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Any more details about Jeff Dailey's Berzerk death?


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For various reasons, I'm looking for more information on this. Here's everything I've been able to find:


- It happened in January 1981....but on WHAT DATE?? There are 31 to pick from, but I can't find the exact date.

- The score was 16,660.

- He was 18 years old.

- One source I found said that Dailey was good friends with Peter Burkowski, the SECOND guy who died from playing Berzerk, and that apparently happened on April 3, 1982 (and not October, like a lot of sources say), at Friar Tuck's Arcade in Calumet City, Illinois.


But...has it ever been known WHERE Dailey's heart attack happened? If he indeed was good friends with Burkowski, it'd be somewhere in the Chicago area, most likely...


It's just weird...it almost seems that the lack of details makes this, well...an urban legend. Yeah, we know the guy's name and age....but not the exact date, we don't know where it happened, and the score itself seems suspicious: having a "666" in the score....


What's up???

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- He was 18 years old.

According to the sources I found, Jeff Dailey was 19, not 18. Peter Burkowski was 18.


According to an article in Video Games magazine (October 1982, pp. 14-15), deputy coroner Mark Allen reported that scar tissue was found on Peter Burkowski's heart, and it was at least two weeks old. (http://home.hiwaay.n.../cvg/death.html) I take it the excitement and stress of playing Berzerk was too much for his already-weakened heart, leading to his heart attack. It could have happened doing almost anything-- for example, if he were reading a book and someone snuck up behind him and popped a paper bag to startle him as a joke.


Another page (http://www.arcade-hi...e=detail&id=236) says that Alan McNeil-- the creator of Berzerk-- addressed these legends in Retro Gamer (Issue 47). I happen to have that issue, so I looked up the article ("The Making of... Berzerk," pp. 48-53). In a sidebar on page 53 captioned "Kill the Humanoid!" it says "But one player did die while playing the game. (Alan refutes reports that claim two died.) 'The unfortunate fellow was obese and had run upstairs to play the game,' Alan explains. 'The legend is he set a high score and died, but the owner of the arcade said he didn't finish the game-- he was out of breath from the moment he arrived until he dropped....'"


It doesn't mention the name of the player, but I'm going to guess he was talking about Jeff Dailey, for the following reasons: (1) Peter Burkowski was said to be in good physical shape (that is, aside from having two-week-old scar tissue on his heart), which certainly doesn't fit the description of the player being "obese"; (2) Peter Burkowski reportedly died after playing Berzerk, not while playing it; and (3) the story about Jeff Dailey seems to imply he'd just gotten the high score, whereas the reports about Peter Burkowski say he put his initials on the high score screen twice but don't claim they were the two highest scores.


Maybe you could get more information from Alan McNeil?


Edit: I can't seem to find any solid information about Jeff Dailey, whereas the articles about Peter Burkowski seem more solid (because they mention the names of the arcade, arcade owner, deputy coroner, and a doctor)-- so maybe Alan McNeil was talking about Peter Burkowski? Except the article about him says he had just put a quarter into another game when he collapsed, plus he was said to be in good shape, not "obese," so...?

Edited by SeaGtGruff
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If the death occurred in Chicago, there are several online sources for obituaries and death records. Note that some of them do require a fee for access.


Online Chicago & Cook County, Illinois Death Records & Indexes



If you can get a specific date and location, the next stop would be a search of the local newspaper (which may not be available online). Primary research always trumps imperfect recollections and Internet rumours.



There's this person:


Jeffrey Dailey, "United States Social Security Death Index"


first name: Jeffrey

middle name:

last name: Dailey

name suffix:

birth date: 16 January 1962

social security number: 225-94-5973

place of issuance: Virginia

last residence:

zip code of last residence:

death date: May 1981

estimated age at death: 19



Per the SSDI, there were two men named Peter Burkowski who died in 1982, but both were elderly.

Edited by jhd
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The contemporary newspaper articles I found about the 1982 incident all spell the name "Bukowski" not "Burkowski" (all are from April, 1982).


I haven't found any contemporary accounts of the Jeff Dailey death yet.

The Jeffrey Alan Dailey from the SSDI apparently died in Virginia. He is buried at Holly Lawn Cemetery in Suffolk City, VA and his obituary was printed in the Newport News Daily Press on May 30 and June 1, 1981.


