Lava Lamp Explodes

image I saw this story on the news last night: lava lamp explodes and kills man. It's definitely a candidate for the Darwin Awards, but it also sounds a bit like an urban legend (Big Gary wrote asking 'Can a lava lamp really kill someone? Have I been foolish to turn my back on my lava lamp?') It's been pretty widely reported, so I have to assume the story is true. And I could also imagine that if you heat a lava lamp on top of a stove, it could explode, and if you're really unlucky a shard of glass from that explosion could puncture your heart. The question in my mind is why this guy was heating it on the stove. I bet he thought he could speed up the lava bubbles by cranking up the heat a bit.


Posted on Wed Dec 01, 2004


Fact, being stranger than fiction - I have no problem believing that someone would be stupid enough to heat a lava lamp on their stove. And if that occurred, it could very well be a recipe for disaster, given the physical properties of the contents. Reminds me of a story we saw in the Baltimore Sun in 1988, titled "Man killed by beer". It was about a Canadian man who opened his upright refrigerater freezer door to retrieve a can of beer, which subsequently exploded, shot out into his forehead, and killed him instantly. It was reported by the AP as fact, at the time, and I never saw any refuting story.
Posted by stork  in  the spiracles of space  on  Wed Dec 01, 2004  at  09:40 PM
Isn't there a ribcage in place to protect the heart?
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Dec 02, 2004  at  08:11 AM
ribcage is there to protecty the lungs. There is a gap between the ribs that could have let a shard of glass through i spose... I don't believe it though.
Posted by amy  on  Thu Dec 02, 2004  at  11:12 AM
It is definitely possible for a lava lamp to explode. Happened to me in college (fall '74). The fluid (which feels like paraffin and smells a bit like kerosene) in the lamp tends to disappear (evaporate?) with age. After awhile, the lamp looks goofy with the fluid only 2/3 of the way up the glass enclosure. So I attempted to add some concoction (non-flamable non-explosive) to top it off.

The residue of the 'lava' was still visible through several layers of paint on the old concrete block walls of my dorm room when I visited some 25 years later.
Posted by mayberryman  on  Fri Dec 03, 2004  at  04:58 PM
I'm sure any sealed bottle of liquid (which is what the main part of the lava lamp is) would explode if you got it hot enough. It seems unlikely, but possible, that some knucklehead would try to heat one on a stove. What I'm having a hard time believing, though, is that a shard of glass could pierce a man's chest with enough force to puncture the heart.
Also, if this accident happened as claimed, it would have made such a mess (first the lamp blowing up, then the heart essentially exploding) that it would be very hard to reconstruct exactly what happened. There don't seem to have been any eyewitnesses to the accident.
So the whole thing feels to me like an urban legend of the "poodle in the microwave" type.

By the way, does anyone know why we call those things "urban" legends? In my own experience, people in cities are no more or less likely to tell and believe such stories than are people in suburbs, small towns, or out in the countryside.
Posted by Big Gary C  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Fri Dec 03, 2004  at  06:43 PM
Well Paul it's just like those idoits that had a foot race while carring freezers on there backs. They weren't thinking when they did it.
Posted by Dany  in  Texas  on  Sat Dec 04, 2004  at  01:32 PM
I don't think a shard pierced his heart.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Mon Dec 06, 2004  at  01:11 PM
I just reread the AP news feed. This guy had a piece of glass pierce his heart yet he could wander back to his bedroom to die. It was in a trailer but the kitchens are a few steps away from the bedrooms usually. Don't most injuries involving stabbing the heart have an instantaneous effect? It was ragged glass not something likely to keep a great seal unde pressure.
Posted by Scott Nash  on  Wed Dec 08, 2004  at  11:03 AM
Okay, last posting to this subject - No, Scott, rapid punctures to the heart do NOT always result in instantaneous death. In fact, they rarely do. The instantaneous effect is total shock to the physical system in tota, followed by mental shock precipitated by a combination of the physical effects of the puncture, blood flow interruption, and the dawning mental realization in the victim's mind that they are probably going to die very soon. As a former police officer, I can bare first-hand witness of many cases of death just as described, following auto accidents that involving heart puncturing or partial crushing. And I once saw a man die of a single stab wound to the heart by a three-inch blade that severed his aortic artery. There was almost no external bleeding, and it took him almost 45 minutes to die, in agony.
Posted by stork  in  the spiracles of space  on  Wed Dec 08, 2004  at  10:34 PM
This story is, unfortunately, true. The following is excerpted from Seattle's "The Stranger" Magazine, and when it took place, it was all over our nightly news.
Something this story doesn't mention is that they're not sure if the stove was on, so they don't know if the stove was really any part of the lamp exploding.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30 Today Reuters reported the cosmically unfair story of Philip Quinn, the 24-year-old man in Kent, Washington who placed a lava lamp on his stove, only to have the lamp explode and lodge a fatal shard of glass in his heart. Besides grieving friends and family and a mildly embarrassing obituary, Quinn's death leaves behind a slew of unanswered questions. Did he know the stove was on? Did he hope heat would make the lava blobs go faster? Couldn't God have restricted the punishment for Quinn's admittedly thoughtless deed to a mere third-degree burning?
Posted by catlady  on  Wed Dec 15, 2004  at  01:03 AM
Actually, the shard doesn't even have to go to the trouble of piercing his chest, slipping between the ribs and several layers of connective tissue, and jabbing through his heart tissue. Stick it in his neck. Puncturing either the jugular or the carotid will do the trick with a lot less force. Any vampire could tell you that. vampire
Posted by Gerry  in  Boise ID  on  Sat Mar 26, 2005  at  04:56 PM
I only have one question about the Reuters article...

