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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

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  2,292 ratings  ·  332 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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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  2,292 ratings  ·  332 reviews

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Start your review of Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park
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
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals, nature
Thermal Pools and Bears

This may seem strange coming from a person that loves nature, but I was not totally impressed by Yellowstone. I didn’t like thermal pools, not even Old Faithfu, which was surrounded in cement. The Indians never really lived in Yellowstone. Why? The author didn’t say. My own belief is that they didn’t like the thermal pools either.
Now, don’t get me wrong, because coming into Yellowstone from Cody, you will see a lake of thermal poos, and they are beautiful. I have another r
Jan 28, 2008 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
Melissa Chung
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 52-in-2018
I have been dying to read this book every since I saw it in Yellowstone 16 years ago. When I was in college I saw this book in a bookshop, but my 21 year old self could not afford the almost $20 price tag. College kids be broke. When my husband and I decided to spend two weeks in Tetons and Yellowstone this summer I wasn't expecting to see this book again. Frankly I had forgotten about it. However, we can across it on our third day in Teton and you bet I grabbed it immediately. I'm giving this n ...more
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone who visits Yellowstone should be required to read this book first! Here’s what they would learn:
- Don’t jump in the thermal pools for a swim.
- don’t go hiking alone with your headphones on and without bear spray
- don’t eat any roots you dig up
- don’t climb over barricades to get a better photo from a cliff edge
- don’t stick your head out of your stagecoach window
- don’t go out in your canoe on a windy afternoon
- don’t move to Yellowstone as a mail order bride for an old hermit
- don’t
Sep 30, 2008 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
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
Sep 25, 2007 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.
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, restrictions, and rules-- they're there for a reason. The animals in the park are NOT part of a zoo or petting zoo-- they're wild and potentially dangerous. I can't believe people have bee ...more
Book Concierge
The subtitle states: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park.

I’ve had this on my tbr for some time. In general, I like nonfiction about natural history and the great outdoors. I read Jack Olsen’s Night of the Grizzlies a few years ago and found it fascinating and compelling. I was expecting something akin to Olsen’s work with this book, and was sorely disappointed.

Whittlesey give us a recitation of incidents in the park, and surrounding communities, divided into categories/chapt
Lady ♥ Belleza
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
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
Jun 08, 2016 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
Jun 17, 2009 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
Dec 17, 2007 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.
Dec 30, 2007 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?
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.
Honestly, what could I have been thinking? Perhaps this would be true crime? But no, it is, literally, a chronicle of deaths of every kind throughout the long history of our first national park. There are deaths by nature--those hot pools, lightening, bears, drowning-- and by death by man--Indians, dumb accidents, suicide, murder. There is a bit of "these-victims-were-too-dumb-to-live" about this, but there's also a picture of the park geographically and historically. Lots of "who knew?"--for ex ...more
Mark Steve
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fox by: Jonas
Shelves: non-fiction, history, own, 2016
Is it weird to say that I thoroughly enjoyed a book about the various ways people die in what is arguably the best National Park? No? Okay, then I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

Death in Yellowstone has not only a wonderful title (who doesn't dig the word Foolhardiness?) but also proves to be a very thorough history about the manifold ways people find themselves perishing within this idyllic setting. Everything from bears to lightning, falling to freezing, and stagecoach accidents is covered b
May 07, 2013 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
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I received this audio book from the Early Reviewers program and, once again, I had not read the description of what I requested closely enough. I thought this was going to be a murder mystery set in Yellowstone, but instead, it is a chronicle of seemingly every death that has occurred in the park since it's inception.

I will say three things about this book:

1. It is not for the squeamish. The author graphically relates stories of people being boiled alive in thermal springs, being flayed and eate
Jan 07, 2008 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.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do not, under any circumstances, read the chapter on bear maulings and deaths while you're in a tent in a campground in Yellowstone. And if you do, do not have your 12 year old child's foot anywhere near your own foot as you sleep. Why? Because that child's foot will inadvertently touch your foot just as you are falling off to sleep in that tent and you will silently FREAK OUT, sure that you're about to be mauled and eaten by a bear. Also, if the temperatures fall below 40 degrees F, take care r ...more
Tommie Guy
Rivetting in the beginning. About midway, the categories of death (author organizes his book by devoting all drownings to a chapter, all bear attacks to a chapter) start getting banal. I think it was the chapter on drownings that made me put the book down, not to be picked up again. I give it three stars because it was so great early on. I just got tired. of. death.
Olivia Clouse
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"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."
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book broke my heart because I knew one of the people who died there. John Mark Williams was my first crush as a little girl, my pastor’s son, and such a sweet guy. I was so sad when he died, and now to find out what happened was hard to read. I did find myself getting annoyed by the stupidity of people. All in all, it was a good book.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a fascinating but sobering account of most of the known deaths in yellowstone. organized by cause of death, this book is a good reminder to keep your safety in your own hands and that parks are wilderness first and tourist attractions second.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in2018
I wanted this to have more of a narrative, I think, but it was still a fun read. BE CAREFUL IN NATURE, EVERYONE
Carol Copeland
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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Play Book Tag: Death in Yellowstone / Lee Whittlesey - 1* 1 15 Sep 06, 2017 05:56PM  

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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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