Two final acts are more associated with executions than any others: the last meal and the last words.
From off-the-cuff remarks to carefully planned speeches to ridiculous puns, these are some creepy last words of criminals sentenced to pay the ultimate price for their crimes!
#1: Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy was an American serial killer who kidnapped, raped, and murdered numerous young women during the 1970s and possibly earlier.
After giving nothing but denial after denial for over 10 years, he confessed to 30 homicides before his execution in 1989. According to Bundy’s testimony, he had committed murders in seven different states between 1974 and 1978.
The true number of victims is believed to be considerably higher, however. Many of these crimes remain unsolved.
Ted Bundy’s last words as he was being strapped into the electric chair were simple, and a stark contrast to his cold-blooded, sociopathic nature:
“I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.”
#2: John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy is the guy who gives clowns and crawl spaces a bad name. But let’s not sugarcoat it; he was a nightmare in human form. Gacy, also known as the “Killer Clown,” was an American serial killer and sex offender active during the 1970s.
He was convicted of murdering 33 teenage boys and young men, although the real number might have been higher.
Here’s the twisted timeline: Gacy would lure his victims with the promise of construction work, drug them, and then sexually assault and strangle them. Pretty grim, right?
He hid most of the bodies in a crawl space under his house. You know, where most of us store old Christmas decorations and forgotten exercise equipment, this guy stashed bodies.
The horror was finally unearthed in December 1978 when authorities dug up the remains on his property.
Gacy was arrested, tried, and—you guessed it— sentenced to death, meeting his very timely end by lethal injection in 1994.
For someone who played a clown at children’s parties, Gacy sure didn’t leave anyone laughing.
#3: Aileen Wuornos
Aileen “The Damsel of Death” Wuornos single-handedly made hitchhiking an even worse idea than it already is. Wuornos was an American serial killer who shot and killed seven men in Florida in 1989 and 1990.
But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill true crime story; Wuornos was a sex worker who claimed she killed in self-defense during attempted sexual assaults.
Whether you buy that or not, one thing’s for sure: Hollywood ate it up. Her life even inspired the movie Monster, which snagged Charlize Theron an Oscar.
So, what’s the 411 on Wuornos? She had a chaotic and traumatic upbringing—abandoned by her mom, sexually abused, and living on the streets by her early teens. The universe dealt her a hand from a deck stacked with misery cards. As an adult, she turned to sex work, and during this time, she committed her crimes.
After a series of murders, it wasn’t long before Johnny Law caught up with her. She was arrested in 1991, and despite her self-defense claims, she was convicted and sentenced to death.
She was executed by lethal injection in 2002, becoming the tenth woman executed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
She referenced the 1996 film Independence Day before her lethal injection in 2002:
“I’d just like to say that 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.”
Come on, Aileen.
#4: Marie Antoinette
Born an Austrian archduchess in 1755, Marie Antoinette was married off to Louis XVI to solidify an alliance between Austria and France.
Anyways, she becomes Queen of France and promptly turns Versailles into the 18th-century version of MTV’s “Cribs.”
We’re talking lavish parties, opulent fashion, and a hairdo that would make even a Texas beauty queen jealous.
Meanwhile, the French people couldn’t afford a loaf of bread.
Eventually, the French Revolution kicks off, and spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for Marie or Louis. The guillotine became the hottest trend in Paris, and Marie Antoinette got a very, very close shave in 1793.
Her legacy is a mixed bag: on one hand, she’s seen as the embodiment of royal excess; on the other, she’s sometimes portrayed as a victim of circumstance and sexist expectations.
Marie Antoinette’s last words were not an apology for any alleged crimes or wrongdoing- she directed her words at the executioner, upon whose foot she had “accidentally” trodden seconds before on her way to the guillotine.
Uh-huh. Sure you didn’t.
#5: H.H. Holmes
Born Herman Webster Mudgett in 1861, this guy was the human embodiment of every cautionary tale your mom ever told you. Seriously, if you thought modern-day scams were bad, Holmes was grifting people before it was cool.
Holmes moved to Chicago and built what he called the “World’s Fair Hotel,” but it became infamously known as the “Murder Castle.” Why? Oh, just your typical amenities like secret passageways, soundproof rooms, and gas chambers.
