Before execution, it is usually customary for condemned criminals to take the stage one last time and address the public with his or her final words. Whether it is a chilling statement aimed at shocking or upsetting those in attendance, a light-hearted statement that attempts get few chuckles or a final slap in the face of society, criminals throughout the years have had some pretty interesting things to say in the minutes prior to taking their final breath.
Here are the last words of 13 death row prisoners and the disturbing messages they chose to leave the world.
1. John Wayne Gacy
Last words: “Kiss my ass.”
John Wayne Gacy was convicted of the rape and murder of 33 men between 1972 and his arrest in 1978. The former children’s party entertainer became known as the “Killer Clown” because of the all the parties he attended in his clown suit and full-face makeup.
Gacy was executed by lethal injection just after midnight on May 10, 1994. When asked if he had any last words, Gacy is said to have snarled these three simple words.
2. Aileen Wuornos
Last words: “I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I’ll be back.”
Aileen Wuornos, abandoned by her parents at a young age was working as a prostitute and robbing people to support herself by the time she became a teenager. In 1989 and 1990, Wuornos shot, killed and robbed at least six men. Arrested and tried in 1991 she received a total of six death sentences, earning her the inaccurate label by the press of being the first female American serial killer.
3. George Appel
Last words: “Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”
Clearly keeping his sense of humor right until the last moment, this pun was to be the final words of convicted murderer George Appel before he was executed in the electric chair in New York in 1928 for the murder of a New York City police officer.
4. Peter Kürten
Last words: “Tell me. After my head has been chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be a pleasure to end all pleasures.”
Peter Kürten, or more commonly known as the “The Vampire of Dusseldorf,” is believed to have killed nearly 60 people in Germany. He beat, raped, and drank the blood of at least one of his victims. Kürten was executed by guillotine on July 2, 1931.
5. John Spenkelink
Last words: “Capital punishment: them without the capital get the punishment.”
John Spenkelink was a drifter convicted of killing a traveling companion which he claimed was done in self-defense. Incidentally, he was also the first man put to be put to death in Florida after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
6. Barbara “Bloody Babs” Graham
Last words: “Good people are always so sure they’re right.”
Barbara “Bloody Babs” Graham was a prostitute, drug addict and a murderess who was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin in 1955 along with two accomplices. Graham beat an elderly woman to death when a robbery went bad. When she was strapped into the gas chamber by Joe Feretti, the man in charge of her execution, he told her, “Now take a deep breath and it won’t bother you” to which she responded, “How would you know?”
7. Gary Gilmore
Last words: “Let’s do it!”
Convicted of killing a motel manager, Gary Gilmore’s was put to death in Utah on January 17, 1977, by a volunteer firing squad. He became the first person to be executed after the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976, ending a 10-year lapse. Gilmore donated his organs and shortly after he was executed, two people received his corneas.
Notably, Gilmore gained further fame posthumously when advertising executive Dan Wieden credited Gilmore’s parting words as the inspiration for Nike’s tagline.
8. Carl Panzram
Last words: “In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and last but not least I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things, I am not in the least bit sorry.”
Carl Panzram was a serial killer, rapist, arsonist, and burglar who was hanged on September 5, 1930. Without ever showing any sign of remorse for his crimes, he refused to appeal his sentence, he even threatening to kill members of human rights groups who attempted to appeal on his behalf.
Defiant until the end, Panzram went on to tell his own executioner, “Hurry it up you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while you’re screwing around.”
9. Timothy McVeigh
Last words: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Timothy McVeigh is best known as the Oklahoma City bomber and was convicted of setting the bomb which killed 149 adults and 19 children at the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on April 19, 1995. McVeigh had no final words before being executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, in Indiana. Although he did leave a handwritten statement quoting the last lines of the poem called Invictus by Sir William Ernest Henley.
10. James French
Last words: “How’s this for a headline? ‘French Fries.’”
James French was the last person to be executed by electric chair under Oklahoma’s death penalty on August 10, 1966. Already in prison for life, but allegedly afraid to commit suicide, French murdered his cellmate, apparently to compel the state to execute him.
11. Thomas J. Grasso
Last words: “I did not get my spaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”
Thomas J. Grasso was executed by lethal injection in Oklahoma for strangling an 87 year-old woman to death on Christmas Eve with her own Christmas lights, while stealing a television and $12. In the US, prisoners on death row are traditionally allowed anything they would like to eat for their last meal before they are executed. Grasso took this right very seriously. His last meal request was for two dozen steamed mussels, two dozen steamed clams (flavoured by a wedge of lemon), a double cheeseburger from Burger King, a half-dozen barbecued spare ribs, two strawberry milkshakes, one-half of a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, diced strawberries, and a 16-ounce can of SpaghettiOs with meatballs, served at room temperature.
Unfortunately for him, the length or complexity of his list seemed to confuse kitchen staff who made one crucial mistake and served him spaghetti instead of his SpaghettiOs.
12. Robert Alton Harris
Last words: “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the grim reaper.”
Robert Alton Harris was responsible for the murder of two teenage boys. In 1992, he was the first person to be executed in the state of California in decades. His last words were a misquote from the film Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
13. Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum
Last words: “I’ll be in hell before you start breakfast, boys. Let her rip!”
Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum, the infamous outlaw was finally caught after a failed train robbery. Sentenced to hang, Ketchum’s uttered these now famous words before his execution was horribly botched, and the noose cut his head clean off his body.
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