2009 Top Ten Darwin Awards

10. Painkiller

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

Confirmed True by Darwin

(17 October 2009, Minnesota) On October 26, charges were dismissed against Lucas William Stenning, 32, who six weeks earlier had pleaded guilty to knowingly violating registration required of a predatory offender. Charges were dismissed....because Lucas was dead.

In a related story, on the afternoon of October 17 in the city of Bock, an injured "hit and run victim" was reported. The pedestrian, found on the side of the road, died in the ambulance at the scene.

In a related story, police reported that a 32-year-old man had concocted a scheme to stage an accident in order to obtain prescription drugs. The plan was to jump out of a moving vehicle, become injured, go to the hospital and receive narcotic painkillers. That plan failed when its mastermind, Lucas William Stenning, died at the scene due to head injuries.

In other words: Lucas, 32, avoided a serious parole violation because he was deceased due to injuries he caused himself by leaping from a moving vehicle in order to obtain prescription painkillers. Ouch!

9. Race To The Bottooommm

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

Confirmed True by Darwin

(5 September 2009, Oregon) Jake reached the summit of Saddle Mountain, and then and there he informed his friends that he planned to make a controlled slide down the cliff face. He would meet up with them in the parking lot or on the trail below.

Some folks are satisfied with the risks and rewards of dune sliding, and the chance of a 150-foot broken-limb tumble. Not Jake. The 18-year-old decided to 'git-r-dun' down a thousand-foot cliff, instead. He slid pell-mell down the escarpment--and what was intended to be a controlled rockslide ended abruptly 1000 feet below the summit, when his body came to rest in a steep ravine.

Friends were shocked. "We are shocked," they said, "because he is always doing stuff like this and coming out smiling."

Reader Comments:

"What a downer."

"Why daredevils don't live long."

"Rocky Mountain Low."

8. Doublemint Dumb

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

Confirmed True by Darwin

(5 December 2009, Russia) A 25-year-old chemistry student of the Kiev Polytechnic Institute had acquired the peculiar habit of dipping his chewing gum in citric acid crystals while he worked, presumably to add a zesty flavor. He was hunched over at a computer in his parents' house in the northern Ukraine city of Konotop when, whether by intention or inattention, the student dunked his gum into an unidentified chemical and stuck it back into his mouth.

A loud pop was heard coming from his room. (Reports really said that!)

Putting aside the question of what he was doing with chemicals at home, the student was well aware of the need to keep them away from food. Every academic laboratory emphasizes the importance of never eating near chemicals because it is easy to confuse a tasty beverage with a toxic liquid, or salt your salad with arsenic. But there he was, deceased, the lower part of his face blown off.

A forensic examination established that the remains of the chewing gum was covered with a dangerous unknown substance that the local laboratory presently did not have the necessary equipment to identify. Police found packets of citric acid and packets of a similar-looking unidentified explosive material, and think the student simply confused the two.

Reader Comments:

"Blowing the ultimate bubble."

"New Chewing Gum Flavor: Explosive"

"Chin up, old chap, by gum."

"Must have been one hell of a bubble."

"Doublemint Dumb"

7. Tennessee Pee

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

Unconfirmed by Darwin


(mid-1980s, Tennessee) A mile down the road from Middle Tennessee State University, a couple of young, very drunk MTSU frat boys climbed a barbed wire fence that was intended to keep lesser mortals out of an electric substation. One frat boy climbed to the top of a transformer. That alone was an obviously bad idea, but it got worse when he urinated on the transformer on which he stood. As if electrocution via genitalia wasn't bad enough, consider his motivation to pee: a wasp nest "target" attached to the transformer. Needless to say, the wasps were the lesser of his worries. He did not live long.

Reader Comments:

Ben, Jesse, and numerous others cite the MythBusters episode 'debunking' the myth of peeing on the third rail.

We challenge MythBusters!

The large number of incident reports we have received over the years, as well as conversations with reporters and medics, incline us to believe that people do harm and kill themselves by urinating on electrified things, and their episode is misleading.

