The spookier, the better

Five teeth-chattering mysterious deaths of writers and artists

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CHARLES BEAUMONT

A dark and spooky alien-like mystery are almost the right words to describe the death of The Twilight Zone author Charles Beaumont in 1967.

He was a man literally killed by his work. The stress from his writing caused him to age prematurely and get wrinkles and grey hair long before his time.

For a man who was supposed to be in his 30s, Beaumont was the epitome of a medical marvel — if only this marvellous transformation didn’t eventually cause his death.

Doctors thought his particular disease might be associated with Alzheimer’s, but they came up with nothing to explain Beaumont’s condition.

What’s odd about the writer’s death is that there was no real medical condition attributed to what happened to Beaumont — unless the doctors considered the Benjamin Button complex.

JANET PARKER

Photographer Janet Parker probably thought she would be known for her life, not her death.

Just when the world thought they got the last of smallpox eradicated, there was an outbreak at the Birmingham Medical School.

Live smallpox viruses were being kept in a laboratory one floor above Parker’s office and the virus spread through a service duct to reach Parker in 1978.

She was immediately infected with smallpox, even after the virus was supposedly eliminated 10 months prior.

One year later, a similar incident happened at the University, but no one died.

The head of the microbiology department in the medical school who had been working with the smallpox virus later killed himself by slitting his throat.

Parker was the last recorded person to die from smallpox.

EDGAR ALLAN POE

Everyone’s had nights where the memories from the night before were a little fuzzy. For writer Edgar Allan Poe, this led to his demise.

On Oct. 3, 1849, Poe was found in a hazy state wearing some other man’s clothing and unable to remember what had happened to him. After being taken to hospital with what must have been concern for his mental state, Poe died days later.

Mystery surrounds what happened to him on the night of Oct. 3.

Literary theorists and conspiracy theorists alike have come up with three different ideas. One was that Poe was a raging alcoholic. The second was that Poe was part of an election fraud organized by hooligans. The last was that the The Tell-Tale Heart author had rabies.

For a man who churned dark ideas into powerful poetry, any of those three theories don’t do him justice.

RICHARD SUMNER

It’s not unusual to discover a dead squirrel when you’re walking in Kingston, but what would be unusual is to notice a skeleton handcuffed to a tree.

In a forest in the British city of Denbighshire in 2005, a woman discovered the skeleton of deceased artist Richard Sumner. He had handcuffed himself to a tree four years ago and thrown away the keys so far that he couldn’t reach them. The 47-year-old was an acclaimed artist for operatic stage productions and had a history with schizophrenia. According to his sister, he had tried to commit suicide three times before.

What gives us the shivers? The coroner revealed that Sumner tried to reach for the keys he had tossed away, but was unsuccessful.

Makes you wonder why it took someone four years to notice the rotting corpse in their local forest.

TOM THOMSON

One of the most famous mysteries of the 20th century is that of Canadian painter Tom Thomson.

The landscape artist went on a fishing trip in July 1917, and was never seen again.

A few days after his disappearance, his boat turned up near the dock. Sometime after, his body floated by.

Thomson’s paintings proved to sell for millions after his disappearance. People seemed to be consumed with wanting a piece of his legacy after his death.

Various documentaries have been made about the artist’s life, abounding with theories of what really happened to Thomson’s body when he disappeared.

Some say it was suicide, others say it was an unfortunate boating accident. As irony would have it, the picturesque landscape Thomson painted ultimately turned against him in a cruel twist of Mother Nature’s fate.

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