From Heaven

Esteemed Canadian physician Sir William Osler is known by many as the “Father of Modern Medicine”. He both practiced and taught at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, of which he was a founding professor, and helped to revolutionise medical education by introducing the now commonplace residency system: the training of doctors within the hospital itself.

I am there in the sunset

There are more than 90,000 people buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a beautiful and sprawling garden cemetery in Massachusetts that was first opened in 1831. Beside one of the graves sits the following letter, written by a lady to the love she left behind. Much needed transcript follows. Larger image here. Huge thanks to Rosie. (Kindly

Don’t feel bad that I’m gone

In 1936, Jim Henson was born—a creative genius whose wide-reaching and positive influence on the population is rivalled by few in the world of entertainment, due to an incredible career that began in the 1950s when he created the now-adored Muppets. Henson passed away far too early, in 1990, aged just 53. Some time before, he wrote two letters

She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound

Detective novelist Raymond Chandler‘s wife of 30 years, Cissy, died on December 12th, 1954 after a long and painful battle with pulmonary fibrosis during which the author wrote The Long Goodbye. As can be seen in the following touching and affectionate letter, written to friend Leonard Russell shortly after Cissy’s passing, Raymond was deeply affected by the loss

With deepest sympathy, Fido

On April 12th of 1945, a few months before the end of World War II, the U.S. President of 12 years, Franklin Roosevelt, passed away after suffering a brain haemorrhage. He was 63-years-old. Nine days later, the following letter of condolence was printed in various newspapers, addressed to his beloved dog, Fala. It was written by Bob

The sacrifice is not in vain

In November of 1918, just days after the end of World War I was announced, a young soldier named Richard Hogan was hospitalised in France with influenza. Two weeks later, he passed away. Shortly after his burial, Maude Fisher, the American Red Cross nurse who had cared for him during his final days, wrote the

Another link is broken

On January 30th of 1937, two years after his older brother, Baoth, succumbed to meningitis, 16-year-old Patrick Murphy passed away following a seven year battle with tuberculosis. The boys’ 20-year-old sister, Honoria, remained. A few days later, the children’s distraught parents, Gerald and Sara Murphy, received the following letter of condolence from their friend, F. Scott

Our Frank

On the night of December 21st, 1988, a bomb exploded on board New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 and ripped the aircraft apart, its wreckage then raining down on the sleepy Scottish town of Lockerbie below. All 259 passengers and crew perished, as did 11 local residents. One of the passengers, 45-year-old Frank Ciulla (pictured above), had been travelling

I shall always be with you

On June 8th of 1950, nine months after being arrested by the Czech secret police on suspicion of leading a plot to overthrow the Communist regime, 48-year-old socialist politician Milada Horáková was found guilty of “high treason” following a show trial that was broadcast on national radio, and in which she remained defiant. On the 27th of that

What did you say? I can’t hear you…

On June 10th of 1967, Spencer Tracy — a Hollywood star who was nominated for nine Best Actor Oscars during his career, two of which he won — passed away after suffering a heart attack at the home he shared with his partner, Katharine Hepburn. Eighteen years later, Hepburn wrote him a letter. The clip above shows Katharine

Think always of me

In the early hours of October 16th, 1793, nine months after the execution of her husband, Louis XVI, the 37-year-old former Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, wrote the following tear-stained farewell letter to her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, and her children. Just eight hours later, Marie Antoinette was beheaded. Her letter never reached Elisabeth. Transcript and

Must be raining in this old bunkhouse

Shortly after renowned “cowboy artist” Charles Russell passed away in 1926, his friend of many years, the popular American entertainer, Will Rogers, wrote him the following farewell letter. It was sent to Charles’s widow, Nancy. (Source: Dear Wit; Image: Horse of the Hunter, by Charles Russell, via.) Dear Charley, I bet you hadn’t been up there three days

He’s here, living and vivid and unforgettable forever

On September 30th of 1955, less than a month before his most celebrated turn as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause graced the screens, 24-year-old James Dean died shortly after his Porsche collided with another car at high speed. His funeral was held nine days later in Fairmount, not far from the farm on which he

“Our little baby is dead”

On April 14th of 1851, Dora Dickens, the ninth child of Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine, died unexpectedly after suffering convulsions. She was just 8-months-old. The next morning, Charles wrote the following letter to Catherine — miles away from home recuperating from an illness, oblivious to the situation  —  and, in an effort to break the news

COME AT ONCE HANK IS DEAD

Millions of hearts broke in 1953 when, on January 1st, the news of the death of 29-year-old Hiram Williams began to circulate. Hiram was better known to most by his stage name, Hank Williams; a talented young man who recorded hit after hit during his short but illustrious country music career. Sadly, addictions to alcohol and

There is no way to replace Walt Disney

On December 15th of 1966, less than two months after the discovery of a malignant tumour in his left lung, Walt Disney passed away. Hours later, his brother Roy sent the following memo to all employees of the company. In the following days, Roy Disney announced the postponement of his retirement; he then spent the next

