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The Darwin Awards II: Unnatural Selection

The Darwin Awards II: Unnatural Selection

3.7 7
by Wendy Northcutt

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Welcome to the next evolution in humor.

In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, The Darwin Awards II: Unnatural Selection brings together a fresh collection of magnificent misadventures, honoring those who continue to improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it in a sublimely idiotic fashion.

Salute the owner of an


Welcome to the next evolution in humor.

In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, The Darwin Awards II: Unnatural Selection brings together a fresh collection of magnificent misadventures, honoring those who continue to improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it in a sublimely idiotic fashion.

Salute the owner of an equipment training school who demonstrates the dangers of driving a forklift by failing to survive the filming of his own safety video. Heed the story of the honest bricklayer who loses a battle of wits with 300 pounds of tools. Witness the man who becomes a victim of his own "strange and unusual passion for jumping into rivers." And watch Darwin Award winners selflessly join the ongoing fight against the seven deadly sins as lust, vanity, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy and wrath all exact their evolutionary toll on the overindulgent.

Featuring science and safety discussions designed to aid those vigilant enough to avoid the scythe of natural selection, and including the most inspiring dozen Darwin Awards from the last century, this new compendium of serious humor and cautionary tales -- verified by the author and endorsed by website readers -- shows us anew how uncommon sense can be. Author Biography: Wendy Northcutt is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in molecular biology. She started collecting the stories that make up the Darwin Awards in 1993, and founded her award-winning website DarwinAwards.com soon thereafter. She is the author of the international bestseller, The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action.

Editorial Reviews

This hilarious book is packed with more than 100 new stories of foolhardy fatalities, plus a few honorable mentions to pay tribute those who didn't quite make it to the afterlife. The Darwin Awards, honoring those who have managed to die as a result of their lack of common sense, have become a major phenomenon, both on the hugely popular web site and now in a bestselling series of books. Unnatural Selection is morbidly entertaining, and definitely educational -- for those who weren't aware that juggling live grenades might kill you, that is.
Library Journal
Darwin humor? It seemed to work in the first volume, which spent five months on the New York Times best sellers list. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“The Darwin Awards is a riot to read. Deeply entertaining.”—San Francisco Weekly
"Delightfully funny, The Darwin Awards, taken together, constitute a delicious sermon in support of common sense."—The Baltimore Sun

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 7.62(h) x 1.02(d)

Read an Excerpt

2000 Darwin Award Runner-Up
Confirmed by Darwin

The Los Angeles Police Department contacted Ohio police hoping to locate a missing truck driver and his load of broccoli. The stalled truck was located in Ohio four days later and towed to a local mechanic. They thawed and refueled the truck and found that, apart from an empty gas tank, the vehicle had no mechanical problems, but the driver's personal effects and seven bricks of marijuana were discovered in the cab of the vehicle.

The trucking company and the police were both interested in the whereabouts of the errant driver, and a search was initiated. Shortly thereafter a patrolman noticed two feet protruding from between the pallets of broccoli -- feet which belonged to the missing man.

The broccoli was unloaded as quickly as possible in the cold Ohio winter, leaving the frozen body of the driver standing precisely upside down, attached to the floor of the trailer by his head. He was surrounded by space heaters and eventually pried off the floor, but his frigid corpse, arm extended, had to be turned on its side to maneuver it into a rescue squad vehicle.

The Cuyahoga County coroner's office determined that the man had been trying to retrieve a stash of cocaine from between the pallets of broccoli when he fell and knocked himself unconscious. He soon suffered a fatal case of hypothermia and died in the icy air. Perhaps this unfortunate soul should have confined his drug smuggling to the more clement climate of California.

Police in Wichita, Kansas, arrested a twenty-two-year-old man at an airport hotel after he tried to pass two counterfeit $16 bills. (Honorable Mention of unknown veracity, culled from a decade of email.)

