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.
The demise of Grigori Rasputin is one of the most infamous in Russian history. The so-called mystic was a close adviser to the Russian royal family in the early 20th century, a role which gained him many enemies. According to popular myth, he was murdered by politically motivated conspirators whose weapons ranged from guns to knives to poison. Allegedly, none of the attacks were successful until they wrapped Rasputin in a rug and threw into a river. Further research, however, proved this story to be a gross hyperbole. All available evidence suggests that Rasputin was killed in the home of Felix Yusupov, the Tsar's nephew, via three gunshot wounds.see more on Rasputin
Charles Darwin, frequently hailed as one of the primary fathers of evolutionary thought, was long thought to have recanted his naturalistic worldview in his last days. Reports speculated that, knowing he was near his end, Darwin renounced his support of his theory of evolution, stating instead that Jesus was the only answer. This account originates from Lady Hope, a widow of a British admiral, who claimed that she had visited Darwin in the last few days of his life and read the Bible to him, inciting his personal revelation and recantation. Darwin’s family disputed his reconsideration and asserted that Lady Hope was nowhere near him at the time of his passing.
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Nathan Hale, while not exceedingly famous as a historical figure, is best known for what were thought to be his final words. Facing execution for being an American spy, Hale proudly stood before his executioners and allegedly stated “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” In actuality, while Hale was executed for spying and was an American hero, he never spoke the words that would become his legacy. Instead, he is recorded as saying, "[it is] the duty of every good officer to obey any orders given him by his commander in chief." He also encouraged spectators to "be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear."see more on Nathan Hale
Popular myth has speculated at length about the remains of entertainment legend and creator of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney. Some claim that, fearing what would come after his imminent passing, Disney demanded that his body be frozen so that he could be revived at a later time. Further rumors suggest that he requested that his frozen remains be stored beneath Disneyland, his first conceptualized theme park and still one of the company's most lucrative and best-loved properties.
Although widespread, this account is completely fictional and was most likely popularized by internet conspiracies. The theory was first mentioned in an interview with Bob Nelson, former president of the Cryonics Society of California, in which he discussed his 1966 book, The Prospect of Immortality.
"Walt Disney wanted to be frozen. Lots of people think that he was, and that the body’s in cold storage in his basement. The truth is, Walt missed out. He never specified it in writing, and when he died the family didn’t go for it ... If Disney had been the first [to be frozen] it would have made headlines around the world and been a real shot in the arm for cryonics. But that’s the way it goes."
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