Typical Shocking Experiences:

Jim: "One fact I know; if you scoop up a coffee can of water from a stream next to an electric fence, then pour that water on the fence, you will feel a decent shock from the can. As kids, we dared each other. Now, the next logical dare was, who had the guts to pee on that fence? Nobody ever did, but I am very confident that urine would be as conductive as the water from that stream."

Donna: "We had been dog-sitting Herschel, an unruly Doberman. When Chris came to pick up Herschel, he hooked the metal chain collar to the metal chain leash (no handle, Herschel had eaten that) and headed outside. Herschel realized it was going to be a long ride home and cocked his leg to take a whiz--right on our electric fence! The electric charge ran up the urine stream, through the metal collar, across the metal leash, and into Chris. Herschel yelped, Chris swore, and both jumped back, breaking the contact! My husband and I had a good laugh about it once Chris and Herschel were gone. Without question, you can definitely get a charge out of peeing on an electric fence!"

Jamie: "During officer training, the pain of digging full-depth trenches in flinty soil was offset by the fun of sentry duty. During the night, the thick fog was regularly punctuated by small blue flashes as returning patrols blundered into an electric fence that a farmer had laid along our main fence. Even better was watching people nip out for a pee against a fence post. At some point the spray would hit the live wire, with the same flash and yelp every time. The individuals must have been too embarrassed to say anything, because it kept happening, and we certainly didn't choose to enlighten anybody! As far as I'm aware, nobody suffered any lasting damage, but I wasn't going to check. I'm sure my trench-mates will gladly corroborate the story--and some of the others, probably less happily!"

Now a Random Factoid from Wendy: "I usually type a story title into Google to get to that Darwin Awards page. But when I type, Tennessee Pee, what comes up first and foremost is... I kid you not... LOCAL BUSINESS RESULTS for pee in Tennessee! So I tried 'California pee' to see if other states also use 'pee' as a keyword. Nope! That comes up with 'Gender Neutral Bathrooms' and 'Wikipedia on Asparagus' and other relevant links. Only Tennessee features business results. Ha ha!"

6. Crushing Debt

2009 Darwin Award WINNER

Confirmed True by Darwin

Double Darwin!

(26 September 2009, Belgium) The city of Dinant is the backdrop for this rare Double Darwin Award. Two bankrobbers attempting to make a sizeable withdrawal from an ATM died when they overestimated the quantity of dynamite needed for the explosion. The blast demolished the building the bank was housed in. Nobody else was in the building at the time of the attack.

Robber One was rushed to the hospital with severe head trauma; he died shortly after arrival. Investigators initially assumed that his accomplice had managed a getaway, but the second bungler's body was excavated from the debris twelve hours later. Would-be Robbers One and Two weren't exactly impoverished--their getaway car was a BMW.


"Dynamite: not for everything."

"Less is certainly more."

"Debit cards are safer."

"They really blew it..."

"Extreme Self Banking"

5. A Shoe-In Winner

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

Confirmed True by Darwin

(15 December 2009, Germany) A U2 subway driver found a body laying besides the underground tracks in Berlin. Because there was no video surveillance camera at that location, it took police two days to reconstruct what had happened. Apparently Yasin A., 22, was alone in the subway car when he decided it would be a brilliant idea to destroy one of the windows. By swinging feet forward from a handrail into the window, he not only managed to burst the glass but also succeeded in being sucked out of the moving train, and was left dead on the tracks. He was alone in the compartment at the time; if an observer had been present, perhaps the young underground rider would not have engaged in destructive nonsense that led to his senseless death.

4. Dying To Go

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

Confirmed True by Darwin

(12 April 2008, Florida) Traffic was moving slowly on southbound I-95. Shawn M. had recently left a Pompano Beach bar, and now he was stuck in traffic. As the saying goes, you don't buy beer--you just rent it, and Shawn couldn't wait another moment to relieve himself. "I need to take a leak," he told his friends.

