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11 Creepy Incidents of Murder and Death Caused by Pop Culture

According to the academic definition of the term, “popular culture” is the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid-20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. However, here at TCmag we kind of disagree with the aforementioned definition since we tend to believe that “pop culture” dates back to antiquity and revolves around anything that can brainwash the masses to a particular extent for specific purposes, such as consumerism and cultural propaganda.
Nevertheless, we will accept the academic definition in good faith and take a look at some of the most tragic effects pop culture has had from time to time on the lives of everyday people. This list, ladies and gents, is dedicated to 11 cases where pop culture obviously went wrong and triggered chaos rather than pure joy and entertainment.
Written by Theodoros II


We could definitely make a list just of eleven people dying from excessive videogame playing but such a list wouldn’t be fun or diverse, so instead we decided to pick the first two recorded cases of videogame deaths. Jeff Dailey and Peter Burkowski, ladies and gents, are not any random guys who just died while playing video games; they were the first true pioneers who showed the way to many other geeks who followed their “glorious” example. Jeff Dailey and Peter Burkowski both died in the name of videogame playing after achieving extremely high scores that wouldn’t be surpassed for a really long time in the popular 1980s arcade game Berzerk, by Atari.

In 1981, Dailey popped his quarter into the machine and scored a mythic 16,660 points, and moments later collapsed, dying from a heart attack even though he was healthy and only nineteen. Almost a year later, Burkowski followed in his footsteps and died after entering his initials on the Berzerk scoreboard not just for one but two record high scores. Deputy Coroner Mark Allen reported that scar tissue was found on Burkowski’s already fragile heart (apparently the boy had health issues), which caused his death after too much effort, excess excitement, and stress playing Berzerk. Of course, it could have happened doing almost any other activity but Burkowski died at eighteen like any good pop culture icon, doing what he loved most—playing video games and smashing high-score records.


The hype surrounding this movie was literally one of a kind. Mel Gibson, its director, was viciously attacked and accused of anti-Semitism, while the Catholic Church thought that the man tried way too hard to make some scenes appear realistic. Additionally, the actor who portrayed Jesus, Jim Caviezel, suffered one accident after another which made the religious freaks around the world talking about divine intervention. The icing on the cake, however, was the death of Peggy Law, a former ABC news employee, in an East Wichita theater. She collapsed during a showing of The Passion of the Christ, apparently suffering a heart attack. The people who sat next to her claimed that Law collapsed during the Crucifixion scene. So, think twice next time you say that it’s only a movie because graphic violence can kill, obviously. 


Before you history lovers complain about this entry let’s make it clear that we have no doubt whatsoever that there were tons of victims in antiquity of what we call pop culture today but no case can even come close to this one which killed not one, not two or three, but way too many people. The dancing mania started in July 1518 when a woman named Frau Troffe began wildly dancing in the streets of Strasbourg and couldn’t be stopped. Within a week, over thirty people had joined her, and in less than a month, there were over 400 people dancing their asses off. Some of these people eventually died from heart attacks, strokes, even exhaustion and numerous experts, including historians, physicians, psychologists, and astrologers, are still trying to explain what caused this unprecedented dancing craze, which led to the deaths of so many people who just couldn’t stop “shaking their groove thing.”


Avatar cursed mankind for many years to come and still causes severe depression in all the losers . . . sorry, I mean fans of the film, who are miserable because the real world is not filled with “exotic” blue girls; a very similar syndrome to the one all the crazed fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit suffer from too. One such case appeared to be a 42-year-old man from Taiwan who paid the price with his own life. The pathetically dedicated fan died of a stroke from over-excitement while watching the 3D blockbuster film.

Of course it’s not only the film to blame for his death, since the man had a long history of high blood pressure which triggered a series of fatal symptoms from the joy and happiness he felt while watching this “masterpiece.” The emergency room doctor who examined his body assured us that the over-excitement triggered his symptoms and eventually caused his death. 


This horrible movie would never get any coverage or headlines if this tragic and insane incident never occurred. Aaliyah (RIP), who was a gorgeous girl and an amazing R&B singer, was simply a bad actress and her role as Queen Akasha, aka The Queen of all Vampires, was something between a farce and a tasteless joke. However, Alan Menzies didn’t think so. This dude was really digging the film, so much so that he had watched it over a hundred times inside a few months, sometimes watching it as often as three times a day if not more.

