10 Most Bizarre Deaths in California

Life: Nobody gets out alive.

We all have to go sometime, and most of us hope we’ll be peacefully lying in bed, surrounded by family.

Some people aren’t quite so lucky, though.

For them, the end was a bizarre affair.

Whether they were mercifully quick or excruciatingly slow, these people suffered deaths that the rest of us can’t help but marvel at.

10 Most Bizarre Deaths in California

Photo credit: flickr/macpupu

Updated 2/10/2020 – Some of the deaths are horrifying.

Some are full of poetic justice.

Some are even funny, in a macabre sort of way.

In all of these bizarre deaths, there is an element of the mysterious.

How can these things happen?

The number of coincidences that had to line up just right boggles to the mind.

It’s almost as though the world is stranger than we can understand.

It’s almost as though we really don’t have all the answers.

And maybe sometimes it’s best not to pry.

Did they deserve it?

Maybe some did.

Most probably didn’t.

For the most part, they’re just ordinary people who went out in a very strange way.

For better or worse, here are ten people who died under circumstances that were just plain weird.

Maybe the Grim Reaper has a sense of irony.

But have a little respect, because you never know what tomorrow might bring for you.

A Nightmare Come True

Buried Alive

Photo credit: flickr/pepsi11295

Waking up cold and unable to move.

Buried alive.

Left for dead.

Taphophobia, the fear of being declared dead while still alive, is a real psychological condition.

For an 80-year-old woman in Los Angeles, the fear was very justified.

In 2010, Maria de Jesus Arroyo suffered a heart attack and was declared dead.

She was taken to White Memorial Medical Center, body bagged, and placed in a freezer drawer in the morgue.

She wasn’t dead.

Mortuary workers coming to work the next day found Maria’s body bag clawed open from the inside.

In the struggle to escape, she had broken her nose and suffered several cuts on her face.

And she had frozen to death in that drawer.

Don’t Try This at Home

Man Holding Breath

Photo credit: flickr/stevetaylors

Three teens in Chula Vista, California learned the hard way to exercise a little restraint when goofing around.

Watching Internet videos, they came across a technique to make oneself pass out by hyperventilating.

One of the kids decided to try it, and it worked a little too well.

He fell face forward onto a table, unconscious.

A glass tumbler was sitting there.

It shattered in such a way that the shards slashed his throat.

The boy was taken to the hospital, but died of his injuries.

He Deserved It

Handsome Rooster

Photo credit: flickr/megareds

Cockfighting, now illegal across the United States, is a despicable pastime.

Roosters are made to fight each other while an audience bets on the outcome.

The animals often have knives attached to their legs, to make for a bloodier sport.

In 2011, Jose Luis Ochoa attended a cockfighting event in Tulare County, California.

During the show, one of the roosters suddenly whipped around and stabbed Ochoa in the calf.

The man went to the hospital, but died of blood loss two hours later.

Wonder what he said?

Quick Karma

Car Crash

Photo credit: flickr/eveps

Some times Karma can draw things out into a tumultuous affair.

Other times, fate delivers swift justice.

On May 21, 2012, Raul Porter traveled to Southern California to attend his grandson’s graduation.

Following the ceremony, rather than returning home to Oregon, Porter made a detour to Simi Valley.

There, he visited the home of his ex-girlfriend Janice Somple.

And there he stabbed Janice to death.

Police are still baffled by Porter’s motive, as the two were still friends.

The mystery will likely never be solved, as Porter suffered a heart attack while driving away from the crime.

He lost control of his vehicle and crashed, ending his life instantly.

Bringing His Work to the Grave

Photo credit: endddd.org

Photo credit: endddd.org

Sleep research pioneer Eugene Aserinsky perished under very ironic circumstances.

The scientist was at the core of our modern understanding of sleep.

Among other things, Aserinsky discovered what we now know as REM.

While driving near his San Diego, California home, Aserinsky suddenly crashed his car into a tree.

The accident was sadly fatal.

There were no passengers and no other vehicles involved.

An investigation of the crash concluded that Aserinsky may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Black Sheep of the Family

Golden Gate Bridge

Photo credit: flickr/spudjnr123

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is a veritable magnet for suicide jumpers.

The bridge stands 220 feet over the water, and is an incredibly dramatic sight over the Bay.

In 2014, one victim of the bridge’s lure was Sean Moylan, a resident of Novato, CA.

Like so many others before him, Sean’s life circumstances led him to end it all.

And like so many others before him, Sean chose the beautiful San Francisco landmark as his way out.

The sad irony is Sean’s grandfather, John Moylan.

John is a bridge district director who has spent years advocating for the installation of a suicide net below the bridge.

He saw the number of people leaping off the bridge, and has spent his time striving to give them a second chance.

If only he had succeeded a little sooner.


Not Santa

Stuck in chimney

Photo credit: flickr/neilmoralee

Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac was a very well-respected physician in Bakersfield, California.

Her personal life was not quite as orderly as her professional career.

In particular, she had a tumultuous relationship with her sometimes-boyfriend William Moodie.

One day in 2010, while Moodie was away on a business trip, Dr. Kotarac visited his home.

Desperate to gain entry for unknown reasons, she circled the house trying all the doors and windows.

Eventually, Dr. Kotarac scaled the house, removed the chimney cap, and jumped in.

Her body was found three days later by a house sitter.

She had become stuck halfway down, and died of asphyxiation.

Life Follows Art

Helicopter Crash

Photo credit: flickr/xelor

Much of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) was filmed in Santa Clarita, California.

One climactic scene involved actor Vic Morrow carrying two children through a riverbed, while a helicopter pursued them.

A pyrotechnic effect on the ground malfunctioned and triggered early.

The helicopter happened to be exactly over the explosion when it triggered, and the tail rotor was blown clean off.

The chopper went into a spin and crashed to the ground, decapitating Morrow and one of the child actors with the main rotor.

The second child actor was crushed beneath the helicopter skids.

Morrow’s last words before the scene began?

“I’ve got to be crazy to do this shot. I should have asked for a double.”

Two Feet to the Left

Photo credit: flickr.com/gainous

Photo credit: flickr.com/gainous

A man in Alameda, California was tragically killed in 2007 under very unfortunate circumstances.

Humberto Hernandez was walking down the sidewalk with his wife, with a nearby SUV blew a tire.

The Ford Escape lost control and swerved onto the sidewalk.

Hernandez was not struck by the vehicle, but he was slain when the SUV hit a fire hydrant.

The hydrant broke free of its pipe.

The water pressure shot the 500-pound object out like a bullet.

Hernandez was struck directly in the chest by the hydrant, and died instantly.

His wife, standing right next to him, was unscathed.

Tragic Kingdom

Disneyland Columbia Ship

Photo credit: flickr/mtsacprof

At Disneyland in 1988, a man was killed on Christmas Eve by one of the attractions.

Software engineer Luan Phi Dawson was standing on the shores of the Rivers of America.

Several ships plough the waters of the artificial lake, including the replica 18th century schooner Columbia.

A metal cleat suddenly flew off the ship and swung into the crowd.

Dawson, his wife, and a nearby employee were all struck by the object.

The wife and employee survived, but Dawson died at the hospital several hours later.

This was the first fatal incident in the park since the 1950s, and the first to be investigated by homicide detectives.

The death was ruled to be a tragic accident.

Final Thoughts

No matter how careful you are, death can come at any moment.

Often, it will strike from the places we least suspect.

Be kind to your friends, family, and strangers.

Keep your affairs in order, seize the day, and live like there is no tomorrow.

It’s a cliché, but you never know.

It might be true.