Close your eyes and picture your ideal death. Chances are, you're picturing either an elderly version of yourself peacefully snoring into Death's thanatopic embrace or a 'roided-out version of yourself collapsing handsomely after saving fistful over fistful of puppies from a flame-engulfed puppy mill. Either way, you're hoping for a dignified departure.
But for the truly unlucky among us, our jackass deaths will be cataloged by incredulous historians for all eternity, so that the smug living will be briefly entertained. Here are the poor bastards whose deaths have turned into unintentional punchlines centuries after the fact.
Defending someone against a murder charge isn't a case of devising a cunning legal argument or finding exonerating evidence. It's a matter of finding the level of shenanigans that the judge will put up with before throwing your ass in jail for contempt. Or at least that's what popular culture makes it seem like. Honestly, we don't really pay attention to the news.
When this approach has been tried in real life, however, it hasn't ended well. In 1871, Clement Vallandigham was tasked with exonerating a local man from the charge of having blown someone away during a bar brawl. It seemed like a cut-and-dried case of murder until Vallandigham got all CSI on their asses. Using a rudimentary experiment, he was able to prove that the victim shot himself while pulling out a gun (presumably to do some murdering of his own). When the time came to demonstrate this, Vallandigham imitated the victim with perfect accuracy ... including the part where he shot himself.
In his haste to prepare for court, Vallandigham had picked up the wrong revolver. Instead of the empty revolver specially purchased for court, he'd chosen the loaded revolver he'd used in his experiments. According to accounts, Vallandigham lasted a heroic 12 hours before expiring from a combination of shock, blood loss, and just, like, the worst case of embarrassment. And, as it'd be dumb otherwise, his client also went free.
When ranking badass careers from history, gladiator must be up there with sex inventor and astronaut, right? Well ... not quite. While some gladiators were regarded as heroes, the majority were criminals and prisoners of war sentenced to fight as a form of capital punishment. The best that these guys could hope for was a merciful death. When those opportunities for a good death weren't available, some just had to make do.
For instance, take the gladiator who -- according to the writer Seneca -- was preparing his daily routine of being stabbed and mauled when he pretended to go pee (one of the few things that he could do without a guard) in order to choke himself to death using a sponge that was also used to wipe people's asses. We don't want to glamorize this sort of thing, but that's dedication and a whole new way of thinking about how to tell people to eat shit and die.
But however committed this doomed, unknown warrior might've been, his resolve is nothing compared to the 29 prisoners who, according to the historian Symmachus, strangled each other in their cell before the next day's fight. We don't want to seem dark, but how would that even work? Did they arrange themselves in a big circle or what? Would it have killed someone to sketch this out?
Jean-Baptiste Lully was a world-famous 17th-century composer. As there's a good chance you didn't know of his existence until 1.12 seconds ago, we're going to spare you a review of his musical accolades and focus on his death by that age-old killer: rhythm.
While directing a performance of "Te Deum" in 1687, Lully got so into the music that he accidentally crushed his own foot with a conducting baton. This probably seems like the sort of thing that most of us could walk off. After all, we've all seen musical conductors waving those little sticks around. Aside from jabbing one in your eye hole, how much harm could they really do? In line with the popular trend of the time, Lully wasn't waving a little stick around. His baton was more like a baseball bat (i.e., not the sort of thing that you want to drop on your foot).
The result of this injury was an abscess on his foot, which soon became infected. The only solution was to amputate the foot ... which Lully refused to allow because it might have stopped him from dancing in the future. His body was living out the plot of Footloose and his mind wasn't having it. Which is funny because his foot was loose in the sense that it turned gangrenous and killed him.
"Funny" probably wasn't the right word to use there.
We might not have any fancy medical degrees past this one we bought off eazymisspelleddplomas.com, but we can guarantee that there's no better cure for the common cold/flu/Ebola than wrapping yourself in a blanket and watching Die Hard. However, take care. There's a right way to do this (with ice cream!) and a wrong way, as Charles II can attest.
Charles II, otherwise known as "Charles The Bad" to only himself, was the ruler of Navarre, a tiny then-country wedged between Spain and France. He was fond of using his position to be an utter shithead. During the Hundred Years' War fought between England and France, he continually changed sides depending on how much the other guys were paying him. In essence, he was a cut-price Littlefinger without the charm and fashion sense. After everyone got tired of his shit, he was deposed and left in ruins. However, the universe hadn't finished with him yet.
