‘Deathbed Confessions’ Podcast Explores Infamous Last Words

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deathbed-confessions-podcast - Credit: Bettman Archive/Getty Images; Everett Collection
deathbed-confessions-podcast - Credit: Bettman Archive/Getty Images; Everett Collection

Early on a February morning in 1922, silent film director William Desmond Taylor was found dead from a gunshot wound in his apartment in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. The murder, which remains unsolved, became a national scandal in an already depraved era of the movie industry. At least four people reportedly confessed to the killing over the years, including the actress Margaret Gibson. Her claims came decades later, in October 1964, at her home in the Hollywood Hills. Gibson, dying of a heart attack, cried out for a priest and announced, “I killed William Desmond Taylor.”

This is the starting point for a new Spotify Original podcast, Deathbed Confessions, produced by Parcast in partnership with Noiser, and written by journalist Addison Nugent. The weekly series debuted July 21st with part one of three on Gibson, and covers some of the most notorious dying words throughout pop culture history.

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Narrator Estefania Hageman tells not just the stories of Taylor’s murder and Gibson’s confession, but of the increasingly powerful film industry at the time, when Hollywood movie studios were known to cover up scandals — from opium addictions to suicides — in the hopes of avoiding being censored. In this context, she probes whether Gibson might have done what she claimed. “Who exactly was Margaret Gibson?” Hageman asks on the first episode. “What was she hiding? Was she responsible for one of the most notorious murders in Hollywood history?”

Future episodes will cover Frank Thorogood, the building contractor who claimed he murdered the Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones, who was thought to have drowned accidentally in a swimming pool; and the conspiracy surrounding CIA Agent E. Howard Hunt, who claimed, while sick, that he and several others had played a role in JFK’s assassination.

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