At some point he got totally delusional and claimed to his friends that Queen Akasha visited him at night and offered to grant him immortality if he killed for her. One night, a friend of his named Thomas McKendrick, who ironically was the one who introduced him to the film and lent him the DVD, told Menzies the obvious: that he was fucking insane. Menzies didn’t take his insult well and stabbed him to death, then drank his blood to know what it is like to be a vampire, and ate half his head because like we said he was absolutely insane. Shortly after and while in prison Menzies killed himself, saving the world from hearing anything again about this terrible, absurd film. 


What started as a lively argument over the film’s ending in a movie theater bathroom in Texas ended up in tragedy when 23-year-old Michael Emerson lost his life over the film. The two guys who Emerson had the argument with finally walked away and went into the cinema’s parking lot to get their truck and leave. However, Emerson approached the vehicle and decided to have the last word, which cost him dearly. Apparently what he said made the driver furious to the point that he threw his truck in reverse, plowed into the victim, and caused him serious injuries from which he died shortly after.

And if you think about it, none of these guys were Persian or Greek. Go figure. 


Do you remember the crazy mofo named Lee Boyd Malvo? No? Let me refresh your memory then. Malvo was one half of the “DC sniper team” that spread death and terror during the early 2000s in the Washington metropolitan area over a three-week period. Apparently Malvo, a Jamaican-American idiot, felt oppressed because, in his opinion, every field of human activity and society in the United States should be as black as the NBA despite blacks comprising only about 13% of the nation’s population. Probably heavily inspired by Spike Lee films (just joking) and The Matrix, he convinced his racist, black supremacist self that he was trapped inside a hostile anti-black system and so he took action. Ten people lost their lives because of this man, among them black and Latino citizens as well, which makes you wonder who the real enemy was in Malvo’s head, after all. Definitely not Agent Smith; Neo took care of him anyway.


In this case the tragedy is twice as bad since the victim was a really young, hot British lady whose heart unfortunately couldn’t take so much pleasure and joy. Nicola Paginton, a 30-year-old nanny, used her sex toy for the last time in her short life while watching porn back in the summer of 2010, a death that was probably caused by strong arousal, according to the official report. According to the pathologist who examined her corpse, it’s very possible that Paginton died from a sudden heart arrhythmia, most likely caused by her “excitement” and intense activity before death; a happy, joyful death any way you look at it, right?


On December 23, 1985, almost twenty-nine years ago, Raymond Belknap, eighteen, and James Vance, twenty, decided to kill themselves with a shotgun after a long day that included drugs and alcohol. Belknap died immediately, but Vance wasn’t so lucky and only blew away the bottom part of his face, leaving him horribly disfigured. When it was later reported that the two friends had been listening to Judas Priest that afternoon, the drama that followed for the band was unique, to say the least. The kids’ parents found someone to blame for the tragedy that hit their families and took Judas Priest to court, accusing them of passing subliminal messages in their songs which encouraged their young fans to commit suicide. As for the band’s response? The group’s manager, Bill Curbishley, made one of the most honest and epic statements of all time:

I don’t know what subliminals are, but I do know there’s nothing like that in this music. If we were going to do that, we would be saying, “Buy seven copies each,” not telling a couple of screwed-up kids to kill themselves.


Football (soccer) fans will always remember the 1986 World Cup where Diego Maradona proved that he’s the greatest ever on the field; they’ll remember Euro 2004 in which Greece completed an epic miracle and won the trophy against all odds; the 2014 World Cup in which Germany humiliated Brazil 7–1, and Euro 2012, during which a Chinese super-fan made history by going eleven nights straight without a minute of sleep just so he could watch every match of the tourney. The result of this would-be feat: he died in the end. The football fan unfortunately underestimated the serious effects the combination of alcohol, tobacco, and sleep deprivation can have on the human body, and even though according to his family he lived a normal, healthy life, he overdid it during the Euro 2012 tournament and when he finally fell asleep after eleven days, he simply never woke up again. He was only 26. 


Do you remember this stupid trend a couple of years ago? Well, after many young men and women literally got knocked out by near-fatal accidents while performing the bucket challenge, one Scottish teenager named Cameron Lancaster tried to take the whole thing to another level by jumping into the deep waters of a quarry in the Scottish town of Inverkeithing, where he found his tragic death. This was the first recorded death attributed to the campaign that has raised millions around the world for ALS, which, in its way, has now become nothing more than another social media stunt for all those who seek their fifteen minutes of fame. 

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