This list covers two categories of last words: those that went out on a joke and those that stared down their end with courage. But what they all have in common is a lack of fear in death.
Why go kicking and screaming when you can go out looking like a boss?
11Who: Private First Class Edward H. Ahrens (1919 – 1942)
Words: “The bastards tried to come over me last night. I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine.”At the Battle of Tulagi, Ahrens fought off Japanese soldiers as they advanced. Mortally wounded, he succeeded in deterring them and was found the next morning surrounded by the bodies of those he killed. He whispered these words before dying.
10Who: Robert Childers, Irish Nationalist (1870 – 1922)
Words: “Take a step forward, lads-it’ll be easier that way.”Childers, who originally supported British rule over Ireland, was executed by firing squad for his later support of Irish nationalism. He shook each man’s hand before letting this quip out.
9Who: Charlie Chaplin ( 1889 – 1977)
Words: “Why not? After all, it belongs to him.”This was the comedian’s response to a priest reading him his last rites. After the line “may God have mercy on your soul” Chaplin offered this response, equal parts witty and endearing.
8Who: Lavinia Fisher (1793 – 1820)
Words: “If any of you have a message for the devil, give it to me, for I am about to meet him!”When Fisher, a notorious thief and murderer, was finally sentenced to death, she decided to spite the public one last time when she shouted the above line before throwing herself from the stage, effectively hanging herself.
7Who: James French (1936 – 1966)
Words: “Hey, fellas! How about this headline for tomorrow’s paper: ‘French Fries’!”Part two of our baddie trilogy, French was given the chair for murder. And while we don’t want to be seen as supporting a convicted killer, let’s give the devil his due: that line is hilarious.
6Who: Domonic Willard (dates unknown)
Words: “Why, yes, a bulletproof vest.”Rounding out our haunting criminal threesome, Willard (a low-level mobster at the time of America’s Prohibition) was asked if he had any last requests. Staring down a firing squad, he decided to crack a joke.
5Who: John Henry Temple (1784 – 1865)
Words: “Die, my dear doctor, that’s the last thing I shall do!” John Henry Temple was a British statesman of note, having continually held political offices for nearly sixty years. His final words are the ultimate example of British wit.
4Who: Bill Hicks (1961 – 1994)
Words: “I’ve said all I’ve had to say.” The controversial comedian was a harsh social critic with his jokes focusing on the faults of society at large and in America specifically. Despite his short life he still has an influence on comedians today, so maybe he was right in saying he’d said everything he needed to.
3Who: Edmund Gwenn, Actor (1877 – -1959)
Words: “Yes, it’s tough, but not as tough as doing comedy.” Another entry from the “go out with a laugh” file, Gwenn was asked if dying was tough. Despite the presumably pained state he was in (dying of pneumonia) he still managed to rattle off this line.
2Who: Willem Arindeus (1894 – 1943)
Words: “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.” Arondeus, an openly gay man and member of an anti-Nazi group, was executed after having destroyed a public record’s office. He chose his final words not to assert his own bravery but to take a stand for all gay people living under Nazi rule.
1Who: Giles Corey (1611 – 1692)
Words: “More weight.” When accused of being a “dreadful wizard” during the Salem witch trials Corey refused to enter a plea, preventing a trial from taking place.
Authorities tried to literally crush a plea from him with large stones. He died after two days of pressing, only ever saying “more weight,” refusing to take part in the madness.