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The Baby Died - Morbid Curiosities found in Old Newspapers
September 21, 2012 2:05 PM   Subscribe

A fellow tried to impress his friends by fitting a billiard ball in his mouth - he died. A young woman laced her corset too tightly - she died. A woman fell down the stairs, which caused one of her hairpins to penetrate her skull - she died. And, of course, many people had horrible encounters with mill and farm machinery. Predictably, they died. (warning-occasionally graphic descriptions of death and dismemberment, mostly from the late 19th century).

Luckily, not everyone died. Some just had a bit too much too drink, others... well, they probably also had a bit too much to drink.

The Baby Died - a collection of Morbid Curiosities found in Old Newspapers.
posted by cilantro (59 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bill Bryson tends to collect unusual death reports and find any excuse to mention them in his books. I think there was an index entry "Death By Chair (3)" that haunted me for a while.
posted by The Whelk at 2:07 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


also, note to self: do not fuck with the pigs at Galway.

I'm continuously amazed that anyone survived the industrial revolution.
posted by The Whelk at 2:11 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Those are people who died, died
Those are people who died, died
They were all my friends doing dumb stunts, and they died
posted by msalt at 2:11 PM on September 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


They were doing dumb stunts, and they died
Not necessarily.
posted by hat_eater at 2:15 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this is a Victorian r/WTF?
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:16 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like "TERRIBLE AND EXCITING SCENES IN THE STREETS" (Electric Disaster in Liverpool).
posted by paduasoy at 2:16 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


But were any of the deaths Attributed to Lizards in Her Stomach?
posted by CyberSlug Labs at 2:17 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


A fellow tried to impress his friends by fitting a billiard ball in his mouth, and lost a bet to Arnold Rothstein.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:17 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Luckily, not everyone died.
Sure, they did.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:18 PM on September 21, 2012 [14 favorites]


The ladies got out of the carriage and ran to the assistance of the dog, which they fondled and made a great fuss of, and then they got into their carriage and drove away without so much as casting a glance at the ill-starred cyclist, who was lying in a ditch, bruised and bleeding and nearly unconscious, and whose bicycle was doubled up beside him. (Yorkshire Evening Post, April 30th, 1901)

100 year old hit-and-run!
posted by The Whelk at 2:18 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Explain the billiard ball to me. Guy puts it in his mouth, and he can't breath through his nose? Is it supposed to close off his trachea?
posted by dfriedman at 2:20 PM on September 21, 2012


There was an old lady...
posted by symbioid at 2:22 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking, how would you NOT die after putting a billiard ball in your mouth?
posted by msalt at 2:23 PM on September 21, 2012


Brings to mind the Arcata Eye Police Log, but more serious, of course. ;)
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 2:26 PM on September 21, 2012


Irish Wakes seem particularly dangerous.
posted by cilantro at 2:26 PM on September 21, 2012


Billiard ball gentleman?

I'm guessing starved to death.
posted by notyou at 2:27 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The billiard ball story reminded me of those giant jawbreakers they used to sell in supermarket candy machines in the 80s. I always thought those things were a lawsuit waiting to happen. Do they still sell those?
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:27 PM on September 21, 2012


So, I'm recalling my anatomy...I'm assuming that the presence of the billiard ball in the mouth triggers the epiglottis to close off the trachea, and that's why one who has a billiard ball stuck in his mouth will eventually expire.
posted by dfriedman at 2:29 PM on September 21, 2012


Not all of the deaths on the actual blog are self-inflicted, but the first few described in the FPP made me think that this was going to be some sort of 19th century Darwin Awards, which would have felt strangely appropriate.
posted by asnider at 2:30 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my forebears had a twin who sadly died in childhood. For many years it was a family story how a goat had crushed him to death. We could only imagine the poor soul petting this animal quite innocently, only to receive a fatal blow from the beast's hooves.

Until one day my grandfather came by and asked, "Do you remember the story of Medleycote's brother?".

"Yes, of course," I replied.

"Well, I've discovered he died in the Grand Junction Canal."

"That doesn't make sense, what was a goat doing in the canal?"

"It was a boat. A BOAT! All these years, he was crushed by a boat!"



In a rather happier turn of events, my great-great-grandmother's first husband was crushed by a falling haystack.
posted by Jehan at 2:32 PM on September 21, 2012 [45 favorites]


I'm continuously amazed that anyone survived the industrial revolution.

Oh yeah? Who? Show me.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:33 PM on September 21, 2012 [14 favorites]


I can't help but hear this post in the voice of Sam and Lindsay's dad on Freaks and Geeks.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:36 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Of course, lifeless.
posted by The Deej at 2:39 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know an old lady who swallowed a fly. . .
posted by Danf at 2:41 PM on September 21, 2012


I'll humbly offer my similar site as linked at MeFi Projects, which has literally hundreds of similar reports from North Dakota. Old newspapers are downright terrifying in their explicit descriptions of what happened to people -- particularly those who were expected to survive despite the horrible injuries.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, Charles Darwin had already published his Magnum Opus by that period, so it makes sense that people would immediately get started on trying to win the Darwin Awards.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:52 PM on September 21, 2012


The billiard ball story reminded me of those giant jawbreakers they used to sell in supermarket candy machines in the 80s. I always thought those things were a lawsuit waiting to happen. Do they still sell those?

