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Grave goods: Famous people who were buried with unusual keepsakes

Since ancient times, people have buried their loved ones with ‘grave goods’ – burial gifts and little comforts that were meaningful in life. Here are the surprising things that nine famous people were buried with, at their funeral ceremony.

Three cigars – George Burns

things famous people were buried with - cigars

“If I’d taken my doctor’s advice and quit smoking when he advised me to, I wouldn’t have lived to go to his funeral,” quipped George Burns in an interview with Cigar Aficionado in 1994. The comedian, as famous for his cigar smoke as for his one-liners, died a week after his 100th birthday in March 1996. He was laid to rest next to his beloved wife Gracie Allen, among the famous graves at Forest Lawn cemetery in Los Angeles, with three of his favorite smokes in his breast pocket.

A whistle – Humphrey Bogart

things famous people were buried with - whistle “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?”

When Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall set the screen alight in the 1944 classic, To Have and Have Not, they began a romance, which became one of Hollywood’s most famous real-life love stories. The couple had been married 12 years when Bogart died of cancer in 1957. Before his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens, Bacall slipped a tiny whistle in his urn, a charm from a bracelet Bogie had given his love before they wed.

A whale tooth – President John. F. Kennedy

things famous people were buried with- whale's toothScrimshaw picture: Jlahorn/Creative Commons

President Kennedy was an avid collector of scrimshaw – ornamental pieces of whalebone or walrus ivory, traditionally engraved by mariners and whalers. His first lady Jacqueline commissioned artist Milton K. Delano to engrave the Presidential Seal on an antique tooh from a bull whale, as a Christmas gift to her husband in 1962. He treasured it and, following his assassination in November 1963, it was buried with him at Arlington NationalCemetery.

Letters from the heart – Harry Houdini

things famous people were buried with - letters

A master escapologist, magician Harry Houdini never eluded the grief he endured when his beloved mother Cecilia, died. Unwavering in her support, she wrote encouragingly to him as he traveled from theatre to theatre in the early days of his career. When he made it big, he could afford to treat her like a queen – and so he did.

He publicly broke down when he learned of her death whilst overseas in 1913. Before his own untimely death in 1926, he’d expressed a wish to be buried with her correspondence. Houdini’s grave is at Machpelah Cemetery in New York City and he was laid to rest with a ‘pillow’ of hius mum Cecilia’s loving letters cradling his head.

Stetson – Tony Curtis

things famous people were buried with - stetson Tony Curtis was laid to rest at Palm Eastern Cemetery in Las Vegas in 2010 with a final-wish list of his favorite things. These included a Stetson, an iPhone and seven packets of Splenda sweetener, as well as tokens of people and places he held dear – including his grandson Nicholas’s baby shoes, his Navy medals and a yarmulke from a Budapest synagogue that was dear to his heart.

Among the Some Like It Hot star’s other grave goods was a copy of Hervey Allen’s historical novel, Anthony Adverse, which inspired the actor, born Bernard Schwartz, to become Tony Curtis.

Dorito chips – Arch West

things famous people were buried with - dorito chipsComida Chatarra/Flikr

When former traveling cheese salesman turned Frito Lay executive Arch West died in 2011, his loving family dusted his cremation urn with Doritos before it was interred at Restland Memorial Park, Dallas. Arch was inspired to create the crunchy corn snack, after discovering a roadside shack selling toasted tortillas, while on a family vacation in San Diego.

Doritos were launched in 1966 and fast became a top-selling snack. Ahead of 97-year-old Arch’s Doritos funeral, his daughter Jana Hacker said: “We are tossing Doritos chips in before they put the dirt over the urn. He’ll love it.”

Jack Daniels – Frank Sinatra

things famous people were buried with - whisky

Three or four rocks, two fingers and a splash – that’s how Frank Sinatra liked the famous Tennessee whiskey he sipped on stage for over 50 years. When he died aged 82 in 1998, he was buried with a flask of ‘Daniels’, a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and a roll of dimes – it’s said he’d carried the coins for making emergency payphone calls on him, ever since son Frank Junior was kidnapped in 1963. Frank Sinatra’s grave is at Desert Memorial Park near Palm Springs and his gravestone bears the legend The Best Is Yet to Come – the last song he sang to adoring fans.

Pencils and chocolate – Roald Dahl

things famous people were buried with - chocolatePicture: Amirali Mirhashem on Unsplash

Sophie Dahl described her grandfather Roald Dahl’s burial as like a Viking funeral, with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory children’s author buried at Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire with a host of curious and comforting grave goods.

Among them were pencils, a power saw, a bottle of bergundy, the author’s snooker cues – and a supply of chocolate.

A copy of Alice in Wonderland – Leonard Bernstein

things famous people were buried with - a book When West Side Story composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein died in 1990, he was buried with a number of meaningful tokens, including the copy of Alice in Wonderland he never travelled without. He was also buried with his conductor’s baton, a copy of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a lucky penny and a piece of amber, at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood cemetery.

Count Dracula’s Cape – Bela Lugosi

things famous people were buried with - Dracula's cape

The grave marker on Bela Lugosi’s final resting place at Holy Cross Cemetery, California, is inscribed simply ‘beloved father’. But when the legendary horror movie star died in his sleep in 1956, he lay in state for three days and was buried in the gothic costume of his most famous role – Count Dracula.

There are photographs of Lugosi lying at rest in his casket, said to have been taken at the time.