Fact Check

The Last Kiss

Man mangled in accident is kept alive long enough for one last kiss from his wife.

Published Oct 21, 1997

Legend:   A man becomes trapped in a piece of industrial machinery which crushes his lower body. Unable to extricate him without restarting the machine and killing him, his fellow workers keep him alive with painkillers long enough for his wife to arrive and kiss him goodbye. The workers then restart the machine.

Example:   [Excerpted from HBO's 'Taxicab Confessions' series]

Q: What was the most, like, upsetting thing you ever saw?

A: When a guy gets hit by a train. Not run over by a train; when he gets stuck in between the platform and the train. You know, when a guy is standing on the edge of the platform? You fall in there. When the train is coming it spins you around. It actually, like, folds you around. All twisted up. Now what happens is, when I push that train off your body, the bottom part of your legs spin back this way and all your guts fall down and you die. In less than a minute you're dead. So what happens is when that train holds your body together this way, you're alive. Your heart is beating, your brain is okay, you're alive. I can talk to you like this. Once we take the air bags and push the train off you, try to get you out of there, you're gonna die in less than two minutes.

One day we had a priest come, the guy's wife and we cleared the whole fuckin' train station out and left his wife down there with the priest. Just so she could hug him and kiss him and say whatever she wanted to say to him before we fuckin' did it.


  • The type of machinery in which the victim is caught varies; frequent examples include rock crushers and steel rollers as well as subway and train rails.

Origins:   Anecdotal information suggests this legend has been with us for at least half a century. It surfaces from time to time, always told as a true and recent tale.

Besides the general apprehensions we all have about falling victim to accidents, this legend plays on the terror of knowing exactly when we (or one of our loved ones) will die. Accidental deaths take us by surprise,

Last kiss cartoon

sudden deaths are unanticipated, and even the imminent deaths of those suffering from lingering illness can rarely be predicted within a few days. Now imagine you've just been notified that your spouse, who left for work the picture of health a few hours ago, will die within minutes. He's fully conscious, he's in no pain, and no power on earth can stop him from dying as you watch. Is the pain of that last goodbye really worth it, or would you prefer that he had just been finished off all at once?

The horror of being the instrument of someone else's death is another aspect of this legend. Although the victim will surely die from his injuries in a short time, it is left to emergency personnel or his co-workers to take the action (e.g., restarting the machinery, moving the train) that will cause his immediate death. We dislike hearing about death, and we're terrified of witnessing it. How horrible to have to be the one to bring it about, even when it's inevitable.

Sightings:   This legend showed up in the TV series Homicide and the 2002 film Signs.

Last updated:   14 July 2006


  Sources Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5
  (pp. 70-72).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good to Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 170-171).

  Sources Also told in:

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 85).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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