The Science Behind Seven Of The World’s Most Horrifically Gruesome Deaths

Warning: Contains images that some might find distressing. 

There’s no way around it: we’re all gonna die. One of the only certainties in life is the simple fact that death is inevitable. How we die, however, is what sets us apart.

Some deaths are simple and easy, others are drawn out and tragic. The list you’re about to read includes some of the most horrific accounts of torture, misfortune, cruelty, and murder. 

The “Mad Monk” Who Just Wouldn’t Die

What doesn’t kill you makes your enemies try harder. That’s how the saying goes, right? At least, that’s how it went for Russia’s infamous “Mad Monk”. 

Rasputin was an ordinary man who later became a part of Tsar Nicholas II’s inner circle. A controversial and unsanctioned holy man, he was killed on December 30, 1916, in the basement of Moika Palace. He was accused of having an affair with a married noblewoman and conspiring with the Germans to spread cholera across the country with poisoned apples imported from Canada. 

The most notable account of his death is found in the pages of his murderer’s 1928 memoir. Felix Yusupov claimed he invited Rasputin to his palace, then served him cake and wine – both laced with potassium cyanide. Even a small amount of this poisonous chemical can kill a grown man within minutes by preventing body cells from using oxygen. 

But apparently Rasputin wasn’t any ordinary man and he survived the ordeal. Yusupov then shot him multiple times, which apparently still didn’t kill the faith healer. Yusupov then did what any rational cold-blooded killer would do and dropped Rasputin’s body in the frigid Neva River. His bashed and battered body was discovered a few days later. An autopsy revealed his lungs had water in them, indicating he might have been alive when he was dumped. 

[H/T: Smithsonian Magazine]

Rasputin’s daughter later dismissed Yusupov’s account, saying her father didn’t like cakes. Wikimedia Commons

The Man Who Was Struck With The Force Of An Atom Bomb And Lived (Briefly) To Tell The Tale

On September 30, 1999, workers at a Japanese nuclear fuel processing facility inadvertently set off an 18-hour nuclear chain reaction when they overloaded a sedimentation tank with seven times the amount of uranium approved. More than 70 people were exposed to high levels of radiation, including 35-year-old Hisashi Ouchi, who was struck with almost three times the amount of radiation believed to be fatal. The amount of energy that hit him was reportedly the equivalent to the hypocenter of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, causing the skin on his body to become black, blistered, and ultimately fall off

Despite the odds, Ouchi survived and was kept alive (some say against his will) for an agonizing 83 days. Radiation sickness destroyed his lymphatic cells, but doctors were able to keep him alive by treating him with drugs, pumping blood and fluid into him on a daily basis, and transferring blood cells from his brother.

Eventually, his heart failed for 70 minutes – but that still didn’t kill him. Doctors kept him alive and later treated him to maintain his blood pressure and pulse, which were probably erratic because of septicemia. However, he continued to lose fluids through his skin pores and ultimately died of organ failure. 

The amount of energy that hit Ouchi is reported to be equivalent to the hypocenter of the 1946 atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Wikimedia Commons


The Byford Dolphin Diving Bell Accident

On November 5, 1983, four divers on a North Sea drilling rig known as the Byford Dolphin were killed by explosive decompression in one of the most serious diving accident in history. 

The semi-submersible drilling rig contracted by British Petroleum could drill as deep as 6,000 meters (19,700 feet). Upon returning to the surface, two divers were in the diving bell, a chamber used to take people to depth, and two others were in a nearby chamber, both of which were highly compressed with high internal pressure. They were about to close the door to their chamber when an outside assistant mistakenly opened the diving bell clamp. The chamber decompressed from a pressure of 9 atmospheres to just 1 in a fraction of a second, killing all four divers and another attendant.  

The drilling rig measured 110 meters long, 67 meters wide, and 36 meters deep. Wikimedia Commons

A 1988 study on the incident found three of the divers were killed instantly when the drop in pressure caused the air and fluids in their bodies to expand rapidly and rupture. The diver closest to the door had his organs, spine, and limbs ejected and his remains exploded through a narrow gap in the chamber door. A liver was found on the deck “complete as if dissected out of the body.” 

Wikimedia Commons

Whatever You Do, Don’t Dive Head First Into A Yellowstone Hot Spring

On July 20, 1981, 24-year-old California man David Allen Kirwan was visiting Yellowstone’s famous Fountain Paint Pot when his friend’s dog “Moosie” ran off and jumped into Celestine Pool, a 94°C (200°F) hot spring. 

Kirwan was looking after the dog and after a bystander said “don’t go in there,” responded, “Like hell, I won’t.”  He took two steps into the pool before diving headfirst and swimming to the dog to pull it to shore. He gave up and climbed out muttering “that was stupid. How bad am I? That was a stupid thing I did.”

