all over the place.
Charles Lightoller Survives A Lifelong Series Of Absurd Calamities
Charles Lightoller started sailing at the tender age of 13. Tragically, somebody put a "kick me" sign on his back, and, for the rest of his life, fate obliged. While setting out for an island, his ship was dismasted in a storm and had to get pulled into Rio for emergency repairs. During a rebellion and a smallpox epidemic. After leaving port, he sailed into another storm, got dismasted again, and washed up on an uninhabited island where he was marooned for eight days. Every time a little praying child wondered why God wasn't answering her, it's because He was somewhere else, trying to kill Lightoller.
Too bad for God -- Lightoller had the devil's own luck.
For the next several years, God threw everything He had at Lightoller. A tropical storm assaulted him on one ship. A massive coal fire assaulted him on a different ship. He caught malaria. He was the final boss for causes of death, and none of them could figure out how to beat him. So when Harland and Wolff built the most gigantic boat in the world, the Titanic, who else would they hire to be the ship's second mate?
Lightoller banged the universe's wife, and it was coming after him with everything it had.
"Yo, Nootaikok, can you do me a solid?"
As Lightoller sank with the Titanic, he was pinned to the deck by the tremendous suction of a zillion tons of sinking steel. However, instead of getting yanked to the bottom of the sea, the boilers under him exploded, launching him to the surface. With anyone else, that would sound like bullshit. With Lightoller, it only makes us wonder why he wasn't attacked by a giant squid at the same time.
After riding an explosion away from the biggest disaster in naval history, he rallied approximately 30 survivors onto a capsized lifeboat -- the very last lifeboat to be found. And, as the last one off that boat, he became the actual final Titanic survivor. If Lightoller was the star of a Final Destination movie, it would be 780 hours long and end with Death hanging itself out of frustration.
"Oh yeah, bony guy, carries a big metal thing? Rowed past him an hour back. Fella didn't make it."
But, Lightoller's story isn't over yet -- not even close.
After the sinking of the Titanic, Lightoller survived two more goddamn shipwrecks. After a lifetime on the sea, he very nearly destroyed every boat he touched. Lightoller actually found a way to use this power for good in 1918 when he rammed his ship into a German submarine, sinking it and earning a medal. Every single time this man asks, "What's the worst that could happen?" -- everybody within half a mile of him dies, and then he gets an award.
Mike Day Gets Shot 27 Times Before Massacring Terrorists
In 2007, Navy SEAL Mike Day was clearing houses in Iraq's Anbar province, a region that had been in a constant state of gunfight for four years. He was ambushed by four Al-Qaeda militants who shot him, from less than 10 feet away, 27 goddamn times.
Twenty. Seven. Times.
His rifle was shot out of his hand, 11 bullets hit his body armor, and 16 bullets hit his arms, legs, and torso. Those are Alabama road sign numbers, and we haven't even mentioned the grenade. That's right -- the insurgents, after shooting him 27 times, threw a grenade at Day.
The grenade exploded, and with his rifle gone, swiss cheese for armor, and a body full of new holes and shrapnel, Day pulled his sidearm and dropped all four insurgents. He then stood up, cleared the rest of the house, and walked to the helicopter.
The chopper hadn't been there before. It just spontaneously generated out of badassery.
After meeting Day, Al-Qaeda video store owners now categorize Die Hard and Terminator in the "American Documentaries" section. "Mike Day" is what Al-Qaeda members scream when they want their friends to wake up peeing. This man killed those insurgents so hard that when they got to paradise, all 72 of their virgins were pregnant with his babies.
Alistair Urquhart Survives Everything Both Sides Of World War Two Has To Offer
On Dec. 8, 1941, Japan launched the invasion of Malaya. And, like all Japanese occupations, it was a fun combination of atrocities and nothing else. Unfortunately for British infantryman Alistair Urquhart, he was among the men forced to surrender to the Japanese in Singapore.
Unconditionally. That wasn't going to bite the Japanese in the ass.
Urquhart and 50,000 other prisoners were treated with the dignity the nation of Japan reserved for all non-Japanese -- they were marched down a street lined with human heads and jammed into a building meant to hold 800 people. When this didn't work out, they were moved to Burma with a method called a "jungle death march." It was mostly what it sounds like. Being a prisoner of the Japanese army was a lot like being a Taco Bell burrito two hours after being eaten.
Urquhart survived the brutal, barefoot march and spent two years being beaten and starved by Japanese soldiers. He survived an alphabet soup of deadly diseases, including a tropical ulcer he treated by applying maggots to himself. And, if you're sitting there thinking about how you would handle this nightmare, let us assure you Urquhart tried that -- he spent seven days in an oven after kicking a Japanese guard in the dick.
"It was probably the part when I ran around yelling, 'GOOOOOOOOOOAAAALLLLL' that did it."