Reference: Richfield Township, Ohio, Police Department Incident #00514
ANOTHER TRAGIC THEFT: Wrong Time, Wrong Place, page 197

Confirmed by Darwin

Darrell and his friends stole a foam pad from the legs of a Mammoth Mountain ski lift, piled onto it, and slid down a ski run at 3 A.M. on their makeshift sledge. The foam pad, lacking any steering or safety features, crashed into a lift tower which was -- by amazing coincidence -- the same tower from which it had been stolen. Lacking the cushion of foam meant to protect errant skiers, the tower was an obstacle too hard for Darrell to overcome. There's a moral in there somewhere.

Reference: Guardian, Sacramento Bee

When two service station attendants in Ionia, Michigan, refused to hand over the cash to an intoxicated robber, the man threatened to call the cops. The attendants still wouldn't give him the money, so the robber called the police, waited for them to arrive -- and was arrested. (Honorable Mention of unknown veracity, culled from a decade of email.)

Confirmed by Darwin

A prisoner in the new Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh attempted to evade his punishment by engineering an escape from his confinement. Jerome constructed a hundred-foot rope of bedsheets, broke through a supposedly shatter-proof cell window, and began to climb to freedom down his makeshift ladder.

It is not known whether his plan took into account the curiosity of drivers on the busy street and Liberty Bridge below. It certainly did not take into account the sharp edges of the glass, the worn nature of the bedsheet, or the great distance to the pavement. The bottom of the knotted bedsheet was eighty-six feet short of the ground. But our hero did not reach the end of his rope. The windowpane sliced through the weak cloth and dropped him to his untidy demise 150 feet below.

But wait, there's more!

Apparently the jailhouse rumor of the previous death did not reach a prisoner who was awaiting transfer to a federal penitentiary one year later. He tied eight bedsheets together and rappelled from his seventh-floor window, only to find that the rope fell twenty-five feet short of the ground. Luckier than Jerome, he merely fractured his ankle and scraped his face.

Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ANOTHER FALL FROM A GREAT HEIGHT: Lawnchair Larry, page 200

Unconfirmed by Darwin

Electric trains in Glasgow collect power from the overhead cable and transmit any excess through the rails to a solid copper cable that routes it to a power redistribution box.

Copper is a favorite target for thieves. One enterprising fellow with a good knowledge of the electrical system planned to cut the copper cable during the time between trains, when no electricity was traveling through it. His plan might have worked... but for one small flaw.

In the pocket of his charred overcoat, police found an out-of-date rail timetable. The train arrived ten minutes before he thought it would, sending hundreds of volts of electricity through the thief's hacksaw and into his body, and putting an untimely end to his career.


Is this electrocution death possible? Several residents of Glasgow wrote in to say they never heard of this train sizzler, and what's more, Glasgow trains are so unreliable that no one would trust his life to a timetable, accurate or not. Electrically minded readers reported that current flows through the overhead wires all the time, not just when trains pass. One theorized, "You'd have to be pretty clever to know enough about electricity and the underground system to consider pulling this one off. My guess is he heard someone discussing the idea in a pub and decided to give it a whirl whilst in a chemical haze." Myself I find it plausible because thieves regularly electrocute themselves while stealing copper. What are they doing, recycling?

More Reader Comments:
"This often happens in South Africa. Thieves go for the thick copper bus bars or the high voltage overhead lines so often the deaths don't even make the news. I have photos of bodies and limbs still attached to the cables."

"When the train picks up power, it needs a ground contact to complete the circuit. It grounds through the perfectly ordinary rails. However these rails are not designed to be electrically sound, so they back them up with a copper wire which connects to the rails at regular intervals. Normally this cable remains at zero voltage and is perfectly safe to steal. However when a train passes, a high current passes through it, and will flow through the thief and into the earth. It only takes 80 milliamps to kill."

