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Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park
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Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  1,263 Ratings  ·  207 Reviews
Intriguing stories of how people have died in Yellowstone warn about the many dangers that exist there and in wild areas in general.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 1st 1995 by Roberts Rinehart Publishers
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Into the Wild by Jon KrakauerOff the Wall by Michael P. GhiglieriDeath in Yellowstone by Lee H. WhittleseyThe Last Season by Eric BlehmInto Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Accidents and Death in the Wilderness
3rd out of 94 books — 22 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankNight by Elie WieselBeing and Time by Martin HeideggerHiroshima by John HerseyThe Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
Must Read Non-Fiction
490th out of 1,673 books — 1,888 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jul 25, 2014 karen rated it liked it
this book has a fantastic title. i love the word-choice of "foolhardiness", and i thought i would really enjoy reading a book about people doing stupid things and paying for them with their liiiiives. which i think makes me a bad person, but since a lot of these deaths take place in the 1800's, there is enough distance that it makes it less of a character flaw in me, and more of an abiding interest in historical circumstances. is what i am telling myself. but lee h. whittlesey is not gong to be ...more
Jan 28, 2008 Archer rated it liked it
A man from Brussels falls into a thermal pool and dies after his legs are boiled, later the small spring is renamed Belgian pool. A young man from Alabama camps illegally and is eaten by a bear. This a chronicling of "accidents and foolhardiness", with the emphasis put by the author on foolhardiness. It's definitely morbid and the attitude towards the "fools" can be a bit disturbing, but there are some riveting stories here, and they are described in a refreshingly matter-of-fact way. You don't ...more
Oct 09, 2008 Ericka rated it liked it
The book may appear daunting, but only about 3/4 of it are stories. The last quarter is dedicated to end notes and more information about the cemeteries of Yellowstone.

Do not read this book BEFORE or DURING your stay at Yellowstone. I read the book right after I left the park's borders and it left me with the willies for a long time. It is definitely not for those who can't stomach disgusting and grotesque things. For example, they describe in detail what happens to a person's body post-geyser a
Dec 28, 2011 Sesana rated it really liked it
I got this book from my local library, but I understand that it's also sold at Yellowstone itself. This is probably a public service. But the sad truth is that the people who really need to see it, who think that the boardwalks around hot geysers are just suggestions, that the bears must be tame and look so terribly hungry, or that it would be fun to swim just above the falls are exactly the people who won't read and absorb the lessons of this book. For a book about horrible ways that people can ...more
Oct 03, 2007 June rated it it was amazing
Did you know that if you fall (or jump) into one of Yellowstone's boiling geothermal pools, you will not only die a slow, painful death, but your eyes will turn completely white---just like a boiled fish. Yep. It's in the book. Oh--and Grizzly bears like to slash through your tent and pull you out while you are sleeping. Thought you were safe because you hung your food up? Nope.
Wilderness is impersonal. It does not care whether you live or die. It does not care how much you love it.

So while we are loving the Yellowstone wilderness, while we play in it, indeed revel in it, taking it on its own terms and helping to protect it, we foolish mortals must always remember to respect it. For not only can it bite us, but, indeed, it can devour us.

While reading this my first thought was he could have just subtitled it, "People are stupid". Indeed, most of the deaths in this book
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
The main idea of this book is: respect the wilderness! Whittlesey has done a very thorough job of chronicling every death that has occurred in or near Yellowstone National Park. Chapters are arranged by means of death. What strikes me repeatedly is that people simply ignore or fail to understand warning signs and rules-- they're there for a reason, and restrictions and rules are there for a reason as well. The animals in the park are NOT part of a zoo or petting zoo-- they're wild and potentiall ...more
Jun 18, 2008 Granny rated it really liked it
I am not, by nature, ghoulish (oh, maybe just a tad), but this book is really good bathtub reading. The "foolhardiness" aspect of the title was what intrigued me. I had no idea how many visitors to Yellowstone should be eligible for The Darwin Awards. This is "truth stranger than fiction" reading at its best.
Apr 02, 2014 C rated it really liked it

This book is thoroughly researched and jam packed with information. For that I give it 4 stars.

