Fatal Hilarity

Can you die from laughing too hard?

According to an urban legend, there have been at least two documented instances in which people have died apparently of laughter, one in 1975 and another in 2003 [1].

On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King’s Lynn, England, literally died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, who was a witness, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing whilst watching a sketch in the episode “Kung Fu Kapers” in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from a psychopathic black pudding in a demonstration of the Scottish martial art of “Hoots-Toot-ochaye”. After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired due to heart attack. His widow later sent the Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell’s final moments so pleasant. In Bangkok in 2003, a newspaper reports that an Ice cream driver died while laughing in his sleep. He continued to laugh for two minutes, after which his wife attempted to wake him up. The autopsy showed that he suffered a heart attack, resulting in his death.


  1. An odd wiki entry: the ‘reality’ cases are described asa ‘urban legends’ (shurely shome mishtake?). I also like the way ‘in history’ is excluded from ‘in reality’…

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