Strange Remains

Human remains in the news, strange history of corpses, and odd things that happen to human bones. #forensicanthropology #bioarchaeology
www.strangeremains.com
The Case of the Sausage Vat Murder and the Dissolved Wife

On Diversey and Hermitage Avenue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is an industrial buildingthat was converted to condominiums in the 1990’s. Though this building is nondescript today, it was the site of a grisly murder at the end of the 19th century.
Adolph Luetgert (December 27, 1845 – July 7, 1899) was a tanner and butcher who moved from Germany in the early 1870’s.   Shortly after his first wife died, Luetgert married Louise Bicknese in 1878, a woman who was ten years his junior. On their wedding day, he gave Louise a gold ring that was inscribed with her new initials, L.L.
Luetgert opened a small sausage company in 1879 that became successful. In 1897 he opened the A.L. Sausage & Packing Company in a five-story plant on the southwest corner of Diversey and Hermitage. Next door to the sausage works, Luetgert built a three-story family home for Louise and their two sons, Elmer and Louis.

Unfortunately Adolph and Louise’s marriage was not a happy one and the world was about to find out what kind of monster lay inside Adolph Luetgert.
Adolph and Louise went on a walk the evening of May 1, 1897-this was the last time anyone saw Louise alive. On May 7th Adolph reported his wife missing but her family suspected foul play. Police questioned relatives and friends and searched the city for Louise Luetgert or her remains.
During a search of Luetgert’s factory on May 15th, a watchman suggested they look in a steam vat in the cellar that was used to dip sausages.  The police looked inside and found that the vat was filled halfway with a putrid smelling reddish-brown liquid. When the police pulled a plug near the bottom of the vat, on the outside, the slimy liquid and small pieces of bone fell out. Inside the cauldron police found a gold ring that had L.L. engraved on the inside. Near the vat investigators discovered a strand of hair, pieces of clothing, and half of a false tooth.
After police questioned some employees, investigators learned Luetgert had workers dump ashes from the smokehouse. When they examined the areas the factory workers indicated investigators found more bone and pieces of burned corset steel.
Luetgert was arrested shortly after these discoveries and was tried for Louise’s murder. The trial became a media sensation that drew reporters from thousands of miles away.
During the trial, friends and relatives of the Luetgert family testified that Adolph physically abused and cheated on Louise.  A smokehouse helper also testified that Luetgert ordered 378 pounds of potash on March 11th, and ordered employees to dump the chemical in the steam vat with water on April 24th. The same worker also stated that on Saturday May 1st, the day Louise disappeared, Luetgert turned on the steam line to the cauldron and boiled the mixture. The following Sunday and Monday factory workers unwittingly helped Luetgert clean up the rancid liquid that boiled over from the vat, which was either buried around the factory or burned in the smokehouse.
Adolph’s defense was that his wife went insane and ran away, the potash was used to make soap to clean the factory, and the bones found in the factory were animal. Without a body it would be difficult to confirm that Louise was dead. So the prosecution had to prove that the potash mixture could have been used to dispose of Louise’s body and the remains found in the vat could belong to her.
The prosecution determined that the potash mixture could dissolve a human body with a demonstration. With a real human cadaver and a cauldron filled with the potash formula Luetgert allegedly used, the prosecution was able to liquify the cadaver and got the same reddish-brown fluid.  The potash would have leached the calcium from Louise’s bones and liquefied the rest of her body.
George Dorsey, anthropologist and curator of the Field Museum, and some of his colleagues analyzed bone fragments recovered from the A.L. Sausage & Packing Company. Dorsey testified that the pebble-sized pieces of bone belonged to a human female.
The Luetgert murder trial was one of the first ones in which an anthropologist was called to testify as an expert witness. Today forensic anthropologists doubt that Dorsey could have determined whether or not the tiny pieces of bone were human, much less that they belonged to a female.  Though the jury and the reporters at the trial thought Dorsey’s testimony was convincing, it was the circumstantial evidence that swayed the jury.
The Luetgert marital discord and the presence of Louise’s wedding ring in the vat were damning. And Luetgert’s defense of using 378 pounds of potash to make soap to clean the factory was ridiculous because his mixture would have made about 2000lbs of soap.  This amount would have been enough to clean the factory a few times over and was more expensive than buying the soap over the counter.
Luetgert was eventually found guilty and was sent to Joliet State Penitentiary. He died on July 7, 1899, but maintained his innocence throughout his short incarceration.
There were a few urban legends that spread after the trial. The most gruesome was that Luetgert ground Louise’s body into sausage and sold it to his customers.   But the plant was not manufacturing sausage at the time of the murder so the presence of her body in the factory had nothing to do with sausage-making or accidental cannibalism. Despite this, the rumor was enough to cause sausage sales to plummet during the investigation and murder trial.
Eventually the neighborhood kids recited a rhyme about the gory tale:
Old man Luetgert made sausage out of his wife!
He turned on the steam,
His wife began to scream,
There`ll be a hot time in the old town tonight! 
There were also stories that the ghost of Louise Luetgert haunted the factory. A few years after the trial a watchman at the factory believed he saw Louise’s apparition.  Two detectives were sent to investigate this phenomenon when the watchman reported his paranormal experience to the police. The detectives allegedly witnessed mysterious lights and Louise’s ghost near the vat where her body was liquefied.  Though there doesn’t seem to be any recent experiences at the condos that are there now.
In 1907, the Luetgert home was moved to Diversey Boulevard near Paulina but no paranormal experiences have been reported.
References:
The sausage vat murder. (2014). Retrieved on August 31, 2014 from:http://www.domu.com/chicago/history-map/the-sausage-vat-murder
Joyce, C. and Stover, E. (1991). Witnesses from the grave: The stories bones tell. Boston, MA: Ballantine Books.
Loerzel, R. (2003). Alchemy of bones: Myths debunked. Retrieved on August 31, 2014 from:http://www.alchemyofbones.com/myths.htm
Loerzel, R. (2003). Alchemy of bones: Adolph Louis Luetgert. Retrieved on August 31, 2014 from:http://www.alchemyofbones.com/who/luetgertfamily/adolph.htm
Loerzel, R. (2011). In search of Mrs. Luetgert’s ghost. Retrieved on August 31, 2014 from:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-loerzel/in-search-of-mrs-luetgert_b_1063967.html
Maples, W.R. and Browning, M. (1995). Dead men do tell tales. New York, New York: Broadway Publishing.
 All photos courtesy of AlchemyofBones.com