Yep, this guy built a hotel specifically designed for murder, all under the guise of providing lodging for visitors to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Here’s the terrifying part: no one knows for sure how many people he killed. Holmes confessed to 27 murders, but estimates run much higher.
He would trap his guests—often young women—in his labyrinthine hotel, kill them, and then sell their skeletons to medical schools. Talk about the side hustle from Hell.
Holmes was eventually caught and hanged in 1896, but not before he turned his trial into a media circus, even selling his “confession” to the highest bidder. He’s been the subject of books and documentaries and was even featured as a character in TV shows like American Horror Story.
Proving to be as meticulous in matters of his own death as he had been with facilitating his victims’ deaths, Holmes was said to have told his executioner, “Take your time. Don’t bungle it.”
#6: Tom “BlackJack” Ketchum
Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum—sounds like a character straight out of a spaghetti Western, doesn’t it? Well, he kinda was, except this guy was no work of fiction.
Born in 1863, Ketchum was an American outlaw who roamed the Wild West with his brother Sam and a motley crew of desperados. These guys were into all the classic outlaw shenanigans: train robberies, gunfights, giving the lawmen migraines, the whole 9.
So, what sets ol’ Black Jack apart from other outlaws? Aside from his cool-as-ice nickname, he’s also famous for being the only person in New Mexico ever executed for train robbery, which was considered a capital offense at the time.
Yep, the dude was just that notorious.
And get this—his hanging was a total disaster. Long story short, whoever rigged the noose must’ve flunked Knots 101 because the hanging was botched, with the noose ripping Ketchum’s head clean off when the trapdoor was retracted.
Many people who witnessed Ketchum’s hanging swore that his body landed with both feet on the ground and remained upright for a short while after.
How’s that for gallows humor?
#7: Robert Comer
Robert Comer smiled throughout his execution, an event which he fought for seven years to make sure took place. Unrepentant until the end, the sentence was the result of a spree of rapes and murders in Phoenix in 1987.
#8: Mary Blandy
Convicted of poisoning her father using an arsenic-laced potion, Mary Blandy was hung in England in 1752.
Wearing a dress to the gallows and conscious of her modesty, her final words showed either good humor or an instance of maintaining English propriety to the very end.
#9: Johnny Ray Johnson
Johnny Ray Johnson was convicted for the rape and murder of a drug addict in 1995, who refused to have sex with him after he provided her with crack cocaine. He later confessed to 13 other rapes in and around Austin and Houston, Texas.
He gave the rambling speech below, according to the Clark Prosecutor website:
“Death row is full of isolated hearts and suppressed minds,” said Johnson as a small group of friends and relatives he asked to witness his death stifled sobs. “The Polunsky dungeon should be compared with the Death Row Community as existing not living. Why do I say this, the Death Row is full of isolated hearts and suppressed minds. We are filled with love looking for affection and a way to understand. I am a Death Row resident of the Polunsky dungeon. Why does my heart ache? We want pleasure love and satisfaction. It. The walls of darkness crushed in on me. Life without meaning is life without purpose. But the solace within the Polunsky dungeon, the unforgiveness within society, the church Pastors, and Christians. It is terrifying. Does anyone care or who I am. Can you feel me people? The Polunsky dungeon is what I call the pit of hopelessness. The terrifying thing is the US is the only place, a country that is the only civilized country that is free that says it will stop murder and enable justice. I ask each of you to lift up your voices to demand an end to the Death Penalty. If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die we die to the Lord. Christ rose again, in Jesus’ name. Bye Aunt Helen, Luise, Joanna, and to all the rest of y’all. You may proceed Warden.”
On giving the final say-so to the warden, Johnson ended his speech and his true last words were sung, the first two lines of the hymn “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross”.
#10: Robert Alton Harris
Robert Harris was executed in California in 1992 for the murder of two teenagers and chose to draw on recent pop culture for his last words- namely, the 1992 movie Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
To provide the full quote (or rather misquote, since Harris got it wrong), “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the grim reaper.”
#11: George Appel
Creepy concerning the calm delivery of a pun before dying in the electric chair, convicted murderer George Appel certainly got his final wish of being remembered for his last words.
