Worst Ways to Die: my top 10 list

Warning: if you are squeamish, find the discussion of death distasteful, are gentle souled, have panic attacks and existential crisis’ every time death is mentioned, or don’t enjoy a macabre nature, this post is not for you.  Cease and desist reading at this moment.

While I am prone to nightmares in which I routinely die in all manner of ways (though usually I’m shot to death) I find it interesting and in some ways palliative to discuss death openly and often.  This is somewhat perverse and I can’t explain it.

The 10 worst ways to die:

1.  Being eaten by Dorylus army ants.

They don’t deliver a complimentary numbing agent nor do they paralyze you first.  They DO enter any available entry cavities such as your nostrils and ears, and all the others, and you will probably suffocate before they eat you.  The experience of being completely covered and devoured in teeny tiny bites terrifies me more than any other way of dying.  Humans are NOT their preferred prey and it is not difficult to get away from them unless they come through your house.

2.  Being tortured to death by a sociopath.

Let us just include all forms of medieval torture, biblical torture, and government methods of torture in this category.  Torture.  It’s bad.  Sociopaths everywhere choose torture to hurt and kill and those government officials who perform torture for information are themselves sociopaths who have simply found a legitimate way to use their inability to empathize with other human beings.  No person with a normal range of human emotions can perform torture on another human being.  Hurt them, yes.  But torture is special and, to me at least, the worst form of pain one human can cause another.

3.  Being buried alive.

Sometimes sociopaths bury people alive and this is a form of torture that would be included above.  However, sometimes people are buried alive by accident so I thought it deserved it’s own number.  Every person has their own individual fears, many we share but there are infinite variations on why we fear things or how much.  Our minds process things differently.  I fear being buried alive as a form of purposeful torture more than being buried alive by accident though the reality is exactly the same in each case.  Unless your torturer buries you alive with a snake in the box or something.

4.  Disembowelment or any other form of extreme mauling (and eating) that animals do.

This is what skunks do to chickens.  It’s what a lot of animals do to their prey before eating.  In fact, it’s what humans do before eating their prey too, we just aren’t naturally equipped with teeth and claws capable of doing this so we use knives.  It’s nasty and though I imagine death might be quick, any moment of awareness before death comes must be extremely frightening and painful.  I would like to avoid this death at all costs.  I have a lot of nightmares involving all the various large cats left in the world.  I am very afraid of being mauled by them.  I have heard a thousand times that mountain lion really do want to leave you alone and you should make a big noise if you see one and it will leave you alone.  I don’t actually believe this.  It’s irrational, I’m aware.  But there it is.

5.  Poisoning, slow or fast acting.

A slow poisoning might be gentler than a quick working poison but both of them are going to make you feel bad and most poisons make you feel nauseous.  I hate throwing up.  I hate feeling nauseous.  I will do A LOT to avoid feeling nauseous and/or throwing up.  The more severely poison is administered the more immediately painful your death will be with violent throwing up.  But long term poisoning is going to involve, most likely, a long period of nauseousness.  This is like an eternal pregnancy.  I could not bear it.  Fact is, to poison me at all you will have to act fast because I would discover I was being poisoned too fast for you to get away with it slowly.

6.  Exsanguination.

I can’t say how often I fixated on the idea of slitting my wrists when I was a teen in order to kill myself.  I cut myself open again and again, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.  During that period of time I was not able to feel most cuts I made.  I was so numb emotionally I couldn’t feel that kind of pain in my skin.  However, as much as I obsessed over my desire to die and the method best suited to me to accomplish this, I could never muster up the courage to give myself the kind of deep cut it takes to exsanguinate and I’m certain that if I had managed to do it, I would have felt it and it would have hurt.  Hurting myself never hurt the way it hurts when other people do it to you.  So being stabbed to death or shot is not at all the same thing as hurting yourself.  I am terrified of being stabbed to death.  I am terrified of being sliced open by glass (I’ve been sliced open by glass but on a small scale) and the thought of bleeding out fills me with horror.  A kind of creeping insidious horror.

7.  Defenestration.  And all forms of death involving being pushed from a great height.

I am terribly afraid of heights.  Part of the reason is that I have an intensely uncomfortable urge to jump whenever I am at the edge of anything tall, a balcony, a cliff, or a bridge.  Believe it or not, this has nothing to do with suicidal ideation.  This is a compulsion not related to my emotional state.  I would feel the compulsion to jump whether I was happy or sad.  Having this compulsion makes all ledges and edges with big drops feel excessively dangerous.  Being pushed from a window, or falling from one, is a fear I’ve had for ages.  Though if I had to experience it, I think the higher up the better so that you die more quickly when you reach the bottom.

8.  Strangulation.

This is so much less scary to me than any of the deaths mentioned above.  Not that I want to die of strangulation.  I plan to die in my sleep.  Obviously.  But of all the scary violent ways I can think of dying, this one is not messy, doesn’t usually take that long saving you the long hours of terror that suffocating underground would cause.

9.  Drowning.

I’m not that scared of drowning.  I’m not.  I’m scared of tsunamis, but not dying from drowning.  At least, I don’t shudder when I think of drowning while I’m awake.  What my subconscious does when I’m sleeping is another story.  Drowning sounds much more peaceful to me than any of the above deaths.  When I am underwater swimming (I rarely swim now but couldn’t get enough swimming in when I was a kid) it is quiet and enveloping and feels almost like home, except for the part about not being able to breath.

10.  Smoke inhalation.

This would be before drowning if I hadn’t just seen a documentary about the moment of death in which people were saying that people who die in house fires almost always die before they experience being burned to death.  Considering how many people have survived fires with tragically and painfully destroyed skin might have a different side of this story to tell, but we’re not talking about people who get rescued, and I am specifically saying that dying of smoke inhalation is number ten on my list because though fires are terrifying (remember, we had a housefire!), if you die of smoke inhalation it is apparently quite fast and relatively painless because the lack of oxygen puts you to sleep before the rest happens.

There are some diseases I might, at some point, replace with the above list of ten worst ways to die.  I definitely fear disease but my mind works in such a way that though dying of disease might in actual fact sometimes be way worse than dying violent deaths, I fear the violent ones much more.  I rarely die of disease in my nightmares.  I fear malevolence.

Violence and malevolence, either separately or together.

I think this is why the two novels I’ve written so far have both involved a surprising amount of violence.   It’s cathartic to write about the things I fear and dread most.  The things that prey on my mind and live in my subconsciousness.

So what is your top 10 list of worst ways to die?


  1. amy says:

    I wouldn’t want to be set on fire and be burned to death. I also am afraid of heights and though a quick thud to the ground would kill me I really would hate the way down you know?

  2. angelina says:

    I do know- I’m terrified of heights too but how horrible would it be to fall (and experience all that terror) and then die slowly because you didn’t fall from high enough. But even talking about this is making me rethink the idea of falling from higher being better.

    The whole fire scenario I had was just for dying in a building fire- I didn’t even consider being set on fire. Like being burned at the stake? Oh man, that would surely be horrible. But maybe would be in the same category as torture?

  3. Frank says:

    Interesting…only part I disagree with is in the intro when the writer warns the gentle souled or if ya have panic attacks and such not to read on, but I find It very healthy and vital to do so to get better and overcome those fears.

  4. angelina says:

    Haha! I gave that warning completely tongue in cheek. We agree about the healthiness of discussing such things. As a war veteran I think you can easily claim to have faced death way more often and face-on than I ever will. Welcome!

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