10. The Legend of Shakespeare’s Missing Head

9. Tchaikowsky’s Posthumous Acting Career


Unlike Shakespeare’s skull, we know where pianist Andre Tchaikowsky’s is located. It’s in a box at Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Company, in accordance with the composer’s last will. You see, Tchaikowsky wanted his skull to star as Yorick’s in future productions of Hamlet, a wish that went unfulfilled for years because it was deemed inappropriate.

But during the 2008 Stratford run, Tchaikowsky’s dream came true. David Tennant of Doctor Whofame held the real skull during the famous graveyard monologue, and audiences weren’t aware of the prop’s true nature until later. The actual skull was also used in the London run from December 2008 to January 2009—even though the secret was out and the company had promised to retire Tchaikowsky’s skull.

An interesting segue here involves the influential comedian Del Close’s similar skull wish. In Close’s case, the recipient was the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. However, Close’s skull never made it to the stage; it was cremated along with the rest of his body after physicians refused to play along. A skull was in fact donated to the theater, but it was definitely not Close’s.

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