One of the most grim and strange traditions in the American prison system is the tradition of the Last Meal. The Last Meal is the final meal given to people who are about to be given the death sentence.
They're literally the last meals serial killers and murderers eat before they are electrocuted, injected, or gassed to death. As a way of showing some kind of mercy to those about to die, prisons typically allow inmates to choose what they want to eat for their last meal.
Strange and macabre as it is, there's been a longtime fascination with the last meals prisoners choose to eat before they die. This is particularly true if they are famous killers, such as John Wayne Gacy.
The last meals people choose say volumes about who they were as people, and what they want to say. One photographer, Henry Hargreaves, actually took the time to photograph many last meals of famous killers and criminals.
Here are what some of the most famous killers in America chose as their last meals, with photographs. Would you have asked for the same, if you were in their shoes?
Angel Nieves Diaz
This killer was offered a last meal, but refused. Though he was a famous killer who knew he was facing the reaper, he was not interested in having a final meal.
Wardens served him a standard prison meal as a way to try to get him to eat. However, he didn't touch it, either. According to some studies, this is not actually that rare. Many famous killers and criminals have rejected food before their death sentences.
John Wayne Gacy
Perhaps one of the most famous killers of all time, John Wayne Gacy was known for the murder of over 20 young men and boys — as well as his absolutely terrifying clown costume.
When he was offered his last meal, Gacy requested a dozen fried shrimp, a bucket of KFC Original Recipe fried chicken, french fries, and a pound of strawberries.
The focus on fried food, according to a number of studies, is actually pretty common as well. In fact, most of the last meals featured here will have some fried food in them.
It's safe to assume that fried food may be a comfort food for many, and since they are literally about to die, it's easy to see why they may want that final taste of "home cookin'."
Fried food also might spark some memories of time outside the cell. In Gacy's case, the reason for KFC was definitely memory-related. Prior to his arrest, he had managed three different KFC chains.
Timothy McVeigh was only 33 years old when he was given the lethal injection, but despite his young age, he is one of the most prolific (and well-known) serial killers on this list.
You might know him as the Oklahoma City Bomber, and his murder count of 168 makes him one of the most famous killers of the 90s. When he was sentenced to death, he was given a last meal like anyone else.
However, unlike most last meals you'll see, he just didn't seem to want an actual meal. All he wanted was some mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Ricky Ray Rector
Though he's not one of the more famous killers on this list, Ricky Ray Rector definitely did earn fame for his death sentence. Unlike most killers, Ricky Ray Rector was very obviously mentally disabled, which made his sentence in the shooting death of a police officer very controversial.
When Ricky Ray Rector was asked what his last meal would be, he asked for steak, fried chicken, pecan pie, and cherry Kool-Aid. Like many last meals, this one seems to be pretty close to home cooking and involves fried comfort food.
Heartbreakingly, Rector didn't seem to realize that this was his last meal before he would be killed. After eating the steak and chicken, he told the guards that he would save the pecan pie for later, presumably because he would want to eat it later.
Ted Bundy ties with John Wayne Gacy as one of the most famous killers in the world. He was charged with the murder of several women, as well as a number of charges involving rape, assault, and necrophilia.
When asked what his last meal would be, Ted Bundy refused to have a specialized platter. So, wardens ended up giving him what is considered to be a "traditional last meal" of medium-rare steak, eggs over easy, hash browns, toast with butter and jelly, juice, and milk.
Allen Lee Davis
Charged with the murder of a pregnant woman and her two children, Allen Lee Davis definitely deserved a hard sentence. However, one of the reasons why he's known among famous killers wasn't his crime; it was his controversial punishment.
The final shot of Davis, which showed his dead body bleeding from his eyes, made many people wonder whether death penalty via electric chair was humane. His death sparked a discussion that eventually led to the electric chair being phased out of a number of facilities.
That being said, his last meal definitely was one of the nicer ones on this list. His last meal involved a lobster tail, fried shrimp, fried clams, potatoes, and half a loaf of garlic bread. He topped it off with 32 ounces of A&W root beer.
Last meals are rarely this luxurious anymore, primarily due to regulations involving cutting costs.
Aileen Wuornos is one of the only famous killers out there who is also female. She was sentenced for killing men who had paid to have sex with her, and though many believed she was too unstable to realize what she did, she was sentenced to death.
She declined any of the special last meals they suggested, and didn't want to make her own. However, she did have a burger, some snacks, and a cup of black coffee from the prison canteen a while before she was executed.
Ronnie Lee Gardner
Ronnie Lee Gardner knew that his time was coming after he was sentenced to death for two counts of murder. He was killed in 2010, in Utah, via a firing squad.
The days leading up to his death, he only ate one meal: his last meal of lobster tail, steak, and apple pie a la mode. He also drank 7-Up.
Steak also seems to be popular in the last meals of famous killers. This is partly due to tradition, and partly due to the fact that it will definitely be the last times they get a chance to eat steak.
Once his last meal was finished, he spent the rest of his two days alive watching Lord of the Rings.
Joseph Mitchell Parsons
Joseph Mitchell Parsons is one of the few famous killers who really seemed to be liberated by his death sentence — and he actually made a point of reflecting it in his last meal choice.
For his final meal, Parsons asked for three Burger King whoppers, two large orders of fries, a chocolate shake, and a chocolate chip ice cream cone. He also ate some of a package of grape Hubba Bubba bubble gum, which he shared with his cousin and friend.
According to Parsons, the reason why he chose the Burger King meal was due to their slogan, "Have it your way." He claimed that the slogan was a reflection of him taking control of his life.
Few last meals seem to make as powerful a statement as that.
Lawrence Russell Brewer
He is among one of the famous killers who received more attention in jail than out of jail. Why? Because it was Brewer's fault that the tradition of last meals ended in the state of Texas.
The killer had a massive list of last meal demands, including a cheeseburger, a Pizza Hut meat lovers pizza pie, several chicken fried steaks with gravy, and omelettes.
The Texas prison system gave him none of it, and partially due to the sheer amount of food he ordered, ended the tradition of the last meal in the state.