ISP #21 – Scary Ways to Die!!



On this episode, Jon, Erno, and the Mikes discussed some really terrifying ways to meet your demise. Fun topic, no?

Show notes:

Radiation: – Radiation poisoning sounds nice and terrifying. Although rare, it’s a particularly nasty way to go. A bit more info on what radiation poisoning does to you?  Early symptoms of ‘treatable’ radiation sickness are usually nausea and vomiting. The severe exposure symptoms are:

  • Nausea and vomiting within minutes.
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • weakness, fatigue
  • hair loss
  • bloody vomit and stools
  • infections
  • poor wound healing
  • low blood pressure
  • glowing pee ( I’m just guessing on this one )

Treatments for radiation sickness include:

  • Potassium iodide. This is a nonradioactive form of iodine. Because iodine is essential for proper thyroid function, the thyroid becomes a “destination” for iodine in the body. If you have internal contamination with radioactive iodine (radioiodine), your thyroid will absorb radioiodine just as it would other forms of iodine. Treatment with potassium iodide may fill “vacancies” in the thyroid and prevent absorption of radioiodine. The radioiodine is eventually cleared from the body in urine. Potassium iodide isn’t a cure-all and is most effective if taken within a day of exposure.
  • Prussian blue. This type of dye binds to particles of radioactive elements known as cesium and thallium. The radioactive particles are then excreted in feces. This treatment speeds up the elimination of the radioactive particles and reduces the amount of radiation cells may absorb.
  • Diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA). This substance binds to metals. DTPA binds to particles of the radioactive elements plutonium, americium and curium. The radioactive particles pass out of the body in urine, thereby reducing the amount of radiation absorbed.

A famous case of radiation poisoning in history was the Radium Girls. Female factory workers who painted watch dials with glow-in-the-dark paint at the United States Radium factory in Orange, New Jersey, around 1917. The workers were told that the paint was harmless and ingested deadly amounts of radium by licking their paintbrushes to keep the points fine for detailed painting. Some even painted their nails and teeth with the glowing paint.

The company hired around 70 women to perform a variety of tasks associated with handling the radium, while the company scientists and owners who were familiar with the effects of radium were careful to avoid exposure. Plant chemists used tongs, masks and lead screens when interacting with the radium. US Radium had even distributed literature to the medical community describing the dangerous nature of radium.

The Radium Girls suffered from anemia, bone fractures and necrosis of the jaw. The company faked at least one medical examination in order to discredit claims of radiation poisoning. For a while doctors, dentists, and researchers complied with requests from US Radium and other watch-dial companies to withhold data detailing the radiation sickness. At the behest of the companies, worker deaths were attributed by medical professionals to other causes. Often

Syphilis was cited as a convenient way to smear the reputations of the women.

MM: There actually used to be a whole cottage alt-med industry around radiation. People used to think that by lacing water with radon or radium, it’d become some sort of miraculous cure-all. But from what I can tell, what it typically cured people of was not having cancer. In the case of the fantastically-named Eben McBurney Byers (April 12, 1880 – March 31, 1932), who drank more than 1400 bottles of ‘Radithor’ (a patent medicine containing high concentrations of radium) over a period of three years at the recommendation of his doctor for a complaint of persistent pain after he fell from a bed on a train, his bones were so badly weakened that they had to remove most of his jaw. His brain was abscessed, and there were holes forming in his skull. He died of radium poisoning – no surprise there – and they had to bury him in a lead-lined coffin.

But it could still be worse. You could be Cecil Kelley, a chemical operator at the Los Alamos plutonium-processing facility. On December 30, 1958, he was working with a mixing tank that contained plutonium-laced water. Normally, there was supposed to be less than 0.1g of plutonium per liter of water, but for some reason, the concentration that day was 200 times higher. When Kelley turned on the stirrer, the water formed a vortex, with the plutonium separating out into a layer that went critical and released a huge burst of neutrons and gamma radiation. The burst lasted just 200 microseconds, but Kelley, who had been viewing the contents of the tank through a viewing window, fell off his foot ladder in shock. The people who found him heard him shouting incoherently; the only thing they could understand was “I’m burning up!” over and over again. They rushed him to the hospital, semiconscious, retching, vomiting, and hyperventilating. At the hospital, Kelly’s bodily excretions were sufficiently radioactive to give a positive reading on a detector. Two hours after the accident, Kelley’s condition improved as he regained coherence. However, it was soon clear that Kelley would not survive long. Tests showed his bone marrow was destroyed, and the pain in his abdomen became difficult to control despite medication. He died 35 hours after the accident.

At least radiation poisoning is relatively uncommon. There’s some pretty bad things out there that could spread pretty quickly if we can’t get a handle on them – and it’s partially our fault that they exist in the first place. Of course, I’m talking about super bugs – diseases and pathogens that, as a result of mutation, have gained antibiotic resistance or other defense and infection mechanisms that make them extremely hard to handle.

