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Any last words? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Executed Criminals’ Last Words."
For this list, we’re taking a look at the most intriguing final words from various men and women who were sentenced to death. Some were unforgettable in their own creepy way while others were… well, you’ll see. Note also that not all of these last words can be confirmed 100%, so we’re referring to what has been popularly or most often attributed to the criminals in question by news sources, the media, and pop culture over the years.
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#10: Pleasure to End All Pleasures, Peter Kürten
The shadowy creep in the acclaimed 1931 film by Fritz Lang entitled M was purportedly inspired by Peter Kürten—though the director denies this. Nicknamed The Vampire of Dusseldorf, Kürten terrorized that German city in 1929 and 1930, being charged with nine murders and seven attempted murders. The guy also seemed to get sexual gratification from the bloodshed, as evidenced by his final demented words: “Tell me—after my head is 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 the pleasure to end all pleasures.”
#9: Bloody Babs, Barbara Graham
Oakland native and Hollywood prostitute Barbara Graham was only the third California female to meet her maker by way of gas execution. Graham found herself in such a predicament for her role in the vicious 1953 murder of an elderly Burbank woman. Despite her rather positive portrayal in the 1958 flick I Want to Live!, Graham was allegedly THE murderer. Nicknamed Bloody Babs, she had a brief moment of clarity as the curtains closed, curiously acknowledging that “good people are always so sure they're right.”
#8: Bogus Journey, Robert Alton Harris
His was the first execution in California in a quarter of a century—and after a series of appeals and stays of execution, Robert Alton Harris met the end of his life with a misquotation from the 2nd Bill & Ted movie—that being, “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the grim reaper.” Indeed, in 1992, the North Carolina native was sent off to boogey with the Angel of Death in San Quentin State Prison’s gas chamber after he was convicted of murdering two 16-year-old boys in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, his younger brother and accomplice Daniel Harris was given a 6-year sentence after being convicted of kidnapping.
#7: Sailing with the Rock, Aileen Wuornos
In the early 90s, a Florida prostitute killed seven men, allegedly in self-defense, yet the judicial system didn’t quite buy the story of one Aileen Wuornos. In fact, the state of Florida handed down six death sentences, and as you might’ve already guessed, it was inevitable that Wuornos would receive that fateful injection. But before the injection, Wuornos left a memorable message: “Yes, I would 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, I'll be back.”
#6: Personal Branding, Gary Gilmore
Notorious for his unusual demand that his death sentence be carried out by firing squad, Gary Gilmore faced such a squad in Utah just six months after he murdered two men. Based on new regulations, the execution marked the first in nearly 10 years within the United States judicial system. Oddly enough, his final words inspired the catchphrase for one of the world’s most successful sporting brands. Facing five volunteer gunmen, Gilmore spouted the infamous final phrase “Let’s do it” on January 17th, 1977. A little over a decade later, stars like Michael Jordan were selling sneakers through a campaign with a similar slogan.
#5: SpaghettiO Fail, Thomas J. Grasso
In the hours before his execution, the murderer of two elderly victims released a string of cryptic statements to the press, channeling the likes of T.S. Elliot and even dropping his own poem. When it came time for Thomas J. Grasso to punch his one-way ticket, though, it was SpaghettiOs that engulfed his mind. Ordering a variety of foods for his final meal, ranging from Burger King to pumpkin pie, Grasso let it be known that “I did not get my SpaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” Certainly a major blow to spaghetti…
#4: Electric Comedy, George Appel
Not to be confused with noted Australian politician John George Appel, the Big Apple cop killer named George Appel kept it light in the face of certain death. Appel found humor in his own name, his imminent death and perhaps even in the city itself. Strapped to an electric chair in 1928, Mr. Appel delivered a well-timed pun by stating, “Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.” This was surely the pinnacle of his wasted life and the punchline he’d been preparing for years.
#3: Gallows Epiphany, Westley Allan Dodd
It’s never certain how a killer will react in court, but Westley Allan Dodd actually requested his own hanging, which was the method he used to murder the last of his victims. This is a man that tried to become famous for his crimes, boasting to the media and supposedly helping parents by writing prevention material during his trial. However, in the end, Westley Allan Dodd did afford the victims’ families a least a bit of solace by noting “I was once asked by somebody, I don’t remember who, if there was any way sex offenders could be stopped. I said ‘No.’ I was wrong. I was wrong when I said there was no hope, no peace. There is hope. There is peace. I found both in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Look to the Lord, and you will find peace.”
#2: Hoosier Bastard, Carl Panzram
Tortured by corrections officers as an adolescent, Carl Panzram unsurprisingly went on to live a troubled life. This ultimately led to a 1920 killing spree in New Haven, Connecticut and later the rape and murder of two young boys. Like most killers, Panzram was known to inflate the numbers of his crimes and refused to apologize all the way up to his 1930 hanging. Even at the end, he continued to boast by hollering out “Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill a dozen men while you're screwing around!”
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “Let every villain shake hands with himself.” John Jenkins
- “Where's my stunt double when you need one?” Vincent Gutierrez
- “Somebody needs to kill my trial attorney.” George Harris
- “Beam me up.” Gary Burris
- “Tell my family and friends I love them, tell the governor he just lost my vote. Y'all hurry this along, I'm dying to get out of here.” Christopher Scott Emmett
#1: Compelling Case, James French
The only U.S. criminal executed for his crimes in 1966, James French was the last man executed prior to the case “Furman v. Georgia,” which temporarily suspended executions in the U.S. He pushed the process along by adding his cellmate to his list of victims, as French was apparently scared to take his own life. French had some odd yet revealing words once his death by electric chair came calling, and appeared to anticipate the headlines of the next day’s morning news by uttering: “How's this for your headline? 'French Fries.'“ A well thought-out joke, but one he’d probably been waiting to deliver since his first brush with the law.
Do you agree with our list? What last words by a criminal sent chills up your spine? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.