What’s the best reason to make a will? To protect your family? Safeguard a legacy? Or is it, perhaps, to cause a little mischief? If you’re leaning towards that last reason, you’re not alone: there’s no shortage of bizarre bequests on record. So, to inspire you and celebrate the launch of our own free online will service, we’ve put together a round-up of the weirdest wills we could find. Then again, perhaps you too would like…
Be cremated & kept in a Pringle tube.
Once you pop, you just can’t … think of a better final resting place? Fred Baur invented the original Pringle tube – and was so proud that he used his will to request that he be cremated and buried in one. Baur’s children say they obliged: “My siblings and I briefly debated what flavor to use … but I said, ‘Look, we need to use the original.’” – Fred’s son Larry Baur. Obviously.
To disinherit your son if he ever grows a mustache
“Personally, I think the moustache was worth it.” Mr Henry Budd hated moustaches. A lot. So much, in fact, that he left a note in his will specifying that if either one of his sons grew a ‘stache, they would immediately forfeit the right to inherit Budd’s £200,000 estate. “In case my son Edward shall wear moustaches, then the devise herein before contained in favor of him, his appointees, heirs, and assigns, of my said estate called ‘Pepper Park’, shall be void.” – Henry Budd. Luckily for Henry, he died in 1862, thereby missing out on the recent facial hair renaissance in his hometown of Brixton.
To be turned into a nifty drum kit
In 1871, hatmaker S Sanborn’s will turned out to include a bizarre request: that two drums were to be made from his skin and given to a friend. Sanborn also specified that the friend was to use the drums to play “Yankee Doodle Dandy” on Bunker Hill every year on June 17th.
To be turned into a Frisbee
Think you’re a hardcore Frisbee fan? You’ll never out-fan “Steady” Ed Headrick, the inventor who not only perfected the Frisbee, but also chose to become one. Headrick used his will to request that his ashes be placed inside a limited run of Frisbees for friends and relatives. “When we die, we don’t go to Purgatory. We just land up on the roof and lay there.” – Ed Headrick. The will states that any left-over memorial Frisbees be sold to raise funds for a Frisbee museum.
To be contacted via an annual séance
Famous magician Harry Houdini died on Halloween, so it’s perhaps fitting that his will was a little bit creepy. Houdini requested that his wife hold a séance each year on the anniversary of his death to check whether he could contact her from beyond the grave. So far, so spooky. But (being a lifelong sceptic and dedicated debunker of fraudulent mediums) Houdini also gave his wife a secret 10-letter code so that she could make sure it was really him. So far, no luck, yet Houdini fans are still trying.
To be used as a stage prop in Hamlet
Dying to tread the boards? You wouldn’t be the first. In the mid-19th century, veteran stagehand John “Pop” Reed successfully bequeathed his skull to the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia for use in the famous “Alas, poor Yorick” scene in Hamlet: Backstage at the RSC. “My head to be separated from my body immediately after my death; the latter to be buried in a grave; the former, duly macerated and prepared, to be brought to the theatre, where I have served all my life, and to be employed to represent the skull of Yorick—and to this end I bequeath my head to the properties.” – John Reed. Reed was not the last person to make this slightly macabre bequest. Audiences who went to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet in 2008 were later surprised to learn that Yorick had been “played” by famous Polish concert pianist André Tchaikowsky. But not every bequest has to be followed. In life, actor Jonathan Hartman never made it into an RSC production. So, he too bequeathed his skull to the company and was turned down. It was noted at the time, “Even after death a rejection slip awaits Mr. Hartman.”
To keep the house ready for your reincarnation
Vermont tanner John Bowman believed strongly in reincarnation – so strongly, in fact, that he left a $50,000 trust to keep his mansion ready for his return. The 1891 will stipulated that a meal for four was to be served each night in case Bowman and his family were peckish after their journey from the other side. This clause was apparently upheld until 1950, when the money ran out.
To hand over your birthday
Shiver me timbers. Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson bequeathed 12-year-old Annie Ide something worth more to her than gold: his birthday. Knowing that Ide (perhaps understandably) hated having a birthday on Christmas Day, and having “no further use for a birthday”, Stevenson gave her his own. Stevenson did have conditions, however: “I charge her to use my said birthday with moderation and humanity … the said birthday not being so young as it once was and having carried me in a very satisfactory manner since I can remember.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
“Were Ide to contravene these terms, the birthday would pass to the President of the United States “for the time being”. Luckily, she never did, and the birthday is still in the family today.
Ready to make your own?
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