Turns out, he was pretty bad. When his friend stepped in to pull Kirwan out of the water, he suffered second-degree burns on his feet. Another visitor grabbed Kirwan by the hand but his skin sloughed off. He was apparently blind and his skin had gone totally white. His entire body suffered third-degree burns. 

Third-degree burns damage or completely destroy the top layers of the skin, in the process killing nerve endings, hair follicles, and sweat glands. Fluid seeps from the burned area causing dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Unless these fluids are replaced, renal shutdown and hypovolemic shock occur. In the absence of protective skin layers, risk of bacterial infection dramatically increases. 

Apparently, the lesson wasn’t quite learned. In 2016, a man dissolved in another boiling hot spring after he slipped when checking its temperature. 

A close up of Yellowstone’s Celestine Pool. Randy Hines/Shutterstock

The Man Who Was “Steamed Like A Lobster” 

In 2002, a 25-year-old bartender was killed when he fell 5.5 meters (18 feet) into a concrete pit that was flooded with boiling hot water, reported The New York Times

Kyle McGarity was apparently roughhousing with a friend, who was later charged with second-degree murder – around 5am when he fell into a steaming manhole in New York City. When police arrived, they found McGarity’s body at the bottom of the hole and his friend hanging on the rim. 

A small leak in a pipe was venting steam so hot that rescue workers weren’t able to pull McGarity to safety for several hours. They waited as they listened to his cries as he was “steamed like a lobster“. The outer layer of his skin peeled off and his internal organs were cooked. There was no sign of broken bones or head trauma, indicating he was alive and conscious while being steamed to death. An autopsy revealed 60 percent of his body had been scalded by steam burns. 

Death by manhole is more common than we like to admit. You can find other tragic tales here, here, here, here, and here

Drop of Light/Shutterstock


The Boozy Irishman Who Wouldn’t Die

There are those who are tried time and again by death, sometimes without even knowing it. The story of Irishman Michael Malloy is just that. 

Malloy apparently had no friends or family, no birth certificate, and no job, but he certainly loved a drink. In 1932, a group of men convinced him to take out a life insurance policy and name one of them as his beneficiary. 

Later called the “Murder Trust”, the four men gifted Malloy an open-ended tab at a local speakeasy. Their plan was to drink him to death, and for three days they came desperately close. Every night Malloy left with a promise to come back the next day, and every day he did just that. 

Naturally, the boys moved on to something a bit heavier and mixed Malloy’s liquor shots with a more potent (and deadly) wood alcohol. He drank without hesitation until one night he unexpectedly crashed to the floor, his breathing becoming labored. As the men gathered around to catch the man’s last breaths, they heard a rumbling snore escape his lips. 

Tabs started to add up and the gang became desperate. They served Malloy oysters that had been tainted in denatured alcohol (ethanol with additives that make it poisonous), which Malloy washed down with wood alcohol. They fed him a sandwich made with rotten sardines seasoned with shrapnel, which he scarfed down without incident. Clearly, Malloy’s digestive system was one of wonders, so the Murder Trust took a new path and left the passed out man shirtless on a park bench in the dead of winter. They found him later at the speakeasy complaining of a “wee chill”. 

Determined, the crew dragged the drunken old man to the middle of the street and attempted to run him over. Twice he dodged the car, but on the third time, he was struck at 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour. Not wanting to be around when his body was found, the men took off. Five days later – no joke – he walked into the bar, battered and bandaged, and said: “I sure am dying for a drink!” 

Seven months went by before Malloy eventually died in a tenement less than a mile from the speakeasy. A rubber tube was found running from a gas light fixture to his mouth while a towel was wrapped around his head. A friend of one of the murderers filed a death certificate citing lobar pneumonia, and the Murder Trust received $800 from the insurance company.

Following an investigation, the four were tried and convicted of murder and sent to the electric chair. They, however, were killed on the first try.

[H/T: Smithsonian Magazine

The speakeasy frequented by Malloy. Wikimedia Commons

The Tortured Assassin 

For his role in the Dutch revolt against the Spanish, assassin Balthasar Gerard was gruesomely tortured over the course of several days in 1584.

First, he was lashed by a whip. His torturers then put honey in his wounds and brought a goat to lick it off (the goat wasn’t into it). Overnight, his hands and feet were bound and he was forced to (try to) sleep in the shape of a ball. He later had a 150-kilogram (330-pound) weight attached to each big toe for half an hour. Afterward, he was fitted with shoes made of uncured dog skin that were two fingers shorter than his feet. They were then shrunk by heat from a fire, crushing his toes. His armpits were branded, he was dressed in an alcohol-soaked shirt, burning bacon fat was poured over him, and sharp nails were stuck between the flesh and nails of his fingers and toes. 

And that was just the torture. 

He was ordered to die by having his flesh torn from his bones using pincers, before being quartered and disemboweled alive. His heart was ripped from his chest and flung in his face, and, after all that, he was beheaded.  

Balthasar Gerard. Wikimedia Commons

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