Confirmed by Darwin

A police officer who regularly lectured addiction counselors on the dangers of illicit drugs proved that actions speak louder than words when he was found dead of a heroin overdose. He had taken heroin and cocaine from police exhibits "without filing the proper forms" and apparently overdosed while experimenting with the narcotics. He unfortunately didn't heed the creed written on his own patrol car: "Say no to drugs!"

Reference: Toronto Globe and Mail
AN OVERDOSE OF A DIFFERENT SORT: Liposuction Tragedy, page 14

A man wearing pantyhose on his head tried to rob a shopping mall store. When store security made an appearance, he quickly grabbed a market basket and pretended to be shopping -- forgetting that he was still wearing the pantyhose. He was captured and his loot returned.

(Honorable Mention of unknown veracity, culled from a decade of email.)

Unconfirmed by Darwin

The death of a man in the suburbs of Brisbane was precipitated by a bizarre twist of fate. The twenty-one-year-old and his friend went to a trailer park intent on doing some serious damage to the occupant of one particular mobile home. In the ensuing confusion, the intended victim escaped without injury while his two attackers managed to viciously stab one another. The younger knife-wielder died at the scene, and his older friend was hospitalized with severe injuries. The incident thus qualifies for both a Darwin Award and an Honorable Mention, a rare event indeed!

Reference: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Police in Radnor, Pennsylvania, interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting wires from it to a photocopy machine. They placed the message "HE'S LYING" in the copier and pressed the copy button each time they thought the suspect wasn't telling the truth. Believing the lie detector was working, the suspect confessed to the police.

(Honorable Mention of unknown veracity, culled from a decade of email.)

Confirmed by Darwin

A Chicago woman took revenge into her own hands quite successfully when she bit off the testicles of her rapist during the attack. The twenty-one-year-old man should have known better than to accost a woman twice his age and ferocity. When he dropped his trousers and forced her down, she seized her opportunity and severed his gonads, rendering him permanently sterile, to the satisfaction of all but the eunuch.

The woman walked to police headquarters a block away and turned the testicles over to police. Shortly thereafter a man with a matching injury appeared at the Michael Reese Medical Center. Police put two and two together and cordoned off the injured man's hospital room, while doctors attempted, unsuccessfully, to reattach the rapist's genitals.

A hospital spokesperson confirms that our Darwin Award winner is now sterile.

Reference: Chicago Tribune, Reuters

Confirmed by Darwin

"You won the lottery!"

California fugitives hoping to collect $1,500 in lottery winnings walked into a police sting aimed at serving outstanding felony warrants. The nonexistent Fresno County Lottery Commission sent thirty-two hundred letters, claiming to be distributing $78 million in excess lottery funds. The winners were instructed to present identification at the County Fairgrounds.

They arrived to find a balloon and streamer-festooned building, where they left their smiling relatives as one by one they were called into separate rooms to receive their surprise.

Uniformed officers were standing by to explain the hoax and arrest the befuddled fugitives. The operation served eighty-one felony warrants and seventy-five arrests, and a surveillance team arrested two men on suspicion of car burglary.

Reference: Fresno Bee, and Mom

Confirmed by Darwin

Two men were taken to a Liverpool hospital after trying to burgle the house of pro soccer player Duncan Ferguson. The soccer player in question has earned the nicknames Duncan Disorderly and Drunken Ferguson for his aggressive behavior on and off the field. He once headbutted a policeman, and spent six months in jail for injuring an opponent. This six-foot-four kamikaze center forward is arguably the most violent player in British pro football, and not the best choice of victim. Police arrived quickly to rescue the miscreants from Duncan's wrath. Only one of the hapless burglars required hospitalization.

Reference: Sentinal, BBC Radio News, UK National Newspapers

The weekly aviation newsletter AVweb reported that a burglar broke into a Mooney aircraft at the Knox County, Ohio, airport and removed its avionics system, including the Emergency Locating Transmitter. This device sends homing signals if the aircraft crashes. During the getaway run, the ham-handed crook jarred the ELT enough to activate it, and authorities had no trouble tracking the perpetrator to his lair.

