History Slam Episode Ninety-Four: Surprising Deaths of the 20th Century

By Sean Graham

“Let’s not forget why these babies are here…they’re here to replace us. That is what they are doing. They are cute, they are cuddly, they are sweet, and they want you out of the way. Next time you’re around a baby look in those sweet little baby eyes, you’ll see one thought: only a matter of time my friend.” -Jerry Seinfeld

There is very little in this world that is truly inevitable. Taxes have always been said to be one of those things, but I recently heard that self-described smart people can avoid paying them, so that clears that up. One thing that we have not been able to escape, however, is death. Despite howls of protest from Elvis fans and Andy Kaufman truthers, we all meet our end at some point, which as Jerry Seinfeld has taught us is met with joy by the baby community.

Even if we all have to die eventually, not all deaths are met equally by those left behind. Certain deaths capture the public’s attention more than others. Whether they be because of a person’s fame, the unexpectedness of the death, or the manner in which the person died. The wives of Henry VIII, for instance, have a mnemonic device that reminds us of their final acts. 2016 was, unfortunately, a seemingly never-ending reminder of how we can be caught off guard by news of someone’s passing.

In this episode of the History Slam, Aaron Boyes and I count down the 10 most shocking deaths from the 20th century. We give our rationale for what constitutes ‘shocking,’ describe the events that made the list, and round out the episode by pointing out some that could have qualified.

Sean Graham is an editor with Activehistory.ca and the host/producer of the History Slam podcast.

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