Died Laughing

by MSO

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone." Ella Wheeler Wilcox

We’ve all heard the phrase “I just about died laughing” but did you know it can actually happen? Whether from heart failure, seizures or other conditions, there are some people who have left this world in the midst of a good belly laugh.

Calchas was a Greek soothsayer during the time of the Trojan War. One day he was planting grapevines when another soothsayer wandered by and foretold that Calchas would never drink the wine produced from the grapes. After the grapes ripened and the wine was made, Calchas invited the soothsayer to share it with him so as to dispute his prediction. As Calchas held a cup of his wine in his hand, the soothsayer repeated the prophecy. This incited such a fit of laughter from Calchas that he choked and died.

Zeuxis was a Greek artist in 5 BC. He started laughing at a painting of an old woman that he had just finished when his breathing failed and he choked to death.

Chrysippus, a Greek philosopher in 3 BC, was sharing his wine with a donkey. He died from a fit of laughter while watching the drunk donkey trying to eat some figs.

Philemon who wrote Greek comedies laughed so hard at one of his own jokes that he too died laughing.

In 1556, Italian author Pietro Aretino, who was the inventor of modern erotica, was laughing so hard at a bawdy story being told to him by his sister that he fell backwards in his chair and died of apoplexy.

Scottish writer Sir Thomas Urquhart 1660 is said to have died laughing upon hearing of the restoration of Charles II to the throne in England.

Mrs. Fitzherbert of England went to Drury Lane Theatre in April 1782 to see The Beggar’s Opera. When the popular actor Mr. Bannister made his first appearance, dressed as the character “Polly”, the entire audience burst into laughter. Mrs. Fitzherbert, unable to control herself was forced to leave the theatre before the end of the show. As the Gentleman’s Magazine reported the following week, “Not being able to banish the figure from her memory, she was thrown into hysterics, which continued without intermission until she expired on Friday morning.”

In 1975, English bricklayer Alex Mitchell, and his wife were watching their favorite TV show, The Goodies. During a scene where a kilted Scotsman was flailing away at a vicious black pudding with his bagpipes, Mitchell was seized by uncontrollable laughter. He laughed for twenty-five minutes before he suffered a heart attack and died. His wife, wrote to The Goodies thanking them for making her husband’s last moments so happy.

In 2003 an ice cream truck driver in Bangkok died while laughing in his sleep. According to his wife who tried to wake him up, he laughed for two minutes before he stopped breathing. An autopsy revealed that he may have had a heart attack.

In 1989, Danish audiologist Ole Bentzen was watching the movie A Fish Called Wanda. He started laughing during a scene with John Cleese and his heartbeat accelerated to a rate of between 250 and 500 beats a minute. He had a heart attack and died.

This doesn’t mean you should stop laughing though because the benefits of laughter far outweigh the drawbacks. Keep laughing and do it with a passion that tells the world you are ready for this to be the last thing you ever do. There are worse ways to go!


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