In the late 1880s, the body of a 16-year-old girl was pulled from the Seine. She was apparently a suicide, as her body showed no marks of violence, but her beauty and her enigmatic smile led a Paris pathologist to order a plaster death mask of her face.

In the romantic atmosphere of fin de siècle Europe the girl’s face became an ideal of feminine beauty. The protagonist of Rainer Maria Rilke’s 1910 novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge writes, “The mouleur, whose shop I pass every day, has hung two plaster masks beside his door. [One is] the face of the young drowned woman, which they took a cast of in the morgue, because it was beautiful, because it smiled, because it smiled so deceptively, as if it knew.”

Ironically, in 1958 the anonymous girl’s features were used to model the first-aid mannequin Rescue Annie, on which thousands of students have practiced CPR. Though the girl’s identity remains a mystery, her face, it’s said, has become “the most kissed face of all time.”

Dry Run


In 1951 Colorado farmer Jim Gernhart held a rehearsal of his own funeral. He watched as eight pallbearers carried a casket from his home to a waiting hearse, then attended it to the local armory, where almost half of Burlington, Colo., turned out for a funeral sermon by the Rev. S.H. Mahaffey.

Gernhart also bought a $465 headstone and a cemetery lot, and the local newspaper even published an obituary. “Real nice funeral, ain’t it?” Gernhart remarked. “Does a man good to see so many people out to bury him.”

Fair Enough

The grave of Arthur Haine in the City Cemetery [of Portland, Oregon], between 10th and 13th Streets, is marked by a stone of his own design and the epitaph, ‘Haine Haint.’ Haine, who died in 1907, left a will saying, ‘Having lived as an atheist I want to be buried like one — without any monkey business.’

— Federal Writers’ Project, Oregon Trail: The Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, 1939

“Effen Uyt”

These Flemish Words are on a very antient funeral Monument of whitish Marble, on which are engraved a Pair of Slippers of a very singular kind. Effen Uyt means Exactly. The Story is, that a Man tolerably rich, and who dearly loved good Eating, took it into his Head that he was only to live a certain Number of Years, and no longer. In this Whimsey he counted that if he spent so much a Year, his Estate and his Life would expire together. It happened by chance that he was not deceived in either of these Computations. He died precisely at the Time he had prescribed to himself in his Imagination, and had then brought his Fortune to such a Pass, that, after paying his Debts, he had nothing left but a Pair of Slippers. His Relations buried him creditably, and would have the Slippers carved on his Tomb, with the abovementioned Laconic Device.

— John Hackett, Select and Remarkable Epitaphs on Illustrious and Other Persons, in Several Parts of Europe, 1757

Checking Out


Can a man imagine himself witnessing his own funeral? Antony Flew writes:

The crux is that there is a world of difference between: on the one hand, imagining what it would be like to witness my own funeral; and, on the other hand, imagining what it would be like for me to witness my own funeral. … The question at issue is a question about possible pictures and possible captions. Everyone knows what picture fits the first caption. What picture is it which fits, and justifies, the second caption?

I can imagine what it’s like to be Napoleon. But can I imagine what it’s like for me to be Napoleon?

“Surely I can perfectly well imagine my own funeral, really my own funeral with my body in the coffin and not a substitute corpse or a weight of bricks; with me there watching it all, but invisible, intangible, a disembodied spirit? Well, yes, this seems all right — until someone asks the awkward question ‘Just how does all this differ from your imagining your own funeral without your being there at all (except as a corpse in the coffin)?'”

A Spoonful of Sugar

For out-and-out politeness commend us to Mr. Justice Graham, who when once presiding at the Old Bailey in the days when the law sent crowds to the gallows, had to sentence no less than sixteen prisoners to death. In reading out their names he inadvertently missed one — John Robins — and then with due solemnity exhorted them to prepare for their doom, and pronounced on each the sentence of death. The condemned left the dock, and his lordship’s attention was called to the fact that he had omitted to read John Robin’s name. ‘Bring him back,’ said the Judge. ‘By all means let John Robins step forward.’ Back came the unfortunate man, and Graham, addressing him in his singularly courteous manner, assured him that ‘the omission was purely accidental, and I ask your pardon for my mistake. I am very sorry, and can only add that you will be hanged with the rest.’

Law Notes, March 1905


At Frank Sinatra’s funeral, friends and family members were invited to place items of personal significance into his coffin. Reportedly these included:

  • several Tootsie Rolls
  • a pack of Black Jack chewing gum
  • a roll of wild cherry Life Savers
  • a ring engraved with the word Dream
  • a mini-bottle of Jack Daniel’s
  • a pack of Camel cigarettes and a Zippo lighter
  • 10 dimes

Why 10 dimes? “He never wanted to get caught not able to make a phone call,” his daughter Tina told Larry King.