10 Outrageously Dumb Darwin Award Winners


When Charles Darwin studied the process of evolution in the 1800s, he realized that animals have a selective breeding process he called “natural selection.” Animals who were born with a predisposition to survive longer in their environment were the ones to survive and mate with one another, passing on their DNA. Because of this process, the species becomes smarter, faster, stronger, and more likely to thrive in their environments in the next generation.

Well, you may wonder – does the rule of natural selection also apply to humans?  It turns out that natural selection happens every single day. There are people who have done things that are so incredibly stupid, they have died, ensuring they will never pass on their DNA to the next generation. The internet has come together to gather these stories and dub these people as the winners of a “Darwin Award.”

In case you were wondering, it may not surprise you that male Darwin Award winners outnumber women 7-to-1, and out of any country in the world, the United States has the most winners, by far.

10. Say Cheese!

There is no denying that people are far too distracted by their cell phones, and texting and driving has become a very real issue. However, selfies have become a leading source of death in recent years. There have been hundreds of selfie-related deaths since the creation of the smartphone; usually people trying to pose near the edge of a cliff, on railroad tracks, or on a balcony.

One story of such a death is British tourist named Dean Steele. He was visiting Germany and wanted to take a selfie on the Autobahn highway. The Autobahn is famous for having no speed limit, so cars can drive as fast as they want. Usually, during the day, there is far too much traffic on the road for people to take advantage of this perk, so most of the speeding is done at night when the roads are clear. This is exactly when Steele decided it would be a good idea to take a selfie in the middle of the highway, and he promptly got hit by a car driving at full-speed.

9. Mystery Liquid

In 2012, a man named Gary Allen Banning was visiting a friend’s house for a party in North Carolina. He spotted a salsa jar with a mysterious golden liquid, and he decided to take a swig of what he assumed was someone else’s drink. It turns out that the jar was filled with gasoline that the friend had been using to clean up grease. While the friends had a good laugh, Banning spat out the gasoline, and it got all over his clothes.

Banning needed to take the edge off of what just happened, so he pulled out his lighter, and started smoking a cigarette. The gasoline on his clothes and mouth ignited into flames. Banning was rushed to the hospital, but eventually died from burning alive.  

8. Window Pain

In 1993, an attorney named Garry Hoy was working on the 24th floor of the TD Centre in Toronto, Canada for the Holden Day Wilson law firm. The windows in the building were known for being unbreakable, and Hoy loved to joke around by throwing himself at the glass to prove it.

A group of law students was visiting the firm one day on a tour, when Hoy went through his routine of shoving his shoulder into the window. That day, however, he must not have known his own strength, because the glass popped out of the window frame. He was right – it didn’t break, but he still went hurtling down 24 stories to his death.

This story became so well-known that it was featured on the TV shows Mythbusters, and 1,000 Ways to Die. It was also featured in a B-movie appropriately named Darwin Awards.

7. Faith Healing Failure

In 2015, a pastor from Zimbabwe named Shamiso Kanyama claimed that he was gifted with powers from God to heal people. So, when five men from his town asked for his help to cure a mysterious illness that was plaguing their families, he instructed them to bury him alive, because it would help him absorb more power from the earth.

Kanyama helped the 5 men dig his own grave, and laid face-down in the dirt, without a coffin. He instructed the men to bury him, and dig him up after enough time had passed. Obviously, when they dug him up later, he was dead.

Despite the fact that multiple witnesses were there to confirm the story, the 5 men who buried Kanyama alive all faced charges for the pastor’s murder.

6. Oh, the Irony

It seems like common sense that helmet laws are put in place to protect people’s lives while riding bicycles and motorcycles. But when you tell most Americans that they need to do something, they consider it to be impeding on their freedoms. Over 550 motorcyclists participated in a rally in New York state in the summer of 2011 to fight for their right to ride without a helmet.

One of the protestors, a 55-year-old man named Philip A. Contos had to slam on the breaks to prevent running into a bike in front of him at the rally, and lost control of his Harley Davidson motorcycle. His body was thrown over the handlebars, and he hit the pavement head-first. When doctors examined his body at the hospital, they confirmed that if he had been wearing a helmet, he would have lived.

5. A Full Moon

A 25-year-old man named Travis Lane was very drunk and high after spending the night at a house party in Otago Township, New Zealand. A group of friends was standing around a campfire outside, and Lane thought it would be funny to pull his pants down and moon, or give a “brown eye” to oncoming traffic. Every time he saw a car coming, he would run towards the road, drop his pants, and then walk back to the group at the bonfire.

Lane must have thrust his rear end a little bit too close to the highway during one of these stunts, because he was hit by oncoming traffic. He suffered a broken arm and a brain injury, and was sent to the hospital. He died a month later. The coroner showed no sympathy for Lane, saying, “He has paid the ultimate price for his foolishness.”

4. When Snakes Attack

In one small town in Kentucky, pastors of a Pentecostal church claim that by handling poisonous snakes during their sermons, they are proving that God is protecting them from harm. They have a strict policy that if anyone is ever bitten by a snake, they are not allowed to seek medical attention, because God will take care of them.

In 2015, one of the pastors, John David Brock, was bitten in the arm by venomous snake, and he refused to seek medical treatment. Not surprisingly, Brock did not receive the antivenom, and he died. He was not the only pastor to die from this same church, either. Despite the obvious flaw in their beliefs, they continue to use deadly snakes during church services.

3. Not All Fun and Games

A 45-year-old school teacher named James Young was at Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio. He went on the Raptor Roller Coaster, which twisted and went upside down. His phone and other personal belongings were in his pocket during the ride, and they fell onto the concrete below the tracks.

When the ride was over, he did not notify the employees running the ride that he needed to get his phone back. Instead, he chose to jump over the fence into a restricted area in order to get it himself. He jumped down to the tracks… while the roller coaster was still in operation. It rushed by at full-speed, and killed him. It took roughly 30 minutes for paramedics to arrive, but by then it was already too late.

If you should ever lose anything on a ride – please – ask an employee for help.

2. Over the Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world that lies on the US-Canada border. It has seen its share of daredevil stunts, and one attempt in 1995 lead to a man’s death.

39-year-old Robert Overtracker from California traveled all the way to the East Coast to ride a jet-ski at high speed over Niagara Falls as a stunt to raise money for homelessness. His plan was to activate a parachute at the last minute, and fall to safety. The local police force followed along as he was going on the jet-ski, pleading for him to re-think doing the stunt, because it was far too dangerous.

Unfortunately for him, the parachute never fully activated, and he plummeted to his death in front of a crowd of people. There is no footage of the incident, except for one photo taken by an Egyptian tourist at the exact moment he fell off the edge.

1. The Ancestors Were Disappointed

A psychic from Thailand named Theprit Palee claimed that he was immortal, because he was protected the the spirits of his ancestors. He was a fan favorite for the locals, who truly believed that he had incredible powers. Crowds of people would flock to him whenever he did a public performance.

During a public ritual, Palee stabbed himself in the chest to prove that he could not die. Not surprisingly, it resulted in the 25-year-old bleeding profusely, and later dying at the hospital. This was all part of a rehearsed act that he had done in the past, using a flimsy sword that usually broke when he stabbed his chest, but obviously, the sword he used was strong enough to pierce the skin. Apparently he wasn’t immortal after all. Who could have seen that coming?

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  1. Andrew Kirk on

    Hi Simon, absolutely love your videos, every one. I was trying to help someone with Darwinian evolution, and I thought, Simon Whistler must have one about that? He must! But then, no. A video about that would go a long way for some students struggling with what it all means. Thank you for all you do; you are the best.