64 People and Their Famous Last Words

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In her 2014 memoir, Ginger Alden revealed then-fiance Elvis Presley's final words before his death in 1977. During a night of sleeplessness, Presley told Alden, "I'm going to the bathroom to read." The rest, as they say, is history.

Poignant, funny, sad, weird or mean—last words can make quite the impact as we shuffle off the stage of life. Here are 64 notable examples.

1. Joseph Wright was a linguist who edited the English Dialect Dictionary. His last word? “Dictionary.”

2. Italian artist Raphael’s last word was simply: “Happy.”

3. Composer Gustav Mahler died in bed, conducting an imaginary orchestra. His last word was, “Mozart!”

4. Blues singer Bessie Smith died saying, “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”

5. Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau objected to a song sung at his bedside. He said, “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.”

6. TK


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Frank Sinatra died after saying, “I’m losing it.”

7. George Orwell’s last written words were, “At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves.” He died at age 46.

8. William Henry Seward, architect of the Alaska Purchase, was asked if he had any final words. He replied, “Nothing, only ‘love one another.’”

9. Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre turned to his partner Simone de Beauvoir and said, “I love you very much, my dear Beaver.”

10. Birth control advocate Margaret Sanger’s last words were, “A party! Let’s have a party.”

11. Rainer Maria Rilke said, “I don’t want the doctor’s death. I want to have my own freedom.”

12. Nostradamus predicted, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” He was right.

13. Author Vladimir Nabokov was also an entomologist, particularly interested in butterflies. His last words: “A certain butterfly is already on the wing.”

14. Author Herman Melville died saying, “God bless Captain Vere!” referencing his then-unpublished novel Billy Budd, found on his desk after he died.

15. Marie Antoinette stepped on her executioner’s foot on her way to the guillotine. Her last words: “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur.”

16. Richard B. Mellon was a multimillionaire. He was the President of Alcoa, and he and his brother Andrew had a little game of Tag going. The weird thing was, this game of Tag lasted for like seven decades. When Richard was on his deathbed, he called his brother over and whispered, “Last tag.” Poor Andrew remained “It” for four years, until he died.

17. When Harriet Tubman was dying in 1913, she gathered her family around and they sang together. Her last words were, “Swing low, sweet chariot.”

18. When Sir Isaac Newton died, he was humble. He said, “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

19. Leonardo da Vinci was also overly modest, saying, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” I guess the Mona Lisa isn’t good enough?

20. Louise-Marie-Thérèse de Saint Maurice, Comtesse de Vercellis let one rip while she was dying. She said, “Good. A woman who can fart is not dead.”

21. Drummer Buddy Rich died after surgery in 1987. As he was being prepped for surgery, a nurse asked him, “Is there anything you can’t take?” Rich replied, “Yeah, country music.”

22. Johnny Ace, an R&B singer, died in 1954 while playing with a pistol during a break in his concert set. His last words were, “I’ll show you that it won’t shoot.”

23. Richard Feynman, a physicist, author, musician, professor, and traveler, died in Los Angeles in 1988. His last words? “This dying is boring.”

24. As Benjamin Franklin lay dying at the age of 84, his daughter told him to change position in bed so he could breathe more easily. Franklin’s last words were, “A dying man can do nothing easy.”

25. Albert Abraham Michelson dedicated his life to measuring the speed of light and was the first American to win a Nobel Prize for physics. Even as he was dying at age 78, he was measuring light. He wrote in his log: “The following is a report on the measurement of the velocity of light made at the Irvine Ranch, near Santa Ana, California, during the period of September 1929 to—.”

26. Thomas B. Moran was a pickpocket, known by the nickname “Butterfingers.” He reportedly stole as many as 50,000 wallets in his career. He died in Miami in 1971, and his last words were, “I’ve never forgiven that smart-alecky reporter who named me Butterfingers. To me, it’s not funny.”

27. Murderer James W. Rodgers was put in front of a firing squad in Utah and asked if he had a last request. He replied, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”

28. Charles “Lucky” Luciano was a mob leader who helped the U.S. work with the Sicilian Mafia during World War II in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. His last words were, “Tell Georgie I want to get in the movies one way or another.” And it worked! His life story is told in the movies Lucky Luciano, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, and many more. He also appears as a character in HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

29. John Arthur Spenkelink was executed in Florida in 1979. He spent his final days writing these last words on various pieces of mail: “Capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment.”

30. Convicted murderer Thomas J. Grasso used his last words to complain about his last meal. He said, “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s; I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”

31. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, died at age 71 in his garden. He turned to his wife and said, “You are wonderful,” then clutched his chest and died.

