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6 Deaths That Were Greatly Exaggerated

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Will we ever know the secrets that death holds? Maybe not, but this post is about six people who've come as verifiably close to returning from the dead as possible: those who were believed to be dead. Read on ... if you dare!

1. The Cast of Cannibal Holocaust



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Still one of the most controversial films ever made, the 1980 Italian exploitation-fest Cannibal Holocaust depicted such realistic and horrifying violence that Italian authorities believed it was an actual snuff film. Ten days after its release, prints of Holocaust were confiscated and its director was arrested on suspicion of murder. Not helping matters much was the fact that the film's cast had signed agreements saying they would lay low for a full year after the film's release, fueling rumors that they were, in fact, slaughtered for the camera. Finally, facing life in prison, the director voided his actors' "no-media" contracts so they could come forward to clear his name.

2. Marcus Garvey

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After suffering a stroke in 1940, black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey became incapacitated. Rumors began to circulate that he had died, and before Garvey could quell them, he ran across a premature obituary for himself in the Chicago Defender which described him as a man who died "broke, alone and unpopular." According to people close to Garvey, upon reading it he let out a loud moan and collapsed to the floor, where he suffered a second stroke. By the following morning, he was dead at fifty-three.

3. Things to do in Texas when you're dead

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In his sixteen-year career, major league relief pitcher Bill Henry played for the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, boasted 46 wins, and even pitched in the 1961 World Series. More surprising than the career the humble Texan never dreamed possible, however, was the news that he had died. In August 2007 the Lakeland, Florida Ledger reported that Henry had passed away at the ripe old age of 80, and the story was picked up by the Associated Press and distributed nationally. But Bill Henry didn't live in Lakeland, where he had supposedly died -- he lived (and still lives) in Deer Park, Texas. Once the Ledger got wind of the truth, a very strange story came to light: another man named Bill Henry, a salesman from Florida, had stolen the ball player's identity long ago, and for more than 20 years had been passing himself off as the retired major league pitcher. The fake Henry, who was 83 when he died, had fooled everybody -- including his wife -- who later said "I was married to somebody that I maybe didn't know." (How did the impostor explain the incorrect birthday listed on his baseball card? "A printing error," he insisted.) The man even gave lectures twice a year at a Florida college entitled "Baseball, Humor and Society." (Maybe it was a subtle reference to his humorous baseball-related prank on society?) After the matter was cleared up, however, the real Bill Henry harbored no ill feelings. "I just hoped maybe it helped him in his [sales] career," he said. (I'm not sure I'd be so nice about that kind of thing, myself -- though imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.)

4. The Not-Quite-Canonized Thomas a Kempis

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Well-known medieval author-monk Thomas a Kempis, it is said, was accidentally buried alive in 1471. A most decidedly low-temperature dude in life -- he spent most of his time engaged with quiet devotional exercises and copying the Bible by hand -- he was apparently not so cool under pressure when it came to death. When he was exhumed some time later, scratch marks were found on the underside of the coffin, and splinters of wood under his fingernails. As if it wasn't bad enough to be buried alive, when the Church discovered the tragedy, they promptly shut down efforts to canonize Kempis as a saint. Their reasoning? "Surely no aspiring saint, finding himself so close to meeting his maker, would fight death in this way!" Talk about adding insult to being buried alive ...

5. Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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In 1816, the writer heard his name mentioned in a hotel by a man reading a coroner's report in the newspaper, who remarked that "it was very extraordinary that Coleridge the poet should have hanged himself just after the success of his play, but he was always a strange mad fellow." Coleridge replied: "Indeed, sir, it is a most extraordinary thing that he should have hanged himself, be the subject of an inquest, and yet that he should at this moment be speaking to you." (Now that's what I call a killer comeback!) Turns out a man had been found hanging from a tree in Hyde Park -- an apparent suicide -- and the only identification he had was the name "S.T. Coleridge" written on the inside of the collar of his shirt. Coleridge thought the shirt had probably been stolen from him.

6. Hiroo Onoda, the soldier who wouldn't die

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A Japanese soldier stationed in the Philippines during World War II, Hiroo Onoda was presumed dead after the Allies recaptured the country in 1945. But he and a few comrades had fled into the jungle to hide, and for 29 years, that's where he stayed. Unwilling to believe that the war had ended, he and his scrappy fellows continued to launch mini-attacks against Filipino citizens, killing dozens over the years. In 1959, he was declared legally dead in Japan, and by 1972, when the last of his compatriots were killed in gunfights with local forces, Onoda was finally alone. He stayed for two more years, until the Japanese government found Onoda's old commanding officer from the war -- he had become a bookseller many years before -- who was flown to the jungle, where he informed Onoda of the defeat of Japan in WWII and ordered him to lay down his arms. Lieutenant Onoda emerged from the jungle 29 years after the end of World War II, and accepted the commanding officer's order of surrender in his dress uniform and sword, with his Arisaka Type 99 rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades. After the war, Onoda wrote a book about his experiences and started a nature camp for kids designed to teach them survival skills. (So far, all of his campers have returned alive.)

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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