Everybody dies eventually. That’s just how life goes. But some people have stared Grim Reaper in the eye, gazed upon him unflinching, and lived to tell the tale. Even when everything went wrong, every possible scenario that should lead to your demise—somehow, these people found a way.
Whether through pure skill and talent, timely help from others, absolute luck, or simply because the Grim Reaper was feeling lazy that day, these are the stories of 10 people who should be dead but aren’t.
10 Julius Caesar: The Battle of Alesia
In the year 52 BC, Caesar was knee-deep in Gaul, an enemy territory. Vercingetorix, a Germanic tribe leader, intercepted Caesar’s forces. Vercingetorix retreated to a highly defensible fort named Alesia.
His supply line was shaking. His entire army is very close to death from starvation. A messenger came to Caesar; he said that a massive Germanic reinforcement is going to come soon. Caesar knew he couldn’t escape from this place. If he assaulted the fort, it’d be suicide. If he waited, he’d die by starvation. Caesar felt it—the Grim Reaper is coming for him.
He ordered his men to build a wall facing Alesia. Then he built another wall facing outside, creating a fort within a fort. These walls are mind-bogglingly enormous; 18km long inner wall and 22km long outer wall. The Germanic reinforcement that came was truly massive. Vercingetorix forces outnumbered Caesar’s forces three to one.
The Germanic reinforcements attacked the Roman fort from all sides, with the strongest force invading the eastern wall. As Vercingetorix did the same thing to the inner wall, Roman troops were stretched impossibly thin along the walls. Caesar himself rode around the perimeter, personally commanding his forces against the attack. They hold on for dear life.
Then Caesar took a cavalry unit and broke through the outer wall, sweeping the perimeter as they attack the Germanic forces from behind. The Germanic army was in shock. They panicked and fled, and some were killed or captured. Caesar was victorious, not just against Vercingetorix but against death.
9 William Duell: Execution by Hanging
In 1740, A young woman named Sarah Griffin arrived at Acton, London, and wanted a place to stay the night. She encountered William Duell, a 16-year-old man, who offered her his barn. Sarah accepted and made herself at home for the night. That evening, Duell went out to a nearby pub and boasted about how he had a beautiful woman in his bed. Wickedly, Duell led five men into poor Sarah’s room.
The men raped Sarah, who died the next day from a stroke. Duell was convicted of rape and murder and plead guilty, earning himself a death sentence. 24 November 1740, William Duell was executed by hanging. His body hung for 50 minutes before the hangman cut the rope. They transported the body to the Surgeons’ Hall for an autopsy.
To everyone’s dismay, William Duell woke up 10 minutes after the body was laid down on the medical table. He can’t recall what recently happened. He was fed a warm broth and given space and time to rest. He recovered the next day and was able to recite the lord’s prayer fluently as if he hadn’t been executed the day before.
8 Harrison Odjegba Okene: Sinking Ship
A Nigerian cooking crew named Harrison Odjegba Okene is boarding the tugboat RSS Jascon 4. He was peacefully heeding nature’s call in the bathroom when suddenly the entire room flipped upside down. A massive rogue wave knocked RSS Jascon-4, capsizing the ship.
He immediately opened the door and saw his friends get dragged along the corridor by the rushing water. Before he realized it, the entire ship is already pitch black and fully covered in water. He tried to move to find a pocket of air inside to ship, haphazardly feeling around the corridor walls. Luckily, he managed to grab a mattress and a coke. He found a pocket of air, big enough for him to breathe adequately.
For three days, Harrison stood very still, breathing slowly and trying not to listen to the sounds of sharks feasting on his dead friends. He stood toe-to-toe with death in the abyssal depth of the ocean.
Finally, he heard a knock and began to knock back furiously. Eventually, one of the rescue divers found him. Harrison was put into a diver tank, hoisted up into the surface, and decompressed for two days. He vowed never to set foot into any ship again.
7 Jose Salvador Alvarenga: 438 Days at the Pacific Ocean
Two fishermen from Costa Azul, Mexico, named Ezequiel Cordoba and Jose Alvarenga, were going on a fishing trip 120 km from the shore. They knew a storm was brewing, but they pushed their luck.
They managed to evade the storm but stopped just 24 km from the shore because the boat’s motor died. They tried to contact colleagues with the radio, but the batteries were dead too. At this moment, they knew they were going to embark on their last journey.
The coastal wind pushed their boat into the massive Pacific Ocean. With no oars to paddle, they had no choice but to oblige the wind. Four days had passed, and they ended up 450 km from the shore. The pair caught birds and turtles with their hands and drank their blood. They picked up discarded plastic bottles and tried to catch rainwater to drink. They even drank their own urine.
Four months later, Cordoba went insane and refused to eat, dying of starvation. After eleven months, Alvarenga had sailed 1100 km from his home. Finally, he reached Ebon Atoll, a tiny island in the Marshall Islands. He knocked on a house and was rescued.
6 Vesna Volovic: Fell Out of a Plane Without a Parachute
On 26 January 1972, a Yugoslavian flight attendant named Vesna Volovic boarded flight JAT-367. The plane flew from Denmark to Yugoslavia. Forty-seven minutes after the plane took off, there was an explosion in the baggage area big enough to break the aircraft in half.