32. Writer T.S. Eliot was only able to whisper one word as he died: “Valerie,” the name of his wife.

33. Actor and comedian W.C. Fields died in 1946. He last words: “God damn the whole friggin’ world and everyone in it but you, Carlotta.” He was speaking to Carlotta Monti, his longtime mistress.

34. Percy Grainger was an Australian composer who, with his dying words, told his wife Ella, “You’re the only one I like.”

35. Actor Michael Landon, best known for Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven, died of cancer in 1991. His family gathered around his bed, and his son said it was time to move on. Landon said, “You’re right. It’s time. I love you all.”

36. Football coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer in 1970. As he died, Lombardi turned to his wife Marie and said, “Happy anniversary. I love you.”

37. O.O. McIntyre was an American reporter. He died at age 53, and spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”

38. When he was 57, Edward R. Murrow died while patting his wife’s hand. He said, “Well, Jan, we were lucky at that.”

39. John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you."

40. Humphrey Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall had to leave the house to pick up their kids. Bogart said, “Goodbye, kid. Hurry back.” Not quite, “Here's looking at you, kid,” but close.

41. Before Ernest Hemingway committed suicide, he told his wife Mary, “Goodnight my kitten.”

42. Donald O’Connor was a singer, dancer, and actor. He also hosted the Academy Awards in 1954. O'Connor died at age 78 with his family gathered around him. He joked, “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” He still hasn’t gotten one.

43. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill was born in a room at the Broadway Hotel on what is now Times Square. He died at age 65 in a Boston hotel. His last words? “I knew it! I knew it! Born in a hotel room and, goddamn it, dying in a hotel room.”

44. Jack Soo was an actor on the TV series Barney Miller. On the show, there was a running gag about Soo’s character making crappy coffee in the office. Soo developed cancer of the esophagus, and when was being wheeled into an operating room, he joked to Barney Miller co-star Hal Linden, “It must have been the coffee.” In a tribute episode, cast members raised coffee cups in Soo’s memory.

45. Josephine Baker knew how to party. She sang, danced, and acted. She adopted a dozen kids and lived in Paris. On the last night of her life, she left a party being held in her honor, saying, “Oh, you young people act like old men. You are no fun.”

46. Charles Gussman was a writer and TV announcer, who wrote the pilot episode of Days of Our Lives, among other shows. As he became ill, he said he wanted his last words to be memorable. When he daughter reminded him of this, he gently removed his oxygen mask and whispered: “And now for a final word from our sponsor—.”

47. When Groucho Marx was dying, he let out one last quip: “This is no way to live!”

48. Groucho’s brother Leonard, who was better known as Chico Marx, gave instructions to his wife as his last words: “Remember, Honey, don’t forget what I told you. Put in my coffin a deck of cards, a mashie niblick, and a pretty blonde.” For the record, a “mashie niblick” is a kind of golf club.

49. Wilson Mizner is best known for his bon mots, though he was a successful playwright. He’s known for the line, "Be nice to people on the way up because you'll meet the same people on the way down." When Mizner was on his deathbed, a priest said, “I’m sure you want to talk to me.” Mizner told the priest, “Why should I talk to you? I’ve just been talking to your boss.”

50. As he was dying, Alfred Hitchcock said, “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”

51. Basketball great “Pistol" Pete Maravich collapsed during a pickup game. His last words: “I feel great.”

52. Vladimir Ilych Lenin’s last words were, “Good dog.” (Technically, he said “Vot sobaka.”) He said this to a dog that brought him a dead bird.

53. Blues guitarist Leadbelly said, “Doctor, if I put this here guitar down now, I ain’t never gonna wake up.” And he was right.

54. Thomas Fantet de Lagny was a mathematician. On his deathbed, he was asked, “What is the square of 12?” His last words: “One hundred and forty-four.”

55. Derek Jarman was an artist, writer, and filmmaker. His last words: “I want the world to be filled with white fluffy duckies.”

56. Sir Winston Churchill’s last words were, “I’m bored with it all.”

57. Actress Joan Crawford yelled at her housekeeper, who was praying as Crawford died. Crawford said, “Damn it! Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”

58. Bo Diddley died giving a thumbs-up as he listened to the song “Walk Around Heaven.” His last word was “Wow.”

59. Baseball player “Moe” Berg’s last words: “How did the Mets do today?”

60. Emily Dickinson’s last words were, “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”

61. As Truman Capote lay dying, he repeated, “Mama— Mama— Mama.”

62. James Brown said, “I’m going away tonight.”

63. Surgeon Joseph Henry Green was checking his own pulse as he lay dying. His last word: “Stopped.”

64. And according to Steve Jobs' sister Mona, the Apple founder's last words were, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."

