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Poor James Smithson’s Restless Corpse

The picture above is of William Henry Bishop, US Consul in Genoa Italy in 1904, holding the skull of James Smithson. Smithson was the English scientist whose fortune was beaqueathed to the US to found the Smithsonian Institution. We posted about that bequest last year. But Smithson's story didn’t end with the Institution; even his body couldn’t rest in peace. Smithson was buried in Genoa, Italy, in 1829. Around the turn of the 20th century, the cemetery was slated to be demolished. Alexander Graham Bell lobbied to have Smithson’s body brought to the US, and he went to Italy to fetch him in 1904. Smithson’s remains were interred at the Institution. But strange sightings were attributed to Smithson’s ghost in the many years since, and in 1973, a museum curator decided to open up the coffin and check on the corpse. As if Smithson’s tale wasn’t strange enough, that’s when things got weird. The blog BizarreVictoria has the rest of the story.

Okay, right, are you guys ready for this to get worse?

So, we have Smithson’s monument all mangled to shit, his casket broken open, his 150-year old skeleton exposed to all and sundry, and now everything is ON FIRE.

Then, “He didn’t want them to ruin the silk by using an extinguisher so he told them to fill their mouths with water and come back to spray it down. So they did it.”

The silk is already ruined. It’s on fire. And if you, A CURATOR, were so concerned with preservation, why did you have random workmen bust open a sealed relic with improper tools, without any authorization to do so?

And now, to cap things off, a whole group of people are just spitting on James Smithson. Congratulations. This might be the worst thing I’ve ever written about on this blog.

You can read the whole account at BizarreVictoria. Oh, it’s all true. I checked around.  

(Image credit: Smithsonian Institution)


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