Shocking Deathbed Confessions... reliable ?


Senior Member.
I ask if they are reliable, because many people believe that deathbed confessions "must" be true for reasons including....
'to cleanse their guilt, and clear their conscience.'
'to reveal important personal information to loved ones.'
'to confess for acceptance into a spiritual afterlife.'

....and they would be correct. These reasons are all plausible, and likely.
Besides, why would they lie, when about to die ?

But in cases of shocking or news-making confessions, belief becomes dependent on evidence.... or at least it should be. (The above reasons could still apply)
If an unsolved murder is confessed, and the confessor is to be believed, it's usually because certain unknown details are revealed as proof.

Conspiracy-confirming deathbed confessions that made "news", were found to be untrue....
E.Howard Hunt (JFK)
Boyd Bushman (UFO's)
CIA Agent (911 plot)

Here is a good short read...

"Bushman's Deathbed Confessions"
Dr. Stuart J. Robbins

The thinking could easily be, "People really believe that people are 100% honest on their deathbed, so I'm going to make sure I go out with a 'bang' and make my claims yet again. People who didn't believe me before might this time because they'll think I'm telling the truth 'cause I'm about to die."

However, in addition to explaining why the common reasons to believe deathbed confession testimony are unconvincing, there's a better reason why the testimony is not useful: They're doing it wrong.

Let's say I had a bunch of secrets of exotic physics and decided to do a deathbed confession. Here's what I would say: "I've been working on antigravity and warp field physics for the last 50 years, in secret, with the US government." Then, instead of showing photos of a spaceship or a blurry alien, I would add: "And, here are the equations. Here is a diagram for how you build a device. Here is a working model. Here is exactly how you put everything together."

In other words, it shouldn't matter who I am, what my experience is, or what pretty (or ugly) picture I show. What I need to show is HOW to do it. Just saying something doesn't make it so. I need to give enough information for someone else to verify it and duplicate it. Otherwise, what's the point? To make a spectacle before I die?
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Senior Member.
It's a logical fallacy, huh? Does it have a name?

Also gives me the idea to start planning a really good, evidence-based (but false) deathbed confession, just for a laugh. :)

Brian Wood

New Member
I ask if they are reliable, because many people believe that deathbed confessions "must" be true for reasons including....
I need to give enough information for someone else to verify it and duplicate it. Otherwise, what's the point? To make a spectacle before I die?[/EX]

Exactly the reason that after death communication is certainly bogus. At any rate, being on one's deathbed is no different from any human phschological state in that there is no precisely universal response to it. Possibly a majority of people are more honest at that point than at other times in their life, maybe not. There is no infallible way to measure it. The default position logically is that no such assumption can be made.


I think with deathbed "confessions" one would have to take into account the mental state of the person dying.
My grandfather was completed incapacitated by dementia when he died, and nothing he said at the later parts of his life could be considered reliable. I see no reason why suddenly on his deathbed he would have been able to,suddenly regain his full mental capacities. Nothing he would have said would have been considered reliable.
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Active Member
In Anglo-American law, statements, including confessions, by a dying person (or one who believes he or she is dying) have traditionally been given special weight, and in some cases are admissible when other kinds of hearsay evidence would not be: Of course they would not be given automatic credence.

There is also a serious question whether the supposed statement or confession was actually made. In the nature of the case, the deceased person is not in a position to confirm or deny it or to be cross-examined on the details. Unless the statement was written down in the deceased's own handwriting, or otherwise accurately recorded, it is no more reliable than any other piece of hearsay evidence. One of the most notorious 'deathbed confessions' is the alleged religious conversion of Charles Darwin on his deathbed, and his wish that he had stated his theories differently. This was reported after Darwin's death by an evangelical Christian, but vehemently denied by his family. See the references here:


Senior Member.
The above 3 posts are why death-bed-confessions need to provide additional, strong evidence to support a confession.
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Thomas Neill Cream is reputed to have exclaimed "I am Jack the...!" just before he was hanged in 1892. Cream was a serial killer, but he murdered by poison, often wasn't even there when the victim died and usually did it for financial gain. The idea that he was, almost simultaneously, prowling the streets of the East End murdering women with a knife stretches credulity. Allied to this is the fact that he was recorded as being in prison at the time!

Despite this, he has become one of those perennial suspects whose name always crops up in discussions of the Ripper murders.

My point being - some people are wind-up merchants. And given the fact that there isn't even any certainty that Cream actually said those words, said merchant might even be someone other than the person who is supposed to have made the confession. Without corroborating evidence such things should probably be disregarded.