History classes introduce us to a slew of important people, from politicians to inventors to artists. And, of course, many of these individuals have left indelible marks on our society, meaning their presence is often felt even in the 21st century. Yet sometimes these revered characters also had secrets or strange quirks that helped them work or get through the day – even Benjamin Franklin. Here are 40 of the weirdest habits practiced by historic icons.
40. Michelangelo didn’t bathe
Famously, Renaissance man Michelangelo was responsible for the stunning work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Yet while he may be considered one of the finest artists of all time, he seemingly didn’t have as good a record in the hygiene department. Yes, Michelangelo supposedly didn’t perform any ablutions; apparently, he didn’t often wear clean clothes, either.
39. Martin Luther ate his own waste
Martin Luther didn’t like some of the Catholic Church’s practices, so he led the Protestant Reformation and ultimately set up the Lutheran Church. Despite the wisdom that he possessed, though, Luther supposedly partook in one particularly disgusting habit in the belief that it would improve his wellbeing. Somewhat alarmingly, it’s said that he actually consumed his own excrement on a regular basis.
38. Charles Dickens combed his hair hundreds of times each day
Given Charles Dickens’ odd quirk, it’s a wonder that he found the time to pen such classics as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol. You see, the popular author hated his hair being out of place, and this therefore led him to brush through his mane almost incessantly on a daily basis.
37. Franz Kafka had his cake and ate it, too
It seems as though Franz Kafka knew how to inspire himself to get his writing work down. Since the novelist really liked pineapple upside-down cake, he’d give himself a huge treat after he’d completed a new piece. Yes, Kafka would consume an entire gateau to celebrate – and he wouldn’t let any outsiders take a single bite, either.
36. Maya Angelou couldn’t write at home
One of author and poet Maya Angelou’s most famous works is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But she didn’t pen that lauded autobiography at home, as from the late ’60s Angelou actually preferred to write in small hotel rooms. She would bring along her own tools to aid her creativity, though, including a deck of cards and some sherry.
35. Leonardo da Vinci didn’t like to see caged birds
The quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci was versed in art, biology, music, sculpting, engineering, and anatomy, to name just a few disciplines. Yet he also had a soft side – especially when it came to animals. It’s said, for example, that he used to purchase birds in cages just so that he could free them. Leonardo is thought to have followed a vegetarian diet to boot.
34. Salvador Dalí was a pen stealer
Salvador Dalí had such an eccentric public persona that some wondered if it actually took away from his surrealist work. His antics may have distracted, though, from the fact that he occasionally stole from his fans. Yes, when admirers asked the artist to sign autographs, he would – and then he’d hang onto their pens.
33. Beethoven counted out beans to make the perfect cup of coffee
It’s no surprise that one of the most important composers ever to have lived exhibited strange behaviors to stoke creativity. In Ludwig van Beethoven’s case, the morning tended to start with a cup of coffee brewed with 60 beans exactly; he logged each one personally. On occasion, he’d also apparently walk around inside his room while spilling water onto his own hands and humming.
32. Andy Warhol created creepy time capsules
Andy Warhol’s contributions to the pop art movement included 1962’s Campbell’s Soup Cans – a collection of 32 renditions of the famous brand’s tins. But nothing that simple would likely ever be found within the time capsules that Warhol pieced together monthly. Instead, he filled these artifacts with strange finds, including boots that had once belonged to Clark Gable and a foot that had been mummified.
31. Stravinsky used headstands to get his creative juices flowing
No single genre can define composer Igor Stravinsky’s work, but it seems that he owed all of it to a morning ritual he used to spark his creativity. Apparently, Stravinsky would spend ten to 15 minutes in a headstand, which he believed helped open up his mind. Then he would feel ready to compose music.