The Case of the Sausage Vat Murder and the Dissolved Wife

On Diversey and Hermitage Avenue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is an industrial buildingthat was converted to condominiums in the 1990’s. Though this building is nondescript today, it was the site of a grisly murder at the end of the 19th century.

Adolph Luetgert (December 27, 1845 – July 7, 1899) was a tanner and butcher who moved from Germany in the early 1870’s.   Shortly after his first wife died, Luetgert married Louise Bicknese in 1878, a woman who was ten years his junior. On their wedding day, he gave Louise a gold ring that was inscribed with her new initials, L.L.

Luetgert opened a small sausage company in 1879 that became successful. In 1897 he opened the A.L. Sausage & Packing Company in a five-story plant on the southwest corner of Diversey and Hermitage. Next door to the sausage works, Luetgert built a three-story family home for Louise and their two sons, Elmer and Louis.

Unfortunately Adolph and Louise’s marriage was not a happy one and the world was about to find out what kind of monster lay inside Adolph Luetgert.

Adolph and Louise went on a walk the evening of May 1, 1897-this was the last time anyone saw Louise alive. On May 7th Adolph reported his wife missing but her family suspected foul play. Police questioned relatives and friends and searched the city for Louise Luetgert or her remains.

During a search of Luetgert’s factory on May 15th, a watchman suggested they look in a steam vat in the cellar that was used to dip sausages.  The police looked inside and found that the vat was filled halfway with a putrid smelling reddish-brown liquid. When the police pulled a plug near the bottom of the vat, on the outside, the slimy liquid and small pieces of bone fell out. Inside the cauldron police found a gold ring that had L.L. engraved on the inside. Near the vat investigators discovered a strand of hair, pieces of clothing, and half of a false tooth.

After police questioned some employees, investigators learned Luetgert had workers dump ashes from the smokehouse. When they examined the areas the factory workers indicated investigators found more bone and pieces of burned corset steel.

Luetgert was arrested shortly after these discoveries and was tried for Louise’s murder. The trial became a media sensation that drew reporters from thousands of miles away.

During the trial, friends and relatives of the Luetgert family testified that Adolph physically abused and cheated on Louise.  A smokehouse helper also testified that Luetgert ordered 378 pounds of potash on March 11th, and ordered employees to dump the chemical in the steam vat with water on April 24th. The same worker also stated that on Saturday May 1st, the day Louise disappeared, Luetgert turned on the steam line to the cauldron and boiled the mixture. The following Sunday and Monday factory workers unwittingly helped Luetgert clean up the rancid liquid that boiled over from the vat, which was either buried around the factory or burned in the smokehouse.

