Contrary to the stereotype, not every American owns a gun. It’s actually relatively rare for people to keep weapons around the house, unless you count kitchen knives. And maybe some gardening tools vaguely evoke medieval weapons, but that’s beside the point.
For most people, if they look around their house for things that could potentially kill them or other people, they may come to the conclusion that very few, if any, objects can be lethal. However, these ten stories will prove that even the most unlikely household items can be deadly.
10 A Coffee Mug
When you drink your cup of coffee in the morning, it warms your hands and may even bring a smile to your face. Your mug might have a family photo, a funny phrase, or one of your favorite characters. The last thing you would ever imagine is using it as a murder weapon, but that’s exactly what happened in 2006 in the town of Stilfontein, South Africa.
A brother and sister were having an argument on a Saturday night. The fight escalated quickly. Apparently, the brother had no issue with hitting women, because he punched his sister in the face. The 20-year-old woman was so infuriated that she grabbed a nearby coffee mug to throw at her brother. She probably just wanted to give him a bruise, but she hit him so hard that the mug shattered and sliced his throat. Blood gushed everywhere as the young man fell to the floor. His sister called an ambulance, but he bled out before he could be saved by the medics.
9 A Lava Lamp
Lava Lamps are a favorite of stoners everywhere as they stare at the colorful blobs moving up and down. Unfortunately, sometimes, even the most beautiful things in our lives can be dangerous. In 2004, a 24-year-old man named Philip Quinn was living alone in his trailer in Kent, Washington. He placed his lava lamp on top of the stove, which was still hot. The heat of the stove raised the temperature of the chemicals inside the lamp so much that it exploded.
Shards of broken glass flew toward him, and one piece pierced him directly in the heart. Since he lived alone, no one was around to call for help, if there was any chance of him surviving. Philip’s parents visited the trailer when they didn’t hear from him after a while, and they found his body. According to the autopsy, he was not high or drunk at the time of death. The reason why he put the lava lamp on the stove will remain a mystery.
8 An Office Chair
Office chairs have a small tank of compressed air underneath their seats that allow them to go up and down. Unfortunately, a line of chairs manufactured in China had a defect in the canisters. In 2009, a 14-year-old-boy named Xiaogang went to adjust his chair when it exploded while he was still sitting in it. Shards of broken plastic and metal shot through the cushion and directly into his anus. He was brought to the hospital, but he was bleeding so much that he died.
Since the original report of this incident was in Chinese, a group of English-speaking Internet sleuths on Skeptics Stack Exchange wanted to figure out how true this story actually was by translating Chinese news sites. It turns out that not only was this true, but several people had similar injuries. The chair was quickly taken off the market, and we can only hope that none ever made it overseas.
7 A Bottle Cap
You probably remember learning about playwright Tennessee Williams in English class, but your teacher probably neglected to tell the story about how he died. It turns out that Williams, like many tortured artists, had a bit of a drinking problem. He was very intoxicated one night in 1983 after drinking an entire bottle of wine by himself, and he was going through his nightly ritual of using nasal spray and putting eye drops in his eyes. He had a bad habit of keeping the bottle caps for these things in between his teeth. He tilted his head back a little too far and accidentally inhaled the cap. He choked and died on the floor of the Hotel Elysee in New York City.
Apparently, Williams was a bit of a hypochondriac and had an obsession with disease and thoughts about how he was going to die. It was true tragic irony that he died in good health by a freak accident. Since he was 71 years old when he passed away, everyone assumed it was just his time to go and that he died of natural causes. It wasn’t until doctors performed an autopsy that they found the bottle cap in his larynx. It should be noted that Seconal, which is a barbiturate derivative, has also been implicated in his death.
6 A Christmas Tree
Real Christmas trees smell nice, and some families prefer to have them over artificial trees. However, many people do not realize that they become very dry, and they need to be watered every day. Keeping them around the house for too long is a major fire hazard. On January 18, 2015, the four Boone children were visiting their grandparents at their beautiful mansion in Maryland for a late holiday celebration for dinner and a sleepover. They left the tree lights on all night, and in the early morning hours of January 19, the 4.6-meter (15 ft) tree burst into flames.