30. Voltaire would only live close to a country’s borders
French philosopher Voltaire had a tendency to ruffle feathers with his writing. In 1734, for instance, he denounced the institutions of his home country, enraging members of Parliament to the point that they wanted him arrested. So, Voltaire fled to a friend’s chateau in Cirey near the French border, allowing him to escape the nation if he was chased. After that, he always lived close to the boundary between one nation and another – just to be safe.
29. Nikola Tesla believed celibacy helped him to create
Of all the ways to get the creative juices flowing, Nikola Tesla specifically refused to engage in one of them. Yes, the inventor of the alternating current electric supply system felt as though chastity aided his pursuit of his professional aims. He maintained that he’d made the right decision, too, and ultimately he died a bachelor.
28. Charles VI of France thought that he was a wolf made of glass
Charles VI restored a shining reputation to the crown during his reign, with his subjects even going so far as to call him “Charles the Beloved.” But in his 20s, the French monarch started suffering through periods of bad mental health, leading some to dub him “Charles the Mad” instead. During one of his episodes, he even believed himself to be a wolf made of glass. The king would therefore approach castle guests and howl at them, although he’d also avoid being touched himself for fear that he would break into pieces.
27. Churchill liked to be naked
British prime minister Winston Churchill reportedly enjoyed hanging out in his office naked, and it’s even said that another head of state once walked in and saw him in the buff. According to legend, Churchill traveled to the White House during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure. Then, when FDR entered the prime minister’s room at one point, the commander-in-chief reportedly found his British counterpart nude following a recent bath.
26. Picasso carried around a gun in case anyone annoyed him
Pablo Picasso’s bright, unique mind guided him as he co-founded the Cubist movement. Picasso’s avant-garde style led to lots of questions, though, and these inquiries sometimes annoyed the artist himself. So, when he became irritated by people asking too much, he would whip out a revolver in order to quieten them. And while the influential icon actually loaded the weapon with blanks, this was nevertheless quite the statement.
25. Frida Kahlo lied about her age
Much of Frida Kahlo’s artwork took its cues from her home nation of Mexico – not least the country’s natural landscape. And as it turns out, Kahlo let Mexico inspire a little white lie that she’d tell about herself, too. You see, although she entered the world in 1907, she would inform people that she had actually breathed her first in 1910. And, incidentally, that year also happened to see the kick-off of the Mexican Revolution.
24. Stanley Kubrick had 16 cats
Stanley Kubrick’s perfectionism infamously alienated him from some of his movie casts. But perhaps he left this tough persona at the studio door. In any case, Kubrick had a deep love for animals; he even took care of 16 cats at one point. The director’s menagerie apparently grew to include seven golden retrievers and four donkeys, too.
23. Marie Antoinette wanted to cosplay as a peasant
As the Queen of France and Navarre, Marie Antoinette made a reputation for herself by spending big. And, ultimately, her subjects would blame her profligacy for an economic downturn in France. But before that point, the monarch had the so-called “Queen’s Hamlet” built at Versailles. This was a tiny peasant village where she would dress up in a shepherdess costume and make believe that she was a commoner. She even milked cows and sheep while cosplaying there.
22. Henry VIII hired staff to wipe him after trips to the bathroom
King Henry VIII gained notoriety for his string of wives – some of whom he had beheaded. Clearly, then, the English monarch had little shame – and this seemed to extend to his trips to the toilet, too. You see, Henry hired a fleet of male staffers called the Grooms of Stool, whose sole job was wiping the king after he went to the bathroom. What’s more, all of the men who held this position were later knighted – and it sounds like they earned the distinction.
21. Alan Turing could run with the best of them
Alan Turing’s work in algorithms and computation was the basis for modern computer science, making him arguably one of the most influential individuals of the 20th century. Yet he still took time out from his pioneering work to indulge in his hobby of running. And he was good at it, too. In fact, Turing is said to have run a marathon in two hours and 46 minutes – just 11 minutes shy of the record held by the Olympic gold medalist of the time.