In 1387, he was left paralyzed by an outbreak of illness. As the story goes, he would often order his maid to full-body swaddle him in alcohol-soaked linen for relief, because, fuck it, what's the point in being a king when you can't do a full-body shot every now and again? Unfortunately, his maids weren't the brightest. When one noticed an errant thread during one such swaddling, she decided to burn it off with a candle. Hey, remember that alcohol? She didn't. Or at least she didn't until he went up like the devil's own cigar.
After his death, his enemies used the nature of his gruesome end as evidence of divine will, because in the 14th century, God was an invention of Quentin Tarantino.
In fiction, every bad guy gets their comeuppance by arrogantly underestimating their foes. The Empire assumes that the Rebellion are dumb, backwater hicks. The Joker gets a dose of social-experiment-destroying humanity courtesy of the citizens of Gotham City. Oh, and every villain lets 007 know every facet of their plan, often for nothing more than shits and giggles. It's not just popular culture that loves this trope, however. History is a pretty big fan too.
In 892, the Orkney islands of Scotland were bracing themselves for an epic Battle Of The Bastards-style clash between two local warlords: Sigurd The Mighty and Mael Brigte The Bucktoothed (nicknames sucked back then). In a last-ditch effort for peace, the two sides agreed to meet and hash out a deal. This meeting ended, however, with Sigurd betraying Mael Brigte and massacring everyone. Sigurd, as you can tell, was a bit of a dickhead.
According to sagas from this era, after ordering his men to decapitate Mael Brigte's corpse and tie the head to his horse as a trophy, Sigurd set out for home. Except, he'd made one fateful error: He'd underestimated how badly the spirit of Mael Brigte now wanted to f**k him up. And Mael Brigte had the perfect weapons. After the horse hit a bump in the road, Mael Brigte's enormous teeth grazed Sigurd's ankle, infecting him with the sorts of nasty bacteria that you'd expect in an age where dental hygiene wasn't a thing yet.
You know how this ends. As a result of this impromptu zombie attack, Sigurd's leg became horribly infected, and after what we imagine were days of unbelievable agony, he died. If there's anything that we're taking away from this story, it's that a) toothbrushes are for the weak and ill-prepared, and b) old-timey warfare was so messed up we'd call bullshit if we ever saw anything like this on Game Of Thrones.
Although you don't know the name, you've read his work. Gouverneur Morris was the guy responsible for writing a significant portion of the Constitution, most notably the parts that told slave-owners to fuck off. Like most group projects, however, he was soon overshadowed by his lazier contemporaries, except in one area: stabbing his own dick to death from the inside.
Oh, you might want to prepare yourself if you're toting a penis. As much as the internet loves to mock trigger warnings, here's one: Watch out, because your legs are about to twist themselves into a junk-protecting knot that wouldn't be amiss in an M.C. Escher painting.
In 1816, Morris was suffering from a urinary blockage -- as much as he (and his doctors) wanted and tried to resolve the situation, he couldn't pee. Effectively, he had the equivalent of the Hoover Dam inside his urethra and, driven mad with discomfort, he decided that it was time to go a'busting. (Play this as you read the next few sentences.) Taking a sharp piece of whalebone from his wife's corset, he plunged that sucker down his urethra like he was staking a snakey vampire. And he kept ramming and ramming and ramming, until he eventually withdrew, defeated.
via Wiki Commons
The innards of his junk were so mangled and lacerated from his trip downtown that he looked like he'd instead attempted surgery with a velociraptor. In the end, necrosis first took care of his junk and, eventually, his life.
What's The Best Fictional School To Attend? In the muggle world, we're not given the opportunity for a magical hat to tell us which school we should go to. Usually we just have to go to the high school closest to where we live or whatever college accepts our SAT scores and personal essay. This month, our goal is to determine what would be the best fictional school to go to. Join Jack, Daniel, and the rest of the Cracked staff, along with comedians Brandie Posey and Steven Wilber, as they figure out if it's a realistic school like Degrassi or West Beverly High, or an institution from a fantasy world like Hogwarts with its ghosts and dementors, or Bayside High, haunted by a monster known only to humans as Screech. Get your tickets here!
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