12 People Who Died on Their Birthdays

Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It's called The Birthday Effect: a statistical phenomenon that seems to indicate that the likelihood of one's death increases on or around his or her birthday. While one Swiss study in 2012 put your chances of leaving this world on the same day you entered it as 14 percent higher, there aren't a lot of examples of famous people who have managed to pull it off—with a few exceptions.

1. INGRID BERGMAN

Oscar-winning Casablanca star Ingrid Bergman was born on August 29, 1915, in Stockholm, Sweden. She died 67 years later in 1982 in London after battling breast cancer (though the official cause of death was lymphoma complications that came after a breast cancer operation).

2. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

English dramatist William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), circa 1600
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

William Shakespeare couldn't have written a more poetic circle of life for himself: While the exact date of his birth has long been a source of debate, the general consensus is that he was born on April 23, 1564 and died on that same date in 1616, at the age of 52. Though the exact cause of his death is unknown—he was said to be in high spirits and "perfect health" just weeks before his passing—an entry in the diary of John Ward, a vicar in the town where Shakespeare was both born and died, claimed that, "Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and it seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted."

3. WALTER DIEMER

Walter Diemer, the inventor of bubble gum, went "pop!" on his 93rd birthday on January 8, 1998.

4. BETTY FRIEDAN

 Author Betty Friedan attends a reading of the U.S. Constitution at Cooper Union for the People For the American Way Foundation September 1, 2004 in New York City
Peter Kramer/Getty Images

Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique, was born on February 4, 1921, and died on the same day in 2006. She died of congestive heart failure at her home in Washington, D.C. on her 85th birthday.

5. GEORGE "MACHINE GUN" KELLY

For a lifelong gangster and bootlegger, George "Machine Gun" Kelly got off pretty easy when he died of a heart attack at 59 years old, dying on his birthday, July 17, in 1954. Kelly was incarcerated at Leavenworth at the time.

6. LEVI P. MORTON

Levi Morton
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Levi P. Morton, Benjamin Harrison's vice president, died of pneumonia on his 96th birthday on May 16, 1920—outliving his former boss by nearly 20 years.

7. JOHNNY LONGDEN

Johnny Longden—a Triple Crown-winning jockey who took home wins at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes while riding Count Fleet in 1943—was born on and died on Valentine's Day (in 1907 and 2003, respectively).

8. SIDNEY BECHET

Sidney Bechet Playing Soprano Saxophone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though he was largely overshadowed by Louis Armstrong, jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Sidney Bechet actually found his way into the recording studio a few months ahead of Armstrong. But his alleged temper proved detrimental to his career, and it wasn't until the late 1940s that Bechet's accomplishments were fully recognized. Fortunately, he lived long enough to see it happen; he passed away in Garches, France on May 14, 1959, his 62nd birthday.

9. ELLA BAKER

Though she largely stayed behind the scenes, Ella Baker was a key activist who worked alongside some of the most well-known civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including Martin Luther King, Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois, and Thurgood Marshall. She was born in Virginia on December 13, 1903 and passed away on the same day 83 years later, in 1986.

10. KAMEHAMEHA V, KING OF HAWAII


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Kamehameha V, King of Hawaii, died on his 42nd birthday on December 11, 1872.

11. ALLEN DRURY

Novelist Allen Drury—who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1959 political novel Advise and Consent, based partially on the true-life story of the scandal and suicide of Senator Lester Hunt—died on his 80th birthday on September 2, 1998.

12. SWEDE RISBERG


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Swede Risberg, whose name became synonymous with the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, died on October 13, 1975, his 81st birthday.

It’s National Cookie Day! Here’s Where to Score Some Free Treats

UMeimages/iStock via Getty Images
UMeimages/iStock via Getty Images

If you plan on eating as many baked goods as possible this December, now's your chance to get a head start. Today—December 4—is National Cookie Day, and chains across the country are celebrating by handing out free cookies. Here are the best places to snag a treat before the day is over.