Note: the source for most of these is the fantastic reference book Last Words of Notable People: Final Words of More than 3500 Noteworthy People Throughout History by William B. Brahms. It's literally filled with this stuff.

11 Amazing Facts About Alligators

Cindy Larson/iStock via Getty Images
Cindy Larson/iStock via Getty Images

Alligators are pretty terrifying as they are, but scientists are making discoveries about the reptilian ambush predators that only add to that reputation.

1. Alligators have an extremely powerful bite.

You really, really don’t want to be bitten by an alligator. A 2004 study of wild and captive alligators found that large individuals bite down with 13,172 Newtons—or 2960 pounds—of force, one of the most powerful bites ever recorded for a living animal [PDF].

2. Alligators can consume almost a quarter of their body weight in one meal.

Alligators don’t have a problem with their eyes being bigger than their stomachs. Thanks to a special blood vessel—the second aorta—they’re able to shunt blood away from their lungs and towards their stomachs, stimulating the production of strong stomach acids to break down their meals faster. Juvenile alligators are capable of eating about 23 percent of their body weight in a sitting, which is equivalent to a 180-pound person eating more than 41 pounds of steak au poivre at a meal.

3. Alligators eat their young.

One of the biggest threats to an American alligator? Other alligators. When alligators are born they’re small enough to be light snacks for their older neighbors, and a 2011 study estimated that, in one Florida lake, bigger alligators ate 6 to 7 percent of the juvenile population every year.

4. An alligator's stomach can dissolve bones.

Alligator resting on a log in a swamp
cbeverly/iStock via Getty Images

An alligator stomach is a hostile environment. Their stomach acids have a pH of less than 2—in the range of lemon juice and vinegar—and most soft-bodied prey is totally digested in two to three days. If you wound up in a gator stomach, however, you'd stick around a bit longer. Bone and other hard parts can take 13 to 100 days to disappear completely.

5. Alligators have antibiotic blood.

Alligators are tough—and not just because of the bony armor in their skins. Serum in American alligator blood is incredibly effective at combating bacteria and viruses, meaning that even alligators that lose limbs in mucky swamps often avoid infection.

6. Prehistoric ancestors of today's alligators lived 70 million years ago.

Alligator forerunners and relatives have been around for a very long time. The largest was Deinosuchus, a 40-foot alligatoroid that lurked in coastal habitats all over North America around 70 million years ago. Damaged bones suggest that unwary dinosaurs were a regular part of the “terrible crocodile's” diet. Fortunately, modern American alligators don’t come anywhere close to measuring up.

7. Alligator pairs often stick together.

A decade-long genetic study of Louisiana alligators found that some females paired with the same males multiple times, with one in particular choosing the same mate in 1997, 2002, and 2005. Even some females that mated with multiple partners still showed long-term fidelity to particular males.

8. Alligators love fruit.

Baby alligator riding on an adult's back
BlueBarronPhoto/iStock via Getty Images

Alligators aren’t strict carnivores. They also eat fruit when they get the chance, and might be important seed-dispersers. That might not sound so scary at first, but just watch this video of an alligator mashing a watermelon.

9. Despite their short legs, alligators can climb trees.

While on the lookout for alligators, you should remember to occasionally look up. American alligators, as well as several other species of crocodilian, are surprisingly accomplished climbers [PDF]. As long as there’s enough of an incline for them to haul themselves up, gators can climb trees to get to a better basking spot, or get the drop on you, as the case may be.

10. Alligators use tools to lure their prey.

Alligators might be reptilian innovators. Scientists have observed Indian and American species of alligator luring waterbirds by placing sticks and twigs across their snouts while they remain submerged. When the birds go to pick up the twigs for nesting material, the gators chomp. 

11. Alligators have no vocal cords, but they still make sounds.

Alligators are among the most vocal reptiles, despite not having vocal cords. By sucking in and then expelling air from their lungs, they can make different sounds to defend their territory, call to mates or their young, or fight off competitors—such as a guttural hiss or a frankly terrifying bellow.

13 Salty Facts About Mr. Peanut

Mr. Peanut attends the 90th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Mr. Peanut attends the 90th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

On January 22, 2020, in a morbid bit of pre-Super Bowl marketing, Planters took to the internet to announce that Mr. Peanut—the dapper little legume who has been peddling Planters peanuts for more than a century—has died at the ripe old age of 104. In order to pay tribute to the literal face of America's peanut industry, we’ve assembled some facts and history about this shell of a man.