I think if I were going to be put to death for something, I’d go out on a pun too.
#12: Barbara Graham
These defiant words came from Barbara Graham, a former prostitute who was convicted for beating a rich old lady to death while trying to rob her house.
She was sent to the gas chamber at San Quentin in 1955 and held her breath for a full minute in a desperate last-ditch attempt to avoid her fate.
#13: Mario Murphy
Perhaps some bad luck on the part of Mario Murphy, who was executed for his part in the assassination of a US border officer. He was the only one of a six-man gang not to be offered a plea bargain and went to his death with an eerie stoicism.
#14: Jose Villegas
Triple murderer Jose Villegas offered these final words after his formal statement as he felt the pentobarbital part of the lethal injection procedure take effect. 11 minutes later, he was pronounced dead.
Villegas was sentenced to death for the murders of a family in Corpus Christi, Texas.
#15: James Allen Red Dog
James Allen Red Dog was convicted of stabbing five men to death in the early 1990s and was executed by lethal injection in Delaware in 1993.
In his final statement, he first apologized to his family and friends before offering this final curse to everybody else:
“I’d like to thank my family and friends and [attorney Edward] Pankowski for supporting me and all others who treated me with kindness. The rest of you can kiss my ass.”
#16: Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green was convicted and sentenced to death for sexually assaulting and strangling a 12-year-old girl in 2000 before burying her in his backyard. In his last moments, he professed his innocence before passing the final comment on the drugs that would kill him just seconds later.
#17: Georges Danton
These were the final words of Georges Danton, another victim of the guillotine during the French Revolution. Danton went to his death with noted defiance, even stating he was “annoyed” that he would die before leading revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre.
I hear ya, man.
#18: George Engel
George Engel was an anarchist and key figure in the burgeoning labor unions of Illinois in the late-19th Century.
Engel was sentenced to death for aiding those who planted bombs at Haymarket Square, which had caused the 1886 Haymarket Riot.
#19: Robert Erskine Childers
Despite a remarkable career as a sailor, a pilot in the Royal Air Force, and an author, politics were the reason Irish nationalist Robert Erskine Childers was killed.
He was a staunch opposer of the Irish Republican Army and the Free State, and the new Irish government had him shot by a firing squad at his cousin’s house when National Army soldiers found a pistol in his possession.
Anxious to make sure his executioners did their job properly, Childers gave this instruction to the firing squad before his execution by the Irish Free State in 1922.
Childers also shook the hand of every member in the firing squad, and made his young son promise to do the same after he was gone.
Good sportsmanship and good marksmanship make the world go round.
#20: Kelsey Patterson
Kelsey Patterson spent 12 years on death row after being found naked near the scene of a double homicide and his subsequent conviction for the murders.
Patterson proclaimed his innocence up until the time of his execution in 2004.
#21: Thomas J. Grasso
Convicted for strangling senior citizen Hilda Johnson with her own Christmas tree lights, as well as for the strangling of 81-year-old Leslie Holtz with an electrical cord, Thomas J. Grasso requested Spaghetti-O’s as his last meal…but got spaghetti and meatballs instead.
He was not amused and wanted the world to know it in his last words.
Everyone knows killers don’t get Spaghetti-O’s…they get spaghetti and meatballs. Haven’t you ever seen The Godfather?
#22: Carl Panzram
Serial killer Carl Panzram’s last words contained no remorse. Not entirely surprising, considering his written confession for his crimes was this:
“In my lifetime I have murdered 22 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.” (Source: Wikipedia)
So I don’t know…you do the math.
#23: Jeffrey David Matthews
Convicted for the 1994 murder of his great uncle, Otis Earl Short, and his wife, Jeffrey David Matthews’ third and final execution postponement (after two previous ones) didn’t stick this time.
Matthews had the lethal injection administered in Oklahoma on January 11, 2011.
#24: James Lewis Jackson
James Lewis Jackson was convicted in 1995 for the murder of his wife and two daughters by strangulation, and sentenced to death himself.
Prior to his final set of last words, Jackson started off with, “Warden, murder me.”
Clearly, the Warden obliged his request.