Why would the family have printed an embarassing obit? That makes absolutely no sense. They would have had to make it embarassing on purpose. It's not like it is required to print the cause and manner of death, let alone print one at all.

KOMO News has an article about this, and a link to the original news broadcast about it. Unfortunately, the video will not load for me, so I have not seen it.
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Sat Mar 26, 2005  at  05:30 PM
Tonight's "Mythbusters" on the Discovery channel (Aug 30) demonstrated how entirely possible it is for a lava lamp to fatally injure anyone stupid enough to heat it on a stove, especially if they stand over it while it is heating.
Posted by Barry Nordin  in  Warwick, RI  on  Wed Aug 30, 2006  at  09:01 PM
I am sorry you are all so insensitive as to be all-knowing yet unable to decern the truth. Just because you see some guys yuk it up on mythbusters for money and entertainment doesn't give you license to deny strange misfortune which is in fact the sad truth.
Posted by Dave  in  formerly of kent  on  Sun Apr 08, 2007  at  06:15 PM
If you want to know the truth instead of foolishness see this link:

Posted by Dave  in  kent  on  Sun Apr 08, 2007  at  06:24 PM
Actually, the episode of Mythbusters very nicely confirmed that this event could have easily occurred. Their experiments resulted in some lava lamps exploding consistently with lethal force. They even had a piece of glass shard which deeply penetrated a forensic gel-torso.

As for whether a man could possibly manage to walk into a bedroom after suffering a puncture wound to the heart: absolutely. I've been a paramedic for well over a decade, and have seen many lethal gunshots and stab wounds to the chest. I've seen some people die instantly, and others survive for well over an hour. It really just depends on whether the penetrating object tamponades the bleeding (which is why you are never supposed to remove an impaled object). I had a patient last year, who was stabbed sixteen times. Four of the wounds were "sucking" wounds to the lung... another sliced open his trachea. Several others to the abdomen, and two to the heart. The man was in his seventies, and managed to survive over an hour. He even called 911, and talked to me all the way to the hospital!

Just an FYI.
Posted by medic911  in  Springfield,MO  on  Wed Sep 12, 2007  at  11:45 PM
Haha they can't sue the company, there is indeed a labal on the box that says something similar to "DO NOT USE ANY OTHER HEAT SOURCES TO HEAT THE LAMP UP OTHER THAN BULB". I just saw some Mythbuster episode on it...and I can easily believe it...all in all this guy is a moron
Posted by Dave  in  Ircugahuwa  on  Sun Jun 01, 2008  at  09:37 AM
I was watching Mythbusters today and they had this story on there and they found that it was actually plausible to be killed by an exploding lava lamp but it would be incredibly bad luck.
Posted by Katherine  in  Edmonton  on  Tue Mar 31, 2009  at  04:19 PM
it is def possible for a lava lamp to expolode without it being on a stove. happened to me last night (3/15/10). i bought new light bulbs for it yesterday because they had both burned out years ago & i wanted to have it lit up again, unfortenitly it didnt say anywhere what kind, or watts needed to be used for the lava lamp, it wasnt written on the old bulbs or written in the inside of the lamp like others ususally do. so i bought light bulbs that looked exactly like the old burnt out one, it was clearly a difference in watts. It was a double lava lamp, & the lid popped off on one side which caused the other side to fall over, so there was wax on the wall from the first one, & broke glass & wax on the floor from the second one. looked like a murder scene. thank god no one was in the room when it happened.
as for glass popping out & hitting somone ones heart, the only part where the glass actually came off was at the bottom & it wasnt a bunch of shards everywhere, it was just the round piece from the bottom. so idk if id believe the puncture wound to the heart.
Posted by Angela  in  Iowa  on  Tue Mar 16, 2010  at  11:51 AM
Actually, this horrific story is TRUE. This young man lived in our neighborhood as a kid, and my siblings attended school with him. He was a nice kid, sweet to the core. He left behind a little daughter, too, which is the most tragic thing of all. My parents and brother attended his funeral. My family was just numb when we heard the news, because it's such a freak thing. But it happened. This was a real person, and yes, he made a silly decision to warm up his lava lamp on the stove. To this day, nobody knows why anyone would even think of doing that. Obviously, he had no idea it had the potential to be deadly.
Posted by Mom  in  WA  on  Wed May 19, 2010  at  11:13 PM
Actually this doesn't qualify for a Darwin Award as the man left behind a 15-month old daughter. Since he has already reproduced, he is disqualified.
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