April 23, 2024 | Jamie Hayes

Every Historical Figure To Die On The Toilet


What A Way To Go

There's no good place to take your last breath—but we can all admit that the toilet has to be one of the worst places for it.

Duke Jing Of Jin, 581 BC

When Duke Jing of Jin fell ill in the 6th century BC, a shaman told him he wouldn't live to see the harvest wheat. When Jing did live long enough, he threw it it in the shaman's face, then had him executed. 

But he forgot one about one thing: karma.

Duke Jing of Jin汤义方, Wikimedia Commons

He Fell Into A Toilet Pit

Immediately after having the shaman executed, the duke ate a little too much. He felt bloated, so he went to the washroom—where he fell right in the pit. He never made it out alive. 

Karma wasn't messing around.

Vengeful ghostUtagawa Kuniyoshi, Wikimedia Commons

Roman Emperor Caracalla, 217 AD

Caracalla became Roman emperor when he was just 10 years old. It should come as no surprise that he'd gone mad with power by the time he became an adult. But even all-powerful emperors need to stop to pee.

Emperor CaracallaJean-Pol GRANDMONT, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

He Was Taking A Leak

Caracalla stopped to urinate while travelling and one of his Praetorian guard, who allegedly held a personal grudge against the emperor, ran him through. He was just 28 years old.

Caracalla emperorLawrence Alma-Tadema, Wikimedia Commons

Roman Emperor Elagabalus, 222 AD

Elagabalus became emperor when he was just a teenager, and he quickly became one of the most notorious emperors in the history of the Roman Empire due to his obscene scandals. And his brutal end.

Roman emperor ElagabalusGlst2media, Wikimedia Commons

He Tried To Hide In The Toilet 

The 18-year-old Elagabalus didn't realize just how unpopular he was. When he called for the execution of every soldier who cheered for his rival, the general Alexander, his guard turned and attacked him.

He ran to hide in the toilet—but he hadn't learned from the story of Caracalla, just five years earlier. Swords work just as well in the privy as in the Senate.

Bust Of ElagabalusJosé Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Arius, Constantinople, 336 AD

Arius was an ascetic and early Christian priest from modern-day Libya. He's considered an important figure in early Christianity. But that's not why he made this list...

AriusUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

He Had Explosive Diarrhea

Arius was walking down the street in Constantinople when he suddenly felt very ill. He sprinted to a public toilet, where "the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood".

What a way to go.

Arius at the Council of NicaeaByzantine Icon-Painter, Wikimedia Commons

King Edmund Ironside Of England, 1016 AD

Before he even became king, they called Edmund Ironside a warrior prince for his prowess on the battlefield. He certainly went out like warrior. A warrior who had to go.

Edmund IronsideUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

He Lived And Died By The Sword

From warrior prince to warrior king...to former king. Edmund was famously run through by a rival while defecating on the toilet—though there is a chance the medieval historian who wrote that was just messing with him.

Edmund IronsideUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Duke Jaromír, Duke Of Bohemia, 1035 AD

Duke Jaromir of Bohemia could not catch a break. When he was young, he got caught rebelling against his older brother, who had him castrated. 

And that's not even the worst thing to happen to the guy.

Jaromír, Duke of BohemiaKarelj, Wikimedia Commons

The Was Run Through From Beneath

When assassins came for Duke Jaromir, the came in the middle of the night. When the duke got up to use the toilet, they were waiting underneath his throne to ram a spear right up his chute.

Jaromír, Duke of BohemiaAustrian National Library, Picryl

Duke Godfrey IV Of Lower Lorraine, 1076

Being a noble in 10th-century Europe meant you had to be an expert at playing the game of thrones. With a nickname like "The Hunchback," Duke Godfrey IV Of Lower Lorraine already had the deck stacked against him.

But the way he went out was just rude.

Godfrey Iv Of Lower LorraineBroshdru, Wikimedia Commons

He Was Answering The Call Of Nature 

Godfrey lost the game of thrones, but not at a red wedding. Rather, he was, according to historical accounts, "answering the call of nature" when his enemies came to end his story.

Godfrey IV Of Lower LorraineAustrian National Library, Picryl

Uesugi Kenshin, 1578

Uesegi Kenshin was a legendary Japanese warlord known for both his brilliance and his honor. Called "The Dragon of Echigo" and "God of War," his end was not quite as impressive as his nicknames.

Uesugi KenshinUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Ninjas Can Strike Anywhere...

Legend has long told that Uesegi Kenshin was assassinated by a ninja while on the toilet—though some historians doubt it really happened. Sounds like something a ninja would do to me.

Uesugi Kenshin ArmorRaisa H, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

George II of Great Britain, 1760

Since he spent most of his summers back home in Germany, King George II wasn't exactly the most popular British monarch—so I'm sure the people had a good laugh when they found out how he bit the bullet.