#25: Sarah Good
One of the first three women to be accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials, Good defiantly shouted these words at Rev. Nicholas Noyes II, the official minister of the Salem Witch Trials.
Rumor also has it that Noyes died 20 years later…from choking on his own blood.
#26: Lt. Breaker Morant
Court martialed and sentenced to death for war crimes committed during his service in the 2nd Boer War, Lt. Breaker Morant was put before a firing squad.
Apparently, he was a stickler for marksmanship and gave the firing squad his final order- which was not to miss.
#27: G.W. Green
Texas man G.W. Green was found guilty of breaking into the home of probation officer John Denson to steal his gun collection.
When the day came for Green to be executed via lethal injection, the man had all but resigned himself to his fate.
Asked if he had any last words, all Green said was “Let’s do it, man. Lock and load.”
As the injection’s chemicals began to kick in, Green could be heard muttering bitterly, “Ain’t life a bitch?”
Sometimes it is, Mr. Green. Sometimes it is…
#28: Richard Aaron Cobb
In 2013, Richard Cobb of Texas was found guilty of robbing a convenience store, kidnapping the clerk, then driving the clerk to a nearby field and shooting him in the back of the head.
Cobb certainly wasn’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing him afraid of dying.
So when the lethal injection was administered, Cobb twisted his head on his pillow to look at the warden, who was standing behind him and yelled at him.
This was so random and so outrageous, it made national news.
#29: Richard Zeitvogel
These were the final words of Richard Zeitvogel, who was executed in Missouri on December 11, 1996.
The death sentence was the culmination of a life of crime, during which he had served 22 years in prison before finally being sent to death row for murdering a fellow inmate.
#30: Humberto Leal Garcia
There was a patriotic tone to Humberto Leal’s final words before his lethal injection sentence was carried out.
He was sentenced to death row for the rape and bludgeoning of a 16-year-old girl, whom he had abducted from a party
#31: William George Bonin
American serial killer William Bonin (also known as “The Freeway Killer”) was responsible for the rape, torture, and murder of 21 young boys and men between 1979 and 1980.
After spending 14 years on death row, Bonin was finally executed by means of lethal injection at San Quentin Prison in 1991.
For being arguably one of the worst criminals on this list, Bonin’s last words surprisingly contained quite possibly the most amount of clarity and sanity:
“I would suggest that when a person has a thought of doing anything serious against the law, that before they did that they should go to a quiet place and think about it seriously.”
#32: Jake Bird
In 1949, Jake Bird (sometimes referred to as the Tacoma Ax-Killer) was arrested by police after breaking into the home of Bertha Kludt and her daughter, Beverly June Kludt, and murdering them both with an ax.
Upon questioning by authorities, Bird revealed intimate knowledge of 33 other murders of Caucasian women, which made him a prime suspect for those as well.
On July 15, 1949, Bird was hanged at the Washington State Penitentiary- but not before he uttered what would later be known as “The Bird Hex” in his final statement:
“I’m putting the Jake Bird hex on all of you who had anything to do with my being punished. Mark my words, you will die before I do.”
Words of a raving maniac? Possibly. But interestingly enough, within a year of Bird’s execution, six people connected to his case did die.
The victims were…
- Judge Edward D. Hodge, who had sentenced Bird to death
- One of the police officers who took Bird’s first confession
- The police officer who took Bird’s second confession
- The court’s chief clerk
- One of Bird’s prison guards
- J.W. Selden, one of Bird’s lawyers
I’m normally not one for superstitions, but…YIKES!
#33: Thomas Andrew Williamson
Civil War veteran Thomas Williamson of Illinois was convicted of murdering his wife, along with two other men, in 1891.
Just before the executioner pulled the lever to hang Williamson, he said:
“I should have been hung thirty years ago.”
Well, SOMEBODY clearly dropped the ball on that one…
#34: Patrick Bryan Knight
After kidnapping, blindfolding, and ultimately shooting Walter and Mary Ann Werner in 1991, Patrick Bryan Knight was executed by means of lethal injection.
“Not all of us are innocent, but those are. I said I was going to tell a joke. Death has set me free. That’s the biggest joke. I deserve this. And the other joke is that I am not Patrick Bryan Knight and y’all can’t stop this execution now. Go ahead, I’m finished.”
