Dead People You Wish Twittered

Maybe death preceded the technology. Maybe they would deliver profound statements in 140 characters. Maybe it’s David Foster Wallace. Our STAFF AND READERS tell who’d they follow into the afterlife.


A photograph of a group gathered at a seance, taken by William Hope in about 1920. The information accompanying the spirit album states that the table is levitating. In reality, the image of a ghostly arm has been superimposed over the table using a double exposure.

Collection of National Media Museum

Each month, we pitch a new question to our staff and readers. If you have a question you’d like us to answer, email it to us. This month we asked: Who do you wish could tweet from the beyond?

Giles Turnbull

I’d follow dead Jim Henson on Twitter. Not only would he be able to answer all our questions about Muppet characters, Muppet gags, and Muppet manufacturing; he’d also be able to give us a uniquely Muppet-eye view of the afterlife. There would be Swedish Chef “BORK BORK BORK” moments almost daily, and they’d be justifiably retweeted by thousands.

Divad Q. Nead

Easy: Frank O’Hara. Call me self-indulgent. Call me, in the face of our country’s bloody fiscal/political battlegrounds, fanciful, but I want some genuine Frank O’Hara exclamations on my feed, at the top of my morning menu. I want “I am looking for a million dollar heart in a carton of frozen strawberries like the Swedes” to be emblazoned on my everyday. Nothing is better than the fresh kick of some good city verse for the empty coffee cups of our metropolitan underemployed. He was the originator of the form, dropping by the Olivetti shop at lunch, banging out killer lines and departing, leaving them for the floor attendant to ponder. He reveled in the Newsweek house organs, copping one with Bill Berkson called “F.Y.I.”, imitating the best of the momentary. Bring me my vignettes, we are too thirsty for Tweets.

Ian Ledbetter

I would love to hear what George Orwell thought of how we now live in idiot world. I think that he would be aghast at the complete lack of personal responsibility in our time.

Sean Tabb

Given the chance to tweet with the dead, I would follow my maternal grandmother. She passed away 15 years ago, long before I realized the secrets she was keeping. A short, imagined excerpt from her Twitter feed, assuming she would follow me back:

DeadNana @pithnvinegar Look at u in ur pic! Eyebrows like ur Poppy! Have u been eating? Ur face looks thin. And that hair! #timeforabarber

DeadNana @pithnvinegar Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. Busy social calendar. Kettle balls. Apparating lessons. Mah Jongg. Cocktail hour starts at 4 PM.

DeadNana @pithnvinegar Mac keyboard is sticky. @Shakespeare spilled Dr. Pepper. Pls excude poor speling.

DeadNana RT @ kanyewest THERE IS A GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! / As kids around here say, “no shit, Sherlock.”

DeadNana @pithnvinegar God rarely comes out of his office, but I did see him at gym last Tuesday. The spitting image of Tom Brady.

DeadNana @pithnvinegar Secrets? Let’s see. The money’s in the mattress (all $150) + ur Poppy dressed like a woman. I wish I was kidding. ROFLMAO!

DeadNana @pithnvinegar Also, we’re really Jewish. Would have told u sooner, but Poppy said no. Here he is in girdle:

DeadNana @pithnvinegar I love you and miss you. Remember to eat! Must run now, I’m late for shuffleboard match with @beaarthur. XO!

Grant Moser

Mark Twain. As the best observer of life, he’d be perfect to describe death. And still make it human.

Connor Goodwin

I’d like to follow God, but only on Twitter, just so I could stalk him. I’d probably end up unfollowing him in the end. But not until I heard him tweet, “Nietzsche is dead.”

Jennifer Daniel

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Anne Frank
  • Wesley Willis
  • Judy Garland (exclusively during paranoid alcohol-induced binges)
  • George Carlin
  • Hitler
  • Tibor Kalman
  • Fake Andy Warhol

Harry Bastow III

I would truly relish an opportunity to follow the eternal adventures of Madeline Murray O’Hair. Yet even if the Twitter folks manage to conquer the communication gap between Earth and Afterlife somehow, I suspect, sadly, that Madeline would choose to remain silent rather than admit she had it all wrong. On the other hand, I could be mistaken. If she has yet to discover God Out There, I’m sure Madeline would truly relish an opportunity to let us all know.

Angela Chen

Jane Austen, without a doubt. Just imagine the satirical observations and sound love advice that would flow from those 140-character nuggets of wit. Plus, I could read all her Tweets in a British accent—always a plus.

Jonathan Bell

It’s not exactly a high-concept request, and I doubt I’m the first to mention it, but the science fiction author, computer enthusiast, serial deadline avoider, amateur naturalist and general all-round good thing Douglas Adams would have made a near-perfect Twitterer. There’s clearly something about brain-fed, well-read and gregarious British polymaths that lend their particular talents to the Twitter format, and Adams would perhaps have been no different. His laconic delivery, deft application of bitter irony, and fondness for the table-turning declarative statement would have slotted neatly into the format. Yes, posthumous accounts exist, but by that definition both Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker are fervent twitterers. A still-extant Adams would have hopefully turned the service into a force for good and entertainment.

Nozlee Samadzadeh

Iranians have a special relationship with their classical poetry: from the most educated professor to the most isolated villager, the work of Saadi, Ferdowsi, Hafez, Rumi, et al., is as much part of the national consciousness in Iran as Super Bowl commercials are in ours. You also might remember the huge influx of Iranian Twitter users in last year’s political demonstrations in Tehran, when communication with the protesters was otherwise impossible. I’m going to skip over a few millennia of history and say this: Wouldn’t it be incredible if those Iranian poets appeared in our Twitter timelines? The verses are traditionally structured into tightly-bound double lines: perfect for, say, Ferdowsi to tweet the Book of Kings bit by bit. And I would give anything to see what Hafez would ecstatically tweet after a night at the tavern. Someone set up a Twitter bot to do this—just don’t tell me it’s not real.

Jessica Francis Kane

Graham Greene for the moral complexity he would have crammed into 140 characters. Like Louis CK, he would have had hundreds of thousands of followers and followed no one. Penelope Fitzgerald for the wry humor. “Frank’s affection for Moscow came over him at odd and inappropriate times and in undistinguished places.” Is that not a tweet? And I just opened The Beginning of Spring at random. Roald Dahl for the words he would have invented. If bad giants must eat “snozzcumbers,” imagine what he would have served Kanye West?


TMN’s Contributing Writers and staff meet annually on Long Island to swim, compare faces with headshots, and play Mafia. There is a smell of wine and cheap perfume. Beware the pan flute.

Lo importante es el camino que recorremos, las metas son apenas el resultado de ese recorrido. Llegar generalmente significa, volver a empezar!

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Gabriel Catalano

octubre 2010
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