Adolph’s defense was that his wife went insane and ran away, the potash was used to make soap to clean the factory, and the bones found in the factory were animal. Without a body it would be difficult to confirm that Louise was dead. So the prosecution had to prove that the potash mixture could have been used to dispose of Louise’s body and the remains found in the vat could belong to her.

The prosecution determined that the potash mixture could dissolve a human body with a demonstration. With a real human cadaver and a cauldron filled with the potash formula Luetgert allegedly used, the prosecution was able to liquify the cadaver and got the same reddish-brown fluid.  The potash would have leached the calcium from Louise’s bones and liquefied the rest of her body.

George Dorsey, anthropologist and curator of the Field Museum, and some of his colleagues analyzed bone fragments recovered from the A.L. Sausage & Packing Company. Dorsey testified that the pebble-sized pieces of bone belonged to a human female.

The Luetgert murder trial was one of the first ones in which an anthropologist was called to testify as an expert witness. Today forensic anthropologists doubt that Dorsey could have determined whether or not the tiny pieces of bone were human, much less that they belonged to a female.  Though the jury and the reporters at the trial thought Dorsey’s testimony was convincing, it was the circumstantial evidence that swayed the jury.

The Luetgert marital discord and the presence of Louise’s wedding ring in the vat were damning. And Luetgert’s defense of using 378 pounds of potash to make soap to clean the factory was ridiculous because his mixture would have made about 2000lbs of soap.  This amount would have been enough to clean the factory a few times over and was more expensive than buying the soap over the counter.

Luetgert was eventually found guilty and was sent to Joliet State Penitentiary. He died on July 7, 1899, but maintained his innocence throughout his short incarceration.

There were a few urban legends that spread after the trial. The most gruesome was that Luetgert ground Louise’s body into sausage and sold it to his customers.   But the plant was not manufacturing sausage at the time of the murder so the presence of her body in the factory had nothing to do with sausage-making or accidental cannibalism. Despite this, the rumor was enough to cause sausage sales to plummet during the investigation and murder trial.

Eventually the neighborhood kids recited a rhyme about the gory tale:

Old man Luetgert made sausage out of his wife!

He turned on the steam,

His wife began to scream,

There`ll be a hot time in the old town tonight! 

There were also stories that the ghost of Louise Luetgert haunted the factory. A few years after the trial a watchman at the factory believed he saw Louise’s apparition.  Two detectives were sent to investigate this phenomenon when the watchman reported his paranormal experience to the police. The detectives allegedly witnessed mysterious lights and Louise’s ghost near the vat where her body was liquefied.  Though there doesn’t seem to be any recent experiences at the condos that are there now.

In 1907, the Luetgert home was moved to Diversey Boulevard near Paulina but no paranormal experiences have been reported.

References:

The sausage vat murder. (2014). Retrieved on August 31, 2014 from:http://www.domu.com/chicago/history-map/the-sausage-vat-murder

Joyce, C. and Stover, E. (1991). Witnesses from the grave: The stories bones tell. Boston, MA: Ballantine Books.

Loerzel, R. (2003). Alchemy of bones: Myths debunked. Retrieved on August 31, 2014 from:http://www.alchemyofbones.com/myths.htm

Loerzel, R. (2003). Alchemy of bones: Adolph Louis Luetgert. Retrieved on August 31, 2014 from:http://www.alchemyofbones.com/who/luetgertfamily/adolph.htm

Loerzel, R. (2011). In search of Mrs. Luetgert’s ghost. Retrieved on August 31, 2014 from:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-loerzel/in-search-of-mrs-luetgert_b_1063967.html

Maples, W.R. and Browning, M. (1995). Dead men do tell tales. New York, New York: Broadway Publishing.

