One morning when I was but a lowly high school senior getting ready to leave for school, I remembered that I could get extra credit for dressing up for Halloween. Desperate for an idea, I quickly grabbed my father’s rose-tinted glasses (from his bygone hippie days), and as I sprinted from my house, I blindly ripped a flower from our garden. I only realized later, on the bus to school, that what I held in my hand was not the fresh daisy I had wanted, but a very obviously dead petunia — but no matter. I tucked it in my shirt pocket and called myself the ghost of John Lennon. And it worked — you see, as a culture, we idolize our rock stars. So when they die — often in strange or mysterious ways — it makes it all the spookier.

And boy, do we have our share of strange rock star deaths, be they creepy or accidentally hilarious. Most recently, there is the unfortunate story of Mike Edwards, one of the founders of Electric Light Orchestra, who died in September 2010 when a 1,300-pound rogue bale of hay rolled down a nearby hill onto his moving car. I can only guess that this incident led to an unprecedented number of web searches for the phrase “rogue bale of hay.”

This is just the most recent entry in a weird, lengthy chronology of musician mortality. It’s relatively well known that Jimi Hendrix choked on his own vomit, but did you know that Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham did the same thing in 1980 — after taking 16 shots for breakfast? While it might be fairly common for rock‘n’rollers to party a bit too hard, there’s a veritable litany of eerie obituaries.

Elliott Smith, one of the more depressing songwriters in recent memory, died in October 2003 from being stabbed in the chest — but nobody can quite seem to agree on who caused the wounds: himself or his girlfriend. Plenty of stars have been murdered (like Marvin Gaye, at the hands of his own father in 1984), but Sam Cooke has to take the cake. The famed R&B star was reportedly shot in 1964 as he attacked a hotel manager wearing only a sports jacket and a single shoe. In the manager’s defense, nothing good seems to follow when an enraged, mostly naked celebrity bursts into your office.

Likewise, numerous musicians have taken their own lives, whether purposefully or wholly by accident. French singer Claude Francois — beloved by his people — decided back in 1978 that it would be perfectly reasonable to straighten a lit light bulb while standing in a full bath tub. R&B singer Johnny Ace and Chicago guitarist Terry Kath died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in 1954 and 1978, respectively, after assuring bystanders their guns were unloaded. Strangest of all, though, is the story of Jeff Buckley, singer-songwriter and son of famed vocalist Tim Buckley. On May 29, 1997, after recording in Memphis, the younger Buckley waded into the Wolf River Harbor singing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” where he subsequently drowned.

The most unsettling stories spring from when these eerie circumstances are completely random. Take the tale of the Allman Brothers: Guitarist Duane Allman died in 1971 after being thrown from his motorcycle during a collision with a truck. Though it’s weird Duane actually died from the motorcycle bouncing up and falling back on top of him, it gets worse. Fellow founder and bassist Berry Oakley died a year later after getting thrown from his motorcycle during a collision with a bus. And if you haven’t yet seen the connection there, the accident happened to occur just three blocks from where Duane lost his life.

As you see trick-or-treators with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin costumes beg for candy tthis week, think about the bewitched profession that is the rock star. Most careers don’t involve the risk of a “27 club,” which only has one requirement: pass away at the ripe age of 27. And when such a fellowship boasts the likes of some of the best in the business (including Jimi, Janis, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain), the occupation of rock musician seems to get fairly creepy. So if you feel chills when zombie Elvis struts by, don’t feel bad — in fact, you might want to distance yourself while you still can.

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