A person’s last wish, no matter how absurd, is almost always carried out as a final gesture to honor the deceased. Many iconic figures that did great things in life arranged for burials that were equally grand. One of the world’s most beloved actresses had one particular request that earned her the last laugh at her own funeral. A notorious writer and counterculture icon asked that his remains be shot out of a cannon. Some other creative folk wanted their ashes encased in the products that made them famous, allowing them to live on forever in their work. One eminent writer had his ashes mixed into ink and immortalized in a comic book. Another noteworthy inventor was cremated and buried in a popular snack container.
While some people wish to commemorate their own achievements, others want to express gratitude to their nearest and dearest. In a heartwarming act of love, one legendary comedian made sure that his widow received a token of his affection every day for the rest of her life.
Yet other final requests are simply bizarre, like bequeathing millions of dollars to a dog or arranging a marriage for a pet cat. Here are 10 of the most unusual last wishes made by celebrities, historical figures and other notable characters.
10. Mark Gruenwald – Ashes To Comic Book Ink
Mark Gruenwald, a top editor for Marvel Comics, died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 42. Luckily, Gruenwald’s final wish was well known long before his death: he wanted his remains mixed with ink and made into a comic book. In 1997, Marvel Comics granted his last wish by mixing his ashes with ink at a printing plant in Ohio. The mixture was later used to illustrate “Squadron Supreme,” a reprint of a limited edition book that Gruenwald wrote in 1985. Catherine, Gruenwald’s widow, wrote a very befitting line that was included in the book’s foreword: “he has truly become one with the story.”
9. Leona Helmsley – $12 million For A Dog
Real estate tycoon Leona Helmsley earned the title “Queen of Mean” after a notorious tax evasion case in 1989. When she died in 2007, Helmsley cut two grandchildren out of her will and left a $12 million trust fund to her dog, a Maltese named Trouble. She also left millions to her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who was appointed as Trouble’s caretaker after her death. Her other two grandchildren received $10 million each, but if they failed to visit their father’s grave at least once a year, they would lose the money. Helmsley also requested that her dog’s remains be buried along with hers in the family mausoleum. That wish never came true: the cemetery board wouldn’t allow nonhuman remains on the property.
8. Elizabeth Taylor – Late Arrival
Remaining true to her notorious tardiness and grandiose sense of humor, Elizabeth Taylor really was late to her own funeral. In March of 2011, Taylor’s funeral service at a California cemetery was delayed in order to honor her final parting wish. She left specific instructions that her coffin should arrive at least 15 minutes later than the scheduled start time. Taylor also requested that someone in attendance announce, “She even wanted to be late for her own funeral.” Leave it to Elizabeth Taylor to make sure her final starring role featured one last hurrah.
7. Gene Roddenberry – Space Wishes
When Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the original “Star Trek” series, died in 1991, his wife did something very special to honor his legacy. Gene’s widow, Majel Roddenberry, had his ashes sent into space in 1997. She arranged the service through Celestis, a company that specializes in post-cremation memorial spaceflights and lunar burials. Roddenberry is not the only icon to have a space burial. His ashes were blasted into orbit along with those of Timothy Leary, psychologist and infamous LSD advocate, and 22 other space enthusiasts. If that isn’t mind-blowing enough, a company called Elysium wants to make space burial an option for the common people. They offer several packages, one starting at $995, which will take your ashes on a two-minute suborbital flight. Another service, priced at $12,500, will bring your ashes to the moon.
6. Hunter S. Thompson – Ashes Shot Out Of Cannon
When Hunter S. Thompson shot himself to death in 2005, it was no surprise he intended to go out with a bang…twice. A fiery social critic, journalist and unabashed hedonist, Thompson was determined to have the last word, and the events following his death were no exception. On Aug. 20, 2005, about 350 friends gathered in a field behind Thompson’s farmhouse in Woody Creek, Colorado. They were honoring a request Thompson had made numerous times before he died: he wanted his ashes to be shot out of a cannon. That evening, just after sunset, Thompson’s ashes were fired from a 153-foot-tower amidst red and blue fireworks. Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in the film adaptation of his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, not only helped plan the ceremony, he paid for it too. According to relatives, the grand finale cost over $2 million. Thompson went out in a blaze of glory, exactly as he intended.
5. Harry Houdini – Beyond The Grave
A notorious magician who performed otherworldly acts throughout his life, Harry Houdini had an equally-bizarre request to be carried out after his death in 1926. Houdini asked his wife, Bess, to hold an annual seance so he could contact her from beyond the grave. He left a secret note for her, revealing the 10 random words he would use to communicate with her. That way, she could be certain it was his spirit. Although Bess held seances every year on Halloween, the anniversary of Houdini’s death, he never returned. The seances were actually Houdini’s posthumous attempt to discredit spiritualism. After his mother passed away, Houdini spent years trying to contact her through mediums without any success. Ultimately, he wanted to prove that the whole business was hooey.
4. Fredric Baur – Buried In A Pringles Can
Mark Gruenwald is not the only man who was laid to rest in his own creation. Fredric Baur, the man who invented the tubular-shaped Pringles can, is now buried in one. Relatives had always joked about Baur’s strange request. However, when Baur died in 2008 after a battle with Alzheimer’s, his eldest son, Larry, felt compelled to honor his father’s last wish. Larry and his siblings purchased a can of Pringles at Walgreens and brought it with them to the funeral home. Fredric Baur’s ashes were sealed in his prized invention: the iconic Pringles pillar.
3. Dusty Springfield – Cat Of The House
The British pop singer, known for hit songs like “Son of a Preacher Man” and “I Only Want to Be With You,” didn’t live such a cheery life. Springfield was ostracized due to her sexual orientation, and she struggled with addiction and mental issues for many years. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dusty moved to the English countryside and became a recluse. Perhaps that explains why her 13-year-old cat, Nicholas, was such a priority in her will. Springfield requested that the cat be fed imported baby food and live in a 7-foot-high indoor treehouse. She also arranged for Nicholas to marry the cat of his appointed guardian.
2. Jimmy Dean – Buried In Piano-Shaped Mausoleum
The name is now synonymous with the sausage company, but its cofounder Jimmy Dean was once a very popular country music artist. When he died in 2010 at the age of 81, he spared no expense on his own funeral. Dean was buried in one of the craziest-looking mausoleums ever constructed: a nine-foot-long granite piano overlooking the James River in Varina, Virginia. Engraved on the top of the piano-shaped tomb is an epitaph that reads, “Here lies one hell of a man.”
1. Jack Benny – A Rose A Day For His Wife
Jack Benny certainly wins our hearts for having one of the most romantic last wishes. Benny’s marriage to Sayde Marks was full of ups and downs, yet there is no doubt that he was very much in love with her. Benny passed away in 1947, on the day after Christmas. In his will, Benny set aside money so that a single long-stemmed red rose would be delivered to his widow every day for the rest of her life. Sayde received a rose every single day until she passed away nine years later.
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