#35: Saddam Hussein
The notorious dictator of Iraq Saddam Hussein, after 24 years of atrocities committed toward the people of both Iraq and Kuwait, and after a 6-month manhunt by American ground forces in 2003, was hung on December 30th, 2006.
Just before his hanging, Saddam lambasted his Iraqi guards, saying,
“I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persians and the Americans…God damn you!”
When the crowd shouted out the name of a well-known Shiite Cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, Hussein reportedly scoffed in a mocking tone, “Muqtada…” before the trapdoor was opened and the hangman’s rope snapped his neck.
#36: Julius Streicher
While not directly involved in the mass killing of Europe’s Jews during WWII, Julius Streicher’s wildly successful newspaper Der Stürmer was vehemently anti-Semitic.
So much so, in fact, that prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trial determined that Streicher’s articles indirectly incited a great deal of the violence and hatred toward the Jewish people, and therefore played a part in much of the anti-Jewish legislation being passed and acted upon at that time.
For this, Streicher was deemed to be “an accessory to murder” and considered just as culpable for the human experiments and murders of innocent people as the military was. He was hanged on October 16, 1946.
In by far the most theatrical display of all the Nuremberg hangings, Streicher screamed,
“The Bolsheviks will hang you all next. Jewish holiday! Jewish holiday, 1946! Now it goes to God.”
I’m sure it did.
#37: Arthur Seyss-Inquart
From an administrative standpoint, former Austrian Chancellor and Nazi politician Arthur Seyss-Inquart knowingly oversaw many aspects of the looting, massacres, and organized killing of European Jews.
He was found guilty and hung on October 16, 1946. His last words were very philosophical and patriotic, in a very twisted sort of way:
“I hope this execution will be the last act in the tragedy of a second world war, and its lessons will be learned so that peace and understanding will follow. I BELIEVE IN GERMANY!”
Now, did anyone listen to anything “Arthur Seyss-Inquart”?
#38: Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop was instrumental in making Adolf Hitler the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, and also helped to facilitate Japan’s decision to attack the United States in 1941.
Von Ribbentrip was found to be a war criminal, and sentenced to hang on October 16, 1946.
Von Ribbentrop reportedly turned to Henry F. Gerecke, the prison’s Lutheran chaplain, before the hood was placed over his head and whispered, “I’ll see you again.”
…Anyone else’s neck hair suddenly standing up???
#39: Fritz Sauckel
Fritz Sauckel, in his Nazi administrative role, was instrumental in organizing most aspects of forced labor distribution and manufacturing once the concentration camps were filled.
Ruthlessly efficient and technology-proficient, Sauckel’s guilt was determined in the Nuremberg Trials. He was hanged on October 16th, 1946.
Whether Sauckel was knowingly trying to misdirect the prosecutors or was actually delusional enough to believe he was not responsible for the suffering of forced laborers during the Holocaust, his last words were (translated into English):
“I am dying innocent. The sentence is wrong. God protect Germany and make Germany great again. Long live Germany! God protect my family.”
#40: Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Eichmann was one of the masterminds of the internment (and later extermination) of Jews during the Holocaust. He was tasked with coming up with efficient ways to deport and systematically murder them.
Eichmann, unlike every other Nazi on this list, evaded capture until 1960, when Mossad agents tracked him down in Argentina. He was sentenced to hang on June 1st, 1962.
Eichmann coolly looked around at his captors just before the trapdoor was pulled, and uttered one chilling sentence:
“I hope that all of you will follow me.”
Wrapping it Up
I don’t believe every one of these people was guilty of the crimes for which they were accused, to be totally honest—Sarah Good of the Salem Witch Trials in particular.
However, researching and reading the creepy last words of executed criminals was very interesting to me because the things that they chose to say in their final moments gave a lot of insight into their minds and their characters (or lack thereof).
As I was writing this, I wondered what my final words would be if I were in that situation.
Then it occurred to me that if I were dumb enough to find myself in a situation where I’m being straight-up killed for committing a crime in the first place, the last words people hear me utter in this lifetime might, in fact, turn out to be the least of my concerns at that particular moment.
See you soon, and as always, thank you for reading!