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This Book Of Extraordinary Deaths Is So Darkly Charming

Have you heard the one about the undertaker who died under a pile of his own coffins?

Posted on November 1, 2018, at 1:07 p.m. ET

In The Book of Extraordinary Deaths: True Accounts of Ill-Fated Lives, artist Cecilia Ruiz illustrates and describes the noteworthy, bizarre, and, yes, extraordinary deaths of thinkers, writers, royals, athletes, and regular folks — from the 7th century BCE to the modern day. I’m *extremely* into it. Here are some of my favorites.


Draco, 7th century BCE

Following an address to the citizens of Aegina, Draco — the remarkable Athenian lawmaker — suffocated under a pile of cloaks that had been thrown to him as gifts of gratitude and admiration.

Dancing plague, 1518

In Strasbourg, Alsace, around 400 people, for no apparent reason, gave in to dancing for days without rest. The episode lasted more than a month, in which some people died from heart attacks, strokes, or simply of exhaustion.

Monsieur Le Pique, 1808

Monsieur Le Pique was a Frenchman who died in a duel that took place in the sky.

After an argument over a woman with his rival, Monsieur de Grandpré, the two gentlemen, who considered themselves above the rest of society, agreed that the best place to settle their dispute was among the clouds.

They ascended in hot-air balloons. Le Pique fired first but missed; Grandpré took aim and successfully struck his opponent’s balloon. The aircraft plummeted to the ground, killing both Le Pique and his unfortunate second.

Clement Vallandigham, 1871

Clement Vallandigham was an American member of Congress who died while defending a murder suspect on trial. In the course of arguing that the victim would have accidentally shot himself while drawing a gun, Vallandigham tried to prove his point by reenacting the scene. Unaware that the gun was loaded, he accidentally shot himself and made his case.

Marc Bourjade, 1982

Marc Bourjade was a French undertaker who died when a pile of coffins in his workshop fell on top of him. The coffin in which he was later buried was one of the ill-fated caskets.


All text and images are from The Book of Extraordinary Deaths by Cecilia Ruiz, courtesy of Blue Rider Press.


The Book of Extraordinary Deaths is available now.

Blue Rider Press

Get it from Amazon for $11.73, Barnes & Noble for $15.30, Indiebound, or find a copy at your local library.


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