In recent decades, laughter has been touted as a possible cure for many ills, including cancer and heart trouble. But could mirth also be deadly, making the phrase "I just about died laughing" as much about accuracy as it is hyperbole?
On 24 March 1975, 50-year-old bricklayer Alex Mitchell of King's Lynn in Norfolk, England, kicked the bucket while roaring with laughter at one of his favorite television shows, the comedy programme The Goodies. The skit that precipitated Mitchell's fatal fit of glee involved a kilted Scotsman's flailing away with his bagpipe at a vicious black pudding intent upon attacking him. Mitchell was unable to stop laughing, and after twenty-five minutes of uproar gave one last "tremendous belly laugh, slumped on the settee, and died," said his widow, who witnessed his passing. Mr. Mitchell had expired from heart failure.