(Honorable Mention of unknown veracity, culled from a decade of email.)

Confirmed by Darwin

Cruising police spotted a longtime member of the Mongrel Mob sitting in a parked car in Hastings. The officers stopped and searched his vehicle, unearthing a plastic baggie presumed to be full of drugs.

While the thug was being questioned about the contents of the bag, he suddenly grabbed the drugs and began to scuffle with police. He was subdued with pepper spray and a restraining hold, and police began to search for the missing baggie. Their captive, meanwhile, had become strangely subdued. He was white as a sheet and no longer breathing.

Turns out he had swallowed the plastic bag, which the officers discovered during their resuscitation efforts stuck far down his throat. They extracted the baggie with the help of pliers from a pocket Leatherman, and the man revived.

Saved from a Darwin Award despite himself, he was jailed on drug and assault charges along with thirteen other suspected gang members whose seized booty totaled $30,000 in drugs and stolen property.

Reference: Dominion

Confirmed by Darwin

"Why don't you come back and meet me here?" He thought she was calling to arrange a hot date, but he was wrong. The twenty-nine-year-old rapist had not only assaulted his victim, but also stolen $70 and her cell phone after poking her in the neck with a pair of tweezers he took from her purse.

As soon as he left her apartment, she summoned help, and police encouraged her to assist in the capture of the rapist. Under their watchful eye, she called him on her own cell phone and courageously coaxed him back to her building.

The woman was an excellent actress. Her attacker arrived for his "date" an hour later with a forty-ounce bottle of Heineken in his hand and her panties and cell phone tucked in his pocket. Police took the man, trailing a long criminal record, into custody.

His victim really did a number on him.

Reference: New York Post

Unconfirmed by Darwin

A gardener had the good fortune to raise a healthy marijuana plant in his backyard. But then terror struck! He received a phone call from the authorities saying he was busted... but they would not press charges if he brought the bush into the station, roots and all.

So he sadly hacked down his eight-foot annual and carried it into the lobby of the sheriff's office, where startled officers took him into custody for suspected felony cultivation.

Turns out the phone call was a prank.

Reference: Indiana Bedford Times-Mail
MORE MARIJUANA: Human Popsicle, page 152

Unconfirmed by Darwin

When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a residential Seattle street, he got much more than he had bargained for. Police arrived at the scene to find a violently ill thief curled up retching next to a motor home, surrounded by spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that once he recovered, the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline from the parked vehicle, but he plugged his hose into the motor home's sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges, saying that it was the best laugh he'd ever had.

ANOTHER SEWAGE STORY: Sewer Shower, page 54

A Los Angeles man who later said he was "tired of walking" stole a steamroller and led police on a five-mile-per-hour chase, until an officer stepped aboard and brought the vehicle to a halt.

(Honorable Mention of unknown veracity, culled from a decade of email.)

Unconfirmed by Darwin

Warning to crooks: Don't expect the victim to cooperate with your plans! A bank robber presented a note at a cashier's window, threatening to hack into their computer system unless they handed over a large sum of money. When he returned later that day to collect his cash, police were standing by to nab him.

Reference: London Metro
ANOTHER THREAT BACKFIRES: Moscow Marauder, page 20

A man walked into a Circle-K store in Louisiana, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash and fled, leaving his $20 bill on the counter. The money he took from the drawer totaled $15. If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?

(Honorable Mention of unknown veracity, culled from a decade of email.)

Unconfirmed by Darwin
15 MAY 2001

In a poorly judged attempt to convince his wife he was sober enough to drive, a twenty-nine-year-old man pulled up to a State Police barracks in his pickup truck, parked illegally, and demanded a sobriety check. He failed the Breathalyzer test and was taken into custody. "Basically," an amused Sergeant Paul Slevinski explained, "his wife won the argument."

