Five Guys Who Did Their Best to Remain Assholes Even Beyond the Grave
One of the upsides to dying is it really lets you get the last word in. If you’re involved in a massive ongoing argument, have an unshiftable grudge or just always wanted to let someone know what you really think of them, shuffling off this mortal coil gives you an opportunity to fuckin’ sock it to them from beyond the grave. Whether as formal as a last will and testament, or a more casual arrangement to fuck with them after you’re gone, death provides mean mofos with one final chance to be shitty, as these bygone bastards prove…
The Petty Patriarch
Despite having a name that somehow sounds obscene, Philip Thicknesse (1719-1792) was not a happy man. He spent his younger years traveling the world, getting up to various racist colonial goings-on, before settling down in England, where he published a sketchy book on healthy living that recommended as much inhalation of “the breath of young women” as possible.
But he found normal life on land didn’t work for him, and he ended up living in the grounds of his house as a hermit, digging up Saxon coffins and making up stories about the bodies he found. When Thicknesse died, he arranged for his severed hand to be delivered to his estranged son George. This, he said in an accompanying note, was to “remind him of his duty to God after having so long abandoned the duty he owed to a father, who once so affectionately loved him.”
A combination of a vile guilt-trip and a subtle “I did not love you anymore” message, all in one. Petty!
The Pissed-Off Poet
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) was an interesting figure. He was a German-born poet, journalist and satirist who was in many ways ahead of his time, campaigning for women’s rights, freedom from government censorship and replacing the monarchy with true democracy. His work was later burned in huge quantities by the Nazis, which can generally be taken as a sign that he was on the right side of history. There’s a memorial fountain to him in the Bronx. His will, however, contained a nasty bit of cattiness directed at his widow Mathilde. In it, Heine left her his estate, but only if she remarried, “so that there might be one man who regretted my death.” God damn!
The Bitter Billionaire
Wellington R. Burt (1831-1919) was a Michigan lumber millionaire — at one point worth the equivalent of over a billion dollars in modern money, and one of the eight richest men in America — who went a little peculiar in his final decade, which ended up overshadowing the many achievements he made in his life. He spent his twilight years living alone, refusing to see any of his family. When he died, his will was revealed to contain a “spite clause”: His fortune was only to be given to his family 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild. (Although, small payments were granted to his closest family: $1,000 a year for each of his children, the same as he left to his cook and cleaner.)
This took 92 years to happen — only in 2011 did it pass to three great-grandchildren, seven great-great grandchildren and two great-great-great grandchildren. The oldest beneficiary was 94, born before Burt’s death, so had lived a long life with those millions just out of reach. What a dick!
The Miserable Misogynist
Lawyers have a reputation for being assholes, but even by their standards, T.M. Zink (1858-1930) was a real piece of shit. A rampant sexist, he had a wife and daughter who he absolutely hated, and arranged for his money to bypass them entirely when he died. If that wasn’t enough of a prick move, he wanted his money to sit accumulating interest for 75 years, then be used to set up the dickest institution conceivable — a library that only admitted men, only contained books written by men and wouldn’t even permit pictures of men taken by women. It was to be a strictly all-dudes set-up, The Zink Womanless Library, based on his unashamed loathing of all women, which he declared to be “the result of my experiences with women, observations of them and study of all literatures and philosophical works within my limited knowledge relating thereto.”
In a sensible move for everyone, he was posthumously declared to be of unsound mind and his money was passed to his daughter. No library was built, and his stupid name lives on only in articles about historical shitheads.
The Cruel Canine Caresser
Leona Helmsley (1920-2007) was an infamous hotelier known as “the Queen of Mean” due to her tendency to reduce her employees to tears, refuse to pay them and generally treat anyone who wasn’t a billionaire or a dog like shit. She once stated that “only little people pay taxes”; something that didn’t help her during her trial for federal income tax evasion. She was convicted, but remained extraordinarily wealthy — during her final years she was estimated to be worth well over $5 billion. She and her late husband had a charitable foundation, to which almost everything was to be left in her will. There was $100,000 for her chauffeur, a few million each for two of her four grandchildren and $12 million for her dog, but the rest was to go to good causes.
However, in her last few years she decided the poor could go and fuck themselves, and she wanted the full sum to go to dogs, and that the foundation needed to transition to being solely hound-focused. This was overturned by a judge, although her dog Trouble did end up with a cool two mil and full-time staff looking after him. Trouble was also the recipient of a lot of death threats from, presumably, extremely unintelligent criminals.