I may send for a copy of the obituary to see if it mentions the cause of death.


Keith Smith


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The contemporary newspaper articles I found about the 1982 incident all spell the name "Bukowski" not "Burkowski" (all are from April, 1982).

This article says


The First Person To Die Playing A Video Game

Galactic warrior Peter Bukowski had a heart attack on April 3, 1982, in Calumet City, Illinois -- at the Friar Tuck game room, River Oaks Shopping Center. The game he was playing was Berzerk.


Since the legends claim that Jeffrey Dailey died before Peter Bukowski, this article implies that the legends about Jeffrey Dailey are just stories with no truth to them. It does seem interesting that Peter Bukowski's death seems to be fairly well substantiated, yet no such reports can be found about Jeffrey Dailey's death.

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This article says



Since the legends claim that Jeffrey Dailey died before Peter Bukowski, this article implies that the legends about Jeffrey Dailey are just stories with no truth to them. It does seem interesting that Peter Bukowski's death seems to be fairly well substantiated, yet no such reports can be found about Jeffrey Dailey's death.


While I suspect that the Daley story may indeed be bogus, I wouldn't set much store by that article. At least half of the "firsts" claimed in it are false (and that's only the ones I know about).

The standards for video game journalism back in the day were often rather low, to put it charitably.


Even if the Dailey story were true, it wasn't the first video-game-caused death.


I've found reference to at least two others - one in December of 1974 and another around 1979 or 1980.

Was it the first case of someone dieing WHILE playing a video game? The two earlier incidents arguably occured while playing a game (plus it seems that Bukowski may have died AFTER playing the game, not while).

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  • 8 months later...

I really hope I'm not breaking any rules by posting again directly after my own post, but anyone who is interested in finding answers to this should read this article I found on Twin Galaxies' website. Since it's on their site, I would say it's safe to put stock in the account. It gives a pretty detailed account of Peter Bukowski (that's the spelling they go with), and it further asserts that Jeff Dailey is just a rumor started 6 months after Peter's death, and that the name comes from the Jeffrey Allen Dailey who died in Virginia in May 1981. The article even says that according to the story, which apparently appeared in a short lived magazine called Video Ace, Jeff Dailey died in Virginia on January 12, 1981 (so there is the answer to the question this thread asked). As for the obesity bit, the article on Twin Galaxies' website suggests that it was said about Peter Bukowski due to the fact that his heart was surrounded by a layer of fat thanks to the rare heart condition he had. He was not obese of course. In fact, a coroner's report said that Peter Bukowski was 5'10" tall and weighed 172 lbs when he died. It's very interesting that they had all this information that I never heard prior. I would be pretty skeptical about it if it wasn't for the fact that it's at Twin Galaxies' site. Here's where it gets really freaky - this article goes on to tell about a third Berzerk related death that happened on March 21, 1988, once again in Calumet City, IL, and once again at Friar Tuck's! And once again, the same Berzerk machine that Peter played while he was dying is involved in this incident! Edward Clark Jr., age 17, went to Friar Tuck's on March 21, 1988, and was murdered by Pedro Roberts, age 16, over a quarter that Edward used to play Berzerk that Pedro claimed was his. Pedro was kicked out first, and 10 minutes later Edward and his friends were allowed to leave and advised to go a different way, but they didn't listen. Pedro waited for Edward in an alley around the corner from Friar Tuck's and stabbed him when he came near. You can read the whole article that addresses all 3 deaths here.




I looked into the Edward Clark/Pedro Roberts story, and there is an article in the Chicago Tribune dated March 22, 1988 that mentions the killing, so the Twin Galaxies article's claim that it is a true story has some backing. The Chicago Tribune article even gives the addresses where the two boys lived. Here is a link to that article.



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  • 2 years later...

I hate to dig up this ol' fossil but I was watching the latest Venture Bros and they mentioned this. I had never heard of it and thought maybe it was just part of the shows story. I was blow away to hear this. STRANGE BUT TRUE.


I saw that and forgot to follow up. Hillarious how 21 used that excuse to justify that a found corpse could have died from extreme happiness! Needles to say, Venture Brothers is epic.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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