It is so thorough, though, that at points it gets pretty dry. It starts out so dramatically with the death-by-thermal-pool chapter, that everything after that doesn't really measure up.

Granted, not that I want people to die in more dramatic ways so that it'll be more interesting to read...

It is more that the thermal pools are such a bizarre and horrific way to die, everything else seems... tame. I had
Jun 23, 2009 Christine rated it really liked it
No mystery what the book is about; the title says it all. However, word of caution: If you're hoping for a Faces of Death account of death in Yellowstone, this isn't your book. But, if you'd like a tastefully written, historical recounting of the various ways in which people have died in Yellowstone in the last 100 years, then Whittlesey's book IS for you. Lots of interesting information, lots of common sense reminders about life in the the wilderness. Whittlesey says it best:

"While appreciatin
The first part is really fascinating: deaths by falling into thermal features (hot springs), bears, bison.

FWIW, I worked for the Nat’l Park Service (NPS) for 3 summers while I was in college - 1968-1970. Not only was I there for the initial story about a child mentioned in this book, which story made national news, about a boy who drowned in a thermal feature, I transcribed the initial Old Faithful local-office NPS inquiry from the cassette tape of their discussions to paper. Everything this bo
Aug 19, 2016 C-shaw rated it it was ok
Perverse as it may be, I love to read disaster books of all sorts: mountain-climbing terrors, shipwrecks, etc., and I am especially enamoured of bear attack stories. This book is so interesting to me, even as I cringe while reading it. I hope my interest is in part a desire to avoid such horrors, rather than just for the prurient thrills!
* * * * *
Well, my interest faded after reading pages and pages of minor details about people who died over a hundred years ago. The part about the hot springs d
Sep 06, 2008 Msstressa rated it it was amazing
Like many, I got this book while in Yellowstone. I bought it shortly after a canoe camping trip that had so many mishaps we could have ended up in the next edition of this book. Maybe I'm morbid, but I did enjoy reading about all the ways that things can go horribly wrong in the most beautiful place on earth. A word to the wise: if your dog goes into a thermal pool, don't dive in after it, okay?
Jan 31, 2011 William rated it really liked it
While at times the list nature of the names of the dead were tedious overall the book was an interesting tale of the foolishness of man in the great outdoors. It seems if there is a way for man to die he has accomplished it in Yellowstone.
Nov 13, 2013 Sameer rated it really liked it
Death in Yellowstone was saddening, but also very comical. The deaths were humorous because of how dumb they were. Many of these deaths were about idiotic people jumping into hot springs or aggravating bears, but some you could find sympathy. Other deaths were just rumors, and others were just injuries. Overall, this book explained many kinds of hilarious and sad deaths.

This book was for entertainment and information. One of my favorite parts of the book was when a lady questioned what danger m
Aug 06, 2015 J rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Death in Yellowstone sounds really interesting and there are interesting stories contained in the book. Sometimes it takes a lot of reading to get to the truly fascinating, though. Whittlesey generally does a good job of relating the depths of stupidity by park visitors while also trying to find lessons from the tales. His research has dug up a truly extensive list of fatalities connected to Yellowstone. The book drags, at times, though. Some stories are glossed over or act as filler while other ...more
Jul 17, 2013 Jody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People are really stupid. Sometimes incredibly unlucky. I'm so glad the author added the subtitle about foolhardiness. The author is a great researcher and most of the book at the back is notes, references, index, etc. My husband heard him speak at seasonal training in May in Yellowstone. Whittlesey divides the book into topics of HOW people died. I believe the beginning was about the hot springs and various pools. One guy JUMPED IN after his dog (even after others around him said, "Don't!") and ...more
Feb 27, 2011 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2006
I wanted to enjoy it far more than I actually did, I'm afraid. While I thought the subject matter was very interesting, I found the presentation to be pretty bland. It was all presented in the following format: x number of people died in this fashion, here are their names, here is what happened. Very dry and repetitive and, consequently, boring at times.

