Nearly 100 of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s worldly possessions went on the auction block on Friday, including his famed Thanatron, the assisted suicide device he designed in 1989. Built DIY-style, the machine was central to the deaths of two of the 130 people “Doctor Death” helped usher into the great beyond. But for some reason (the creep factor?) bids for the Thanatron failed to reach the minimum amount of $60,000 and it was withdrawn from sale.
In addition to the euthanasia machine, the objects collected for auction were a curious mingling of the mundane and the grotesque. They included a blue Mr. Rogers-esque cardigan, two used dictionaries, a thesaurus, letters variously encouraging and excoriating, his white bullet-proof vest, and a series of Kevorkian’s ghoulish paintings that manage to evoke something very ’90s.
It is a very human impulse to examine the objects of someone who has died, searching for insight into their motives and personal quirks — looking for clues as to what drove them and why they did the things they did. Click through for a slide show of the curated detritus of Dr. Kevorkian’s controversial life, and see what (if anything) you come up with.
Clam-shell style and made of plastic, this LG phone (“still in working order” according to the auction catalogue) sat on its shelf: lifeless, unremarkable, and identical to one I had in high school. Do we think it still has his contacts list? It sold for $70.
When I spied this hat/cardigan combo from across the room, my first thought was Gilligan + Mr. Rogers = Dr. Kevorkian? He certainly would have added spice to both the Island and the Neighborhood. The hat went for $450 and the sweater for $500.
Kevorkian’s homemade Thanatron (Greek for “Death Machine”) was created using household tools, toy parts, magnets and electrical switches. Kevorkian’s niece Ava Janus told us that her uncle “was very mechanical like my grandfather. He was very much a tinkerer — would look at something and figure out what to do with it.”
This view shows the back of the Thanatron. The button on the left side of the device triggered a flow of saline, barbituates, and then lethal potassium chloride into an IV connected to the patient’s arm causing death.
No one stepped up to purchase this lot estimated at $3000 to $5000. Dr. Kevorkian was an avid painter and used this paintbox to hold and organize the supplies he used to create many of his best known paintings. Like…
…this one. Titled Fa La La La La, – La La, – La, – LA! this (disturbing?) painting was done by Kevorkian in 1994. According to the auction website, “this work depicts the waste and commercialism of Christmas when people starve while others get unnecessary gifts. Opponents of JK say this is an example of how he likes to kill babies.”
The good doctor would be happy to know that no one made a profit on this painting valued at a whopping $150,000 to $200,000. It went unsold.
An array of Kevorkian’s medicine bottles. Their contents once included prescription Amoxicillin, Spironolacton, Hydroxyzine, Mirtazapine, and Lisinopril among others. Do we think Kevorkian was a hypochondriac or just into collecting? A few of these sold for between $70 and $200.
Bidders left several of Kevorkian’s books unclaimed, including a Roget’s II Thesaurus, Webster’s II Dictionary, and American Heritage Dictionary he had with him in prison.
Kevorkian’s black hair comb with mysteriously bent bristles. Someone bid $200 for this personal artifact but for some unknown reason the lot passed. Maybe they were really hoping for a hairbrush?
Did you know that Dr. Kevorkian was a flautist? Neither did we. According to the auction website, “Countless hours of composing his music were accomplished on this flute.” Someone got it for a song, bidding $275.