I have this weird "too much gum" nightmare that plagues me every couple of months like an "all my teeth are loose" nightmare. I am just happily chewing large amounts of gum but then I have to talk but can't so i pull gum out and them more gum and more gum. It just goes on and on like a clown handkerchief and I have hands full of gum and the person/people I was trying to talk are just looking at me with horror and disgust.

I blame those jawbreakers for this nocturnal psychic torment. I'll probably have this dream again tonight.
posted by srboisvert at 2:57 PM on September 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


"also, note to self: do not fuck with the pigs at Galway."

Good advice anywhere for small children. When I was a little girl my grandfather had pigs and my brother and I were seriously warned to stay away from them. They were huge, ugly and scary, so I really did not need to be warned.

Other grandpa was from Galway, I'm sure the pigs are extra fierce there, and hungry.
posted by mermayd at 2:57 PM on September 21, 2012


So, basically, this is about People Who Died.
posted by HuronBob at 3:03 PM on September 21, 2012


Stupid death stories are /b/.

If people didn't take risks, the Blue wouldn't exist. Bad ideas end in death, good ideas may also end badly. Think of the steam age, the exploded flesh that perfected reciprocating engines and turbines. Think of astronauts, in our own time, who burned on the launch pad. If humans lost the abilty to dare unknown outcomes, well, Eloi cruising /b/ awaiting death.
posted by Mblue at 3:04 PM on September 21, 2012


my apologies to msalt, whose post I did not see.
posted by HuronBob at 3:05 PM on September 21, 2012


Sure, they did.

Spoilers!
posted by yoink at 3:15 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


From AzraelBrown's link:
He was carried by the bystanders into the office of a surgeon where his wounds were dressed and on the following morning he was taken to Minot to the hospital, where he could get the care necessary to keep him in the land of the living...

...Mr. Sheldahl recieved a telephone message yesterday to the effect that the patient was doing as well as could be expected and that if no complications set in he has a good show to get well, although his face will be doubtlessly mutilated for life.
I wish reporters still wrote like this.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:15 PM on September 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: Eloi cruising /b/ awaiting death.
posted by localroger at 3:23 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If people didn't take risks, the Blue wouldn't exist. Bad ideas end in death, good ideas may also end badly. Think of the steam age, the exploded flesh that perfected reciprocating engines and turbines. Think of astronauts, in our own time, who burned on the launch pad. If humans lost the abilty to dare unknown outcomes, well, Eloi cruising /b/ awaiting death.
Most of these folk didn't die because they had "the ability to dare unknown outcomes". They died because they did something unutterably stupid. Nobody would remember Neil Armstrong today if his own claim to fame was choking to death on a billiard ball stuck in his throat.

"One small swallow for man, one giant gulp for mankind."
posted by Jehan at 3:29 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Unless you were being sarcastic, that is, which I actually hope you were.
posted by Jehan at 3:30 PM on September 21, 2012


Nobody would remember Neil Armstrong today if his own claim to fame was choking to death on a billiard ball stuck in his throat.

Are you kidding? Some guy chokes to death on a billiard ball ON THE FUCKING MOON and we're just going to forget about that?
posted by yoink at 3:35 PM on September 21, 2012 [25 favorites]


The billiard ball story reminded me of those giant jawbreakers they used to sell in supermarket candy machines in the 80s. I always thought those things were a lawsuit waiting to happen. Do they still sell those?

We were in a fancy-pants fake olde timey candy store this past weekend and they had them in apothecary jars. Oh, the whining and pleading.
posted by looli at 3:36 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, that was disturbing.
posted by Catseye at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't help but hear this post in the voice of Sam and Lindsay's dad on Freaks and Geeks .

I had this one.
posted by dumbland at 4:09 PM on September 21, 2012


I had to read this one through my fingers...
As the elder Craven was leaving the boiler-house he heard a noise in the logwood grinding place, as if some hard substance had got into the cog wheels of the machinery. On examination
No no no no don't go look in the grinder, DON'T GO LOOK IN THE GRINDER
he found that it was the body of his own son.
AAAAAAAAGH
posted by theatro at 4:18 PM on September 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


His wife, who is caretaker of a local place of worship, found this message in pencil on a form in the chapel : "Don't go into the cellar alone." On investigation
nooooooooo don't go down there

(On the other hand, I quite like this one.)
posted by theatro at 4:23 PM on September 21, 2012


so, I mean, we replaced this with Hoarders and Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo (that was hard to type with the shuddering) so that's better, right?
posted by ninjew at 4:33 PM on September 21, 2012


This post reminds me of the joke about the guy who died at the brewery:

Brenda O'Malley is home making dinner as usual, when Tim Finnegan arrives at her door. "Brenda, may I come in?" he asks. "I've somethin' to tell ya."

