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Published May 20, 2008 More Info »
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Published May 20, 2008

CASES OF FATAL HILARITY THROUGHOUT HISTORY:

In the third century B.C. the Greek stoic philosopher Chrysippus died of laughter after giving his donkey wine, then seeing it attempt to feed on figs.

Martin I of Aragon died from a lethal combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing in 1410.

Pietro Aretino "is said to have died of suffocation from laughing too much."

It is cited that the Burmese king Nanda Bayin, in 1599 "laughed to death when informed, by a visiting Italian merchant, that Venice was a free state without a king."

In 1660, the Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of Rabelais into English, Thomas Urquhart, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.

The phenomenon is also recorded in the book Crazy History where a Celtic soothsayer was able to predict the hour of his demise. As with the death of Calchas, when the time arrived and the soothsayer found himself still alive, he purportedly laughed hysterically, eventually killing himself through either heart attack or asphyxiation.

On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King's Lynn, England, died laughing while watching the Kung Fu Kapers episode of The Goodies, featuring a Scotsman in a kilt battling a vicious black pudding with his bagpipes. After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired from heart failure. His widow later sent the Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell's final moments so pleasant.

In 2003 Damnoen Saen-um, a Thai ice cream salesman, is reported to have died while laughing in his sleep at the age of 52. His wife was unable to wake him, and he stopped breathing after two minutes of continuous laughter. It is believed that he died either of heart failure or asphyxiation.

Death by fatal hilarity is usually brought about by multiple means:

Asphyxiation, from which the thoracic diaphragm can not expand or contract fully thus causing the inability to breathe correctly. One of the main processes of laughter involves the continuous expansion and contraction of the thoracic diaphragm, bringing in and releasing air into and from lungs. It is possible to overexert and strain this muscle to where it becomes too weakened to perform normally. Other lung conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), and many others may become agitated and contribute to death.  Also getting hit by a beer truck on your way to the dentist is away to die.

Heart failure, heart attack, and cardiac arrest are the most common of heart conditions that are likely to occur due to constant straining on the heart, ultimately preventing blood flow. As a person laughs, their heart rate increases above the normal ranges. However, as laughter continues, the heart rate may reach dangerous levels that the heart is not accustomed to, straining and damaging it. Other heart conditions include coronary heart disease, cardiac arrhythmia, ischaemic heart disease, and others can also be affected.

The phrase was first recorded in 1596.

THE BOTTOMLINE: FUNNY RESPONSIBLY---MODERATION IS THE KEY.  CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING HIGHER THAN RECOMMENDED DOSAGE.  AND DON'T OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY. 

 

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