    • Great American Cookies, a chain that's concentrated in the southeastern U.S., is marking the day by rewarding members of its loyalty program. If you already have the loyalty app, you can swing by a participating location any time today and pick up your free original chocolate chip cookie without making any additional purchases. The promotion only applies to customers who signed up for the program before midnight on December 3, so you aren't eligible for the free snack if you download the app on your way to the store.
    • The cookie giant Mrs. Fields is also participating in the holiday. Buy anything from one of the chain's stores on December 4 and you'll get a free cookie with your purchase. If you spring for the Nutcracker Sweet Tower, which is made from five festive containers of baked goods, you can send a Mrs. Fields Peace, Love & Cookies 30 Nibbler Tin to a friend for free.
    • But what if you're looking for a free cookie with no strings attached? Surprisingly, a hotel chain may be offering the best deal for National Cookie Day. Throughout December 4, you can stop by a DoubleTree by Hilton and ask for a free cookie at the front desk. DoubleTree provides complimentary cookies to guests at check-in all year round, and every year on National Cookie Day, the hotel chain extends that offer to everyone.

There's no shortage of great cookies across the U.S. If you're willing to travel to satisfy your sweet tooth, here are the best chocolate chip cookies in all 50 states.

License to Bird: Meet the Real James Bond

American ornithologist James Bond, circa 1974.
American ornithologist James Bond, circa 1974.

On January 4, 1900, a child was born in Philadelphia. His name was Bond. James Bond. He would not grow up to be a globe-trotting, license-to-kill-carrying playboy spy like the other James Bond. Instead, he became an ornithologist, and lived a fairly quiet, normal life—until someone borrowed his name.  

Bond lived in New Hampshire and England while growing up, and developed an accent that a colleague described [PDF] as an “amalgam of New England, British, and upper-class Philadelphian.” After graduating from Cambridge, Bond returned to the U.S. to work as a banker, but his childhood interests in science and natural history spurred him to quit soon after and join an expedition to the Amazon to collect biological specimens for Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences.

After that, and with no formal training in the field, he started working as an ornithologist at the Academy, and was “among the last of a traditional museum breed, the independently wealthy, nonsalaried curator, who lacked advanced university degrees.” Working at the museum, Bond became an authority on the bird species of the Caribbean, and his 1936 book, Birds of the West Indies, was considered the definitive guide to the region’s birds at the time. 

Despite his many scientific accomplishments—which included dozens of papers about Caribbean and New England birds, more books and field guides, numerous medals and awards and other researchers using the term “Bond’s Line” to refer to the boundary that separates Caribbean fauna by their origin—that book would be what catapulted Bond, or at least his name, to international fame.

In 1961, Bond was reading a London newspaper’s review of the latest edition of his book and found eyebrow-raising references to handguns, kinky sex, and other elements of a life that sounded very unlike his. He and his wife Mary quickly learned that another James Bond was the hero of a series of novels by Ian Fleming, which were popular in the UK but just gaining notice in the U.S. Mary wrote to Fleming to jokingly chastise him for stealing her husband’s name for his “rascal” character. 

Fleming replied to explain himself: He was a birdwatcher and when he was living in Jamaica beginning work on his first spy novel, Birds of the West Indies was one of his bird “bibles.” He wanted his main character to have an ordinary, unassuming name, and when he was trying to drum one up, he remembered the author of the book he turned to so often. “It struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed and so James Bond II was born,” Fleming wrote to Mary. (Fleming later called “James Bond” the “dullest name I’ve ever heard.”)

Fleming told Mary that he understood if they were angry at the theft of Bond’s name, and suggested a trade. “In return I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may think fit,” he wrote. “Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion.” 

He also invited the Bonds to his home in Jamaica, which they took him up on a few years later. During the Bonds’ visit, Fleming gave James a copy of his latest novel, You Only Live Twice, inscribed with the message “To the real James Bond from the thief of his identity.”

For the next few decades, until his death at the age of 89, Bond’s famous namesake caused the ornithologist a few minor annoyances. Once, he was supposedly stopped at the airport because officials thought his passport was a fake, and the occasional bank teller would likewise think the same of his checks and refuse to cash them.

Young women would often prank call the Bond house late at night asking to speak to 007, to which Mary would reply: “Yes, James is here. But this is Pussy Galore and he's busy now."

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