Since exhumations are all the rage right now, I thought I’d share my favorite: Elizabeth Siddal, artist and model to the Pre-Raphaelites.Siddal died of a laudanum overdose at the age of 32 in 1862 in London. Her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, left a journal containing the only copies of many of his poems in her coffin, tucking it away in her famous red hair.
Rossetti, drug- and alcohol-addled by the end of the 1860s, became obsessed with retrieving those poems so that he could publish them. Or, it seems, Rossetti’s agent, the slightly (or totally) shady Charles Augustus Howell, became obsessed with this. In any case, Howell exhumed her coffin in the middle of the night at Highgate Cemetery. Howell reported back to Rossetti that she was remarkably well preserved and still beautiful. Whether this was actually true or not, the manuscript didn’t make it out so well preserved. A worm had burrowed through the entire book, leaving behind a big old wormhole.
More here and here.
Image: Siddal as “Ophelia,” by John Everett Millais, 1852, via Wikipedia/Google Art Project.

Since exhumations are all the rage right now, I thought I’d share my favorite: Elizabeth Siddal, artist and model to the Pre-Raphaelites.

Siddal died of a laudanum overdose at the age of 32 in 1862 in London. Her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, left a journal containing the only copies of many of his poems in her coffin, tucking it away in her famous red hair.

Rossetti, drug- and alcohol-addled by the end of the 1860s, became obsessed with retrieving those poems so that he could publish them. Or, it seems, Rossetti’s agent, the slightly (or totally) shady Charles Augustus Howell, became obsessed with this. In any case, Howell exhumed her coffin in the middle of the night at Highgate Cemetery. 

Howell reported back to Rossetti that she was remarkably well preserved and still beautiful. Whether this was actually true or not, the manuscript didn’t make it out so well preserved. A worm had burrowed through the entire book, leaving behind a big old wormhole.

More here and here.

Image: Siddal as “Ophelia,” by John Everett Millais, 1852, via Wikipedia/Google Art Project.

Smithsonian.com: The Great New England Vampire Panic

Exhumations! Shenanigans! Connecticut! Read all about it:

Children playing near a hillside gravel mine found the first graves. One ran home to tell his mother, who was skeptical at first—until the boy produced a skull.

Because this was Griswold, Connecticut, in 1990, police initially thought the burials might be the work of a local serial killer named Michael Ross, and they taped off the area as a crime scene. But the brown, decaying bones turned out to be more than a century old. The Connecticut state archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni, soon determined that the hillside contained a colonial-era farm cemetery. New England is full of such unmarked family plots, and the 29 burials were typical of the 1700s and early 1800s: The dead, many of them children, were laid to rest in thrifty Yankee style, in simple wood coffins, without jewelry or even much clothing, their arms resting by their sides or crossed over their chests.

Except, that is, for Burial Number 4.

Read more. Via Powered by Osteons.

The Great New England Vampire Panic

Photo by Landon Nordeman, Smithsonian.com.

ellamorte:

In Colon Cemetery in Havana, Cuba is the site of the celebrated ‘boneyard’. A single grave in the cemetery cost $10 in rent for five years. At the end of the five years, if the remains were not claimed, the bones were thrown into the boneyard, (sometimes known as ‘bone pile’) by the cemetery authorities.

ellamorte:

In Colon Cemetery in Havana, Cuba is the site of the celebrated ‘boneyard’. A single grave in the cemetery cost $10 in rent for five years. At the end of the five years, if the remains were not claimed, the bones were thrown into the boneyard, (sometimes known as ‘bone pile’) by the cemetery authorities.

Saint Hubert

Saint Hubert (ca. 656 - 727), the first Bishop of Liège (in present-day Belgium), is the patron saint of hunters, archers, dogs, forest workers, trappers, mathematicians, opticians, metalworkers, and smelters. He was venerated widely during the Middle Ages. 

