The practice of granting criminals a final meal is macabre, and utterly fascinating.
I knew there was plenty of information about the practice of giving death row inmates a final dinner of their choosing, but I didn’t know that it was such a mesmerizing topic for scholars and everyday people.
The list below is simple enough, detailing the ‘special meals’ of notorious condemned men and women, plus a little information on what put them on death row in the first place.
The crimes the murderers in this story have committed are heinous in the absolute worst way, yet our fascination with their last meal is no surprise, given the repugnance of their crimes and how hard it is for us to reconcile them as human beings.
1. Ted Bundy
Charismatic serial killer Ted Bundy has been back in the public’s consciousness through a Netflix documentary and the Zac Efron, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile.”
Bundy had been sentenced to death for rape, necrophilia, prison escape, and more than 35 counts of murder, after a killing spree that took him from one end of the United States to another. He was put to death via electric chair in Florida on January 24, 1989.
Bundy opted against a condemned man’s special meal. Instead, he had steak, eggs over easy, hash browns, toast with butter and jelly, plus milk and juice.
2. John Wayne Gacy
Sometimes known as the killer clown, John Wayne Gacy preyed on young men he lured to his home in metropolitan Chicago between 1972 and 1978.
He was convicted of 33 homicides, of which 26 bodies were found in the crawl space underneath Gacy’s house.
John Wayne Gacy spent 14 years on death row before being executed by lethal injection on the 10th of May 1994.
One interesting note regarding Gacy’s final meal was that he chose KFC, where he was employed as a manager before becoming a clown.
Gacy’s Final Meal:
- 12 Deep fried shrimp
- A bucket of Original Recipe KFC
- French fries
- A pound of strawberries
3. Timothy McVeigh
Timothy McVeigh was the mastermind behind the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombings, the United States’ largest domestic terrorist attack.
The bombings caused the death of 169 people, injured a further 680, and leveled one-third of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (now the site of the Oklahoma City National Memorial).
McVeigh, a former soldier, led the attacks as a means to engage what he saw as a tyrannical government. He was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001.
His last meal was two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
4. Aileen Wournos
The rare female serial killer (and the only one on this list), Wournos killed seven men in Florida by shooting them at point blank range.
Wournos, a sex worker, argued that she killed the men in self defense, but was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to death. She was executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
In 2003, South African actress Charlize Theron won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Wournos in the film Monster.
Aileen Wournos drank one cup of coffee for her final meal.
5. Laurence Russell Brewer
One of three white supremacists involved in the killing of James Byrd Jnr on June 7, 1998, Brewer’s final meal resulted in the scrapping of special meals being offered to condemned prisoners in the state of Texas.
Before his death by lethal injection on September 21, 2011, Brewer’s request consisted of:
- A bowl of fried okra with ketchup
- Two chicken steaks with gravy and onions
- A cheese omelette with ground beef, jalapenos and bell peppers
- A triple-meat bacon cheeseburger
- Three fajitas
- One pound of barbecue
- A half loaf of white bread
- Pizza meat lover’s special
- One pint of Blue Bell ice cream (homemade vanilla)
- One slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts
- Three root beers
The kicker? Brewer didn’t eat a single bite of his final meal, whether his entire request was granted or not (which is highly unlikely).
Condemned inmates now receive the exact same meal as the rest of the inmates on Death Row.
6. Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Eichmann was a former SS officer and part of the Holocaust during World War II.
After his capture by Allied troops, Eichmann escaped and went on the run in Germany before finding his way to Argentina with the help of forged papers.
The Israeli Mossad located him in 1960 and captured the renegade Nazi. Eichmann was brought back to Israel for trial on war crimes and was hanged on 1 June 1962.
Eichmann refused a special final meal. He had a bottle of red wine in addition to the regular meal of bread, cheese, olives, and tea.
7. Peter Kurten
Known as the ‘Vampire of Dusseldorf’ (he tried to drink the blood of slain victims) Kurten terrorized the German city of Dusseldorf in 1929 with murderous savagery.
Kurten was found guilty of nine counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder, including those of children. He claimed that he was guilty of many other murders going back as long as two decades.
Peter Kurten was executed by beheading in July 1931.
His final meal was wiener schnitzel, fried potatoes, and white wine. He was given seconds.
8. Judy Buenoano
Judy Buenoano was convicted of killing her husband in 1971 and her paralysed son in 1980 by poisoning them with arsenic. She was also convicted for the 1983 attempted murder of her boyfriend John Gentry by the same method.
A money-motivated killer, dispatching her victims gave Buenoano access to life insurance funds in excess of $200,000 USD.
Buenoano was allegedly involved in a 1974 murder in Alabama, and in the 1980 death of her then-boyfriend Gerald Dossett. Dossett’s body was exhumed and examined for traces of arsenic.
Buenaoano was executed by electric chair on March 30, 1998, the first female to die by the State since 1848.
Her final meal was broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, and hot tea.
9. Alton Coleman
Spree killer Alton Coleman may have had one of the largest final meal requests granted in the United States.
Coleman was convicted in three states for a total of eight murders committed with his accomplice Debra Brown over a one month period in 1984. He received the death penalty in Ohio and Indiana and received a life sentence in Illinois.
Coleman was executed by lethal injection in Lucasville, Ohio on April 26, 2002.
Colman’s final meal:
- Filet mignon with mushrooms
- Fried chicken breasts
- A salad with French dressing
- Sweet potato pie w/ whipped cream
- French fries
- Collard greens
- Onion rings
- Broccoli with melted cheese
- Biscuits and gravy
- Cherry Coca-Cola
The last meals of horrible people about to be executed for their crimes should not be an area of interest, however, they are compelling glimpses into the minds of those whose actions generally can’t be explained with rationality.
Without having to commit a heinous crime, what would be your choice for a final meal?SKM: below-content placeholder