For some a pine box may be fine, but for world leaders and renowned celebs, expensive send-offs to the next world are often the rule rather than the exception.
Here we take a peek at obscenely pricey, ostentatious and unusual funerals. We also have a few less outlandish options available, for more frugal souls.
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Alexander the Great
“The most expensive funeral was that of Alexander the Great, which would equal about $600,000,000 in today’s money,” according to Independent Advantage.
If you conquer all of the known ancient world, you get a fancy funeral, OK? Archaeologists speculate that it took two years “to prepare for Alexander’s funeral convey” back to his “ancestral burial grounds” in Macedonia.
Alexander the Great’s “body was placed in a gold anthropoid sarcophagus which was then encased in a second gold casket and covered with a purple robe.” And then that was placed and transported in a gold carriage. Seriously. This makes Goldfinger seem like a total deadbeat in comparison.
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And if you conquer the pop charts, you get a bejeweled funeral as well, although the price tag might not hit $600 million.
“The cost of Michael Jackson's private funeral topped $1 million,” according to the L.A. Times. This price tag includes $35,000 spent on his final resting clothes and a $590,000 crypt in a marble structure that is home to other deceased celebs, including Clark Gable.
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OK, depending on how you look at it, this one actually may have made the King’s estate some money. Here’s an account of his funeral: “Elvis’ burial began with a long procession down the street that bore his name, a white hearse and seventeen white limousines behind, ending at Forest Hill Cemetary. The 900-pound copper coffin was carried by pallbearers Jerry Schilling, Joe Esposito, George Klein, Lamar Fike, Billy Smith, Charlie Hodges, Gene Smith, and Dr. George Nichopoulous. A small service was then held in the mausoleum, followed by the paying of respects from family and friends. Elvis' father, Vernon, was the last to pay respects, kissing the coffin and repeating ‘Daddy will be with you soon.’”
Copper, even 900 pounds of it, sounds reasonable. Certainly more reasonable than Alexander the Great’s gold casket. Also interesting: President Jimmy Carter reportedly deployed 300 National Guard troops to keep things under control at Elvis’ funeral.
Presley is buried “on the grounds of Graceland,” but get this, the crypt at Forest Hill cemetery in which he was originally interred is now empty (his daughter had him moved, to keep pesky tourists away). The empty crypt continues to attract Elvis fans, though, and is for sale “at a reported price of over one million dollars.”
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“Princess Diana of Wales had one of the most elaborate in the history of funerals for famous people. Viewed by roughly half the world's population, it began with a procession to Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. Then, singer Elton John sang what had originally been a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, ‘Candle in the Wind,’” according to Funeral Spot.
Half the world’s population watching and mourning! Think of all the money lost in terms of diminished worker productivity globally during that time.
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This is also interesting. As reported by The Smoking Gun, “Just days after Princess Diana's 1997 death, British government officials joked about the final cost of her funeral, noting that the expected tab would amount to ‘scarcely a deck on the Royal Yacht.’”
In the government memo, the official also estimates Diana’s funeral would cost around 5 million pounds.
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One blogger suggested that Reagan’s funeral, if you take into account the federal holiday, security expenses and Air Force One's cost of “$56,800-per-hour to operate,” made The Great Communicator’s death one of the most expensive in modern history.
It would “probably approach a billion dollars when it is all said and done,” he writes. And he’s not just some random blogger; he’s Marshall Brain, who happens to be the very smart founder of How Stuff Works.
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President Nixon’s funeral reportedly cost the federal government $311,039; the bulk of that ($211,582) went toward the cost of using Air Force One to carry Nixon’s remains and two cargo transport planes to carry “troops for the honor guard.”
Expensive, sure, but nothing compared to that Reagan estimate.
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Anna Nicole Smith
According to Funeral Spot, “One of the most expensive funerals for famous people came in 2006 for American television star and model Anna Nicole Smith. This extravagant event, which took place in Nassau, Bahamas, at Mount Horeb, Baptist Church, was actually called ‘ridiculous’ by more than one critic who dared to offer honest commentary. Smith’s mahogany coffin was covered in a rhinestone blanket, for example, and pillars inside the church were covered with expensive pink sashes.”
Photo Credit: Wikimedia/Toby Forage
Near Marilyn Monroe
OK, so you’re not famous, but you have plenty of cash and want to spend eternity in close proximity to her physical remains… What do you do? Bid on a crypt directly adjacent to hers, of course!
As we’ve reported, someone auctioned off a crypt which “happens to be directly above the final resting place of Marilyn Monroe.” The highest bid was $4,602,100, although the winning bidder backed out.
Creepy? Cool? A waste of money? You decide.
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Although a regular, no-frills funeral in the U.S. could easily run you $5,000 to $10,000, it’s even more expensive in Japan: “The average cost of a Japanese funeral is about 1.5 million yen (USD 14,000).”
There are reportedly several reasons for the high costs, including a limited number of burial plots and plain old-fashioned price gouging. Nothing quite like taking advantage of those who are grieving. Greed is good.
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Alcor Life Extension Foundation
Alcor, which keeps your deceased body (or just your brain, if you’d prefer) cryogenically preserved indefinitely until future scientists are able to bring you back to life, is obviously not for the poor.
Although a variety of funding options exist, typically the firm uses your life insurance policy to fund the procedure: “for whole body preservation you would need a minimum policy of $150,000,” according to Alcor, in addition to various fees and dues.
Still, if you’re a multi-millionaire, maybe it makes sense to take a chance on immortality. Or just give it up, let go already and allow the young people to have their turn at enjoying the planet. Gah. Rich people and their ambitions… literally trying to bribe the grim reaper.
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For about $67,000, you could sign up for a modern mummification service in the U.S.
The matching pyramid and stone sarcophagus will probably set you back considerably more.
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Does all this sound a little, well, excessive? What happened to letting go of your body and earthly possessions after you die and letting things take their natural course? Maybe that means an awesome time in Heaven for all of eternity. Maybe it means reincarnation as Angelina Jolie’s newest adopted child. Or maybe it means you become worm food.
No matter what, you’ll have some money left over to bequeath to your friends or children, instead of blowing it all on a morbid extravaganza. If you’re firmly in the frugal burial camp, check out Wal-Mart’s Web site. They reportedly began selling no-frills caskets back in October, including an affordable Lady de Guadalupe Steel Casket for $895. It doesn’t look bad at all for the price.
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Or don’t spend on a casket at all!
Those of the Hindu faith in India traditionally place the deceased on a funeral pyre. After the cremation takes place, the eldest son cracks open the deceased’s skull to break the bonds between earthly body and soul.
This is certainly a lower-cost ritual than a star-studded funeral procession, and if you’re famous or powerful it prevents the future annoyance of weird fans hanging out around your crypt all day long.
Photo Credit: Mario Pleitez
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