"Of course you can come in. You're always welcome, Tim. But where's my husband?"

"That's what I'm here to be tellin' ya, Brenda. There was an accident down at the Guinness brewery."

"Oh, God no!" cries Brenda. "Please don't tell me, "

"I must, Brenda. Your husband Shamus is dead and gone. I'm sorry."

Finally, she looked up at Tim. "How did it happen, Tim?"

"It was terrible, Brenda. He fell into a vat of Guinness Stout and drowned."

"Oh my dear Jesus! But you must tell me true, Tim. Did he at least go quickly?"

"Well, no Brenda, no."

"No?"

"Fact is, he got out three times to pee."
posted by 4ster at 4:48 PM on September 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


I have this weird "too much gum" nightmare that plagues me every couple of months like an "all my teeth are loose" nightmare. I am just happily chewing large amounts of gum but then I have to talk but can't so i pull gum out and them more gum and more gum. It just goes on and on like a clown handkerchief and I have hands full of gum and the person/people I was trying to talk are just looking at me with horror and disgust.

I used to have this very same recurring dream. It stopped when I got my sleep apnea treated, so I figured it was from the feeling of my soft pallet or whatever closing my airway.
posted by not that girl at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


From the same blogger.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2012


I once saw a trapeeze artist die a circus. I think that was on the news.
posted by Bonzai at 5:41 PM on September 21, 2012


*die AT a circus.
posted by Bonzai at 5:50 PM on September 21, 2012


A is for Amy who fell down the stairs.
B is for Basil assaulted by bears.
C is for Clara who wasted away.
D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh.
E is for Ernest who choked on a peach.
F is for Fanny sucked dry by a leech.

posted by SPrintF at 6:32 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


srboisvert: "The billiard ball story reminded me of those giant jawbreakers they used to sell in supermarket candy machines in the 80s. I always thought those things were a lawsuit waiting to happen. Do they still sell those?

I have this weird "too much gum" nightmare that plagues me every couple of months like an "all my teeth are loose" nightmare. I am just happily chewing large amounts of gum but then I have to talk but can't so i pull gum out and them more gum and more gum. It just goes on and on like a clown handkerchief and I have hands full of gum and the person/people I was trying to talk are just looking at me with horror and disgust.

I blame those jawbreakers for this nocturnal psychic torment. I'll probably have this dream again tonight.
"

Oh god, I have that dream too. But I figured out it happens when I'm thirsty, usually from sleeping on my back with my mouth open.
posted by deborah at 6:33 PM on September 21, 2012


I once saw a trapeeze artist die a circus.

I have a childhood memory of being at the circus and one of the performers falling from a high wire or something.

Yes, they really do send in the clowns. And it's creepy as hell, even for a little kid.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 6:53 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's got to be the oldest version of the old billiard ball story that pops up now and again.
From Wikipedia:
"A man impresses bar patrons by swallowing a billiard ball (the 8-ball in particular) and then bringing it back up. He tries to repeat the trick with a cue ball, but he chokes and asphyxiates on it due to the larger-diameter size of the ball. "

They even used it in the show Boardwalk Empire.
posted by eye of newt at 7:31 PM on September 21, 2012


This reminds me of a list of "Victorian death notices" which, I think, Jamie Zawinski posted a link to years ago. I've not been able to find it again, sadly, but it had some horrifyingly florid descriptions. One worker who fell into a machine was described as having his "flesh sticking to the cogs".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:35 PM on September 21, 2012


.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:37 PM on September 21, 2012


"Here, hold my beer & watch this!"
posted by five fresh fish at 10:38 PM on September 21, 2012


Jehan: " In a rather happier turn of events, my great-great-grandmother's first husband was crushed by a falling haystack."

Still happens today. ELO's Mike Edwards crushed by hay bale.

I too have the gum dream but it's also occasionally been about trying to spit out endless plastic pellets or pencil shavings. I'm always embarrassed and trying to hide it. I think it's when my mouth is too dry.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:00 AM on September 22, 2012


I have a childhood memory of being at the circus and one of the performers falling from a high wire or something.

Was this in Green Bay, WI? It could have been the same one.

How many hire wire deaths can there be?
posted by Bonzai at 8:44 AM on September 22, 2012


No, southern California, Bonzai. It's a pretty early memory for me, and I was born in 1964, so it would have been early 1970s.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:59 PM on September 22, 2012


Killed by falling on a hairpin... The father of a family in my childhood neighborhood was killed when he tripped and fell while smoking a pipe, the stem of which pierced his throat. Googling "death pipe stem throat" just now, I turned up a Montreal Gazette story from 1932 detailing a similar death, and another from the (Spokane?) Spokesman-Review from 1909.
posted by Creosote at 5:49 PM on September 22, 2012


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