CLOSE
iStock
iStock

6 Deaths That Were Greatly Exaggerated

iStock
iStock

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



Getty Images

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

George Grantham Bain Collection, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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

Bowman Gum, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
9 Things You Should Keep in Mind Around Someone Observing Ramadan
iStock
iStock

To mark the ninth (and most holy) month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. Often compared to Lent in Christianity and Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is all about restraint. For one month, Muslims observing Ramadan fast during the day and then feast at night.

By abstaining from food and water (as well as sex, smoking, fighting, etc.) during daylight, Muslims strive to practice discipline, instill gratitude for what they have, and draw closer to Allah. To be respectful and not annoy observers, here are nine things you should never say or do to someone observing Ramadan.

1. DON'T JOKE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

A traditional iftar meal.
A traditional iftar meal.
iStock

Although it might be tempting to joke about Ramadan being a good excuse to lose weight, it is a time for spiritual reflection and is a serious matter. Observers undertake the challenge of fasting for religious and spiritual reasons rather than aesthetic ones. And, once the sun sets each night, many Muslims prepare a hearty iftar (the meal that breaks the fast) of dates, curries, rice dishes, and other delicious foods. The suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is often fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and dishes that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. So the idea of a cleanse is pretty far from their minds.

2. DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.

An Indian Muslim student recites from the Quran in a classroom during the holy month of Ramadan.
NOAH SEELAM, AFP/Getty Images

There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, but not all of them observe Ramadan the same way. Although most observant Muslims fast for Ramadan, don't assume that every Muslim you meet has the same methods, traditions, and attitudes towards fasting. For some, Ramadan is more about prayer, reading the Qur'an, and performing acts of charity than merely about forgoing food and drink. And for those who may be exempted from the daily fasting, such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or those with various health conditions, they might not appreciate the reminder from nosey busy-bodies that they aren't participating in the traditional way.

3. SAY "RAMADAN MUBARAK" INSTEAD OF "HAPPY RAMADAN."

A sign which reads
A sign which reads "Ramadan Kareem" in Arabic is seen pictured in front of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
GIUSEPPE CACACE, AFP/Getty Images

Rather than wishing someone a happy Ramadan, being more thoughtful with your choice of words can show that you understand and respect the sanctity of their holy month. Saying "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem" are the traditional ways to impart warm wishes—they both convey the generosity and blessings associated with the month. The actual party comes after Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, an up to three-day festival that involves plenty of food, time with family, and gifts.

4. DON'T BE A FOOD PUSHER.

Muslim woman saying no to an apple.
iStock

Even if the idea of not eating or drinking all day might be unfathomable to you, don't push food onto anyone observing Ramadan. While fasting all day for a month can cause mild fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness, don't try to convince participating Muslims to eat or drink something—they are fully aware of any side effects they may feel throughout the day. Instead, be respectful of their decision to fast and offer to lend a hand with something like chores, errands, or anything unrelated to food.

5. ACCEPT THAT WATER ISN'T ON THE MENU.

Dates and a glass of water.
iStock

Muslims who observe Ramadan don't sip any liquids during daytime. No water, coffee, tea, or juice. Zilch. Going without water is even harder than going without food, so be aware of the struggle and accept it. It's all part of the sacrifice and self-discipline inherent in Ramadan.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S PRIVACY.

Pregnant woman doing yoga.
iStock

Some Muslims choose not to fast during Ramadan for medical or other personal reasons, and they may not appreciate being badgered with questions about why they may be eating or drinking rather than fasting. Children and the elderly generally don't fast all day, and people who are sick are exempt from fasting. Other conditions that preclude fasting during Ramadan are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation (although, if possible, people generally make up the days later).

7. BE MINDFUL OF ENERGY LEVELS.

Woman running on the beach.
iStock

Eschewing food and drink for hours at a time can cause lethargy, so be aware that Muslims observing Ramadan may be more tired than usual. Your Muslim friends and coworkers don't stop working for an entire month, but they may tweak their schedules to allow for more rest. They may also stay indoors more (to prevent overheating) and avoid unnecessary physical activity to conserve energy. So, don't be offended if they aren't down for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer. We can't all be elite athletes.

8. DON'T OBSESS OVER FOOD AND HUNGER.

Family playing in the park.
iStock

One of the worst things you can do to someone on a new diet is to obsess over all the cheeseburgers, pizza, and cupcakes they can't have. Similarly, most Muslims observing Ramadan don't want to have in-depth conversations about all the food and beverages they're avoiding. So, be mindful that you don't become the constant reminder of how many hours are left until sundown—just as you shouldn't joke about weight loss, you shouldn't call attention to any hunger pangs.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT YOUR OWN FOOD.

Coworkers discussing a project on couches.
iStock

Although it's nice to avoid talking about food in front of a fasting Muslim, don't be afraid to eat your own food as you normally would. Seeing other people eating and drinking isn't offensive—Muslims believe that Ramadan is all about sacrifice and self-discipline, and they're aware that not everyone participates. However, perhaps try to avoid scheduling lunch meetings or afternoon barbecues with your Muslim colleagues and friends. Any of those can surely wait until after Ramadan ends.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Timm Schamberger, AFP/Getty Images
arrow
quiz
Disney Princesses in Order Minefield
Timm Schamberger, AFP/Getty Images
Timm Schamberger, AFP/Getty Images

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios