The strange tales of the Darwin Awards\

Dr Bryan Palmer finds an intriguing website that chronicles some strange occurrences 

‘We salute the improvement of the human genome by honouring those who remove themselves from it.’ So goes the explanation on the home page of the Darwin Awards website. ‘Of necessity,’ it continues, ‘this honour is generally bestowed posthumously.’

In other words, this is a collection of urban myths (or is that truths?) of the bizarre and plainly stupid ways in which people have accidentally killed themselves. Reference is made to those who swim in the shallow end of the gene pool and their exploits. Technically speaking, I guess recipients of the award have to remove themselves before passing on their genetic material but I do not think that is one of the criteria.

The stories are ranked into different groups according to whether they just appear to be urban legends, the real McCoy, personal accounts or honourable mentions (these are where an incredible act of stupidity has taken place but the person did not actually kill themselves). You have to read the story of ‘Lawn Chair Larry’ to believe it.

A recent addition appears to be the illustrated section, which adds another dimension to the stories and you can even now pre-order the book. The site is updated mainly by submissions of stories from its readers.

The authors of the site then try to verify the truth of the submitted accounts by searching for press report verification which they add as references to the article. The urban legends are just that — untrue but funny stories and the personal accounts are again unconfirmed reports.

The thought crosses my mind: if you commit an act that is stupid are you going to submit it for publication for the world to read? It is a good site for making you feel better about yourself.

Dr Palmer is a GP who has emigrated to Australia

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