Friday, March 19, 2010

happy deaths

207 BC: Chrysippus, a Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after watching his drunk donkey attempt to eat figs.

1673: Molière, the French actor and playwright, died after being seized by a violent coughing fit, while playing the title role in his play "Le Malade imaginaire" (The Hypochondriac).

1814: London Beer Flood, 9 people were killed when 323,000 imperial gallons (1,468,000 L) of beer in the Meux and Company Brewery burst out of their vats and gushed into the streets.

1871: Clement Vallandigham, U.S. Congressman and political opponent of Abraham Lincoln, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound suffered in court while representing the defendant in a murder case. Demonstrating how the murder victim could have inadvertently shot himself, the gun, which Vallandigham believed to be unloaded, discharged and mortally wounded him. His demonstration was successful, and the defendant was acquitted.

1912: Franz Reichelt, tailor, fell to his death off the first deck of the Eiffel Tower while testing his invention, the coat parachute. It was his first ever attempt with the parachute; he had told the authorities in advance he would test it first with a dummy.

* * *

"Unfortunately, pranks are usually identified with -- and limited to -- pre-adult stages of development. At the point of "adulthood" the multiplication of mischief must cease; youths are supposed to "grow out of" the need to perpetrate pranks as they accept society's restriction of their spirit through the progressive conventionalization of their behavior. The role model of the adult prankster is a scarce archetype indeed. But -- pranks can continue until one's dying breath: when he died, the great Surrealist Andre Breton was taken to the cemetery in a moving van."

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