The National Gallery in London recounts the legend of his exhumation:

The body of Saint Hubert … was exhumed in 825 from St Peter’s in Liège, a church he founded, and moved to the Abbey of Andagium, St-Hubert-des-Ardennes. Though long dead, his body was undecayed, proving his sainthood to the figures gathered to watch. 

The Abbey of Andagium became a popular pilgrimage site, but the saint’s remains disappeared during the Reformation.

Sidenote One: Saint Hubert—like another patron saint of hunters, Saint Eustace—has traditionally been associated with the image of a deer with a cross between its antlers. His conversion legend has it that after his wife died in childbirth, Hubert retreated to the Ardennes and devoted himself entirely to hunting. From Wikipedia

On Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell.” 

The Saint Hubert deer might look familiar. It appears here:

Sidenote Two: Up until the early twentieth century, folks invoked Saint Hubert to cure rabies, using a metal tool known as a “Saint Hubert’s Key”:

From the Science Museum in London (where this specimen resides):  

[Saint Hubert’s Keys] took the form of a bar, nail or cross that was either carried or attached to a wall of a home for added protection. A priest would prick the forehead of a person with rabies and a black bandage would be applied for nine days while the heated key was placed on the body where the bite had occurred. This could actually help because if the heated key was applied immediately it could cauterise and sterilize the wound, effectively killing the rabies virus.

Images, top to bottom:

  • "The Exhumation of Saint Hubert" by Rogier Van der Weyden and workshop, late 1430s, via Wikipedia.
  • Jägermeister bottle, via Wikipedia
  • Saint Hubert’s Key, Belgium, ca. 1880-1920, from the Science Museum (London).
I had no idea JFK was exhumed and reburied.
life:

Five decades later, the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the few utterly signal events from the second half of the 20th century. Other moments — some thrilling (the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), others horrifying (the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Challenger explosion) — have secured their places in the history books and, even more indelibly, in the memories of those who witnessed them. But nothing in the latter part of “the American century” defined an era as profoundly as those rifle shots that split the warm Dallas air on November 22, 1963, and the sudden death of the 46-year-old president.
Here, on the 45th anniversary of JFK’s March 1967 reinterment, when his remains were moved from his initial resting place to the permanent grave site and memorial at Arlington, LIFE.com offers a gallery of photographs (some of them never before published) from the deeply fraught funeral held mere days after Kennedy was killed.
While both ceremonies — the state funeral in ’63, and the reinterment three-and-a-half years later — were marked by sorrow, the rawness of the emotion evident in 1963 is still striking, and rending, today.

I had no idea JFK was exhumed and reburied.

life:

Five decades later, the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the few utterly signal events from the second half of the 20th century. Other moments — some thrilling (the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), others horrifying (the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Challenger explosion) — have secured their places in the history books and, even more indelibly, in the memories of those who witnessed them. But nothing in the latter part of “the American century” defined an era as profoundly as those rifle shots that split the warm Dallas air on November 22, 1963, and the sudden death of the 46-year-old president.

Here, on the 45th anniversary of JFK’s March 1967 reinterment, when his remains were moved from his initial resting place to the permanent grave site and memorial at Arlington, LIFE.com offers a gallery of photographs (some of them never before published) from the deeply fraught funeral held mere days after Kennedy was killed.

While both ceremonies — the state funeral in ’63, and the reinterment three-and-a-half years later — were marked by sorrow, the rawness of the emotion evident in 1963 is still striking, and rending, today.

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice: The Body-Snatchers Unearthed

Remember my recent posts about the rise of body-snatching in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the preventative measures folks took to protect their dead?

The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice has given the subject a much more detailed (and well-researched) treatment over on her site.

From what little records exist, we know that body-snatchers required some level of moonlight in order to conduct their work in cemeteries, although not all bodies were obtained through exhumation. The clothes and burial shroud were sometimes removed, for stealing a body on its own was not considered theft since it had no value as property.