After two years of this torture, Urquhart and the shambling remains of the other surviving POWs were death-marched back to Singapore. When Urquhart arrived, the Japanese surprised him with a cruise to Japan. As you might imagine, it was aboard something historians now refer to as "Hell Ships." Seriously, historians really have trouble referring to any Japanese WWII facts without adding some kind of unspeakable adjective.
Urquhart's Hell Ship was especially unlucky, since an American submarine, unaware it was full of allied POWs, torpedoed the shit out of it. Urquhart managed to find a life raft in the night and, without food or water, floated alone for five days. Five days without water. After a shipwreck, two death marches, home maggot surgery, and 24 months of torture and starvation. And that's when an allied ship found him and brought him safely to- hahaha, just kidding; Urquhart was found and recaptured by a passing Japanese ship and then brought to his new home in Japan.
Home to some lovely shrines and delicious seafood.
Urquhart was working as slave in coal mines when the bomb hit, but like any of the thousand things that should have killed him, it didn't. He picked himself up, got liberated, went home, and lived a long and happy life, before passing away at the tender age of ... never. As of publishing time, Urquhart is 95 years old and ready, willing, and able to beat the shit out of you if you so much as look at him sideways, sonny.
Paul Templer Survived Being Eaten By A Hippo
Paul Templer ran a kayaking business in Zimbabwe, taking tourists down the hippo-filled Zambezi river. We mention it being filled with hippos because hippos are like a compact car that hates the living -- and because we're terrible at subtle foreshadowing. You can only kayak by a four-ton killing machine so many times before it realizes you're food in a cup. The hippo crashed into one of the group's boats, launching a guide into the air. And in the moment Templer turned around for him, he suddenly went blind and deaf.
"At first, I thought it was one of those Zimbabwean stealth eclipses you hear about."
After some wriggling and deduction, he soon figured out the top half of his body was inside of the hippo's mouth. He struggled out of what almost certainly smelled like a baby changing station at a Long John Silver's, and got to the surface where the hippo promptly decided to attack him again. Apparently, this godless killing machine wanted Templer to be really, really, super-extra fucking dead, so it just went complete turbo hippo mode on him. It threw him into the air over and over and over again, impaling him with its tusks each time he came down. Say what you want about its unprovoked savagery -- this was the four-homer of hippo attacks.
After stabbing Templer just under 40 times with its tusks, the hippo thought, "Jesus Christ, why won't this son of a bitch die? I'm just going to drown him and get it over with."
"Fuck it, next time, I'm just biting the head off Highlander-style."
So back down into the dark depths of the Zambezi river went Templer, this time with much less blood inside him. Incredibly, after all of that work, the hippo spat him back out again. Templer struggled to the surface and was dragged to shore by another kayaker. He owes his life to a guide who managed to seal his collapsing lung with a plastic wrapper he got from the snack supply. So, the lesson here is: When deadly hippos are trying to eat you, rub yourself in snacks.
With the kind of luck you wouldn't expect from a man recently eaten by a hippo, a fully-trained medical team happened to be nearby, in the middle of nowhere in Africa, doing an emergency drill. Thanks to them, Templer made it back to a hospital. He lost his left arm, which wasn't bad considering he was almost hippo cavities, and he returned to kayaking the same river. In fact, he says he's almost certain he ran into the same hippo two years later. And, while it didn't try to eat him, we're certain it was super awkward.
Saburo Sakai Survives A Simultaneous Headshot And Fiery Explosion
Saburo Sakai was a brilliant Japanese pilot that racked up a total of 64 air-to-air victories. He seemed to have fun doing it, too, as he's famous for taunting the allies by doing loop-de-loops over Port Moresby airfield. But, Sakai was not a heartless killing machine. He once spared a plane full of children and wounded soldiers, despite standing orders to shoot it down. On the opening day of the Battle for Guadalcanal, Sakai spared an outclassed American fighter pilot by aiming at his engine, giving him time to bail out. Truly, he was a gentleman's marauding sky killer.
"That's the worst thing about drone warfare. No one's got style anymore."
Minutes later, in the same battle, Sakai's Zero was blasted to pieces by an American tail gunner. His cockpit exploded, the canopy fell off, and his plane hurtled out of control and toward the ocean. Sakai himself was shot square in the forehead by a five-inch bullet, removing a decent chunk of his brain, blinding him in his right eye, and paralyzing the left half of his body. His burning, roofless plane plunged 7,000 feet before the flames were extinguished. Afterwards, Sakai pulled up, wiped away the blood with his scarf, and made the five-hour flight back to his base. He not only successfully landed his plane that day -- he invented the "30 extra lives" cheat code.
This was him, with the bullet fresh in his skull.
Sakai went back to flying combat planes, despite never recovering the vision in his right eye, and was wounded four more times. Of the 150 pilots in his unit at the start of WWII, he was one of just three to survive, and he's quite possibly the only pilot who fought from the very first day to the very last day of the war. Despite being on the wrong side of the bloodiest war in history, Sakai became good friends with many of the men he traded bullets. Such as Harry Jones, the tail gunner who exploded his plane and shot him in the head. To give you an idea of how committed Sakai was to his post-war camaraderie, he actually passed away from a heart attack while reaching across a table to shake hands with an American soldier. He died as friendly as he killed.
