A Michigan farmer named James was trying to figure out what was wrong with one of his trucks, which was emanating strange sounds from the undercarriage. He had his friend drive the truck on a highway while he hung underneath to try and determine the problem. Unfortunately, James’ clothes got caught on something. By the time the friend finally stopped the vehicle James had been wrapped around the drive shaft.
A 47 year-old North Carolina man awoke to the sound of a telephone ringing beside his bed and reached to grab it but instead grabbed a Smith & Wesson 38 and accidentally blew his brains out. A California man attempting to break into his ex-girlfriend’s car by smashing through the windshield with a shotgun accidentally shot himself in the gut and died. And a Toronto lawyer demonstrating the strength of the windows in his firm’s downtown skyscraper rapped on the panes with his shoulder only to break through the glass and plunge 24 stories to his death.
Sounds absurd, but these Darwin deaths all actually happened. “Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate the remains of those who improve our gene pool by inadvertently removing themselves from it,” reads the website. “For obvious reasons, this Award is usually bestowed posthumously.”
The awards have been around for years but recently have received something of a television companion. A show on Spike TV called “1000 ways to die” portrays painfully stupid deaths. One recent episode of the show, which airs Tuesdays at midnight, is titled “Pipe Snake” and describes a scantily clad woman named Tina (she wears a leopard print bikini throughout the entire sequence) who breaks up with her rock star boyfriend and throws his stuff into the yard as he watches on in astonishment. Tina carries his pet boa constructor outside, holding it above her head and screaming, but her former man has already driven off.
The snake, frightened of falling, clings tight around Tina’s neck, slowly choking her. She impressively fights the snake off and chucks it into the yard but it sneaks back into the house through an air duct and lodges itself in a warm exhaust vent. That night Tina hits the bottle, cranks up the heat and moseys about the house in her bikini. She gets drunk then passes out on the couch, dead. But what killed her was not alcohol. With the snake stuffed in the exhaust vent the home filled with carbon monoxide given off by her gas furnace, putting Tina to sleep, permanently. The show features reenactments, interviews with experts and animated interpretations of the events. There is also playful voiceover narration, the line that describes Tina dying reads: “This time the low rent skank staggered around her ghetto pad, toppled over and died.”
The show gravitates toward deaths that involve sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. In an episode entitled “The Final Straw” a woman named Hillary who had acquired temporary stardom on reality TV attends a Hollywood party in a shiny silver top and a short skirt. When a guy at the party cuts lines of cocaine on a glass table and pulls out a rolled dollar bill Hillary whips out her own platinum coke straw. A partygoer snaps a photo of her, which incenses a man she has hired to be her body guard. The body guard punches the picture taker in the face and the man falls backwards and lands on Hillary’s head, driving the coke straw into her brain and killing her.
A white-coated surgeon eloquently explains in medical jargon what killed Tina while an animated film shows a digitized skeleton’s brain being pierced by a thin projectile and gushing blood from the nose and mouth. “The straw, like a sword, punctured through that thin bony wall of the posterior nasal passage, penetrating into the brain stem, causing immediate hemorrhaging and damage to the central area of our brain stem that controls our heart and our lungs,” explains the surgeon. “She died, almost instantaneously.”