It was a scary prospect to attend a Borgia dinner party in the Middle Ages. The European papal family was known to poison guests who presented, well… a conflict with whatever the Borgia believed. But at least they reserved the potent potion for outsiders — not family. The Roman Emperor Nero infamously poisoned the dinner of his stepbrother Britannicus in A.D. 55.
Sneaking poison into wine became so easy by the Middle Ages that Chinese Emperors began requiring eunuchs to test their meals. If the eunuch lived, the Emperor dug in. However, that line of defense couldn’t stop an inside job, which is believed to have occurred when the aunt of Guangxu, the second-to-last emperor of the Qing dynasty, conspired with the eunuch.
Still, some dinner party deaths came at the hand of the diner himself. Kabuki actor Bando Mitsugoro believed he could outlast a heavy dose of the deadly pufferfish liver known as fugu. That turned out be an incorrect assumption. Some tales of fabulous feasts with a deadly outcome are so outlandish that they are thought to be the stuff of legend. Take the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin. He is believed to have eaten foods that contained enough cyanide to kill five men — and lived. Or did the harmful liquid burn off in the cooking process? Either way, it’s a wild story, as are these deadly dinners.