Famous Firsts in Death

When it comes to the subject of death, there are plenty of fascinating facts to explore. In this article, you will encounter facts that you probably never thought of asking or investigating.

First Lead Coffins

Archeologists at St. Mary’s City in Maryland uncovered lead coffins that were used in the New World that dating back to the 17th century. Three specimens were discovered in ruins linked to the first Catholic church that was constructed in England’s North American colonies. Inside, the remains of the former Maryland governor named Philip Calvert were found. The other coffins contained the remains of his first wife and an infant daughter that his second wife bore. Calvert passed away in 1661.

First Cannibal on Record

John Johnston was known in the Wyoming territory as an army scout, trapper, and a lawman that lived in the region from about 1840 to 1890. The man had a dark habit that gained him the nickname of Liver-Eating Johnston, as he had a knack for killing Crow tribe members and eating their livers afterwards. The Native Americans also had a name for him , Abaroka Dabiek, which translated into “Crow Killer.”

The reasoning that Johnston gave when asked about his cannibalistic manner was that he was exacting revenge for the murder of his pregnant Chinook wife that took place by a raiding party of the Crow. It is believed that Johnston was responsible for slaying between 250 and 300 Crow. After this, he actually made peace with the tribe. In an odd twist, he later became a blood brother of one of the more prominent chiefs.

First Right-to Die Society

In 1938, the National Society for the Legalization of Euthanasia was created in New York City with a reverend serving as president of the organization. Later that same year, the society would join forces with the Euthanasia Society of America.

Frozen Corpse for Future Resuscitation

In January of 1967, Robert Nelson and a few others who possessed an interest in cryonics used dry ice to freeze the body of a retired psychology professor by the name of James H Bedford.

Suicide Survival , Empire State Building

When you think about a person throwing himself or herself off of the Empire State Building, you don’t think about someone surviving that drop. However, Thomas Helms, a 26-year old who jumped off of the building actually lived, despite his efforts to commit suicide. He jumped off of the observation deck of the 86th floor in 1977, yet Helms landed on a narrow ledge on the 85th floor, which was about 20 feet lower from his previous perch. While he was knocked unconscious for ½ hour, he was not seriously injured.


The first autopsy was performed in Florida in 1536 on a 22-year-old man named Phillipe Rougement, who had died of wither the plague or scurvy. It wasn’t until 1639 that the first officially recorded autopsy took place.