I cannot remain silent

April 29th, 1865: Queen Victoria, still grieving and “utterly broken-hearted” following the death of Prince Albert four years previous, writes an empathetic letter of condolence to Mary Todd Lincoln following the recent assassination of her husband, Abraham Lincoln. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Image: Library of Congress Transcript April 29, 1865 Dear Madam, Though

You are directly responsible for the loss of our son’s life

The following angry letter was sent to then-U.S. President Harry Truman in 1953 by the father of George Banning, a young soldier who had recently been killed whilst serving in the Korean War. When Truman passed away 20 years later, this letter was discovered in his desk along with Banning’s posthumously awarded Purple Heart. Transcript follows.

I’m 82 and hate it!

Despite suffering quite heavily from emphysema and Parkinson’s disease during his final years, horror legend Vincent Price still kept up with his correspondence. Below are three postcards written by Price in the early-’90s to friend Bob Miller. Each touch on the declining health of both himself and his wife, Coral, who died in May of 1991 after

Your happiness means my happiness

On August 6th of 1962, a day after 36-year-old Marilyn Monroe passed away, the following unsent letter, addressed to ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, was discovered at her desk, folded up in her address book. It is thought they were planning to remarry. Transcript follows. (Source: MM-Personal: From the Private Archive of Marilyn Monroe; Image: Joe DiMaggio &

This is Kurt Vonnegut, reporting from the afterlife

In a 1997 letter to Manhattan-based radio station WNYC, author Kurt Vonnegut pitches his idea for a series of fictional interviews with the deceased. In fact the idea came to fruition and numerous 90-second segments — one of which can be heard here — were subsequently broadcast, with interviewees ranging from the non-famous through to

My husband John Lennon was a very special man

In October of 2000, 20 years after shooting and killing John Lennon, Mark Chapman became eligible for parole whilst imprisoned at Attica Correctional Facility. Below is the poignant 3-page letter sent to the parole board by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in which she eloquently opposed his release. Of course, Chapman was denied, and has since been refused

This “evil” was the greatest which can befall a man

When he wrote the following letter to George Eveleth in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe‘s wife, Virginia, had been dead for almost a year, having finally succumbed to tuberculosis after first contracting the disease in 1842. The latter part of this letter — the rest of which mainly concerns his ultimately unpublished journal, The Stylus —

To: My widow

On January 17th of 1912, following years of preparation, British explorer Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and his team reached the South Pole — an incredible feat that was quickly overshadowed upon arrival by the news that the race had already been won 33 days previous, by the Norwegians. Scott’s team, demoralised and tired, soon began their ill-fated

Some mean man killed my dady too

Above: Monroe Young Jr. III On November 22nd of 1963, whilst travelling through Dealey Plaza in an open-top limousine, then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy was tragically shot dead; millions of stunned people around the world immediately began to mourn. On December 1st, 1963, just over a week later, a young empathetic schoolboy named Monroe Young Jr. wrote the following heartbreaking

We are sinking fast

Two telegrams, both sent within hours of each other and both painting an entirely different picture of the same tragic situation. The first, received by S. S. Birma at approximately 01:40hrs on April 15th, 1912, is the last complete distress call to have left the radio room of RMS Titanic, the passenger steamship which –

These bastards let your brother die

To usher in the weekend we have a blistering attack on early-science fiction fandom from an unlikely source: science fiction novelist Robert Heinlein. In a letter to super-fan Forrest Ackerman, written during the final months of World War II, Heinlein begins by offering his condolences following the death of Ackerman’s brother whilst serving his country, then

The most beautiful death

Brave New World novelist Aldous Huxley was diagnosed with cancer in 1960, at which point his health slowly began to deteriorate. On his deathbed in November of 1963, just as he was passing away, Aldous — a man who for many years had been fascinated with the effects of psychedelic drugs since being introduced to mescaline

Send cask arsenic exterminate aborigines

This 1907 telegram was sent by a Charles Morgan to Henry Prinsep, a man seemingly based 2200km away in Perth who at the time was Chief Protector of Aborigines for Western Australia. Following the arrival of British settlers in the 18th century, Australia’s indigenous population were slowly faced with disease, loss of land, stolen generations and general

This was dictated before the world fell in on me

The main body of this letter was dictated by then-Vice President of the United States Harry Truman on the morning of April 12th, 1945. In it, he tells sister-in-law May Wallace of his ever-increasing workload after just three months in a role for which he didn’t actually campaign. Just hours after the letter was dictated,

In defence of Jim Jones

Even in 1978, the very year he orchestrated the mass-suicide that ended over 900 lives in Jonestown, cult leader Jim Jones could count on people as influential as politician Harvey Milk – recently the subject of an Academy Award-winning movie – to fight his corner in his absence. With Jones and congregation relocated to Guyana