Read the whole article.

museumsandstuff:


In this July 10, 2009 file photo, the original glass-topped coffin of lynching victim Emmett Till is seen rusting in a shack at the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Ill., after it was found by investigators at the cemetery where four workers were accused of digging up bodies to resell plots. On Aug. 28, 2009, officials from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and members of Till’s family announced the casket’s donation to the museum’s planned National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington when it opens in 2015. M. Spencer Green/AP

The groundbreaking for the the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC will take place soon. The Washington Post has slideshow on their homepage showing the plans and several of the objects in the collection, accompanied by commentary like that above. It does seem to wander off into other museums on the Mall after photo 15 or so. 

museumsandstuff:

In this July 10, 2009 file photo, the original glass-topped coffin of lynching victim Emmett Till is seen rusting in a shack at the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Ill., after it was found by investigators at the cemetery where four workers were accused of digging up bodies to resell plots. On Aug. 28, 2009, officials from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and members of Till’s family announced the casket’s donation to the museum’s planned National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington when it opens in 2015. M. Spencer Green/AP

The groundbreaking for the the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC will take place soon. The Washington Post has slideshow on their homepage showing the plans and several of the objects in the collection, accompanied by commentary like that above. It does seem to wander off into other museums on the Mall after photo 15 or so. 

(Source: museumsandstuff)

'The Diary of a Resurrectionist'

Remember those “Resurrection Men” I mentioned yesterday? Some of them kept diaries.

gunhilde:

Full Text available from the Internet Archive

What follows is a fairly typical week, taken from December, 1811. Note that a ‘small’ refers to the cadaver of a child. Adults were paid for by surgeons and anatomists on an individual basis, with rare medical conditions fetching a premium. Children were paid for by the inch.

Sunday 8th. At home all night.

Monday 9th. At night went out and got 4 at Bethnall Green

Tuesday 10th. Intoxsicated all day : at night went out & got 5 Bunhill Row. Jack all most buried.

Wednesday 11th. Tom & Bill and me removed 5 from St. Bartholw., 2 Wilson, 2 Brookes, 1 Bell ; in the evening got 1 Harps, went to St. Thomas’, at home all night.

Thursday 12th. I went up to Brookes and Wilson, afterwards me Bill and Daniel went to Bethnall Green, got 2 ; Jack, Ben went got 2 large & 1 small back St. Luke’s, came home, afterwards met again & went to Bunhill row got 6, 1 of them with ———- named Mary Rolph, aged 46, Died 5th Dec. 1811.

Friday 13th. At Home all day & night.

Saturday 14th. Went to Bartholomew tookd. two Brookes : Packd 4 and sent them to Edinborough, came Home to Benn., settled £14 6s. 2 1/2d. each man, came home, got up at 2 me Jack & Bill went to Bunhill Row and got 3. Ben & Daniel staid at home.

Hail To The Veep: America's Executive Underdog

From NPR, a look at the often overlooked: America’s vice presidents. Particularly this tidbit:

Jefferson’s second vice president was New York Gov. George Clinton. (Incidentally, New York has given the country more vice presidents than any other state.) Clinton was memorialized with a bridge over the Hudson River — at least kind of. It’s called the George Clinton Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, but according to the Rev. Kenneth Walsh of the Old Dutch Church in Kingston, N.Y., “Most people call it the Rhinecliff Bridge.”

Clinton is buried in the Old Dutch Church’s cemetery. Well, first he was buried in Washington, then he was reinterred in Walsh’s graveyard.

"When he was buried here in 1909, it was with great ceremony," Walsh says. "There are actually photographs of people standing next to his skeleton — rather gruesome."

Sadly, I wasn’t able to get any additional details about George Clinton’s public exhumation.

malformalady:

Casket unearthed by Katrina flood waters.

malformalady:

Casket unearthed by Katrina flood waters.

Oft have I digg’d up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends’ door,
Even when their sorrows almost was forgot,
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.’

