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Five Wacky Inheritances


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By Rebecca O'Connor


Since the beginning of civilization, people have vied for and received unexpected and positively weird items in the wills of their relatives.

The Gift of (Dead) Turtles

While some of the strangest inheritances have come for times past, modern humans are not above leaving bizarre items to their relatives. Lois Collins, a staff writer for The Deseret News wrote an article on the gift bequeathed by her mother-in-law, a family of dead and preserved turtles. She notes, “They're intended for my children when they grow up. And since my oldest is 5, the turtles are settling in for a long stay.” While a weird remembrance, Collins was left with several dilemmas such as figuring out how to keep the turtles from deteriorating and also how to divide up the mother and three baby turtles amongst her children.

A Lock of Hair to Remember Me By…

Napoleon in his last will and testament ordered that Marchand shall preserve my hair, and cause a bracelet to be made of it, with a little gold clasp, to be sent to the Empress Maria Louisa, to my mother, and to each of my brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, the Cardinal; and one of larger size for my son.” Although his will left many other ordinary items, this was indeed a weird inheritance. Stranger still, the existence of his hair after his death and the subsequent study of it led to much speculation as to whether he died by arsenic poisoning and foul play.

A Standing Feast for the Dead

John Porter Bowman, a tanner from Vermont in the 19th century built an extravagant mausoleum to honor his lost his wife and two daughters. This wasn’t the strangest thing he left behind, however. It is said he believed that the family would be reincarnated together upon his passing. So Bowman created a $50,000 trust fund to not only maintain his 21-room mansion, but to also have dinner for the family prepared every evening. Needless to say, the money eventually ran dry and the dead never collected on their inheritance.

Lifelong Roses

By all accounts entertainer Jack Benny and his wife Mary Livingstone had an incredibly rocky marriage. All the same, Livingstone stated in a February 1974 issue of McCall’s magazine that Benny had left an unusual bequest in his will to express his affection. He had arranged for one red rose to be delivered to her every day for the rest of her life.

Drumming Up Patriotism

Perhaps the strangest inheritance in history came from a haberdasher who died in 1871. It is said that Solomon Sandborn left his body to science but with one little addendum. Sandborn requested that his skin be tanned and used to make two drums which were to be given to a friend. However, the friend had to promise to go to Bunker Hill at sunrise every June 17th and use the drums to play “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.