Reference: Southampton Press

Darwin Awards: Keeping a Date with Dense-ity

I have three stories to share, two published in a professional magazine and the third a personal account which is sadly unverifiable but absolutely true.

The first story is described in a lawsuit filed against a veterinarian and his clinic by the grieving family of a young man who had been hired three weeks previously and trained for kennel work: dog walking, animal feeding, poop scooping, etc. He was found dead by his supervisor midway through his first day of solo work. His body was lying in the surgery suite, a place a kennel worker has no business being, wrapped around an empty bottle of liquid anesthetic gas.

Apparently this Darwin wannabe had sought the drug out and chugged down the whole bottle in the hopes that it would give him a euphoric high. He did not realize that the liquid is vaporized into a gas before being administered to patients. In its highly concentrated liquid form, it probably killed him before he had the chance to realize he wasn't getting a buzz.

The kicker to this story is that his family is suing the veterinarian and the clinic for not providing their idiot child with appropriate training. What sort of training do you need in order to avoid, and especially not ingest, unknown substances? Did they have to tell him not to drink the bleach? "Hey, kid, don't mess with those scalpel blades, but if you do, be sure not to jam one up your nose."

The second story is from a series of articles about controlled drugs -- those drugs with abuse potential -- and how to keep your clinic's supply safe and legal. Ketamine, an injectible anesthetic known on the street as Special K, is a popular target for veterinary drug thieves. The clinic in the article had suffered a break-in and was missing several bottles of Ketamine and, oddly, two bottles of euthanasia solution as well.

Euthanasia solution is the highly concentrated form of an injectible anesthetic that is used to humanely end the lives of suffering animals. The product label makes it extremely clear that the purpose of the drug is to kill. A skull and crossbones is a prominent feature on the packaging.

The thieves were found a few days later, sprawled amid the cash from the sale of their stolen Ketamine. They didn't have a chance to enjoy their booty, however, as one was dead and the second comatose from injecting the concentrated euthanasia solution directly into their veins.

The third story involves a telephone call we received one Saturday while I was working at a veterinary emergency hospital. I heard my technician answer the phone, listen, and say, "Hold on, I'll ask the doctor." He turned to me and gave me a drug name that sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it, nor could I find it in my drug dictionary.

I asked him to interrogate the caller. Were they clients? Had we prescribed the drug? If not, where had they found it and why were they calling me instead of the hospital? Maybe with more information I could answer their question.

He went back to the phone and clarified the situation. He put the callers on hold and said, "They bought the drug on the street in Mexico and just shot it up. They want to know what it is supposed to do to them." Apparently the bottle was labeled in Spanish, and one recognizable word resembled the English word "veterinary." That was why they called me to ask why the drug wasn't giving them the promised high.

I wish I had had the foresight to pretend it was a concentrated hormone that causes testicular shrinkage, but instead I saved them from winning a Darwin Award by telling them to get their stupid selves to the nearest human emergency room.

Reference: DVM Newsmagazine and J. S. Vanderholm, personal account.
ANOTHER CALL FOR HELP: That Sinking Feeling, page 34

According to the FBI, most modern-day bank robberies are "unsophisticated and unprofessional crimes" committed by young male repeat offenders who apparently don't know the first thing about their trade. For instance it is reported that in spite of the widespread use of surveillance cameras, 76 percent of bank robbers wear no disguise, 86 percent never study the bank before robbing it, and 95 percent make no long-range plans for concealing the loot. Thus the FBI offers this advice to would-be bank robbers: Consider another line of work.

Reprinted from The Darwin Awards II by Wendy Northcutt by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © Wendy Northcutt, 2001. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Delightfully funny, The Darwin Awards, taken together, constitute a delicious sermon in support of common sense." —The Baltimore Sun

"The Darwin Awards is a riot to read.  Deeply entertaining." —San Francisco Weekly

Meet the Author

Wendy Northcutt is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a degree in molecular biology. Her award-winning website has been featured in USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, CNN.com, Salon.com, and on NPR's All Things Considered, among others, and was selected as a Cool Site of the Year 2000.

