13 Authors Who Died in Spectacularly Gruesome Ways

Who knew writing was such a dangerous profession?

By Renata Sweeney
13 Authors Who Died in Spectacularly Gruesome Ways

We all have to shuffle off this mortal coil, but when these famous authors faced the Grim Reaper, they went to their graves in spectacular ways. From a rock-bombing eagle to a lethal cocktail toothpick, peruse our list of unlucky, unlikely, and occasionally violent ends to 13 inspired lives.

Tennessee Williams (Pictured Above)

Famed playwright Tennessee Williams, author of A Streetcar Named Desire, choked to death on the cap of his eye drops in his New York City apartment in 1983. Apparently, he was in the habit of keeping the cap in his mouth while he put drops in.


Edgar Allan Poe

edgar allan poe

This mysterious poet, short story writer and inventor of the detective genre was discovered unconscious in a ditch on October 3, 1849 … in someone else’s clothes. Thought drunk and taken to a local Baltimore hospital, he died four days later after exhibiting mysterious symptoms such as delirium and hydrophobia. Although modern doctors still can’t say for certain, they believe that the author of “Tell-tale Heart” and “The Raven” may have had rabies.

Related: 6 Theories About Edgar Allan Poe’s Mysterious Death


Christopher Marlowe

christopher marlowe

This Shakespeare contemporary and author of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was purportedly stabbed in the face over a disputed bar tab in an English tavern circa 1593.


Dan Andersson

dan andersson

Swedish poet Dan Andersson was simply the victim of atrocious customer service. The Charcoal Burner’s Tales author died in his Stockholm hotel room in 1920 because the front desk forgot to notify him that the hotel was being bug bombed that day. That was back when the favored pesticide was pure cyanide.




Often called “the father of Greek tragedy,” playwright Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped turtle on his shiny bald head in Italy in 456 B.C. Yes, you read that right. As eagles normally consume turtles by flying them up and dropping them onto a large rock or stone, legend has it the eagle mistook the Prometheus Bound-writer’s head for a rock.


Lord Byron, Thomas Chatterton, and Percy Blysse Shelley

byron, chatterton, shelley

These rockstars of Romantic poetry all met rather unsettling ends. Byron died after a botched bloodletting in Greece in 1824, where the British Lord had caught a fever while fighting in the Greek Revolution. English poet, amateur forger, and inspiration to the romantics, Chatterton purposely drank arsenic to avoid succumbing to starvation and privation. And Shelley drowned in a sailboat accident of the coast of Italy in 1822. His body washed ashore and was cremated. Except for his heart, which, according to legend, wouldn’t burn.


Sherwood Anderson

sherwood anderson

The acclaimed writer of Winesburg, Ohio was on a South American cruise near Panama when he accidentally swallowed a cocktail toothpick. It punctured something important and he died two days later (March 8, 1941) of peritonitis.


Seth Morgan

seth morgan

The hard living author of Homeboy drove his motorcycle face-first into a concrete pylon on a New Orleans freeway in 1990. In a classic case of overkill, he was high on Percodan, cocaine, and three times the legal alcohol limit at the time.


Francis Bacon

francis bacon

The British politician, author, and philosopher, ever the renaissance man, decided to conduct an experiment in meat preservation. He was, after all, the inventor of the scientific method (in Novum Organum Scientiarum). So he went out in the middle of a blizzard to stuff a dead bird full of snow and died of pneumonia two days later in 1626.


Ödön von Horváth

odon von horvath

The Austro-Hungarian novelist (Tales from the Vienna Woods) and author of a poem on the power of lightning was killed during a thunderstorm. Having left Nazi Austria for Paris, he was killed on a dark and stormy night in 1938 when a large tree branch snapped and landed on his head.




Accounts of his death in 406 B.C. are varied and only dubiously accurate, but contemporaries claim that the tragedian was either mauled by hunting dogs belonging to the king of Macedonia or torn apart by a group of angry women. The infamous author of Medea was apparently not well liked.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons