“The Annual Darwin Awards” began as circulating e-mails in the early 1990s, purporting to be official awards given to the “the person who removed himself from the gene pool in the most spectacular way.”
There are now websites claiming to be the original and one writer has penned several books on the subject. However, the new awards have many of the same stories contained in the original circulating e-mails.
Among the most popular, were about a man who supposedly attached a jet engine to his Impala and crashed into a hillside in Arizona; a Canadian man who plunged through a skyscraper window to prove the glass was unbreakable; and a convicted murder who beat the death penalty then electrocuted himself while sitting on a metal toilet attempting to repair a portable television.
Some of them may even be true, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I have my own collection that I just call “stupid people stories.” Some of them I saw and they turned up in one of my true crime books, others I read about in the local newspaper. So, by and large, most of my collection contain true events -- even though most didn’t result in death.
-- In the early 1970s, a new employee at the Merita Bakery in Charlotte, North Carolina asked me if it was O.K. for him to eat a fresh doughnut as we were walking by the area where doughnuts were made. I told him everyone did so he should help himself.
A moment later, I watched as he plunged his hand into the hot grease where the doughnuts were frying after dropping out of the proof box where they rose to the correct size. I can still hear his scream of agony as his hand cooked on the outside.
-- Back in the early 1990s a newly sworn Ku Klux Klansmen in upper East Tennessee was celebrating his acceptance into that grand society by firing his pistol in the air. Moments later, one of the rounds dropped back down and hit him in the head, ending his membership in the KKK and the human race.
-- Not long ago a man broke into the Knoxville Museum of Art (in Knoxville, Tennessee) through the heating and air conditioning duct system. When he became stuck, he called the Knoxville Police Department on his cell phone and told them he was an “undercover agent for the Illuminati” and even gave a badge number.
He told the police he was there to find a “blue cow” with a nuclear device inside it in order to render it harmless. Later, he confessed to police he had made an error and was in the wrong art museum in the wrong city.
-- A local grocery store and deli in Knoxville, Tennessee had been broken into so many times, the owner finally had the glass replaced with unbreakable plastic. Not long afterwards, an unconscious would-be burglar was found on the ground outside. He had attempted to toss a concrete block through the window and it had bounced back and hit him in the head.
-- At some point in the middle to late 1980s, an elderly man on crutches stuck up a bank in Knox County, Tennessee and attempted to flee across Chapman Highway, a heavily traveled four-lane. Officer David Seabolt of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office arrived and caught the man before he was able to hobble across the highway.
I couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, actually I could, but I didn’t.