You may find this hard to believe but performers (actors, musicians, athletes, etc) live dangerous and – in some cases – even lethal lives. Unfortunately, there have been many people who died during a performance over the past decades. For today´s post, we’ll take a look at sad stories of people who tragically passed away while performing on their stage (we’re using the word “stage” to describe the performer’s element. This can range from a choir stage to a wrestling ring and even a movie set). From an actor who suffered a heart attack on stage to a singer who was killed by a snake during her concert, here are 25 Awesome Performers Who Died On Their Stage.
William Elsworth Robinson
Known by his stage name Chung Ling Soo, William Elsworth Robinson was an American magician who was famous for performing a bullet catch trick. When Robinson was performing the trick in London in March 1918, the gun malfunctioned and fired a real deadly bullet into his lungs.
A renowned French organist and composer, Louis Vierne suffered either a stroke or a heart attack (eyewitness reports differ) while giving his 1750th organ recital at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on the evening of 2 June 1937.
Gareth Jones, a British actor, was portraying a character who died of a heart attack in a live science fiction play Underground in the UK’s Armchair Theatre in November 1958 when he died of a real heart attack between his scenes.
Jean Baptiste Poquelin
Better known by his stage name Moliere, Jean Baptiste Poquelin was a French playwright and actor who is considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. Moliere, who suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, died after being seized by a violent coughing fit while playing the title role in his play The Hypochondriac in February 1673.
Brandon Lee, son of the famous martial artist Bruce Lee, died while filming the movie The Crow (1994). A prop gun had been squib loaded, causing the blank cartridge to propel the bullet into Lee and kill him. Contrary to urban legend, the footage of his death was not kept in the movie. Instead, they re-shot the scene using a different actor, whose death in the film was by a throwing knife.
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Lil Hardin Armstrong
A jazz pianist, composer, arranger, singer, bandleader and the second wife of Louis Armstrong, Lil Hardin Armstrong collapsed at her piano during a concert in memory of her former husband Louis on August 27, 1971. She died an hour later.
Owen Hart, a Canadian-born professional wrestler, died during Over the Edge, a pay-per-view event, when performing a stunt in May 1999. It was planned to have Hart come down from the rafters of the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, on a safety harness tied to a rope to make his ring entrance. The safety latch was released and Hart dropped 78 ft (24 m), bouncing chest-first off the top rope resulting in a severed aorta, which caused his death.
An Indonesian pop star Irma Bule was performing a concert with her usual reptile accompaniment in April 2016 when she accidentally stood on her cobra. The snake then bit her on the leg, injecting venom into her bloodstream. Bule kept singing for another 45 minutes before she collapsed and died right on the stage.
A German conductor who specialized in opera, Joseph Keilberth died in Munich in July 1968 after collapsing while conducting Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde. Keilberth died at exactly the same place as Felix Mottl, an Austrian conductor, had done in 1911.
Ex-guitarist of the heavy metal band Pantera, Dimebag Darrell, was murdered on stage by a gunman while performing with his new band Damageplan at the Al Rosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio in December 2004. The gunman, former Marine Nathan Gale, killed another three people during the shooting.
Italian actor Claudio Cassinelli died on the set of Sergio Martino’s film Vendetta Dal Futuro in Page, Arizona in July 1985. Cassinelli was on a helicopter that crashed into the Navajo Bridge due to a pilot error. He was 46 and left 3 children.
In June 2009, a Japanese wrestler Mitsuhara Misawa suffered a cervical spine injury while taking a suplex move during a match at the Hiroshima Prefectural Sports Center in Hiroshima, Japan. The injury caused cardiac arrest that resulted in Misawa´s death.
Renato Di Paolo
Italian actor Renato Di Paolo was portraying Judas in a play outside of Rome on the day before Easter in April 2000. During the hanging scene, the actor accidentally hanged himself. His tragic death was captured on video by someone who was recording the play.
Lead guitarist of the Glasgow rock band Stone the Crows, Les Harvey died after being electrocuted by his microphone while performing at Swansea’s Top Rank Ballroom on a rainy day in May 1972. There were puddles of water on the stage and Harvey touched a microphone that was not earth-grounded.
An American jazz trumpeter, Lee Morgan was shot by his common-law wife Helen More during a performance at Slug´s Saloon in New York City in February 1972. The injuries were not immediately fatal, but the ambulance was slow in arriving on the scene as the city had experienced a heavy snowfall which resulted in extremely difficult driving conditions. They took so long to get there that Morgan bled to death.
One of the most popular Swedish stand-up comedians, Lasse Eriksson died during the final number of his show Fyra Lyckliga Man 2 (Four Happy Men 2) at Reginateatern in Uppsala, Sweden in March 2011 after he collapsed on the stage.
Known as “The Crocodile Hunter”, Steve Irwin, an Australian nature expert and television personality, was stung and killed by a stingray while filming an underwater documentary entitled The Ocean’s Deadliest. The stingray’s barb pierced Irwin´s heart, causing him to bleed to death. Irwin’s death is believed to be the only fatality from a stingray ever captured on video.
A guitarist and vocalist for the band Great White, Ty Longley died in The Station Nightclub Fire that happened on February 20, 2003, in West Warwick, Rhode Island. Unfortunately, Longley was not the only victim of the tragedy – the fire led to the deaths of another 99 people.
Jon Erik Hexum
An American actor and model, Jon Erik Hexum died after shooting himself with a gun on October 12, 1984 while filming an episode of the TV series Cover Up. There was a delay in filming and Hexum became restless so he began playing around with what he thought was an unloaded prop gun. He spun the cylinder and, as if playing Russian roulette, put the revolver to his head and pulled the trigger. The shot caused a massive brain hemorrhaging that resulted in Hexum´s death.
Longevity expert and author Jerome Rodale had been quoted as saying, “I’m going to live to be 100, unless I’m run over by a sugar-crazed taxi driver.” Soon after, in June 1971, he was a guest on The Dick Cavett Show. After his interview was done, next guest was being interviewed by Cavett when Rodale collapsed and died of what was later proved to be a heart attack.
John Marshall Alexander Jr.
Better known by the stage name Johnny Ace, John Marshall Alexander Jr. was an American rhythm-and-blues singer who had a string of hit singles in the mid-1950s. He died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound while performing at the City Auditorium in Houston, Texas, on the Christmas Day 1954.
American actress Edith Webster died on stage from a heart attack while performing her death scene in the play “The Drunkard,” in a lodge in Baltimore. The role called for her to sing “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” and the actress was then supposed to slump to the floor and die, which she unfortunately did in real life.
A popular British comedian, Eric Morecambe, a member of the long-running comedy team Morecambe and Wise, suffered a heart attack just after stepping offstage following six curtain calls at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury, England, on May 28, 1984. He died a few hours later.
In 1985, a Japanese acrobat dancer Yoshiyuki Takada was performing The Dance of Birth and Death with a Tokyo artistic troupe, on the side of Seattle’s Mutual Life building, when his rope broke and he fell six stories to his death.
Protul Chandra Sorcar
Better known by his stage name P. C. Sorcar, Protul Chandra Sorcar was a famous Indian magician who performed his shows in front of live audiences and on television in the 1950s and 1960s. Sorcar died of a heart attack at the age of 58 in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan, on January 6, 1971, during his show.