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Unusual Deaths from the 70's and 80's

By: raptor
NOTE TO READERS: The following article does NOT contain graphic descriptions or depictions of the deaths mentioned. However the content is not the usual lighthearted stuff you read here, or that I have written myself. Keep that in mind.

None of us like to talk about it, but it's a part of being human. Death comes for all of us and it comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. Not many people don't know the sting of losing someone in their life. And sometimes it's hard to cope with the way in which we lose them.

This article is just a compilation of some of the more notable, strange, unusual, or memorable deaths. So with that in mind, here are seven losses from 70's and 80's that meet this criteria.

J.I. Rodale (1971)

Jerome Irving Rodale was the founder of Rodale Inc., as well as a playwright and author. His company was among the first to create literature about, and promote the benefits of, organic gardening.

His magazine, Organic Gardening, is proclaimed to be the most read periodical on this subject. He was a man ahead of his time, adopting the philosophy of alternative and preventative means to fight disease, and promoting the use of gardening without pesticides or chemical filled fertilizers. That and he loved to go on and on about not using refined sugars and avoiding meat if at all possible (it's not for me).

June 8th, 1971, on the set of The Dick Cavett Show (a well known talk show in the 70's), Rodale talked a lot about these subjects. He told the host, Cavett, that he was so healthy as a result of his diet, that "I've decided to live to be a hundred."

Rodale then died there on Cavett's show while he sat next to another interviewee. He suffered a massive heart attack and could not be revived. The episode never aired on television.

J.I. Rodale - Founder of Rodale, Inc.

The Soyuk-11 Crew (1971)

Those of us who like to chill out watching a good sci-fi flick are not real phased by the laser battles and explosions in space movies. Some of our most beloved sci-fi heroes met their maker in space (Obi-Wan for one). But few of us probably know that only three people have ever died in the dark of space in our history.

Viktor Patsayev, Georgy Dobrovolsky, and Vladislav Volkov were those unlucky souls.These three dudes were cosmonauts from Russia who were sent aboard the Soyuz-11 spacecraft.

On June 30th, 1971, the capsule carrying the crew plunged back down to Earth in what seemed to be a pretty normal re-entry. But when the capsule was cracked open the crew was found dead. Apparently, the capsule began to depressurize super quickly because of damage that occurred when the launch and return vessels split up. They died very quickly according to flight data recorded from a biometric suit worn by one of the crew.

Crew of the Soyuz-11

Christine Chubbock (1974)

The movie "Network" was an Academy Award winning flick starring Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway. You probably know about it already, but for those youngsters who maybe don't, GO WATCH IT! Finch's character was a news anchor past his prime who was at the end of his rope and pledged to end his life on his show.

Sadly, two years before the release of "Network", newswoman Christine Chubbock did just that. On July 15th, 1974, while filming her show at WXLT-TV ( a small network in Sarasota Florida), Christine told her viewers that she would be keeping with the theme of her station's search for "blood & guts" news. She then pulled out a revolver and committed suicide on the air.

The tape that contained the suicide was not released to the public because of an injunction by the courts at the request of her family. It is a sad testimony to the state of news then, and now.

Christine Chubbock working at WXLT

Janet Parker (1978)

Modern medicine is amazing! We have used it to get rid of so many diseases and illnesses, more than ever in history. But something we probably don't find ourselves asking is, who was the last? Who was that person in the records of history that has the distinction of being the last unfortunate victim of a now extinct disease?

Janet Parker is one them. For she is the last reported person to die from smallpox. She lost her battle with it on September 11th, 1978. But Janet didn't contract the virus naturally. Her death to smallpox happened at a time when it was all but eradicated. No, Janet contracted the virus because of a lapse in adhering to proper handling of the virus.

Janet worked at the University of Birmingham Medical School in Birmingham, UK. She was a medical photographer who contracted smallpox through the schools ventilation system because they study being done on the virus there wasn't being done to code. She also exposed others to the virus as a result of her getting it, including her father who died as a result.

Professor Henry Bedson, the then head of the microbiology department found himself in hot water over the death, and decided suicide was the easiest way out.

  The Smallpox Virus

Vic Morrow (1982)

If you've ever watched the 1982 film, Twilight Zone: The Movie, you probably have your own personal favorite segment (mine being "It's a Good Life"). I think, for the most part, it was a nicely done film with a few flaws here and there, but cool anyway.