Portrait of George Ii Of Great Britain wearing royal outfit and looking at front - 1753Friedrich Ludwig Hauck, Wikimedia Commons

He Had A Tough One

Not long after sunrise on the morning of October 25, 1760, a 77-year-old King George II got up, had a cup of hot chocolate, and went to the privy alone. A few minutes later, his valet heard a loud crash.

The king lay motionless on the floor after having suffered an aortic dissection on the toilet. He never got up again.

Portrait of George Ii Of Great Britain wearing royal outfit and looking at side - from 1730 until 1750Unknown author, Wikimedia Commons

J.W. AKA Balloon Man, 1892

JW, or "Balloon Man" as he was rather rudely called, suffered from some of the worst constipation in history. His colon got more and more backed up and his abdomen ballooned to grotesque proportions.

Man in blue t-shirt touching his stomach because of stomach painORION PRODUCTION, Shutterstock

He Donated His Colon To Science

JW never got the relief he so desperately needed. He was found on the toilet, apparently having tried pushing one last time. His enormous megacolon is still on display at the the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia (and I've seen it).

Mütter MuseumJenni Konrad, Flickr

Lenny Bruce, 1966

Lenny Bruce's vulgar comedy changed the face of censorship and obscenity laws in the US and around the world—but Bruce had other demons, and they caught up with him when he was just 40 years old.

Lenny Bruce being arrestedExaminer Press photo,Wikimedia Commons

He ODed

Bruce was found on the floor of his bathroom with paraphernalia around him. The official coroner's report said he succumbed to acute morphine poisoning.

Lenny BruceMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Judy Garland, 1969

Judy Garland became a star when she was just a teenager—and that much fame that young doomed her for the rest of her life. 

Image of Judy Garland in The Wizard Of Oz - 1939CBS, Wikimedia Commons

She Couldn't Escape Addiction

Garland fought addiction her entire adult life, and in 1969, not long after remarrying for the 5th time, she was found in her bathroom in London, having succumbed to a barbiturates.

Screenshot from the movie Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)MGM, Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)

George Dyer, 1971

George Dyer was British artist Francis Bacon's model and muse—but their relationship was a complete trainwreck, with Dyer drinking constantly and Bacon not far behind. When the end came, it was haunting.

Study for Head of George Dyer, 1967Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

Art Out Of Pain 

Dyer eventually overdosed and was found on the toilet. Bacon later painted The Black Triptychs, a disturbing set of paintings that portray Dyer in his final moments.

George DyerJean-Pierre Dalbéra, Flickr

Elvis Presley, 1977

When he was a young man, there were few people with the same exuberance and vitality as Elvis Presley. That's what makes his end so brutal.

Elvis Presley Publicity Photo For The Trouble With Girls 1968MGM, Wikimedia Commons

He Hit Rock Bottom

Personal and career struggles plagued Elvis Presley for his final years, and the man whose heart stopped on a toilet in Vegas in 1977 was almost unrecognizable.

Elvis PresleyPress Department, Wikimedia Commons

Michael Godwin, 1989

A little bit of grim irony: Michael Godwin was sentenced to be executed by the electric chair, but he later had this reduced to a life sentence. I guess fate had other plans...

Electric Chair At West Virginia PenTim Menzies, Flickr

What Are The Odds?

Godwin was set to live the rest of his life behind bars—when he was accidentally electrocuted by a wire while sitting on a metal toilet. He didn't survive. Guess someone up there didn't agree with the reduced sentence.

Prison guard in uniform standing next to prison cellRon Lach, Pexels

Don Simpson, 1996

Picture a 1980s Hollywood producer addicted to coke who makes movies like Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop. You're picturing a real guy: Don Simpson. But his penchant for nose candy caught up to him.

Don SimpsonBBC, Naked Hollywood: Good Cop, Bad Cop (1991)

Found In A Bel Air Bathroom 

Don Simpson's once-thriving career had floundered by 1996, when he suffered heart failure on the toilet in his Bel Air, Los Angeles home.

Don Simpson BBC, Naked Hollywood: Good Cop, Bad Cop (1991)

Robert Pastorelli, 2004

Robert Pastorelli was a regular on American TV sets—until his girlfriend's mysterious end at his home in 1999. His career evaporated, and he didn't last long after that.

Candice Bergen And Robert PastorelliAlan Light, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

They Were Coming For Him

Robert Pastorelli said his girlfriend shot herself in the head during an argument. In 2004, he heard that authorities wanted to bring him in for more questioning. He was found ODed on the toilet not long after that.

Robert Pastorelli and Glenn CloseRon Galella, Getty Images

Christopher Shale, 2011

Christopher Shale was a British businessman and politician—with the ignominious distinction of taking his last breath in one of the worst places on Earth.

Confident businessmanCreativa Images, Shutterstock

Anywhere But There...

Shale suffered a heart attack in 2011...while in a portable toilet at the Glastonbury Festival. As if that's not horrifying enough, his remains weren't found for 18 hours...

portable toiletsSeraj Mahmoud, Shutterstock


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