Exhumation

deathlydame:

The digging up of a buried body is called exhumation, and is considered sacrilege by most cultures that bury their dead. However, there is often a number of circumstances in which exhumation is tolerated:

  • If an individual died under suspicious circumstances, a legitimate investigating agency (such as a police agency) may exhume the body to determine the cause of death.
  • A body may be exhumed so that it may be reburied elsewhere.

Once human remains reach a certain age, many cultures consider the remains to have no communal provenance, making exhumation acceptable. This serves several purposes:

  • Many cemeteries have a limited number of plots in which to bury the dead. Once all plots are full, older remains are typically moved to an ossuary to accommodate more bodies.
  • It enables archaeologists to search for human remains in order to better understand human culture.
  • It enables construction agencies to clear the way for new infrastructure.

Frequently, cultures have different sets of exhumation taboos. Occasionally these differences result in conflict, especially in cases where a culture with more lenient exhumation rules wishes to operate on the territory of a stricter culture. For example, United States construction companies have run into conflict with Native American groups that wanted to preserve their ancient burial grounds from any form of modern construction.

Rituals

In folklore and mythology, exhumation has also been frequently associated with the performance of rites to banish undead manifestations. An example is the Mercy Brown Vampire Incident of Rhode Island, which occurred in 1892.

Excarnation

Excarnation consists of exhumating the remnants to give them to animals. It was probably part of the bronze age death rites. Dogs and other scavengers gnawed on human corpses, reducing most of the bones to small fragments in the process.

Since ancient times, Zoroastrians have disposed of their dead by leaving the corpses in the open air, to be devoured by carnivorous birds and beasts. The Towers of Silence (Doongerwadi) have existed in Bombay since 1673. In modern Bombay there can be no beasts, but the vultures remain, ready to swoop down at the appointed times for their daily meals.

Secondary death rituals

In these rites, the body is treated one way and additional remains are treated another. For example, in modern, rural, south China, the corpse is buried with ceremony. After enough time has passed for the flesh to decompose, the bones are exhumed, cleansed, ritualized again then reburied.

It is suggested that dual rituals serve dual purposes with the specific purposes varying among cultures. When considering the dual rituals of contemporary Western cremations, it may be that one ritual addresses “community or family problems of social reintegration and the other resolves personal problems of bereavement.

(Source: deardeath.com)

Quigley's Cabinet: Portrait Sitter

A full week after her death, a French woman was exhumed so that her husband could kiss her again and have a cast taken of her face.

theholyprepuce:

“Padre Pio - Inversion du sens genital”
Luca del Baldo - 2007
So intense was Padre Pio during Mass that many claimed his face transfigured into that of Christ. Unfortunately, when his body was dug up to be put on display after he was declared a saint, he no longer had a face. Traditionally, the bodies of saints are incorruptible, but Padre Pio was so decomposed that the Vatican had to hire GEMS, a London company that does figures for wax museums to create a special silicon mask for him.
Pilgrims can now view the body in a huge specially built church, and then purchase replicas of the famous half gloves that Pio used to cover his stigmata for a mere $8. Padre Pio snow globes cost only $4.75.

theholyprepuce:

“Padre Pio - Inversion du sens genital”

Luca del Baldo - 2007

So intense was Padre Pio during Mass that many claimed his face transfigured into that of Christ. Unfortunately, when his body was dug up to be put on display after he was declared a saint, he no longer had a face. Traditionally, the bodies of saints are incorruptible, but Padre Pio was so decomposed that the Vatican had to hire GEMS, a London company that does figures for wax museums to create a special silicon mask for him.

Pilgrims can now view the body in a huge specially built church, and then purchase replicas of the famous half gloves that Pio used to cover his stigmata for a mere $8. Padre Pio snow globes cost only $4.75.

Skeletons, mummies, bog bodies, exhumations. The dead, and what happens to them.

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