Mental Floss

The Quick 10: Attack of the Killer Fruit

Stacy Conradt
facebooktwitterreddit

Today is the anniversary that Zachary Taylor died, just a year into his term and a few days after the Fourth of July festivities that may have been his undoing. The culprit? A bowl of cherries. Here is his story, and the story of nine other fruit assassinators (or would-be assassinators, in a couple of cases).

taylor
taylor /

2. Ivanka Perko survived Nazi and Communist regimes, escaping Slovenia with just the clothes on her back and some black pepper in her pocket to ward off guard dogs. But in the end, a banana brought the 73-year-old grandma to her demise. She was attempting to open a banana and dropped it; the pointy end scraped down her leg and scratched it. To most of us, this would just be a silly little scrape, but Perko had been ill for several months and she wasn't healing properly from even the smallest of injuries. She ended up dying of infection and complications from the banana injuries. She maintained a sense of humor about it, though, and said on her deathbed, "I can't believe after all this time it was a bloody banana that killed me." Her humor lives on in her family, who noted that it was sort of a fitting end for such a unique and fruitful life. Ha.

3. On June 19, 1882, The New York Times reported that Hugh Griffin, aged 20 months, died due to "excessive indulgence in strawberries." The article reports that "Although the Griffin child was healthy up to the time it ate the strawberries, his surroundings were conducive to disease. The air in the house was foul and the place was filthy. His parents were poor people living in a tenement in one of the filthiest localities in the City. It is in the neighborhood between Washington and West streets, into which the sunshine seldom penetrated."

peach
peach /

5. This one is similar, but much sadder: a six-year-old boy was killed by his own grandfather just last month after a fight over watermelon. ""I'm not sure that it's easy to get your mind around that concept, but we believe it was some sort of issue with the child either dropping or prematurely cutting this watermelon that initially precipitated the argument," said the Commerce, Ga., police chief. His grandmother was also shot, but survived.

6. Do you guys remember the cantaloupe scare of 2001? Yeah, me neither. But surely after two Californians died of salmonella after eating tainted cantaloupe, the nation was put on high alert (you know how those things go). And it wasn't the first time "“ in 1991, a similar case occurred in the U.S. and Canada, although no fatalities were reported.

grapefruit
grapefruit /

8. So the Saguaro cactus fruit isn't as commonly known as apples and oranges, but it does exist. And it does kill. In 1982, David Grundman was using a 27-foot cactus for target practice "“ which is apparently fairly common, because Arizona had to declare it a felony "“ when the cactus decided to take revenge on its way out of the world. As the Saguaro began to fall, Grundman started to yell out "Timber!" but the second syllable was cut short when he was crushed under the plant and its spikes. The incident was nominated for a Darwin Award many years after the fact.

9. You've probably heard the vague statistic that coconuts kill more people than sharks do "“ some figures even say that there are as up to 10 times the number of coconut-related deaths than shark attacks. The deaths, of course, come when a ripe coconut falls out of a tree and crushes the skull of an unsuspecting passerby below. But the fact is, we don't actually know that for sure. According to the Straight Dope, people have definitely suffered fractured skulls and have been knocked unconscious, but they were unable to find a single instance of an actual fatality related to a falling coconut. However, this didn't stop Shel Silverstein from writing "Killed by a Coconut," which is kind of hilarious.

cranberries
cranberries /

What fruit would be the death of you? Honestly, I'm not a terribly picky eater, but any fruit ensconced in Jell-O grosses me out beyond belief.

facebooktwitterreddit