In her new column, Lindsey Weber examines the curious case of James Heselden, Li Si, and Thomas Midley, Jr. 

Sometimes what’s been deemed “verified” on Wikipedia seems too strange to be true. In Wikipedia for the Weird, the Daily Dot tracks down the most bizarre and entertaining entries on the Web’s crowdsourced encyclopedia, sending down the rabbit hole even further.


Trackpads ready? I’m beginning with one of my favorite Wikipedia entries, a topic so tragically amusing it seems better suited to be on a site like Cracked or College Humor. But somehow, Wikipedia’s labor intensive categorizing and equally intense debate over these historical figures makes it even funnier. Haven’t they been through enough? Blood, sweat, tears, innovation and death by the hand of their creation. It doesn’t “get better” for these people, unfortunately.

Thomas Midgley, Jr. (1889–1944) was an American engineer and chemist who contracted polio at age 51, leaving him severely disabled. He devised an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. This system was the eventual cause of his death when he was accidentally entangled in the ropes of this device and died of strangulation at the age of 55.”

Yeesh, that’s rough. Midgley not only lived with polio, he invented a way to make his life easier with polio that ended up murdering him. And he’s not alone:

Li Si (208 BC), Prime Minister during the Qin dynasty, was executed by the Five Pains method which he had devised.”

Curious what those Five Pains are, exactly? Ah, well, a well-linked Wikipedia has your back:

“The Five Pains were as follows: first the victim’s nose was cut off, followed by a hand and then a foot.”

I guess that’s more like karma than anything else.

By far the best part of this particular article is the controversy surrounding the Segway-caused death of James Heselden, who apparently rode off a cliff soon after buying the Segway production company. Click into the “Talk” section and you’ll learn that Heselden’s death caused Wikipedia editors confusion on where to place him. See, Dean Kamen actually invented the Segway so technically Heselden doesn’t belong in this entry.

“Currently it’s in the “Myths” section. I don’t think it belongs there either, as the Heselden/Segway story is true, not a myth,” writes an editor, after the entry was placed in a section called “Myths,” which also includes fitness enthusiast Jim Fixx, who died during a jog, and Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who was rumored to have been killed by his own namesake invention.

What did we learn here? Invention is seemingly overrated (and not to mention dangerous) .Fate works in ways that can be tragically amusing. But would we be talking about the Segway otherwise? Probably not.

Photos via Wikipedia 

The most horrifying Wikipedia articles ever
These Wikipedia articles should not be read by people with heart trouble, pregnant women, or ... well, anyone really. Do not click this link.
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