I am to be executed

For the best part of twenty years until she died, Mary Stuart was either imprisoned or on trial in England at the behest of her first cousin, Elizabeth I. Her entire life was anything but normal, having been crowned Queen of Scots at nine months of age, married and widowed by the time she was

Ordinary standards do not apply to Tesla

On January 4th, 1943, Slovenian-American author Louis Adamic wrote the following heartfelt letter to ex-President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The letter concerned the alarming treatment and general well-being of Adamic’s friend, Nikola Tesla; an immeasurably important inventor whose impact on the modern world is still difficult to appreciate and who, despite his numerous

An idiot of the 33rd degree

In November of 1905, an enraged Mark Twain sent the following superb letter to J. H. Todd, a salesman who had just attempted to sell bogus medicine to the author by way of a letter and leaflet delivered to his home. According to the literature Twain received, the “medicine” in question — called “The Elixir of

Name your price

On January 17th, 1874, 62-year-old North Carolina resident Chang Bunker passed away in his sleep after having contracted pneumonia. Tragically, within a few hours, his brother Eng also died. Less than two weeks later, the widows of Chang and Eng Bunker received the following letter from Brooklyn-based ‘Rozell, Horton & Gray’ in which the they

THIS IS NO DRILL

At 07:58am on December 7th, 1941, Commander Logan C. Ramsey ordered the following telegram to be sent to all ships in the Hawaiian area after watching a low-flying plane drop a bomb on Ford Island. Ramsey had in fact just witnessed the very beginning of a coordinated attack on Pearl Harbor in which the Japanese, over the

Life unworthy of life

July 1933: Adolf Hitler passes the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, in turn enforcing the compulsory sterilisation of any citizen with a “genetic defect.” Defects include schizophrenia, deafness and even chronic alcoholism. In the coming years, approximately 400,000 sterilisations will be carried out. May 1939: Hitler — as per a request from

To my good friends ye Postmasters

Over 70,000 Londoners were left homeless in 1666 when, in the early hours of September 2nd, a fire that began in a bakery on Pudding Lane swiftly grew to consume and devastate the entire city. It is believed that approximately 13,000 residences burnt to the ground. As London’s first Post Office at Cloak Lane surrendered

The lowest class of people I ever heard of

Whilst stationed in Egypt in 1941, Australian soldier Jim Moody befriended a stray puppy. The animal – Horrie – quickly became the entire battalion’s mascot and guard dog, accompanying them through Greece, Crete, Palestine and Syria. Horrie worked as a messenger, warned of approaching aircraft as a result of his acute hearing, and survived a

If this letter doesn’t do it – nothing will

In 1962, Marilyn Monroe was shooting what was to be her last movie. Photographers Billy Woodfield and Lawrence Schiller received the assignment to cover the shoot and had obtained Monroe’s confidence, at least enough to allow them to photograph Monroe nude and semi-nude during a swimming pool scene. Playboy Magazine – which was launched with

The Ax

On November 30th, 1954, a character by the name of Charlotte Braun made her debut in the much-loved comic strip, Peanuts. Loud, brash and opinionated, “Good Ol’ Charlotte Braun” quickly annoyed the strip’s readers and on February 1st, 1955 — after just 10 sightings — she appeared in a storyline for the last time. 45

If I cannot live with you I will live alone

In 1818, at 23 years of age and whilst caring for his gravely ill brother who had contracted tuberculosis, celebrated romantic poet John Keats met the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. Less than a year later, Keats himself contracted the same disease and soon afterwards – on the advice of his doctor – reluctantly

My husband is planning “an accident”

According to her butler, Paul Burrell, the following four-page letter was given to him by Diana, Princess of Wales in October of 1993, ten months after her separation from Prince Charles was announced. Should it be genuine, it would seem Diana was under the illusion that Charles was planning an accident so as to clear the way

The things I saw beggar description

The concentration camp in Ohrdruf was the first to be liberated by U.S. forces during World War II, and just a week later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower paid a visit in order to survey the scene. The following letter, in which Eisenhower describes said experience, was written by the future President three days later and

YOURS IN MURDER

April 17th, 1977: Two youths are shot and killed in the Bronx. Whilst patrolling the area, a policeman finds the following letter in the road, addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli. Four months later police would arrest serial killer David Berkowitz, a.k.a. Son of Sam, and charge him with a number of killings over the

WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX

In the month following the attacks of September 11th, seven letters, all of which contained anthrax spores, were sent to various high profile targets in America. As a result of these letters being sent, five people died and a further 17 subsequently contracted the disease. In July 2008, the FBI informed Dr. Bruce Ivins –

He put up a great fight against Fritz

Below is a letter sent by the Australian Red Cross to the wife of Leslie Clark – a soldier who perished whilst fighting in France during the First World War – 8 months after her husband’s death. The letter confirms his passing and then, using a quote from a fellow soldier, tells of a previous