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Extreme eater’s death in Florida puzzles many

Edward Archbold celebrated after winning a cockroach eating contest. He died a short time later.

John-Patrick McNown via AP

Edward Archbold celebrated after winning a cockroach eating contest. He died a short time later.

MIAMI — As a Florida medical examiner tries to determine how 32-year-old Edward Archbold died after eating insects during a contest to win a snake, people around the country are asking: Why?

Why would anyone eat a live cockroach? Why did he die when several others in the contest ate the same bugs without incident? What inspired Archbold — who was described by the snake store owner as “the life of the party” — to shovel handfuls of crickets, worms, and cockroaches into his mouth?

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While eating bugs is normal in many parts of the world, the practice is taboo in the United States and many western countries.

Yet people do it for the shock factor, and many do so during contests or dares; just last year, people ate Madagascar cockroaches at a Six Flags in Illinois for a chance to win park passes. Also last year, people ate live roaches at a science center in Mobile, Ala.

Lou Manza, a psychology professor at Lebanon Valley College, said those who participate in events like bug eating ‘‘are looking for things to make life interesting.’’

‘‘At a certain level we’re all looking for things to break up the monotony,’’ said Manza, who participates in extreme marathons and says some people think that is odd.

Extreme eaters also participate mostly for fame and not material goods — and they train heavily for events. Manza added that amateurs don’t ‘‘think things through’’ when throwing themselves into weird and possibly dangerous competitions.

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