Traffic was deadlocked, so the waterlogged man climbed out, put his hand on the divider, and jumped over the low concrete wall... only to fall 65 feet to his death. "He probably thought there was a road, but there wasn't," said a Fort Lauderdale police spokesman. The car was idling on an overpass above the railroad lines.

His mother shared her thoughts. "Shawn didn't do a whole lot for a living. He got along on his charm, just like his father."

Though his death was tragic, Shawn's downfall proves the old adage: Look before you leak!

Reader comments:

"Guess he was dying to go."

"He shoulda peed in a bottle."

"Apparently it was just his time to go."

3. Muffled Explosion

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

Confirmed True by Darwin

(10 January 2009, Pennsylvania) An embarrassed and seriously injured 17-year-old initially claimed that an explosive had been planted in his backpack by persons unknown. However, police investigators soon extracted the truth from the feckless teen.

He found an M-80 explosive at his grandmother's house, took it to his room to examine it, and began to repeatedly light and extinguish the fuse. During one of these cycles the fuse would not go out, so he jammed the red cardboard tube between his thighs and covered it with his hand to muffle the explosion. This plan was less successful than he had hoped.

Commonly thought to be a quarter stick of dynamite, M80's (according to pyrouniverse.com) actually contain flash powder rather than TNT, and only 1/50 the amount--just under 3 grams. Used by the U.S. Military to simulate grenade explosions, M80's were outlawed in 1966 under the Child Protection Act.

They are not safe enough to be detonated by the average man on the average street, let alone by the average 17-year-old. One loud KABOOM! later, our junior pyrotechnics specialist had lost his right hand, right leg, and--very likely--his right to reproduce, earning him a living Darwin Award.

* As always, my regrets to the boy and his family.

2. Mock Death

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

Confirmed True by Darwin

(1 November 2009, Belgium) Police received a desperate call from a man who had been attacked on a motorway near the town of Liege. When the policemen arrived, they found Thierry B., 37, lying dead on the ground, his body stabbed, his car burning. Witnesses had seen a big truck driving away.

But there was no evidence of fighting or struggling around the body--only the knife wounds on his shoulder and neck. Puzzled, inspectors analysed Thierry's cell phone calls. He had recently reconnected with an old friend, a fact that intrigued Inspector Clouseau. I mean, Commissioner Lamoque. Childhood friend, lost sight of for ten years, back in touch? Lamoque asked the 42-year-old friend in for a chat about the roadside aggression.

Turns out the dead man was aggrieved regarding insurance money he felt was owed, but never paid, after his restaurant burned two years before. He had asked his old friend to bring him a knife and a jerrycan of fuel, and leave him alone on the motorway: a man with a plan to get the insurance money one way or another.

The "victim" then set his car on fire, called police, and stabbed himself, accidentally cutting an artery in his own neck. By the time his simulated act of violence was over, he was over too, face against the ground ten yards from his burned car. Roll credits on this little drama.

Reader comment: "Mock aggression mocks death"

1. Sparkleberry Lane

2009 Darwin Award Nominee

(31 July 2009, South Carolina) Two disguised men entered a Sprint store on Sparkleberry Lane, pulled out guns, and stole wallets, purses, and credit cards from employees before ordering them into a bathroom. Both men fled, but they could not flee from their own stupidity. 23-year-old James T. had disguised himself by painting his face gold.

Yes, in order to conceal his identity during the robbery, James had covered his skin with spray paint. If this isn't a Darwin Award, what is? Paints are clearly labeled, do not get on skin, do not get in eyes, do not inhale. Paint fumes are well-known to be toxic, and the metallic colors are particularly noxious. James began having trouble breathing (surprise!) and died wheezing shortly after the robbery took place.

To add insult to injury, the disguise was ineffective. Witnesses were certain as to the identity of their assailant. Had he lived, James, like his surviving accomplice, would have been charged with armed robbery.