Linda Morgan Survives A Shipwreck While Sleeping
In 1956, the SS Andrea Doria was known as the fastest, safest ship in all of Italy. At least it was until a passenger ship from Sweden, the SS Stockholm, crashed into it -- instantly killing more than 50 people. Linda Morgan, a 14-year old girl onboard the Andrea Doria, never made it to a lifeboat and was presumed dead. She was last seen asleep in her cabin, which was last seen being hit by thousands of tons of cruise ship. By chance, her father was an ABC broadcaster, reporting live on the sinking. Despite the certain death of his daughter, he bravely stayed on the air, not even telling listeners that his own daughter was onboard the ship and assuredly dead. That's dedication to journalism.
Brian Williams would have told everyone he lost her in a wrestling match with a merman.
Here's the twist you never would have expected, given the title of this article: Linda wasn't dead. Yes, she was in her bed when her cabin was hit, and, yes, she had been run over by an ocean liner. But, the impact of the crash propelled her bed out of her cabin, out of the Andrea Doria entirely, and all the way up onto the Stockholm's damaged bow. She landed safely behind a bulkhead and was, of course, really confused when she woke up on a different boat.
"Where did the merman go? No one better have hurt him!"
She started calling out in Spanish, which led to some confusion among the Stockholm's Swedish crew. They finally located a translator and started piecing it together, presumably stopping every other sentence to call bullshit because it was four days until she was reunited with her father.
Roy Benavidez Survives A Knife Fight With A Vietcong Battalion
Roy Benavidez was at the White House, getting a Medal of Honor 13 years after the single most incredible one-man rampage of the Vietnam War. Former president Ronald Reagan himself told the assembled audience, "You are going to hear something you would not believe, if it were a script."
And this was coming from the star of Bedtime For Bonzo.
On May 2, 1968, Benavidez got a call that a special forces team was pinned down by an entire NVA battalion. He rushed to the helicopter so quickly that he didn't even grab his rifle and flew to the rescue, armed with nothing but a Bowie knife. After getting off the chopper, Benavidez had to make a 75-yard run to the SOG team. He was hit in the head by both a grenade and a gunshot, which would've been a hell of a combo, if Benavidez hadn't been using cheats. He shrugged it off, grabbed an enemy rifle, took command, and called in airstrikes on the enemy before dragging the wounded to a rescue helicopter. Benavidez, alone, stayed on the ground to provide covering fire for the helicopter as it moved to pick up the other wounded -- a plan that fell apart after the chopper was shot down.
Benavidez went to re-save the wounded he had just rescued and set up a defensive perimeter before running back into the open to retrieve some classified documents. He was shot several more times and hit by another grenade. When he got back from his suicide mission, he said, "I've been hit so many times, I don't give a damn no more." And he meant it because he was shot once more after he said it -- and didn't give any kind of a damn.
It bounced off a bullet already in there and cauterized the wound.
Six hours later, another helicopter arrived, and Benavidez again proceeded to evacuate the wounded ... until a Vietcong soldier smacked him upside the head with an AK-47, fracturing his skull and smashing his jaw. Benavidez wrestled his attacker to the ground, and, despite having already been stabbed, shot, and grenaded in both arms, managed to decapitate his assailant with that bowie knife. Because that's just good storytelling. Like Chekhov said: "You don't show the audience a knife unless you're going to chop off some sumbitch's head with it."
Benavidez then got back to evacuating the wounded, and, while he was it, shot two more NVA soldiers that tried jumping onto the helicopter. "Suck it, Vietnam," Roy Benavidez said with every single action he took.
Wham. Bam. Fuck you, 'Nam.
As Benavidez flew out, he was literally holding his intestines inside his body. He was so obliterated by all manner of weaponry that he was actually pronounced dead and put in a body bag. But as the doctor was zipping the body bag shut, Benavidez spat in his face to show him how wrong he was. We're not making that last part up -- this guy spent the entire day being Chuck Norris joke punchlines.
All in all, Benavidez saved eight American lives, and, despite being wounded 37 times and declared dead for a bit, he made a full recovery. And here's where the story really turns unbelievable: All of this happened after doctors declared he would never walk again. Two years before his rampage, Benavidez stepped on a land mine and became paralyzed. The military planned to discharge him, but Benavidez, through sheer testicular torque, recovered in a few months and went on to become a green beret. And that's only because there's no such thing as a chainsaw shark beret.
Zachary Frey is currently a student at Greenwich High School, and you can read all his other crazy articles and (not) be his friend here.
For more real-life Terminators, check out 5 Soldiers Whose Horrific Injuries Only Made Them Angry and 6 Soldiers Who Survived Shit That Would Kill A Terminator.
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