It is a truth universally ignored that a human on the toilet is at their most vulnerable. The worst that usually happens, though, is that there is a knock at the front door, your cat wanders in to look at you, or you run out of toilet paper. However, sometimes, something far worse than you can ever imagine happens while you are on the throne.
Here are ten catastrophic toilet events you should probably not think about if you are a nervous pooper.
10 Python in the Pan
Many people have a fear of being watched when they are on the toilet. Usually, though, this is a fear of someone peeking through the ridiculously large gaps on the doors in American public restrooms. Sometimes, however, it is not a human eye that might be peeping at you. Instead, there have been cases of rats, squirrels, and frogs all emerging from the U-bend at the back of toilets. You might even find a spider clinging to the bottom of the seat. But one man in Thailand had perhaps the worst toilet guest.
While sitting on the toilet in 2016, Atthaporn Boonmakchuay reportedly felt a “sharp bite” on the end of his penis. Looking down between his legs, he spotted a 3.4-meter-long (11-foot-long) python that had just taken a bite out of his rather more modest python. Somehow managing to think clearly in what must have been a distressing situation, Atthaporn tied the snake’s head to the door with a rope before seeking help. Screaming for his wife, he collapsed from blood loss.
Atthaporn was rushed to hospital and made a full recovery. The snake was still wedged in the toilet when emergency services arrived. The toilet had to be smashed with hammers to get the snake out. It has since been released into the wild to look for fresh toilets to hunt in.
9 Murdered Monarchs
If you were a king in the Middle Ages, the chances of an assassin getting to you were rather limited. Commoners and strangers were excluded from the court, and you would likely have many strong knights around you sworn to protect you. So for an assassin to strike, they would have to get to you in one of the rare occasions you were alone.
Jaromir, Duke of Bohemia, had quite the exciting life. He rose up against one of his brothers who was king, and for his treachery, he was castrated and cast out of his domain. Later regaining his Dukedom, Jaromir was once again thrown out and blinded for his troubles. He did not suffer for long, however. While sitting on the toilet, an assassin with a spear stabbed him through the belly and left Jaromir to bleed out on the bathroom floor.
Other rulers like Godfrey the Hunchback and King Edmund Ironsides are also said to have met their maker in toilets. In one telling, Edmund was shot in the posterior by someone below while using the toilet. It struck him so hard that not even the feathers of the arrow showed.
8 Pop-up Toilet
Sometimes you don’t even have to be on the toilet for disaster to strike. You can be minding your own business when one pops up to ruin your day. For a man in Amsterdam in 2014, one literally popped up.
Like many European city centers, Amsterdam has a problem with late-night revelers with full bladders who do not have anywhere to relieve themselves. So to stop public urination and save space, toilets were installed that can retract into the ground and only emerge at night.
For one unfortunate man on a moped, however, one pop-up toilet popped up a bit precipitously. One witness described it as an explosion. The toilet launched the man and his moped into the air. Luckily, the man was only treated for minor injuries, though his moped was badly damaged. Whether the surprise of the sudden trip to the toilet made him wet himself was not recorded.
7 Erfurt Latrine Disaster
Surprise trips to the toilet can have disastrous outcomes. For example, in 1184, the king of Germany, Henry VI, invited his nobles to a meeting at a fortress in Erfurt. The meeting was designed to allow the king to settle a dispute on his lands, but several of the lords present would suffer a terrible landing.
The lords and nobles gathered before the king in the church of the fortress while the king sat in splendor before them. Just as the aristocratic guests took their seats, the wooden floor of the church gave way under their weight. They plummeted down into a latrine underneath them.
Suddenly plunged into a liquid slurry of human waste, the assembled lords and retainers were drowned or suffocated by fumes. Sixty people are said to have died in the disaster that is known in German as the Erfurter Latrinensturz—”Erfurt Latrine Fall.” King Henry survived because he was sitting on a section of the stone floor, and so escaped the fall.
Today, going to the toilet is a fairly solitary activity. Unless something exciting is happening in a cubicle, we are likely alone on the throne. In the ancient world, this was not always the case. Roman toilets often featured long benches with holes cut in them. People using the facilities were likely packed in cheek to cheek—literally.