20. Ulysses S. Grant didn’t like people seeing him naked
It takes a lot of courage to be a general, and Ulysses S. Grant assumed this position during the Civil War. Even so, it seems that the 18th U.S. president was too afraid to strip down naked in front of anyone but his wife. And while this may sound normal today, that wasn’t the case in the 19th century. You see, someone of Grant’s status would typically have had servants to bathe and clothe him. He wouldn’t strip down and wash with soldiers in the barracks, either, which was another common practice of his time.
19. William Wordsworth ran his work past his pet dog
Even those with a dislike of verse will likely be familiar with William Wordsworth – the iconic British poet who helped ushered in the era of Romanticism within the genre. Allegedly, though, any work of Wordsworth’s that you may have read didn’t go to press without a very important figure editing. Somewhat unusually, the legendary figure is said to have read his poems aloud to his dog. And if the pooch barked or reacted in any other audible way during the recital, Wordsworth apparently reworked the piece in question.
18. Henry Cavendish was so shy that he’d communicate through notes
English physicist Henry Cavendish made the monumental discovery of hydrogen, yet the importance of his work seemingly did little to break him from his shyness. Cavendish felt awkward throughout his entire life, in fact, and so he did all he could to avoid interactions with others – including only speaking to his housemaids through notes.
17. Charlie Chaplin had a very strange audition process
While a lead role alongside Charlie Chaplin may have been coveted by many, any women hoping to nab a part in one of his films reportedly had to go through the wringer in order to get on screen. Rumor has it that Chaplin required female actors to remove all of their clothes before he threw pies at them, as, somehow, that helped him decide who his next star would be.
16. Stonewall Jackson did strange arm stretches
Stonewall Jackson led the Confederate army during the American Civil War until he lost a bout with pneumonia in 1863. Before then, though, Jackson’s main concern seemed to be the asymmetry of his arms. You see, it’s said that the general believed one arm was lengthier than its counterpart, and so he often undertook stretches that were meant to even out the blood circulation in both limbs.
15. Hans Christian Andersen always carried rope with him in case of fire
Hans Christian Andersen made his name by penning a slew of beloved children’s stories, from “The Little Mermaid” to “The Ugly Duckling.” But although Andersen wrote these happily-ever-afters, he had some serious fears about the way in which his own life could end. And as the legendary writer particularly feared falling victim to a hotel fire, he carried rope with him constantly so that he had a chance of escaping any blaze.
14. Alexander Graham Bell had a fear of moonbeams
Nowadays, we’re told to keep our eyes and skin covered in order to protect them from the sun’s harmful UV rays. But the inventor of the telephone and founder of AT&T, Alexander Graham Bell, supposedly had bigger fears about moonbeams. To ensure that any light from Earth’s natural satellite didn’t get into his house, then, he left his windows constantly shrouded.
13. William Faulkner typed with his toes
William Faulkner was a Nobel Prize laureate whose work came in a slew of different forms: novels, short stories, screenplays, essays, poems and even a play. Somehow, though, Faulkner managed to create his oeuvre in a very strange manner. Apparently, he would place his hands inside his footwear and proceed to type with the use of his toes.
12. Benjamin Franklin dated cougars
Benjamin Franklin led a busy life. As well as being a Founding Father of the United States, Franklin has also been credited with unearthing electricity, coming up with the concept of bifocals and establishing the University of Pennsylvania. And, interestingly, the legendary polymath had a clear preference when it came to dating: he only tended to get involved with older women.
11. Ronald Reagan would rub your earlobe if he liked you
President Ronald Reagan may have ushered in a new era of modern conservatism, but it seems that he was much more liberal in the ways in which he showed affection for others. For one, Reagan had a strange habit for grasping his friends’ and relatives’ ears to signify his fondness for the recipient – a practice that he’d apparently adopted in earlier life.