I'm actually rather impressed at how few people have died in Yellowstone, considering how many people visit every year and how long the park ha
Cindy McQueen
Feb 14, 2016 Cindy McQueen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rounded up my stars to a 4 for sheer amount of information and research involved in the making of the book. It wasn't the book I was expecting but it was definitely interesting. I am actually amazed that there haven't been more deaths and injuries in the park. The incidents in the book range from lightning strikes and avalanches to murders and suicides to wild animal attacks. Incidentally, the number of death and injuries by wild animal attacks are extremely low when you factor in the volume o ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Kay rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I can't help myself, reading these sorts of things. Maybe it's because of my profession. It might interest you to know that days before we arrived an 18-year-old from Russia working at the concessions died from a fall into the canyon by Inspiration Point, and another person died in a traffic accident. The book was published before the two deaths by bear last year, too. There are no memorials to all the various tragedies in the park, only current warning signs.
Ethan Brody
Dec 03, 2014 Ethan Brody rated it really liked it
This book is a goodread for non fiction lovers. The book has a lot of stories of accidents and horror stories. It went into great detail of certain things as the book is a very well written book with detail and very good stories. Warning: If sensitive to death and graphic topics, please don't read.
Apr 09, 2014 Knitter rated it liked it
Quick read detailing deaths in the history of Yellowstone National Park. Some are tragic, and some are "doh!"
Jessica King
An interesting catalogue - but that's all it is. If you're expecting something more Bill Bryson-y, you will be disappointed. It needs some serious editing because parts are repetitive.
Jun 14, 2015 Jeannie rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
Very interesting reading. Now I know why I don't care for the great wide and open wilderness....between falling into hot springs or falling off a cliff to being eaten by bears..well...not for me!
Jun 20, 2014 Lorna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Booklist magazine says it best, "A little morbid, but strangely fascinating."
Caitlin Zimyeski
Feb 07, 2014 Caitlin Zimyeski rated it really liked it
Read while in Yellowstone. Don't do that unless you have a somewhat weird sense of humor.
Roz Garland
Oct 21, 2016 Roz Garland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well written and researched

Highly recommend it you are a fan of The history of Yellowstone Sams the National Parks Service. excellent writer. Historically accurate.

Oct 20, 2016 Janell rated it it was ok
Evidently I like the gore, because the first chapters with people being eaten by bears and falling into boiling hot springs were so much more interesting than the rest! This is like the encyclopedia of death. Well put together, detailed, and trying to keep you safe! However, after awhile it became a bit of a chore . I do want to visit again though!
Oct 18, 2016 Charity rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"So while loving the Yellowstone wilderness, while we play in it, indeed revel in it, taking it on its own terms and helping to protect it, we foolish mortals must always remember to respect it. For not only can it bite us, but, indeed, it can devour it."

This was an amazingly well-researched, tragic, informative, interesting read that I'd recommend to anyone, particularly those who love the outdoors.
Joseph Helzer
Oct 15, 2016 Joseph Helzer rated it it was amazing
An excellent history of accidents and deaths in Yellowstone National Park. I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Whittlesy while working there, and the man is a treasure trove of information. This is a great read for anyone interested in national parks, Yellowstone, or the American wilderness.
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Lee Whittlesey’s thirty-five-year studies in the history of the Yellowstone region have made him an expert on Yellowstone’s vast literature and have resulted in numerous publications. He is the author, co-author, or editor of eight books and more than twenty-five journal articles, including: A Yellowstone Album: A Photographic Celebration of the First National Park; Death in Yellowstone; Lost in t ...more
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“Frank Welch was literally sleeping on a slab of bacon at the time of the event.” 0 likes
“The worst possible situation is a person hiking alone who surprises a bear that is feeding (as on a carcass) and also has cubs. If this last situation happens to you, we will not expect to see you back at the trailhead.” 0 likes
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