In the Book of Judges in the Bible, there is a story that shows how dangerous going to the toilet together could be. God has had one of his fits of pique and is angry with the Israelites, so he sets an evil king called Eglon to rule them. To free the Israelites from Eglon, a “left-handed” man named Ehud straps a sword to his thigh and hides it under his clothes before visiting the king.
Ehud tells Eglon that he has a secret message for the king, and the pair are left alone. Ehud then drives his sword through Eglon’s enormous stomach. Eglon is so corpulent that the “fat closed over” the sword, and he could not get it out. Eglon then discharges his bowels and dies. Ehud flees. Eglon’s servants do not check on the king for a long time because they assume he is just using the toilet for a long time, as was usual for him.
5 Collapsing Toilets
The Ig Nobel prizes are annual awards designed to celebrate the weirder aspects of science and culture, as opposed to the serious Nobel prizes. Previous winners have been “honored” for their work on levitating frogs with magnets, working out why toast always falls buttered side down, and calculating the mechanics of dipping a biscuit in tea.
In 2000, a team won the Public Health prize for a paper called “The Collapse of Toilets in Glasgow.” The amusing topic and title of the article apparently snared the winners their prize. The paper actually deals with the real danger that collapsing toilets can cause. Three cases of toilets shattering while being used and causing hospitalization were studied. The conclusion of the study was that old toilets were the most dangerous.
The winners of the Ig Nobel prize took their victory in good spirits. They were glad that their research was not just a “flash in the pan.”
4 Electric Throne
In 1978, Michael Anderson Godwin was sentenced to the electric chair for murder and sexual assault. Before he was executed, however, a review of the sentence was carried out that found him innocent of the assault. So Godwin avoided the electric chair—but found another electric seat waiting for him.
While in prison, he was watching his television while using headphones. He was also sitting on his metal toilet. It seems there must have been a problem with his headphones because Godwin began to bite on the cable that connected them to the TV. As soon as his teeth touched the wires within, he was electrocuted.
Godwin died of his injuries and the death was ruled a bizarre accident.
If someone says there has been an explosion in the bathroom, they are usually speaking euphemistically. But it turns out that toilets can be surprisingly explosive. The Victorian press had a brief obsession with the gases in their sewers igniting and blowing up their lavatories.
Exploding toilets are more common than we might like to think. In one case, a lightning strike set fire to the methane below one and detonated it.
When it’s not fire that sets them off, it can be the water. In 2018, Flushmate, which makes high-pressure systems designed to reduce water use during flushing, recalled 1.5 million units. This was after a three-million-unit recall in 2012. The problem? The units could, and did, make some toilets explode.
2 Trapped in the Loo
Most people don’t need to be told not to climb into a toilet, but there are always some who require an explicit warning. In 2016, a Norwegian man dropped his phone into a toilet while urinating. His friend, Cato Berntsen Larsen, did not think twice before leaping into action. He jumped into the toilet feet first and became stuck.
Larsen is apparently a keen amateur diver, but he should perhaps have thought twice before diving this time. The public toilet was not connected to the sewer but rather had a tank that was emptied just once per year. He found himself up to his thighs in sewage. Larsen panicked due to the confined space and vomited. Firefighters were called, and they were able to rescue the unfortunate man by cutting open the toilet.
The phone was lost forever.
1 U-boat Sinks
Most toilet accidents are only embarrassing for the person involved, but sometimes they can cause international laughter. In 1945, a German U-boat was patrolling off the coast of Scotland. The Second World War was practically over, and the submarine and crew might have reached the end of the conflict without incident. Unfortunately, the captain just had to use the toilet.
U-1206 was one of the most modern vessels in the German navy [LINK 10]. Even its toilets were hi-tech. No more would a submarine have to carry around its own waste—this U-boat used high pressure to vent waste after a toilet was used. This system, however, was only designed to be used when the submarine was on the surface.
Captain Karl-Adolf Schlitt was unfamiliar with the toilet and had to ask an engineer to help flush it. The wrong knob was turned, and suddenly, high-pressure water and sewage flooded the cabin. When the seawater reached the submarine’s batteries, clouds of chlorine gas billowed out. The U-boat was forced to surface, was spotted and attacked by the RAF, and had to be abandoned. Four of the crew drowned, and the rest were taken as prisoners of war. Captain Schlitt had flushed his hopes of victory away.