Vesna was thrown towards the plane’s tail. A food tray flew across the corridor, pinning her down at the back of the plane, preventing her from falling out like everyone else. Vesna’s low blood pressure condition caused her to fall unconscious.
That part of the plane fell 9800 meters into a heavily wooded area around Srbska-Kamenice. The dense trees cushioned the plane’s fall—enough to keep Vesna’s limbs intact. A nearby citizen inspected the plane and rescued Vesna from the crash.
Vesna suffered multiple severe injuries on her legs, pelvis, and head, but ultimately still lived. She was brought to a nearby hospital for treatment. It turns out that the blackout prevented her heart from bursting from the shock, saving her life.
5 Aaron Ralston: Singlehandedly Survived
On 26 April 2003, Aaron Ralston decided to go Horseshoe Canyon in Wayne County, Utah, for a mountaineering adventure. After climbing the canyon expertly, he slipped and a medium-sized boulder fell, crushing and pinning his left hand.
Ralstondevised a plan. He would chip the stone using his multitool blade to loosen it up and then try to break free. He chipped the stone for 127 hours with no luck. He recorded his last message which showed his condition. With that, he forced himself to try one last thing—amputating his left arm.
He braced himself and twisted his left hand, breaking the bone. He cut open the skin and sawed through the muscle, using his now-dulled multitool blade. With his plier, he cut his arm’s nerves one by one, screaming from the pain.
Still somehow alive, Ralston was free. He quickly bandaged his amputated arm and traveled down using his climbing gear. After seven miles of walking aimlessly, he found a pair of Dutch tourists.
4 Brock Meister: Survived Internal Decapitation
A 22-year-old Plymouth, Indiana teenager named Brock Meister was going back home after dinner with his friends. Driving his friends’ truck, Brock hit an ice patch on the road home and spun out of control going 60 km/h. His truck spun and rolled over a few times but landed upright, only backward.
Brock’s friend, who drove ahead of him, witnessed the crash and checked Brock’s condition. Despite a lot of blood, Brock was both alive and responsive. Paramedics safely transported Brock to a nearby hospital where doctors were shocked by what they saw.
Brock had been internally decapitated. His spine was no longer attached to his skull. His head was attached solely because of his skin and muscle tissues. Most people who suffer internal decapitation either died instantly or die in the ambulance. Brock received a successful follow-up surgery to re-attach his spine using a rod.
3 Angela Hernandez: Unluckiest Car Crash
Angela Hernandez drove her 2011 Jeep Patriot on Highway One in Southern California. Suddenly, a small animal leaped in front of her car. She instinctively avoided it, but it sent her vehicle barrelling down the cliff towards the ocean.
Hernandez woke as her vehicle was drowning. She broke her collarbones, fractured four ribs, ruptured her lungs and eye blood vessels, and suffered a brain hemorrhage. Amazingly, she broke her vehicle’s window and managed to swim out of it. She reached the surface but passed out from overexertion.
She woke up on the beach, 80 meters below the highway on the cliff. She walked along the highway despite excruciating pain from her severe injuries. After seven days of walking, she finally found a woman walking along the beach. The woman then called 911 to rescue Angela. Within hours, she was airlifted towards the nearest hospital and survived.
2 Lachhiman Gurung: The One-Handed Gurkha
Gurkhas are known for producing the fiercest and toughest soldiers. In 1945, a Gurkha named Lachhiman Gurung was a part of the 4th Battalion Gurkha Rifles. He guarded the camp near Taongda village while the rest of the team slept.
On one fateful night, the Japanese launched a night raid on Lachhiman’s camp. Japanese soldiers threw a grenade at his position. Lachhiman managed to throw two of the grenades back at them. When he grabbed the third grenade, it was too late—the grenade blew up in his hand. With the fingers gone on his right hand, his right arm and leg were mangled. The right side of his face was bloody and covered in shrapnel.
The fact that Lachhiman survived the grenade’s blast was nothing short of a miracle, but it didn’t end there. He collected himself and readied his rifle, shooting whoever came close to his trench. He avoided grenades and enemy fire, reloading the rifle just in time as more soldiers came at him. He did it all with just his undamaged left hand.
The struggle continued for 4 hours, but he somehow managed to kill 31 soldiers and fend off the 200-men attack. His friends treated him, and Lachhiman survived. He was awarded the Victoria Cross medal.
1 Frank Selak: 7 is the Unlucky Number
Frank Selak was just a 32-year-old Croatian music teacher. But he seemed to have a superpower of surviving everything life—and death—threw at him. In January 1962, Selak boarded a train, that was suddenly derailed. The train plunged into an icy river. Selak survived the fall and swam ashore with a broken arm and hypothermia.
A year later, he was on a plane flying from Zagreb to Rijeka when the back door blasted open, sucking everyone into the sky. Amazingly, Selak landed on a haystack with only minor scratches. Four years later, Selak boarded a transport bus. The bus skidded and plunged into a river, sinking all the way down. Yet again, Selak survived the fall and swam into the surface, then to the shore with a few cuts and bruises.
In 1970, Selak was driving his car when an engine failure ignited the fuel tank, bursting the car into flames. Selak jumped off of the vehicle just before it exploded. A few years later, the same thing happened with his new car. Selak again exited the vehicle safely, only suffering minor burns. Later, he was hit by a city bus and then again by a truck. This guy should think about playing the lottery.