 All photos courtesy of AlchemyofBones.com

dichotomized:

The ‘Pajama Girl’ Case - On 1 September 1934, the badly burnt body of a young woman, viciously battered about the head and wearing only pyjamas, was found in a road culvert in the township of Albury on the New South Wales-Victoria border in rural Australia. Although Sydney police reconstructed the dead woman’s features and made composite drawings of what she may have looked like in life the also took the extraordinary step of preserving the body in a formalin bath. During the next decade tens of thousands of people viewed the ghastly remains at the University of Sydney, and later Sydney police headquarters, before it was positively identified in 1944

dichotomized:

The ‘Pajama Girl’ Case - On 1 September 1934, the badly burnt body of a young woman, viciously battered about the head and wearing only pyjamas, was found in a road culvert in the township of Albury on the New South Wales-Victoria border in rural Australia. Although Sydney police reconstructed the dead woman’s features and made composite drawings of what she may have looked like in life the also took the extraordinary step of preserving the body in a formalin bath. During the next decade tens of thousands of people viewed the ghastly remains at the University of Sydney, and later Sydney police headquarters, before it was positively identified in 1944

Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Science in the News
Polish and Ukrainian scientists unearth 1,000 victims of Stalin in castle once used as secret police prison National Post
Polish and Ukrainian scientists have unearthed a mass grave containing up to 1,000 victims of Stalinist terror in a castle once used as a secret police prison. Read more at National Post
Medical examiner tries to solve mystery of bodies found at sea off Hollywood Sun Sentinel
If there is a solution to the mystery of the four unidentified bodies pulled from the sea off Hollywood beach on Sunday, it will likely come from a mix of science and good fortune. Read more at Sun Sentinel
Archaeology in the News
Museum to Display 6,500-Year-Old Human Skeleton ABC News
The public will soon get to see an ancient human skeleton recently rediscovered in a Philadelphia museum’s storage room. Visitors can look at the 6,500-year-old remains beginning Saturday at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Museum. Read more at ABC News
Medieval graves unearthed in Oslo NewsInEnglish.no
Archaeologists working in advance of a major railway expansion project in Oslo have unearthed around 100 skeletons from more graves found in the area around the city’s Middelalderparken, a park on the site of Oslo’s oldest area dating back to the Middle Ages. Read more atNewsInEnglish.no
The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets The Smithsonian (Via @DrKillgrove on Twitter)
In the summer of 1996, two college students in Kennewick, Washington, stumbled on a human skull while wading in the shallows along the Columbia River. They called the police. The police brought in the Benton County coroner, Floyd Johnson, who was puzzled by the skull, and he in turn contacted James Chatters, a local archaeologist. Chatters and the coroner returned to the site and, in the dying light of evening, plucked almost an entire skeleton from the mud and sand. They carried the bones back to Chatters’ lab and spread them out on a table. Read more at The Smithsonian
Mighty Siberian hero warrior reveals his secrets from almost 1,000 years ago The Siberian Times
The remains of the fearsome warrior – who towered some 25 centimetres over his peers – were unearthed by archeologists near Omsk in an ancient burial mound. Experts are intrigued by his death mask and the elaborate nature of his grave which indicates his importance. Read more atThe Siberian Times
Strange Stuff
Skull donation has APD looking for answers KXAN
Siberian Mummy Burial Row: Villagers Want Princess Ukok Reburied To Stop Natural Disasters International Business Times
‘Indiana Jones’ moment as Essex Egyptian sarcophagus found BBC
Archaeology: Bulgaria’s latest ‘vampire’ skeleton found in Plovdiv Sofia Globe
Man discovers underground structure while cleaning house in central Anatolia Hurriyet Daily News
Events and Museum Exhibits
BABAO Conference 2014 September 12th-14th, 2014 at Durham University Read more atDurham University Website
Skulls, a new exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences,May 16th – November 30th, 2014 California Academy of Sciences
Body of Knowledge: 
A History of Anatomy (in 3 Parts)
 at The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at Harvard Museums of Science and Culture until December 5th2014 Harvard University
Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination at the British Library Discover the UK’s biggest ever Gothic exhibition. 3 October 2014 – 20 January 2015 British Library
Header image: The tomb of Giovanni Battista Gisleni at the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Science in the News

Polish and Ukrainian scientists unearth 1,000 victims of Stalin in castle once used as secret police prison National Post

Polish and Ukrainian scientists have unearthed a mass grave containing up to 1,000 victims of Stalinist terror in a castle once used as a secret police prison. Read more at National Post

Medical examiner tries to solve mystery of bodies found at sea off Hollywood Sun Sentinel

If there is a solution to the mystery of the four unidentified bodies pulled from the sea off Hollywood beach on Sunday, it will likely come from a mix of science and good fortune. Read more at Sun Sentinel