My least favorite is the segment about a racist dude who gets a heaping helping of his own medicine. It just didn't grip me like at all. But for the family of Vic Morrow (which includes daughter/actress Jennifer Jason Leigh), and two 6 year old girls, it's a reminder of a terrible time in their lives.

Director John Landis and his crew had not properly prepared for what would happen during filming on July 3rd, 1982..... late into the night. In a scene that would involve a U.S. helicopter attempting to eliminate Morrow's character and two Vietnamese children, pyrotechnics caused damage to the copter, causing the pilot to lose control and come crashing down on the three of them. They passed away instantly.

Lots of lawsuits and new regulations came up fast after that. They all settled out of court for undisclosed amounts. But the sting of the accident remains.

Vic Morrow in his final role
Tennessee Williams (1983)

The work of author Tennessee Williams is pretty familiar to people who like that sort of thing (not me). He wrote alot of famous plays and was widely known and respected. But his life wasn't easy.

He was a homosexual who struggled to cope with life's many challenges, including alcohol and drugs, death, family problems, and more. But he did overcome them to become a success at what he did. But sometimes these things have a way of catching up with you.

The evening of February 25th, 1983, Williams was resting in his hotel room in New York, like he had many other nights. There was some alcohol and opiates there with him too. As part of his routine, he took the cap from a bottle of eye drops and placed it between his teeth as he placed drops of the solution in his eyes. Then the cap slipped into his throat, and he choked to death.

Medical examiners said that he probably had trouble coughing the thing up because his gag reflex was weak as a result of drug use. Still, it's debated what really happened to this day.

Tennessee Williams - author of plays like "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "The Glass Menagerie"

R. Budd Dwyer (1987)

Of all the unusual deaths mentioned here, this one bothers me the most. Not just because of the way it happened, but because there is the chance the man was actually innocent of the crimes he was convicted of.

R. Budd Dwyer was a politician in Pennsylvania in the 80's. He was their State Treasurer, meaning his hands were the first to handle the state's money,  among other duties I guess. By most accounts, folks seemed to think he was a pretty straightforward and honest guy. But then came the accusations of bribery.

Dwyer would later be convicted for the bribe accusation, and would likely be sentenced to prison time. Something Budd was not about to have any part of. On January 22nd, 1987, Budd called a press conference to confront the press over this crime he had been accused of. After handing out envelopes to his staff, he reached into a manilla envelope and pulled out a .357 Magnum. He then directed the press and staff in the room to stay clear of him, before pulling the trigger with the gun in his mouth.

The video of this happening is all over YouTube (unfortunately). Budd's friends are quick to say that they knew him as a guy who trusted the system he worked for, and then fell into severe depression after that system failed to prove his innocence.

There is a documentary about R. Budd Dwyer titled "Honest Man". In it, the man whose testimony all but sealed Budd's fate in the courts eyes confesses that he lied under oath. Budd may have been an innocent man after all. We'll never know.

R. Budd Dwyer - Moments before he commits suicide in front of rolling cameras

A few other unusual deaths:

1978: Georgi Markov - A dissident from Bulgaria who was killed during a visit to London by a metal pellet full of ricin, fired from a specially made umbrella.

1979: John Bowen - A young guy from New Hampshire who was killed after a big remote control model plane struck him while he was watching the half-time show of a New York Jets football game.

1982: David Grundman - A fellow out shooting cactus in the Arizona desert with a shotgun, who had one of them fall and crush him to death.

1983: Dick Wertheim - A line judge at the 1983 US Open who was hit in the groin by a serve from Stefan Edberg. He fell over and banged his head on the pavement, an injury that later took his life.

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raptor Posted on May 20, 2013 at 07:32 PM

Yeah that one was pretty shocking.

@Vapor - Sorry to freak you out man! ;)

AceNThaHole Posted on May 16, 2013 at 01:42 PM

I rmember hearing some about the Dwyer suicide. it was all over the news for several days but I didnt pay much attention as a kid to news.

Vaporman87 Posted on May 15, 2013 at 09:21 PM

This one gives me chills, but it was extremely interesting. My heart is still beating a little faster after reading it.

It makes you feel a bit uneasy to think that, whatever precautions you take in life, there are those moments of when the unlikely or freakish just happen.

A great read, if not a bit morbid. Thanks raptor.

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