Uncanny Deaths

Dead Jockey Wins Race - On June 4th 1923, 22-year old stable hand turned stand-in jockey, Frank Hayes achieved the unthinkable and rode to a surprise victory over fan favorite Gimme, at Belmont Park in New York. His win itself shocked the crowd, what was to come would be even more shocking. After Hayes crossed the finish line atop the horse, Sweet Kiss, he tumbled from the saddle. Hayes' death was not discovered until the horse’s owner and race officials came to congratulate him shortly after the race. The man had suffered a fatal heart attack mid-race, but his body had somehow stayed in the saddle to jump the final fence and cross the finish line in first place. Never racing again, it was claimed that Sweet Kiss was nicknamed "Sweet Kiss of Death" for the rest of her life.

Austrian Man Trips on Beard and Dies - Hans Steininger was an Austrian man who became famous for having the one of the world’s longest beards. His beard was measured at over 4 ½ feet long in one long tendril with a forked tip. Steininger was also the mayor of his hometown of Braunau am Inn. On September 28, 1567, a fire broke out in the town, causing a great panic. According to folklore Hans would keep his beard rolled up in a leather pouch but failed to do so on this day. While standing at the top of a flight of stairs, in the midst of the chaos, he stepped on his own beard and tripped. As he fell, he tumbled down the stairs, breaking his neck in the process which killed him instantly. Before he was buried, the townspeople cut off his beard and locked it in a long glass case in the town’s historical museum, which can be visited today.

Earl Killed by Beheaded Enemy - Sigurd Eysteinsson, or Sigurd the Mighty, reigned from 875 to 892 and was the second Earl of Orkney, a leader in the Viking conquest of what is now northern Scotland. His death was said to have been caused by the severed head of an enemy whom Sigurd had defeated in battle several hours earlier. Sigurd challenged a native ruler, Máel Brigte the Bucktoothed, to a 40-man-a-side battle. However, Sigurd cheated and brought 80 men to the fight. The Scots were outnumbered and massacred, as Máel Brigte was defeated in battle and promptly beheaded by Sigurd. Tying the defeated leader’s head to his saddle as a trophy, Sigurd rounded up his men and rode back home to celebrate the victory. But as Sigurd rode, the severed head tied to the saddle bounced around and Máel Brigte's bucktooth scratched his leg. The wound on the leg quickly became infected and inflamed, and Sigurd died of the infection before he ever made it back home.

Man with Donor Heart Marries Suicide Widow, Also Commits Suicide - When 57-year-old Sonny Graham was suffering from congestive heart failure and needed a new heart in 1995, a donor heart had come available when 33-year-old Terry Cottle committed suicide. Cottle and his wife had a tumultuous marriage and he shot himself in the head after a particularly bad argument over money. After receiving the donated heart, Graham was so grateful that he began to send letters to Terry’s family to say Thank You. This led to continued correspondence with Terry’s widow. Two years later they met and fell in love. Feeling as if they had known each other for years, the two were married shortly thereafter. Just as she had with Cottle, his wife reportedly began harassing Graham about money after they were married. Over the nine years they were together, Graham piled up debts, many more than he could afford to pay off. Then, 13 years to the day after getting Terry’s heart, Graham committed suicide in the same exact way, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the throat.