1. William Shakespeare
When William Shakespeare died in 1616 he was a relatively wealthy man for someone born outside the aristocracy. He possessed various properties throughout the south of England and was part owner of the Globe Theatre in London. It therefore seems bizarre and more than a little to mean that from his sizable estate he left his wife of 34 years absolutely nothing but his second best bed.
So was their marriage an unhappy one? Was this a cruel final joke on Mr Shakespeare’s part suggesting his affections lay elsewhere. Perhaps. Although it has been suggested that the majority of his estate to his daughter Susanna because she was better with money. The second bed at the time would usually be the marital one with the best bed being reserved for guests.
2. Heinrich Heine (poet)
Another famous writer who may have harboured ill will towards his spouse or at very least held a twisted sense of humour was favourite poet of Empress Elizabeth of Austria Heinrich Heine. The 19th century poet wrote in his will that he would leave his entire estate to his wife on the condition that she remarry, so “there will be at least one man to regret my death.”
3. Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek)
Gene Roddenberry, creator of the original Star Trek series in 1966 knew that space was the final frontier. Appropriately therefore and in accordance with his will the first ever space burial took place 1992 when the NASA space shuttle Columbia travelling at warp speed (probably) carried a portion of Gene Roddenberry’s cremated remains into outerspace.
4. Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson was a 19th Scottish author known for writing such well-loved standards as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A close friend Anna Ide had complained once to the author about the problem of being born on Christmas Day and so never having an opportunity to celebrate her birthday. Stevenson was clearly moved and left her his own birthday, the 13th November, in his will.
5. Fredric Baur (creator of Pringles crisps)
Baur was a chemist from Ohio who invented freeze dried ice cream and most famously the iconic design of the Pringles can and crisps. He developed the uniform stackable shape of the crisp and packaging in order to prevent the contents breaking or turning stale in the tube. Pringles went on to be one of Proctor & Gamble’s highest earners and today has annual sales of over $1 billion. Baur saw the invention of Pringles as his proudest accomplishment and in 2008 in accordance with his wishes his ashes were buried in a Pringles can.
6. Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini became world famous for his amazing escapology feats but even he couldn’t escape the claws of death. Houdini had a great interest in debunking psychic mediums and the occult and when he died in 1926 attempted to prove or disprove the matter once and for all. Houdini left strict instructions to his wife that she hold a séance every year on the anniversary of his death in which he would attempt to contact her with the secret message “Rosabelle believe.” Bess Houdini held a séance every year for ten years and even offered $10,000 to anyone who could help contact her husband but to no avail.
7. Jeremy Bentham (Philosopher)
Jeremy Bentham was an influential philosopher and advocate for social reform believed today to be well ahead of his time. When he died his will made shortly before his death on 6 June 1832 demanded that he become his own waxwork. His mummified head and skeleton were dressed in his clothes, stuffed with hay, and to this day is on display at University College London. Bentham’s corpse still attends university meetings where he is recorded in the minutes as “present but not voting.”
8. Sandra West (oil heiress)
Sandra West, a California socialite and oil heiress was known to be quite the eccentric. When she died in 1977 when she was just 37 years old she requested that she be buried in her blue 1964 Ferrari 330 America in her lace nightgown “with the seat slanted comfortably.” Her family complied with her wishes and buried West and the car in San Antonio in a large concrete box which was then covered with cement to deter car thieves. West also left in her will a $500,000 stamp collection and a solid-gold fishing reel.
9. Dusty Springfield
The ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ hit maker made her California ragdoll breed cat Nicholas a priority in her last will and testament and left strict instructions to ensure that he would be kept in the manner to which he had become accustomed. Her will stated that for the rest of his life he should be fed imported baby food and serenaded each night with Springfield’s songs. The singer also arranged for the cat to be married to his new guardian’s pet mog.
10. George Bernard Shaw (writer)
Irish novelist and playwright George Bernard Shore is probably most famous for his Nobel Prize winning book Pygmalion. He also fancied himself as a linguist and left part of his estate for the purposes of funding the development and promotion of a new alphabet that he hoped would replace the roman script used in most western countries. He called this the Shavian alphabet. Needless to say it didn’t catch on.