Tragically, all six family members were killed. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees cause an average of 200 homes to catch on fire and at least six deaths every year.
5 Air Conditioners
Window air conditioners can be kind of scary, especially when walking through a city. With all of those heavy metal boxes hanging overhead, the odds of one of them eventually falling seem high. In fact, in 1988, a falling air conditioner actually did kill a 37-year-old man named Vito DeGiorgio in New York City.
The air conditioner belonged to family services office, and a repairman was called in to fix the machine. He unscrewed the top of the air conditioner without having a second person there to help hold it in place, which is why it tumbled down on top of DeGiorgio’s head.
Since the 1980s, a falling air conditioner has become sort of a trope on TV and in movies. It is very rare, but every so often, another one will fall because its supports were too weak, and it will injure someone walking below.
4 A Mattress
Anyone who has looked after a toddler knows that the “terrible twos” are a very real thing, and the stress to hold it all together becomes magnified when there are multiple children in the family. Pennsylvania parents Justin Dwyer and Courtney Stash were at their wits end when one of their triplets, Eoin, was climbing out of his crib every night.
While there are far better solutions to this problem, Stash and Dwyer decided to place a mattress on top of their son’s crib and added some 23-kilogram (50 lb) bags of driveway salt to the top. Then, they used bungee cords to keep it all together.
In April 2017, Eoin attempted to escape the crib by climbing in between the mattress and the top railing of the crib. He became stuck and suffocated. When his parents found him, they called 911 to get help for the boy but hid the evidence of the mattress and the salt bags. Their eight-year-old son was the one who told the authorities about their nightly ritual. The parents were arrested for aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter.
3 Window Blind Cords
At least two children every day in the United States end up in the emergency room with injuries that occurred because they were playing with window blind cords. Kids decide to fit their little heads through the strings, and some even end up choking to death. Fatalities generally happen when a child is just one to four years old, when they are very young and curious about their surroundings. They see a dangling cord, and they want to pay with it. Even worse is the fact that most of the time, parents never hear their child struggle because the string cuts off their air supply and makes it impossible for them to make a sound.
This is one of those tragic issues that would never cross a new parent’s mind, but it is completely preventable. Keep cords high enough so that children cannot reach them, or buy window shades that do not have strings at all.
2 Riding Mower
Riding mowers are one of those tools that many men aspire to have once they buy their own house with a lot of land. It’s true that riding mowers are a far more convenient way to mow the lawn than a push mower, but parents might think twice about buying one if they knew that 800 children get run over by tractors and mowers every single year in the United States, and 600 of those kids need to get a limb amputated.
In 2017, a father in Alabama was mowing his lawn on a Sunday. He was backing up the machine without turning around, and he had no idea his tiny three-year-old daughter was behind him. He ran her over. They took her to the hospital, but she was already dead.
It’s not just kids who get hurt, either. A lot of adults die due to a riding mower tipping over while it’s going up or down a hill. Some suffer serious burns from touching the hot engine, while others get run over or have their limbs caught in the machines.
1 TV Sets
As the years go on, televsion sets keep getting thinner and lighter. That has a lot of benefits, except for the fact that when they aren’t bolted to a wall, kids can easily pull them down and get injured. In fact, every 30 minutes in the United States, a child ends up going to the emergency room because of an injury related to a falling TV in their home. A total of 215 children have died between 2000 and 2011 because a TV fell on top of them. Most of the time, these TVs fell off of dressers or an entertainment center. Most of these kids were under the age of five.
Just one of many stories was in 2008. The Hughes family home in Liverpool, England, had a children’s playroom downstairs. The four-year-old daughter, Emily May Hughes, was lying on the edge of the stairs playing with her Nintendo DS. Her father was carrying the new TV downstairs by himself, and he did not see his daughter at the bottom of the steps. He accidentally tripped over her and dropped the TV on her head.
Shannon Quinn is a writer from the Philadelphia area. You can find her on Twitter @ShannQ.