Celebrities often receive strange and extravagant gifts from their loyal and enthusiastic fans. However, one of the most generous fan gifts in history was given to the Hollywood star, Charles Bronson. In 1996, a woman from Louisville decided to leave her entire $300,000 fortune to Bronson, her favorite actor, in a handwritten will.
According to the New York Post, Audrey Knauer passed away in 1997 at the age of 55, leaving behind an estate worth $300,000. However, in a surprising turn of events, it was discovered that she had willed her entire fortune to Charles Bronson, in a handwritten note.
The will hastily scribbled on the back of a list of emergency numbers, expressly stated that none of her fortune was to go to her family as she had originally intended. Rather, she wished her entire estate to go to her favorite actor, Charles Bronson, whom she had always admired.
According to E-Online, Knauer is said to have written, “Under no circumstances is my mother, Helen, to inherit anything from me – blood, body parts, financial assets, etc. I bequeath to Charles Bronson, the talented character actor, and what he doesn’t want, he can pass thru (sic) to the Louisville Free Public Library”.
Knauer had never met Bronson, but she was an avid watcher of his films and kept a collection of newspaper clippings that referenced him. She particularly enjoyed watching his Death Wish films, and regularly rented them from the Louisville Free Public Library.
After her death, a portion of Knauer’s estate went directly to Bronson. However, the will was later contested by her remaining family, represented by her sister, Nancy Koeper, when they realized the size of the bequest.
It was suggested that Knauer was not psychologically stable when she wrote the will bequeathing her estate to Bronson. Instead, the family presented an earlier document, signed and witnessed by Knauer in 1977, which they argued should supersede the handwritten will. In this earlier testament, Knauer had ordered that her estate was to be divided between her relatives upon her death.
Koeper argued that Knauer was incapable of taking the decision to leave all of her possessions to Bronson, suggesting that she was not in sound mind when she wrote the will. She suggested that Audrey was obsessed with Bronson, to the point of mania. She obsessively followed his movies and his public life, spending hours in the public library searching for information about him.
Koeper described her sister’s obsession as a search for a father figure, adding that Knauer had been attracted by the idea of Bronson as an avenging hero. Describing Knauer’s difficult life, she suggested that her fixation with Bronson was born out her own need to seek justice and revenge.
Koeper and Bronson were not, however, the only parties that stood to gain from Knauer’s unusual bequest. Her note stipulated that should Bronson not wish to keep the money, it should be donated to the Louisville Free Public Library.
Bronson had originally suggested that he was going to donate all of the money to the library. This would have constituted one of the largest gifts in the institution’s history.
Speaking to the New York Post, library director Craig Buthod noted that this would have a profound effect on the services the library was able to offer the local community. The bequest would allow them to buy 20,000 new books, or to keep the summer reading program going for several years.
Apparently, Bronson did offer the library $10,000, but they declined this offer, hoping that they would stand to gain much more in the event of a successful appeal. However, Bronson and Koeper eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, and the library ended up with nothing.
We will never know if Audrey Knauer was in fact of sound mind when she wrote her will bequeathing her estate to Bronson. However, this unusual case is an important reminder of the lengths some fans will go to in order to show their appreciation of their favorite celebrities.