1. Mr. Peanut was created by a 14-year-old.

Mr. Peanut wasn’t hatched from a cynical ad firm brainstorming session. His adorable visage was the product of a 14-year-old from Suffolk, Virginia named Antonio Gentile. Gentile entered a contest held by the Planters Chocolate and Nut Company in 1916 to crown a new peanut mascot. The aspiring Don Draper sketched out a doodle of a “Mr. P. Nut” strutting with a cane. After getting freshened up by a graphic designer—including donning his trademark spats and monocle—Gentile’s design was picked up and he was awarded $5.

(Postscript: The Gentile family became friendly with the Obici family, owners of the Planters empire, and Gentile’s nephews once suggested that the Obicis helped put him through medical school; he became a surgeon.)

2. Mr. Peanut has a full name.

According to Planters, Mr. Peanut is something of an informal moniker. The full name given to him by Gentile was Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.

3. Mr. Peanut once weighed more than 300 pounds.

Although peanuts can be a highly sensible snack, full of healthy fats and protein, they can also be a source of too many calories. Case in point: the 300-pound cast iron Mr. Peanut, a display item made in the 1920s and 1930s. Planters would use the heavyset mascot on top of a fence post at their Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania factory.

4. Mr. Peanut survived the Great Depression.

During the economic downturn of the 1930s, things like “snacks” and “nutrition” suddenly became optional rather than expected. Though many food products struggled to cope with slimmed-down wallets, Planters plastered Mr. Peanut on bags of peanuts that sold for just five cents each. Declaring it a “nickel lunch,” the company was able to use the affordability of peanuts as a selling point.

5. Mr. Peanut went to war.


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Specifically, World War II. When the U.S. entered the conflict, Mr. Peanut volunteered for service as a character featured on stamps and propaganda posters.

6. Mr. Peanut is a monocle enthusiast.

Food mascots rarely take sides on hot-button issues, but Mr. Peanut made an exception in 2014 when a fashion movement threatened the return of the monocle. After getting wind of men wearing the single-lens reading accessory, Mr. P issued a press release stating that he took notice of the “hipsters” following in his “stylish footsteps” and implied few could pull it off. The monocle has yet to fully re-emerge.

7. Mr. Peanut's Nutmobile predates the Wienermobile.


Planters

Though the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile usually takes most of the engine-driven PR credit, Planters actually introduced the NUTMobile, a shell-shaped portable advertising car, in 1935—a year prior to the Wienermobile’s introduction. A Planters salesman designed and drove the car, adding a decorative Mr. Peanut passenger behind him. (Mr. Peanut did not operate the vehicle because Mr. Peanut is not real.)

8. Mr. Peanut is in the Smithsonian.

How influential has Mr. Peanut been to the food industry? In 2013, the Smithsonian admitted his cast-iron incarnation into its National Museum of American History. The statue was exhibited as part of a series on marketing for the institution’s American Enterprise series; Antonio Gentile’s family also donated his original sketches for posterity.

9. Fans didn't want Mr. Peanut to change.


Planters

For the company's 100th anniversary in 2006, Planters held an online vote to see whether peanut aficionados wanted to see Mr. Peanut experiment with a sartorial change: Fans could vote for adding cufflinks, a bow tie, or a pocket watch. In the end, the ballot determined they wanted to keep him just the way he is.

10. Mr. Peanut has a fan club.

Mr. Peanut has appeared in so many different licensed products in an effort to expand his popularity—clocks, peanut butter grinders, and coloring books among them—that a collector was having trouble keeping track of them all. In 1978, Judith Walthall founded Peanut Pals, a Mr. Peanut appreciation club that circulates a newsletter and holds conventions. You can join for $20—practically peanuts.

11. Mr. Peanut has remained mostly silent.


mazmedia via YouTube

Mr. Peanut was already a few decades old when television came into prominence, which afforded him an opportunity to jump off packaging and magazine pages. Despite the new medium, Planters decided they liked him best when he didn’t talk—at all. The mascot was silent all the way up until 2010, when Robert Downey Jr. was commissioned to deliver his first lines. Bill Hader took over voicing duties from Downey in 2013.

12. Mr. Peanut found a buddy.

When Planters unveiled an updated Mr. Peanut for contemporary audiences in 2010, he was sporting a grey flannel suit as well as a new sidekick—Benson, a shorter, single-peanut tagalong. A Planters spokesman clarified to The New York Times that the two are “just friends” and live in separate residences.

13. In the 1970s, Mr. Peanut ran for Mayor of Vancouver.

Amid a burgeoning alternative art scene in 1970s Vancouver, a performance artist named Vincent Trasov decided it would be interesting to run for mayor of the city while in the guise of Mr. Peanut. Hailing from the “Peanut Party” and meant to be a commentary of the Nixon-era absurdities of politics, he was endorsed by novelist William S. Burroughs and received 2685 ballots—3.4 percent of the vote.

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