Two cases of sudden death due to perforation of a benign oesophageal ulcer into a major blood vessel are reported. In one man, anaemia and aspiration pneumonitis dominated the clinical picture. He had an oesophageal stricture and a chronic peptic ulcer associated with an incarcerated hiatus hernia. Death was due to haemorrhage caused by perforation of the ulcer into the thoracic aorta. The second patient presented with confusion and falls, backache and indigestion. She had a hiatus hernia and a large benign chronic oesophageal ulcer. Death was due to perforation of the ulcer into the left pulmonary vein. The cases are presented for their rarity, to illustrate the complex and late presentation of problems in geriatric medicine, and as a reminder that reflux oesophagitis can be dangerous.