David Bowie’s wish to have his ashes scattered in a Buddhist ritual in Bali is the latest in a series of distinctive provisions in celebrities’ wills. Surprising specifics, and curiosity about them, go back at least as far as Shakespeare’s bequest to his wife of his “second-best bed.” Here’s a look at some other luminaries whose final instructions had uncommon features.
A modest request
As Benjamin Franklin parceled out property ranging from land to printing materials to books in his will, he left his daughter a diamond-encrusted miniature portrait of France’s Louis XVI, a gift from the king. But it came with a request that she not make the stones into jewellery “and thereby introduce or countenance the expensive, vain and useless fashion of wearing jewels in this country.” Franklin’s enthusiasm for the new nation and his fellow founders was also reflected in a bequest of a gold-tipped walking stick to a man he called a “friend of mankind”: George Washington. Franklin died in 1790.
A will, and a won’t
Illusionist Harry Houdini was famed for his suspenseful escapes, and he evidently expected death would have its own trapdoor: He arranged with his wife a secret code to be used to communicate with her from beyond the grave. His widow, Beatrice (also known as Bess), duly tried to connect with his spirit at siances on the anniversary of his Halloween 1926 death.
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