10. Franz Schubert slept with his glasses on
You won’t find a portrait of Franz Schubert without his glasses on. That’s because the Austrian musician – most famous for composing “Ave Maria” and other vocal pieces – had extremely bad vision. In fact, his eyesight was so blurry that he wore his glasses around the clock – even while he dozed.
9. Georgia O’Keeffe had a studio in her car
Georgia O’Keeffe’s most famous modernist paintings depict the New York City skyline, enormous flowers and the sweeping land of New Mexico. Yet while she had to get out into nature in order to accurately capture the arid plains of the southwestern state, painting in the desert sun could prove uncomfortable, to say the least. So, O’Keeffe transformed her car into a studio by putting her canvas into the back of the vehicle and working on it from the front.
8. Lyndon B. Johnson held meetings on the toilet
Lyndon B. Johnson is among the select few to have served in all four of the American federal government’s elected positions: congressman, senator, vice president and president. Clearly, though, he didn’t let that distinction go to his head. After all, while he was in the White House, LBJ is said to have held talks as he sat on the toilet.
7. Honoré de Balzac really liked coffee
Honoré de Balzac would go to sleep right after dinner, rise at midnight and write from 1:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. And as the French novelist needed fuel to get him through such a rigorous work schedule, he’d supposedly down what corresponded to approximately 50 cups of coffee per day. Balzac didn’t always drink the beverage in its liquid form, though; on occasion, he crushed the beans into a powder and devoured the resulting substance instead.
6. Demosthenes would get a bad haircut to force himself to stay home and work
Ancient Greek orator Demosthenes is roundly considered to have been one of the best speakers of his time. But he got to be that way through a lot of practice – as well as a strange hairstyling tactic. Namely, Demosthenes would shave off half of his hair, thus making himself look so ridiculous that he couldn’t display himself in public for a few months. That gave him plenty of opportunity to perfect his speeches.
5. Napoleon liked to write about romance
A military genius, Napoleon Bonaparte successfully commandeered French armies through the country’s revolution and into the wars that followed. But, somehow, the leader had time to tap into his softer side. During his lifetime, Napoleon penned a novella called Clisson et Eugénie, which told the story of a soldier and the woman waiting for him at home. What’s more, many believe that his own experiences on the front had acted as a stimulus for the tale.
4. Henry Ford kept a jar full of Thomas Edison’s breath
People mistakenly credit the invention of the motor vehicle and the assembly line to Henry Ford. What he did do, however, was make personal cars less of a pipe dream and more of an accessible resource for average Americans. And through it all, Ford was inspired by the work of inventor Thomas Edison; in fact, the pair even eventually became friends. But things took an odd turn in 1931, when Edison was on the brink of death. Somewhat strangely, Ford asked his son – who also happened to be present – to gather Edison’s last breath in a jar for him.
3. Albert Einstein would eat bugs off of the ground
Physicist Albert Einstein famously came up with the formula for mass-energy equivalence, E = mc², which today is perhaps the most well-known equation in the world. Still, those who knew the Nobel Prize winner reported that he had some odd tendencies. For one, he apparently once picked up and devoured a bug that he found on the ground. It was also noted that Einstein sometimes went birdwatching, bringing a violin with him and playing it in tears.
2. Thomas Edison didn’t like it if someone added salt to their food
Perhaps the most significant inventor in American history, Thomas Edison revolutionized recording, motion pictures, communication and electrical power. In addition, he came up with a way to determine whether he wanted to hire someone to work with him. Specifically, if Edison noticed a person salting their food before taking the first mouthful, he wouldn’t offer them a position, as he felt that he couldn’t recruit anyone who would act on a theory before investigating it.
1. Pythagoras didn’t want people to eat beans
Ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras made a slew of scientific and mathematical discoveries during his day. Some of the ideas that he also came up with, however, were distinctly weird. And perhaps the strangest of all was the religion that Pythagoras founded, which prevented practitioners from eating beans or flattening out any grooves that they left in their bedsheets.