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Darwin Awards II - Unnatural Selection 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The Darwin Awards is a creative concept, but I'm not sure this book is written all that well or in that funny of a manner. I haven't read the other books in this series, so I can't compare it with them, but I didn't get that many laughs out of this one. And heck, maybe there's something wrong with you if you are getting laughs out of other people dying, whether they're dangling from a hanglider with a chainsaw in hand or what have you. I will say that some of the anecdotes are pretty funny, but the humor seemed a bit hit or miss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is filled with funny,stupid, or just plain ironic stories that are sure to make you laugh! This is a great gift I got it for my birthday and been reading it alot. Very funny and a great gift.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you liked The Darwin Awards, you will find this book to be another winner. Like The Darwin Awards, let me note that if you do not find witless death and mutilation humorous, avoid this book. Three of the mutilation examples have a sexual context and are pretty gross. If you find fatal and grisly mishaps funny, you will enjoy the book greatly. In fact, this has to be the best articulated book ever written about stupid ways to die and lose fertility. Anyone will feel smarter and better about themselves after reading these stories! This book is about people 'removing themselves from the gene pool in sublimely idiotic fashion' in ¿true accidental blunders.¿ The incidents involve ways that people ¿unthinkingly engineer their own downfalls, oblivious to warning signs that the rest of us automatically heed.¿ The book's premise is very well framed to put you in a humorous mood. The idea is that when people do stupid things that get them killed or keep them from having children, they thus perform a service by improving the gene pool for the remaining humans. Ms. Northcutt uses many witty essays and quotes to emphasize this point, and establishes the mood well. She has rules for these awards. To win the Darwin Award, you must (1) die or be unable to procreate after the incident, (2) show ¿an astounding misapplication of common sense,¿ (3) cause your own downfall, (4) have the ability to use sound judgment (are not too young or permanently mentally impaired) and (5) have the incident verified by someone else. If you don't meet all these tests, you can still get an honorable mention, or be described as an urban legend or a personal account. I thought these distinctions made good sense, because the story's focus and credibility weighs heavily on the interest it creates for the reader drawn to this subject. In an improvement over The Darwin Awards, Ms. Northcutt has shared feedback from her readers challenging the veracity of various urban legends, personal accounts, and honorable mentions. As a result, this book is tighter than The Darwin Awards. In another improvement, the stories much more carefully document the victim¿s involvement with illegal drugs and alcohol than in The Darwin Awards. In this way, the cautionary lesson about using these substances is brought home more correctly The stories are grouped around themes: violating the seven deadly sins, women as the genetically removed party, water misadventures, problems with technology, men acting macho, misadventures with animals, explosions, and criminal capers. There is also a chapter on stories that do not qualify, and a dozen of the all-time favorites of on-line readers. Here are a few of my favorite stories: The woman who pretended to have been robbed in her fast food restaurant, and died of hypothermia in the cooler pretending to be immobilized . . . even though she could have walked out at any time before she lost consciousness. The man who jumped off every bridge crossing a river, including a drop of 70 feet into 3 feet of water . . . without checking the depth in advance. The man who wanted to lift off in his lawn chair a few feet into the air with helium-filled weather balloons, and ended up at 16,000 feet along the air lanes into Los Angeles International airport. The heavy man who decided to save money on liposuction by having his neighbor who was not a doctor do the operation in his house. He died of an overdose of lidocaine. The construction workers who cut a hole in heavy concrete 100 feet up around the spot they were standing on. The man who killed himself operating a forklift unsafely while taping a safety video. The woman who drove her car into a canal and called 911 on her cell phone. Told that she should lower the windows or open the door and get out, she refused . . . hoping the water would stay out. She forgot that a back window was open, and drowned. The man who looked down the rocket la