Super Bugs:

  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which 72 hours after infection can substantially take hold in human tissues and become resistant to treatment. Beginning as small red bumps that resemble pimples, spider bites, or boils: they can be accompanied by fever and occasionally, rashes. Over the course of a few days the bumps become larger and more painful; they eventually open into deep, pus-filled boils. MRSA infections can spread, infecting vital organs and lead to widespread infection, toxic shock syndrome, and necrotizing pneumonia (the dreaded flesh-eating virus that you may be somewhat familiar with).
  • Super Gonorrhea!! (sounds …. super?) A sexually transmitted bacterial infection, Gonorrhea can cause symptoms such as:
    • A burning sensation during urination (m/f)
    • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
    • Painful or swollen testicles (less common)
    • Increased vaginal discharge (probably not in men… probably)
    • Vaginal bleeding between periods
    • For men and women: rectal discharge, itching, soreness, bleeding and painful bowel movements.
    • Long-term symptoms?
      • Scar tissue that blocks the fallopian tubes
      • Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb – someone needs to explain this to me because WTF!)
      • Infertility
      • Long-term abdominal/pelvic pain
      • Pain in the tubes attached to the testicles
      • Sterility (more rare)
      • Increased risk of HIV/AIDS
      • Can also spread to your blood or joints, which is a life-threatening infection at that point.
  • Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as Staph infection). A tissue destroying infection that can cause a frighteningly wide array of complications.
  • Streptococcus and Enterococcus: More tissue destroying infections that will fuck your shit up and is often treated by removing large amounts of tissue (or even limbs) to prevent its spread.
  • Clostridium difficile: a pathogen that causes widespread DIARRHEAL DISEASE in hospitals worldwide. Poop yourself and neighbors to death??
  • Salmonella and E. Coli … Cook your fucking food, people.
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis: increasing around the globe, especially in developing countries, over the past few years. Symptoms include:
    • chronic cough
    • blood-tinged sputim (spit)
    • fever
    • night sweats
    • weight loss

Poisoning: –

The Iceman and Cyanide (Richard Kuklinski): Cyanide poisoning is a form of histotoxic hypoxia because the cells of an organism are unable to use oxygen. Inhalation, ingestion, absorption through the skin, injection, etc.. Richard Kuklinski is a somewhat well known killer who favored Cyanide for killing his victims. He would either spike the victim’s food, like a hamburger, spill it on someone in a crowded bar (pretending to be intoxicated), or fake a sneeze and spray it in the person’s face.

Defenestration: Simply put, this is being thrown from a window. Although I’ll group in just being thrown from any position of high altitude…

Some examples in history?

  • The year is 1203 -King John’s nephew, Arthur of Brittany, by King John himself from the castle at Rouen, France.
  • 1383 – Bishop Dom Martiño was defenstrated by the citizens of Lisbon, Portugal. He was suspected of conspiring with the Castilians who had besieged Lisbon.
  • On June 27, 1844, an armed mob with blackened faces stormed Carthage Jail where Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith were being held. Hyrum, who was trying to secure the door, was killed instantly with a shot to the face. Smith fired a pepper-box pistol, then sprang for the window. He was shot multiple times before falling out the window, crying, “Oh Lord my God!” He died shortly after hitting the ground, but was shot several times more before the mob dispersed.
  • On June 11, 1903, a group of Serbian army officers murdered and defenestrated King Alexander and Queen Draga.
  • In 1911, during the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (I recommend the Stuff You Missed in History Class episode on this), numerous people died after leaping from or falling out of windows. On this note, FIRE is a terrible way to die.
  • In 1977, as a result of political backlash against his album Zombie, Fela Kuti’s mother was thrown from a window during a military raid on his compound, the Kalakuta Republic by 1,000 Nigerian soldiers. The injuries sustained from the fall led to her death days later. In addition, the commanding officer defecated on her head, while the soldiers burned down the compound, destroying his musical equipment, studio and master tapes, and jailing him for being a subversive.
  • 1993 – Toronto lawyer Garry Hoy fell to his death after attempting to demonstrate the strength of his office tower’s windows.
  • Within the last year I read a story about a couple who were having sex against the window of their high rise apartment (in China, I think), when the window gave way and they fell to their deaths.


  • Religious Sacrifice/martyrdom
  • Plane Crash
  • Maule by a bear/tiger
  • Torture
  • Death by Rape
  • Grain Silo
  • Industrial accidents
  • Drowning – MM: I’m just terrified of this. I’ve had lots of nightmares where I’ve drowned.


  • Oklahoma Satanic Monument update – MM
    • A satanic group commissioned a statue of the devil, raising money to pay a sculptor who it won’t identify, as a way of protesting the Sooner State’s placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the Statehouse lawn in Oklahoma City. The statue, being sculpted in a New York studio, is nearly complete, according to Lucien Greaves, spokesman for the Satanic Temple.
    • “We’re really coming along fast,” said Greaves, whose group claims to have raised more than $20,000 for the project through an online crowd-funding site.
    • The statue of the Baphomet, or Sabbatic Goat, a figure that has been used to represent Satan for centuries, is to be made of bronze, poured over a clay mold. Images provided to show the hideous figure on a throne, with smiling children at each knee. Greaves’ organization seeks to force Oklahoma to allow placement of their statue or demonstrate what it considers an unconstitutional double standard.
    • “There will never be a satanic monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol and the suggestion that there might be is absurd,” Alex Weintz, spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said in a statement to
    • A Hindu leader in Nevada wants to put a monument at the Capitol, along with an animal rights group and the — satirical — Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In response, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission has put a moratorium on deciding new requests.

Links and Attributions:

Mayo Clinic – Radiation Sickness

Wikipedia – Radium Girls

Stuff You Missed In History Class – The Radium Girls

Listverse – 10 Famous Incidences of Death By Radiation

Wikipedia – Antibiotic Resistance

Wikipedia – MRSA

Mayo Clinic – MRSA Infection

CDC – Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea

CDC – STD Facts: Gonorrhea

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One Comment

  1. You missed the absolute worst way to die: rabies. Essentially 100% fatal, once symptoms have begun. It takes days to die and symptoms are horrific. Though rare in the first world, it is not terribly uncommon in the developing world.

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