But as well as not knowing about many historical figures’ little-known quirks, you also probably have no idea about the final words that many icons uttered before they passed away. And while sometimes folks manage to achieve the improbable and go out with perfectly timed quips, more often than not the final words of dying people are simple, sad and relatable. So these 40 last utterances – including those from Princess Diana, Farrah Fawcett and Robin Williams – may even make you consider your own mortality. After all, everyone’s gotta go sometime.
40. Steve Jobs
Many malicious rumors have been spread about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ final words. It’s a total fabrication, for instance, that he left behind a “deathbed essay” stating that “non-stop pursuit of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being just like me.” In truth, as his sister Mona stated in a eulogy that was published in The New York Times in October 2011, Jobs’ last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
39. John Adams
The last words of former U.S. president John Adams were recorded in a journal by his son. The younger Adams wrote, “About one afternoon [1:00 p.m.], he said, ‘Thomas Jefferson survives,’ but the last word was indistinctly and imperfectly uttered. He spoke no more.” This was a reference to Adams and Jefferson being the only remaining original American revolutionaries still alive at the time. Alas, Adams turned out to be incorrect: Jefferson and Adams both passed away on July 4, 1826. This also happened to be exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence came into being.
38. Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain tragically took his own life in April 1994. And in the Nirvana frontman’s suicide note, he concluded, “I don’t have the passion anymore. And so, remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.” That last part, incidentally, is a line from the Neil Young song “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” Yet Cobain also left a message for his wife and daughter, saying, “Please keep going, Courtney, for Frances. For her life, which will be so much happier without me. I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!”
37. James French
Murderer James French’s supposed last words are well known. Apparently, just before being executed via electric chair in 1966, French called out to gathered reporters, “How’s this for your headline? ‘French Fries.’” Yet while French did make that joke to a journalist in the days leading up to his death, they weren’t the convict’s actual final words. In fact, when asked by a prison warden if he had anything to say before his death, French answered, “Everything’s already been said.”
36. Bob Marley
Music legend Bob Marley discovered a malignant melanoma on his toe in 1977, and before long the cancer spread to the rest of his body. The reggae star then tried to fly home to Jamaica, but it turned out that he was too ill to travel. Instead, Marley passed away at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. His then 12-year-old son, Ziggy, heard his last statement: “Money can’t buy life.”
35. James Dean
There’s an urban legend surrounding James Dean’s car crash death. Yes, the story goes that his Porsche Spyder, which was nicknamed “Little Bastard,” was actually cursed. But whether riding in a cursed car or not, Dean definitely met his end in that vehicle when it smashed into a Ford Coupe on September 30, 1955. And according to passenger Rolf Wütherich, Dean’s last words were fairly mundane. Just before the crash, the star apparently said of the Coupe’s driver, “That guy’s gotta stop. He’ll see us.”
34. Franklin D. Roosevelt
While Franklin Delano Roosevelt remains the longest serving president of the United States – taking office between 1932 and 1945 – he suffered from a number of serious health problems. The former president had high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, for example, in a time when both of those ailments could not be effectively treated. However, it was a brain haemorrhage that ultimately killed Roosevelt in April 1945 – not long after he had announced, “I have a terrific headache.”
33. James Brown
Godfather of Soul James Brown died of heart failure on Christmas Day in 2006. His manager, Charles Bobbit, was with him at the time, and Bobbit later informed the media of Brown’s last words: “I’m going away tonight.” The musical legend was seemingly correct, too. After all, according to Bobbit, Brown subsequently gave three sighs and then died as a result of congestive heart failure.
32. Humphrey Bogart
For a long time, the last words to be attributed to Humphrey Bogart were, “I should have never switched from scotch to martinis.” It seems, however, that the screen icon almost certainly didn’t make that wisecrack in his final moments. Instead, while dying of throat cancer, Bogart reportedly told his wife, Lauren Bacall, “Goodbye, kid. Hurry back.” This came just before she left to pick up their children from school.
