Weird History 12 Historical Figures Whose Deaths Were Outrageously Exaggerated  

Stephan Roget
259.6k views 12 items

History is a fantastic area of study for those who love stories and storytelling; after all, history can best be imagined as a series of life stories weaved together to create one epic tale. However, like any good story, history has a habit of getting exaggerated, and stories of how historical figures really died are no exception to this tendency. Since the ending of a journey is often the most exciting part, it’s no surprise that the most commonly exaggerated aspect of the life stories of famous individuals is their deaths. Something about dying begs for a dramatic conclusion, rather than the anticlimactic finish that most people are destined to receive.

There are many amazing descriptions of heroes dying valiant deaths and villains expiring in karmic fashion, but they should mostly be taken with a grain of salt. Once one starts exploring how historical figures really died, they’ll see there’s more than a little room for doubt. The list of exaggerated historical deaths goes on and on, and will likely keep growing for as long as notable people keep dying in uninteresting ways.

Rasputin is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 12 Historical Figures Whose Deaths Were Outrageously Exaggerated
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The death of Grigori Rasputin is so famous it has its own disco song! The so-called mystic and close adviser of the Russian royal family gained many enemies during his lifetime, especially if his reputation as “lover of the Russian Queen” rang true. Supposedly, these enemies sought to solve their Rasputin problem for good, but he didn’t make it easy for them. Rasputin was reportedly stabbed, poisoned multiple times, beaten, and shot, before being wrapped in a carpet and thrown into a river. When his body was found, it was determined he had finally died… from drowning! Was Rasputin some sort of Russian Wolverine? Of course not. The story is entirely fabricated. All available evidence suggests that Rasputin was shot just once, in the head, and died from that, with every additional detail coming from some spurious source.

see more on Rasputin
Charles Darwin is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 12 Historical Figures Whose Deaths Were Outrageously Exaggerated
Photo: J. Cameron/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Many opponents of evolution like to crow about the circumstances of Charles Darwin’s death. The father of natural selection came up with his remarkable theory while on an expedition to the Galapagos Islands, but it apparently took a trip to his deathbed to change his mind. It was widely reported that, nearing death, an elderly Darwin recanted his theory of evolution, stating that he’d made a terrible mistake and that Jesus was the only answer. Except, of course, that none of that actually happened. Lady Hope, a widow of a British admiral, claimed that she had attended Darwin’s deathbed and read the Bible to him, inciting his personal revelation and recantation. Darwin’s family, on the other hand, disputed that he ever recanted his beliefs and that Lady Hope was anywhere near him during his illness. Turns out, she just made it up to further her own agenda.

Also Ranked

#8 on The Most Influential People of All Time

#10 on The Greatest Minds of All Time

see more on Charles Darwin
Nathan Hale is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 12 Historical Figures Whose Deaths Were Outrageously Exaggerated
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Nathan Hale’s name might not be as famous as that of other American heroes, but his final words are among the most well-known. Facing execution for being an American spy, Hale proudly stood before his executioners and stated “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Bolder words had never before been spoken, and, as it turns out, they weren’t actually spoken back then, either. Hale was executed for spying, and he was an American hero, but those present for his execution record that he said something along the lines of “It is the duty of every good officer to obey any orders given him by his commander in chief.” That’s not the worst set of last words ever, but it’s a whole lot less inspiring.

see more on Nathan Hale
Walt Disney is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 12 Historical Figures Whose Deaths Were Outrageously Exaggerated
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Walt Disney is a contradictory historical figure. On the one hand, he brought joy to millions with his cartoon creations and magnificent theme parks. On the other, he was an alledgedly brutal tyrant who ran his company with an iron fist. This second interpretation plays well into the reported circumstances of Disney’s death. Fearing the great unknown, Disney supposedly demanded that his body be frozen so that he could be revived at a later date. Further rumors suggest that he even requested that his frozen body be stored under Disneyland, so he could spend the interim in the Happiest Place on Earth. Sadly, none of this actually happened, and Disney is just straight-up dead.

Also Ranked

#43 on The Greatest Auteurs in Film History

#71 on The All-Time Best Voice Actors

#86 on Famous Role Models We'd Like to Meet In Person

#42 on The Greatest Male Celebrity Role Models

see more on Walt Disney