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Our Top 9 Most Unusual Dying Wishes
April 3, 2013
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Hamlet Skull.jpg

Talk about going out with a bang: Hunter S. Thompson famously had his last wish fulfilled when his ashes were fired out of a cannon, in a ceremony paid for by his friend Johnny Depp and attended by Sean Penn among others.

More recently, British actor David Tennant fulfilled a Polish pianist's dying wish 30 years after he passed on.

That story kicks off our Top Nine List of Unusual Dying Wishes.

1. The Tragedy of Hamlet (and the silver lining)

Before pianist André Tchaíkowsky of Poland died of cancer in 1982, he asked that his body be donated to science.

He also asked that his skull be used to "portray" "Yorick", in a performance of 'Hamlet'.

"Yorick", if your Shakespeare is a bit rusty, was the dead court jester whose skull is exhumed by the gravedigger.

For many years, Tchaíkowsky's skull had been used in rehearsals of Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, but never in an actual performance.

Cue David Tennant (of Dr. Who fame) who revealed he's used the skull in 22 performances of Hamlet at Stratford, without the audience knowing.

Tchaíkowsky was smuggled out of Warsaw at age four during the Second World War, before settling in Paris and later England, where he loved going to the theatre.

2. Boning Up

After an osteology professor at Washington State University was diagnosed with cancer, he offered his bones and the bones of hisIrish wolfhound Clyde for display.

He thought they'd be good "teaching specimens".

Eventually, the bones arrived at the Smithsonian where they were arranged to mimic an old photograph - Clyde on his hind legs in the professor's arms.

Dog skeleton Washington State.jpg
Photo via Washington State University Magazine

3. Brain Freeze

A 23-year old neuroscience student diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given a year to live got her dying wish: to have her brain frozen by cryonic preservation.

A campaign started on reddit and picked up by a futurist group helped Kim Suozzi raise enough money for the procedure. Cryonics involves low-level freezing of the body in the hope that in the future, healing and resuscitation will be possible.

There's a story that Walt Disney's grey matter was put into a deep freeze but it's just an urban legend.

4. Tall OrderCharles Byrne skeleton.jpg

Charles Byrne, who stood 7 foot 7, asked to be buried at sea, so he wouldn't be treated as a freak both in life and in death.

Those fears, it turned out, were well founded, as anatomy doctors of the time wanted to get their hands on his bones.

In 1783, one such researcher, John Hunter, paid off one of Byrne's "friends" to get the bones before they were tossed in the English Channel.

In 2011, medical ethicists called for Byrne's final wishes to be respected, but it hasn't happened.

Byrne's skeleton now resides in the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

Viking Funeral.jpg5. Viking Ship

When it comes to burial at sea, few did it quite like the Vikings.

Viking 'ship burials' were reserved for chieftains and other high-status members of society. Their bodies were placed on longboats with various items of value before being set on fire.

In May of last year, Karine Mulcahy's ashes were burned on a replica Viking boat built by her husband Francis, to honour her family's Nordic roots.

According to Britain's Sun newspaper, the ship was set alight with a blowtorch as friends and family watched from the shore. According to her husband, "She would have loved the way we did the funeral for her."

6. Dying Request A Whopper.

By all accounts, American Second World War vet David Kime Jr. "lived by his own rules". His daughter said that his last request, while unusual, was a "happy way of honouring [him] and the things that brought him joy."

Kime Jr.'s funeral procession stopped off for a posthumous order, a Burger King drive-thru burger, to be placed atop his flag-draped coffin at the cemetery.

7. Last Call

Leon Wesley, of Louisiana, was a jokester in life and death. Nicknamed Bin Laden for his beard, he was rarely seen without a red plastic cup filled with beer.

When he died of prostate cancer last year, he had his last wish fulfilled: a custom-made (it had to be, he was 6'7) coffin decked out with the Budweiser logo.

Budweiser Casket.jpg
Photo WAFB via Daily Mail

8. Fired Out Of A Shotgun

When Brit James Booth, a vintage shotgun expert, passed in 2004, it was no surprise that his last request involved the hobby he loved so much.

The former hunter's ashes were mixed into a batch of shotgun shells, which were blessed by a minister before he was given a 12-gauge final salute.

9. Dead Man Standing

After Angel Pantoja Medina, 24, was found dead in San Juan, Puerto Rico, his family wanted to fulfill his dying wish.

He wanted to be standing at his own wake "ready to party." So, Angel was embalmed in a special way so people could embrace him one last time.

our-top-10-most-unusual-dying-wishes-feature10.jpg
Photo: Juan Alicea Mercado/AP

Angel stood for his entire three-day wake wearing his favourite Yankees baseball cap and sunglasses.

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