31. Adam Faith
In March 2003 British singer Adam Faith died of a heart attack at the North Staffordshire Hospital in England. Apparently, though, the star didn’t think much of what the facility’s TV had to offer. As has been reported, Faith’s last words were said to have been, “Channel 5 is all s**t, isn’t it? Christ, the crap they put on there. It’s a waste of space.”
30. Michael Jackson
After Michael Jackson died of drug intoxication in 2009, Dr. Conrad Murray went on trial for involuntary manslaughter. Yet before his eventual conviction in 2011, Murray revealed in a documentary Jackson’s last words. Reportedly, Jackson had said, “Let me have some milk.” The “milk” in question had been propofol – a general anesthetic that was ruled to have caused the star’s death.
29. Vic Morrow
Along with young actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, Vic Morrow died after a preventable accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. He and the children had been filming a scene with a helicopter when the aircraft plunged to the ground – killing all three of the stars. And according to fellow actor Dick Peabody, Morrow’s last words had been, “I’ve got to be crazy to do this shot. I should’ve asked for a double.” It later transpired that many corners had been cut and many laws disobeyed with regards to on-set safety.
28. Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio had a complex relationship with Marilyn Monroe – to whom he had briefly been married. He allegedly abused her, in fact, and when Monroe filed for divorce – just nine months after the wedding – it was on the grounds of “mental cruelty.” Yet DiMaggio remained devoted to Monroe even after she died in 1962. For instance, he sent roses to her grave thrice weekly for nigh on two decades. And if the baseball star’s lawyer, Morris Engelberg, is to be believed, DiMaggio’s touching last words were, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
27. John Barrymore
Stage and screen actor John Barrymore has had some fantastic last words attributed to him. According to popular lore, he said not long before his passing, “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.” However, biographer and friend Gene Fowler has claimed otherwise. Instead, it seems that Barrymore’s actual last words were to his brother, with the silent film star apparently saying, “You heard me, Mike.”
26. Terry Kath
Chicago’s lead singer, Terry Kath, died due to misadventure in 1978. In fact, the 33-year-old was at a party when he pulled out the pistol that he carried around with him and began playing with it. When a friend asked Kath to put the gun away, however, the star answered, “Don’t worry. It’s not loaded, see?” Then Kath put the weapon to his head, pulled the trigger and killed himself.
25. Chris Farley
Saturday Night Live star Chris Farley battled drug addiction for much of his life. Eventually, though, the fight became too much, and Farley died of an overdose at the age of 33 on December 18, 1997. Before Farley passed away, however, he seemingly paid for the services of a call girl. And she subsequently reported his last known words as, “Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.” It was a very sad ending for a very funny man.
24. Montgomery Clift
Montgomery Clift starred in the 1961 movie The Misfits with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable – a fact he was reminded of in his final moments. Just before Clift died of a heart attack in July 1966, you see, nurse Lorenzo James asked him if he wanted to watch John Huston’s drama. Clift declared, “Absolutely not!” – and those turned out to be his last words.
23. John F. Kennedy
Just before he was fatally shot, President Kennedy was talking to first lady of Texas Nellie Connally as they rode through Dealey Plaza. And when Connally said, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” Kennedy replied, “No, you certainly can’t.” Then, moments later, she saw him die from an assassin’s bullet – and American history was changed forever.
22. Marvin Gaye
In April 1984 Marvin Gaye was tragically murdered by his own father. After a heated argument between son and dad, in fact, the Motown legend told his mother, “I’m going to get my things and get out of this house. Father hates me, and I’m never coming back.” Then, moments later, Gaye received a fatal bullet to the heart. The next day, the soul singer would have turned 45.
21. Elvis Presley
Practically everyone knows that Elvis was found dead on the floor of his bathroom. Before that, however, Presley had told his girlfriend Ginger Alden, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” And when Alden replied, “Don’t fall asleep in there,” he answered, “Okay, I won’t.” But while these were mundane final words, Elvis certainly hadn’t led a mundane life.
20. Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman was a famous theoretical physicist and a quite brilliant man – so it’s reasonable to assume that he had some profound thoughts on the nature of life and death. Yet when Feynman passed away of kidney failure in February 1988 at the age of just 69, he concluded, “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”
19. Bob Hope
Famed comedian Bob Hope must have known that the end was coming for him, as he lived to be an impressive 100 years old. And the star’s grandson later reported that when Hope’s wife, Dolores, asked him on his deathbed where he would like to be buried, Hope had a characteristically witty response: “Surprise me.” In the end, in fact, Hope got an entire purpose-built memorial garden at L.A.’s San Fernando Mission Cemetery.
18. Marie Antoinette
The most famous quote associated with Marie Antoinette is “Let them eat cake” – even though there’s no evidence that she actually ever said it. Yet her final words before her execution are recorded in history as being “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès” – which translates to “Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose” – after standing on her executioner’s foot.
17. Muhammad Ali
Reportedly, Muhammad Ali drew on his religion just before he died. According to his brother, Rahaman, the boxer’s last words were, “I’m in no pain. No pain. Don’t cry for me, Rahaman. I’m going to be with Allah. I made peace with God. I’m okay.” He then asked, “Rahaman, how do I look?” – and these seem to have been his very final words.
16. John Wayne
It’s fair to say that John Wayne’s legacy has been somewhat tarnished over the years. In particular, the star’s controversial comments in a 1971 Playboy interview – in which Wayne stated, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility” – recently sparked a major online backlash. Yet despite these statements, Wayne did seem to love his half-Latino children. When his daughter Aissa asked him on his deathbed if he recognized her, for example, Wayne answered, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” And those were his final words.
15. King George V
King George V – the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II – died in January 1936. And for a while, rumors persisted that his last words were “Bugger Bognor!” – a reference to the English seaside town where it had been suggested he stay after recovery. However, his actual last words were reportedly the much more noble-sounding, “How is the Empire?” Then, when his secretary assured him, “All is well, sir,” the King smiled and lost consciousness – never to awake.
14. Stan Laurel
Comedy genius Stan Laurel was cracking jokes right up until his death in 1965. Mere minutes before he passed away, in fact, he told a nurse that he would like to go skiing – to which she responded that she had never known that he was a skier. Then Laurel quipped, “I’m not. I’d rather be doing that than this!” It’s little surprise, then, that at Laurel’s funeral Buster Keaton labeled him as the funniest man to have ever lived.
13. Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby may have been internationally famous for singing, acting and comedy, but he was also a serious golfer. And, in fact, Crosby had just finished playing a round when he collapsed and died of a heart attack at the La Moraleja Golf Course in Madrid, Spain, on October 14, 1977. According to those who were there, too, Crosby’s last words were, “That was a great game of golf, fellas.”
12. Lucille Ball
I Love Lucy star Lucille Ball became a changed woman after her ex-husband, Desi Arnaz, passed away at the end of 1986. For although the couple had divorced in 1960, they had continued to stay on good terms until Arnaz’s passing. Ball in fact died less than three years later, on April 26, 1989. Her final words were delivered in a hospital bed. When someone had asked if she needed anything, Ball replied, “My Florida Water” – which was her favorite fragrance.
11. Ian Fleming
James Bond creator Ian Fleming showed an admirable stiff upper lip on his deathbed. On August 12, 1964, the 56-year-old suffered a heart attack and was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. And his last words were a typically polite British apology to the ambulance drivers. Reportedly, Fleming said, “I am sorry to trouble you chaps. I don’t know how you get along so fast with the traffic on the roads these days.”
10. Groucho Marx
The last words often attributed to Groucho Marx are “Die, my dear? Why, that’s the last thing I’ll do!” But while that remark would have been a very fitting parting shot from a comedian, not everyone is convinced that those were his final words. Other sources even have Marx claiming, “This is no way to live” – a more bittersweet but still darkly funny comment.
