Lightning strikes, quicksand, snakes--whatever your childhood nightmares were made of, Earth's got it in spades.
As children, we all assumed that our chances of dying via cartoon misadventure were probably pretty high. Things like “eventual cancer” and “some joker on the freeway T-boning your car” just don’t have the fantastical punch of lava or quicksand. You’re in luck–we’ve found the places in the world where you can relive the imaginative days of your childhood when the skies were wide and blue and you knew that death was coming in the form of a falling anvil.
WHERE: Kilauea, Hawaii
Kilauea is just lousy with lava. You really wouldn’t believe how available and accessible the lava flows are there, and it’s a pretty popular tourist attraction. If you ever spent long afternoons with your siblings hopping from furniture to furniture while screaming that the floor was lava, why not visit a place where this is literally true all the time? You can take a boat tour to watch the brilliant red-orange flow as it slinks into the ocean, or take a guided tour inside the Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park to stare at it and think about how quickly your body would look like the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. You wouldn’t even have time to make the heartwarming thumbs-up. Lava is serious, y’all.
WHERE: Death Valley, California
We all have fond memories of imagining our deaths in some hellscape desert, tormented by mirages promising us lush oases and palm frond fans. Death Valley, California, which is literally a place with Death in the title, is exactly where you’d want to go to relive your anxiety about being flash-fried by a hostile environment. Temperatures there have reached a record of 134 degrees Fahrenheit, which should be illegal. Definitely bring some water with you on this trip because without it, you’ll assume room temperature in 14 hours or sooner. And by “room temperature,” I mean that you’ll become the lightly baked husk you always imagined you would be as a kid.
WHERE: Iha da Queimada Grande, Brazil
It’s called Snake Island for a reason–it’s got snakes. Lots and lots of snakes. What kid didn’t imagine the feeling of being devoured by an enormous snake feet-first? Iha da Queimada Grande is home to one of the most venomous snakes in the known world: Bothrops. Unfortunately, Brazil has banned any more visitors from setting foot on this island like it’s Isla Nublar or something. Which makes sense–apparently there used to be a lighthouse keeper on the island. Used to be. You could do worse for places to meet your untimely snake-themed death than on A Place Called Actual Snake Island.
WHERE: Spokane, Washington
You knew it was coming–that old classic, quicksand. You’d be surprised at how hard it is to find quicksand in the current world, but luckily, it can be found near lakes, river banks or marshes. Spokane, Washington features a lot of these locations, but here’s the thing: Quicksand is a lot less lethal than movies from the 1950s would have you believe. The majority of people who sink into quicksand do not become submerged past chest-level, but it will start getting pretty cold for you if somebody doesn’t pull you out of it relatively quickly. Finding out that quicksand isn’t a lightning-fast death scourge is like finding out that Santa Claus was canceled.
Being crushed by falling anvils is often a child’s fondest wish for a method of death, but a large part of adulthood is needing to settle, so you’ll have to make do with boulders dropping from the sky. Colorado is home to some absolutely gorgeous mountain ranges, and if you go bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park, you can either come away with memories of the majestic view from atop the range, or a skull like a squished Coke can. Pack a Wile E. Coyote-style sign that says “Help” for maximum effect. There’s a reason it’s a classic.
WHERE: Florida, Generally
There are so many ways to die in Florida that it feels silly to narrow it down to just one thing, but if you want to die via lightning bolt, as you always imagined you would as a kid, there just isn’t a better place in the United States to get lit up by the finger of God. Florida is the most lightning-prone state in the country, owing to the wet weather from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and there were 463 lightning-related deaths between 1959 and 2011 alone. The summer months are best for tempting fate in Florida due to sea breezes, but there are thunderstorms pretty much year-round in Florida, so there’s plenty of time.
WHERE: New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Specifically
Not as many people get devoured by sharks annually as you might think–the Jaws Effect is such that sharks face a much larger threat from humans than the other way around. Unless you go to New Smyrna Beach in Florida (remember how Florida’s primary domestic product is murder?), which boasts the largest number of reported shark attacks of any beach. No fatalities yet, though, at New Smyrna Beach, even for the incredible number of shark attacks–it’s estimated by National Geographic that anybody who has swum there has been 10 feet from a shark at any given time. You have to applaud those odds.
Fall off a Mountain
WHERE: Thor Peak, Nunavut, Canada
If you, like me, spent a lot of time as a child imagining how it would feel to all to your death from a dizzyingly high place, you could certainly do worse than Thor Peak in Canada. It’s claimed that Thor Peak features the world’s most enormous sheer vertical drop–about 4,000 feet straight down. To say nothing of the joy one must feel climbing such an enormous precipice, can you imagine how much time you’d have on the way down to be like “Wow, this is much higher up than most places”? I’ll bet a lot. You’d probably at least be safe stepping off the peak until you’d looked down and noticed your mistake, at which point I was reliably informed as a child would be a good time to produce a sign that says “Yikes.”
Gored by a Bull
WHERE: Pamplona, Spain
It’s absolutely what you think it is–getting trampled, gored, or otherwise mangled by bulls. There has actually been a substantial number of deaths since the annual Running of the Bulls began (15 in total, the last occurring in 2009), and as somebody who’s just returned from a rodeo in Wyoming, I have to wonder: Why is it that, as humans, we look at an enraged bull and see a really fun time? I’ll tell you why–as cartoon-obsessed children, we looked into those big red eyes and saw a pretty likely way that we were all gonna die. The accepted attire for the event is an all-white outfit with a red sash, which is pretty daring when you consider that most deaths come not from trampling, but from impalement. You’ve got a red sash on and you get ventilated by a horn, how will anybody know? Cartoonish miming, that’s how.
Eaten by a Bear
WHERE: Yellowstone, Wyoming
Did you know that there are between 280 and 610 Grizzly bears alone in Yellowstone Park? They’re super into human food, whether picnic-basketed or not, and also eating people just the way you imagined they would when you were a scared kid going on camping trips. For example, the rangers at Yellowstone implore tourists not to feed the bears, lest the Grizzlies become too comfortable barging into human encampments and eating people like large pizza bagels. They mostly come out at night (the better to obscure their Sneaky Bear Activities), so be mindful not to observe your usual bacon grease-and-raw-hamburger facial before bedtime in Yellowstone.