Marie-Josephte Corriveau became a legend in Quebec. She was executed for murdering her husband in 1763, and the tales grew from there. She was a witch. She was descended from a long line of poisoners. She killed seven husbands. The stories took on a folk tale quality, but there was a real Marie-Josephte, and she became famous due to the horrific way her dead body was publicly displayed, as a warning to citizens in the young nation that was then called New France.
They sentenced Marie not only to hang, but for her body to be gruesomely displayed in a metal gibbet as a warning. She was hanged in April of 1763, and her body was placed on public display for about five weeks in nearby Pointe Lévis.
“They wanted to give an advertisement to the population with this hanging in the cage,” says Toupin. “It was unusual because this tradition didn’t exist anymore in France, but the British still used it, so it was a new thing for us, and for us an important political symbol. It’s still in our memory, because what they did was unfair.” Corriveau’s extreme sentence, both shocking and cruel, cemented her story in the local history and culture.
Eventually Corriveau’s body, metal gibbet and all, were taken down and buried in an unmarked grave in a Pointe-Lévis churchyard. And for almost 100 years, that’s where she stayed, her story slowly taking on mythic dimensions.
Only the gibbet, a metal body enclosure, remained when Corriveau’s grave was found by accident in 1851. The artifact traveled more than Corriveau ever did. Read the story of Marie-Josephte Corriveau at Atlas Obscura.