9. Keith Moon
Keith Moon of The Who may have been a force of nature as a drummer, but he also had a self-destructive streak. On September 7, 1978, for instance, he went out with Paul and Linda McCartney and then returned home with his girlfriend Annette Walter-Lax. Then Moon later asked Walter-Lax to make him a meal, and when she refused he said, “If you don’t like it, you can f**k off!” Those would be the rock legend’s final words, too, as Walter-Lax found him dead of a drug overdose the following day.
8. Debbie Reynolds
Tragically, actress Debbie Reynolds passed away just hours after the death of her daughter, Star Wars star Carrie Fisher. And according to her surviving child, Todd Fisher, the grief was simply too much to take. After the 84-year-old’s death was confirmed on December 29, 2016, Fisher informed the media outside the hospital, “[My mom] said, ‘I want to be with Carrie,’ and then she was gone.”
7. Dimebag Darrell
Darrell Abbott, known in the music scene as “Dimebag” Darrell, was murdered in 2004 by a crazed fan while performing on stage with heavy metal supergroup Damageplan in Ohio. The rock star’s last words were “Van Halen!” – the name he would always say to his brother and co-performer to remind them to rock out during the gig. In the end, too, Eddie Van Halen actually attended Abbott’s funeral and gifted his famous “Bumblebee” guitar to be buried alongside his fallen peer.
6. Diana, Princess of Wales
In 1997 Princess Diana died in a heavily publicized car crash in Paris. It would take 20 years, however, for a French firefighter to reveal to The Sun that he’d heard her last words. These were, reportedly, “My God, what’s happened?” Diana’s sons, William and Harry, have also spoken about her last phone call to them – but have never actually disclosed what she said.
5. Karl Marx
Karl Marx was not one of the Marx Brothers; he was a German revolutionary and famous socialist. But it turned out that this Marx could be pretty funny too. Just before he passed away in March 1883, you see, Marx was asked if he had anything final to say. His response to that question? “Go away! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!”
4. Steve Irwin
Wildlife expert and popular personality Steve Irwin was killed in a freak stingray attack off the coast of Queensland, Australia, on September 4, 2006. Justin Lyons was a witness to Irwin’s death, and in 2014 the cameraman told Australian TV programme Studio 10 the details of the star’s last moments. He revealed, “He calmly looked up at me and said, ‘I’m dying.’ And that was the last thing he said… those were his final words.”
3. Farrah Fawcett
Actress Farrah Fawcett died of cancer aged 62 in 2009, and her last words were for her son, Redmond. He had been in and out of prison on charges of drug possession and attempted murder, among other things. And Fawcett’s friend Mela Murphy wrote for People that year, revealing, “[Fawcett] was saying his name, ‘Redmond.’ That was the last thing she said… I told her I’d take care of him, that I’ll always be there for him. I said, ‘You can go now.’ It was just a few hours before she died.”
2. Robert F. Kennedy
As anyone with even a passing interest in U.S. history knows, Robert Kennedy tragically met the same fate as his brother John. In June 1968, in fact, Kennedy had just won the California primary – putting him on the path to the presidency. But before he could get any further in the race, Kennedy was shot and killed by Sirhan Sirhan. And immediately after the up-and-coming political star received his fatal wound, he asked, “Is everyone okay?” However, his final words were, “Don’t lift me,” as a medical attendant raised him onto a stretcher.
1. Robin Williams
When beloved actor Robin Williams took his own life in 2014, it came as a shock to many. His wife, Susan, had borne the brunt of his devastating struggle with Lewy body disease, however, and she revealed details of her husband’s battle in a 2016 piece for Neurology. That article also saw Susan reflect on her late spouse’s last night. She said, “When we retired for sleep, in our customary way, my husband said to me, “Goodnight, my love”… His words still echo through my heart today.”