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The Author of ‘Goodnight Moon’ Died From Doing a High Kick and Other Awful Facts We Just Learned

Rosemary Giles
Photo Credit: Canva Pro / Cropped
Photo Credit: Canva Pro / Cropped

Safe to say there is no end to horrible facts throughout human history. There are so many that we’re still discovering new ones. This list includes the nine most awful things we’ve recently learned – everything from a Soviet cosmonaut’s horrifying last moments and the fluke accident that killed a beloved children’s author.

Killed by a high kick

Goodnight Moon is one of our all-time favorite children’s books, setting a cozy scene that puts kids right to sleep. But it’s hard to look at the beloved classic the same after we learned how the author died. Margaret Wise Brown had just received an appendectomy during a trip to France in 1952.

Margaret Wise Brown lying in the grass with a blade of grass between her teeth.
Author of Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, c. 1940-1950. (Photo Credit: Consuelo Kanaga/ Brooklyn Museum / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

One of her nurses came in to ask how she was feeling. She replied that she was feeling fantastic, giving a big kick in the air to punctuate her point. This is what killed her, as the movement dislodged a blood clot that had formed in her leg as it traveled through her body to her brain.

Tragedy during a tragedy

We all know how many brave men and women stepped up to help on 9/11 – police, paramedics, and firefighters. Many of them didn’t make it out of the towers, but in the case of Daniel Suhr, he didn’t even get inside before tragedy struck. While rushing to help, he became the first firefighter killed when he was hit by someone jumping out from one of the upper floors.

Firefighter Tony James wears a formal uniform as he stands at attention with tears running down his face.
Firefighter Tony James cries while attending the funeral service for New York Fire Department Chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge, who died on 9/11, September 15, 2001. (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Those around him tried unsuccessfully to save his life. This was a devastating blow to his family, but his sister looks at it a different way. She said her brother’s death meant that the men from his firehouse were saved, as they would have been inside the first tower to come down if they hadn’t been looking after him.

‘Trunk Lady’

It’s probably not a good thing to see two people unload a trunk from their vehicle and abandon it in a field. It definitely wasn’t in the case of “Trunk Lady.” On Halloween in 1969, Florida police were called to investigate this exact scene. When they opened the container, they found, to their horror, the body of a dead woman.

Two workers loading a wooden Wells Fargo crate onto a train.
Two men load Wells Fargo trunks onto a train, c. 1925. (Photo Credit: FPG / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Of course, the victim’s name came in part from where she was discovered, but it stuck because they couldn’t figure out who she was. It took 53 years of on-and-off investigations for the police to finally figure it out. The victim was Sylvia Atherton, a mother from Arizona. Perhaps the worst part is that even with this new information, they’re no closer to finding out who killed her.

Teeth hoarder

Very few people actually like the dentist and will probably like it even less after hearing about this disgusting find. In 2018, construction workers were renovating a building in Valdosta, Georgia, that Dr. Clarence Whittington, a dentist in the 1900s, had previously used.

Loose human teeth scattered on a wooden table.
Loose human teeth, like those found in Dr. Clarence Whittington’s old office. (Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels)

When they pulled away one of the walls on the second floor, they found about 1,000 different human teeth. Why this man was keeping his patient’s teeth is unknown, but things get far, far worse. It turns out this isn’t the only building in the state that has contained a hidden stash of teeth – there are at least two more.

Death by soup

We sure put a lot of faith in our healthcare providers, but at the end of the day, they’re just humans who make mistakes. In the case of Ilda Vitor Maciel, they just happened to make a really bad one. At 88 years old, Maciel was being looked after in the Brazilian hospital Santa Casa de Barra Mansa.

Young girl asleep at a table holding her spoon in front of a bowl of soup.
A little girl finds the prospect of eating an entire bowl of soup too tiring, c. 1950. (Photo Credit: FPG / Getty Images)

One of the nurses came in at feeding time and mistakenly injected her dinner of soup into her hand IV instead of her feeding tube. Maciel died of a stroke 12 hours later, with her family wholeheartedly believing it was this outrageous mistake that cost her life. The hospital disagrees, saying the two were unrelated.

Serial killers at large

Every so often, we see a story of a serial killer on the news, most of them from years and years ago. Men like Ted Bundy, Dennis Rader, and Danny Rolling are some of the best-known. Yet we recently learned that people like this are definitely not a thing of the past.

Ted Bundy surrounded by uniformed officers.
Ted Bundy before his conviction as a serial killer, July 27, 1978. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

According to Thomas Hargrove, who has kept incredibly detailed records of murders all across the United States, there are over 2,000 serial killers running rampant across the country right now. Now that is a terrifying thought.

Vladimir Komarov knowingly flew to his death

Vladimir Komarov was a Soviet cosmonaut sent into space on Voskhod 1 in October 1964 and again on Soyuz 1 in April 1967. The second flight was horrifying, as he knew he was going to his death. When the vessel was inspected before launch, there were over 200 structural problems, but Komarov still agreed to go. Why? To save his friend. He said, “If I don’t make this flight, they’ll send the backup pilot instead. That’s Yura, and he’ll die instead of me. We’ve got to take care of him.”

Vladimir Komarov posing for a portrait in military uniform.
Vladimir Komarov, Soviet cosmonaut who was the first human to die in a space flight, 1965. (Photo Credit: rps/ullstein bild/ Getty Images)

It wasn’t long after making it into space that the problems started with Soyuz 1. Now, everyone knew Komarov was going to die – something he bluntly told the ground officials. His wife was called so they could decide what to tell their children. Eventually, it came time for his ship to re-enter orbit, and the parachutes wouldn’t open. The last thing that could be heard was Komarov’s “cries of rage as he plunged to his death.” He was the first person to die in a space flight.

Buried alive

Alexander the Great might be one of the greatest military leaders in history, but his death was absolutely terrifying. No, he wasn’t killed by some grand enemy or taken out by a devastating plague. Instead, scientists think he was buried alive. They believe he suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome, which put him into a state of paralysis for nearly six days, enough that his faithful followers thought he was dead.

Mosaic showing Alexander the Great in armor riding on a horse.
Alexander the Great fighting in the Battle of Issus, c. 310 B.C. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

In the days after his ‘passing,’ people marveled over the fact that his body didn’t start decomposing – most likely because he wasn’t actually dead yet. Although this would mean he was buried alive, these same scholars also think that he would have been in a coma by this point and wouldn’t have been aware of his circumstances.

Ivy League nudes

Although this might not seem as horrifying as being buried alive or dying from a high kick, the case of the Ivy League nude photos is disturbing in an entirely different way. Between the 1940s and 1970s, many of these top-rated schools recruited incoming students – male and female – to pose for naked photos. The purpose was, allegedly, to study how prevalent cases of lordosis, scoliosis, and rickets were.

Diane Sawyer poses among a bunch of flowers as a freshman in college
Diane Sawyer, a Wellesley College freshman and queen of the 47th International Flower Show, poses with some of her subjects as she appears for her coronation. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images)

More from us: Are These the Most Important Photographs in History?

This means that there were once revealing photos of many well-known American figures, including Meryl Streep, Bob Woodward, Diane Sawyer, and some very prominent politicians. After their discovery, they were transferred to the care of the Smithsonian Institution. Supposedly these photos were destroyed by 2001, but ever since 2020, photos of Yale men have been put up for sale by private collectors. So clearly, they weren’t protected as well as it initially seemed.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.

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