Archaeology in the News

Museum to Display 6,500-Year-Old Human Skeleton ABC News

The public will soon get to see an ancient human skeleton recently rediscovered in a Philadelphia museum’s storage room. Visitors can look at the 6,500-year-old remains beginning Saturday at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Museum. Read more at ABC News

Medieval graves unearthed in Oslo NewsInEnglish.no

Archaeologists working in advance of a major railway expansion project in Oslo have unearthed around 100 skeletons from more graves found in the area around the city’s Middelalderparken, a park on the site of Oslo’s oldest area dating back to the Middle Ages. Read more atNewsInEnglish.no

The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets The Smithsonian (Via @DrKillgrove on Twitter)

In the summer of 1996, two college students in Kennewick, Washington, stumbled on a human skull while wading in the shallows along the Columbia River. They called the police. The police brought in the Benton County coroner, Floyd Johnson, who was puzzled by the skull, and he in turn contacted James Chatters, a local archaeologist. Chatters and the coroner returned to the site and, in the dying light of evening, plucked almost an entire skeleton from the mud and sand. They carried the bones back to Chatters’ lab and spread them out on a table. Read more at The Smithsonian

Mighty Siberian hero warrior reveals his secrets from almost 1,000 years ago The Siberian Times

The remains of the fearsome warrior – who towered some 25 centimetres over his peers – were unearthed by archeologists near Omsk in an ancient burial mound. Experts are intrigued by his death mask and the elaborate nature of his grave which indicates his importance. Read more atThe Siberian Times

Strange Stuff

Skull donation has APD looking for answers KXAN

Siberian Mummy Burial Row: Villagers Want Princess Ukok Reburied To Stop Natural Disasters International Business Times

‘Indiana Jones’ moment as Essex Egyptian sarcophagus found BBC

Archaeology: Bulgaria’s latest ‘vampire’ skeleton found in Plovdiv Sofia Globe

Man discovers underground structure while cleaning house in central Anatolia Hurriyet Daily News

Events and Museum Exhibits

BABAO Conference 2014 September 12th-14th, 2014 at Durham University Read more atDurham University Website

Skulls, a new exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences,
May 16th – November 30th, 2014 California Academy of Sciences

Body of Knowledge: 
A History of Anatomy (in 3 Parts)
 at The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at Harvard Museums of Science and Culture until December 5th2014 Harvard University

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination at the British Library Discover the UK’s biggest ever Gothic exhibition. 3 October 2014 – 20 January 2015 British Library

Header image: The tomb of Giovanni Battista Gisleni at the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. Image Credit: Wikipedia

zacharielaughingalonewithsalad:

cellarspider:

twinkletwinkleyoulittlefuck:

purrsianstuck:

During the Bubonic Plague, doctors wore these bird-like masks to avoid becoming sick. They would fill the beaks with spices and rose petals, so they wouldn’t have to smell the rotting bodies. 

A theory during the Bubonic Plague was that the plague was caused by evil spirits. To scare the spirits away, the masks were intentionally designed to be creepy. 

Mission fucking accomplished

Okay so I love this but it doesn’t cover the half of why the design is awesome and actually borders on making sense.

It wasn’t just that they didn’t want to smell the infected and dead, they thought it was crucial to protecting themselves. They had no way of knowing about what actually caused the plague, and so one of the other theories was that the smell of the infected all by itself was evil and could transmit the plague. So not only would they fill their masks with aromatic herbs and flowers, they would also burn fires in public areas, so that the smell of the smoke would “clear the air”. This all related to the miasma theory of contagion, which was one of the major theories out there until the 19th century. And it makes sense, in a way. Plague victims smelled awful, and there’s a general correlation between horrible septic smells and getting horribly sick if you’re around what causes them for too long.

You can see now that we’ve got two different theories as to what caused the plague that were worked into the design. That’s because the whole thing was an attempt by the doctors to cover as many bases as they could think of, and we’re still not done.

The glass eyepieces. They were either darkened or red, not something you generally want to have to contend with when examining patients. But the plague might be spread by eye contact via the evil eye, so best to ward that off too.

The illustration shows a doctor holding a stick. This was an examination tool, that helped the doctors keep some distance between themselves and the infected. They already had gloves on, but the extra level of separation was apparently deemed necessary. You could even take a pulse with it. Or keep people the fuck away from you, which was apparently a documented use.

Finally, the robe. It’s not just to look fancy, the cloth was waxed, as were all of the rest of their clothes. What’s one of the properties of wax? Water-based fluids aren’t absorbed by it. This was the closest you could get to a sterile, fully protecting garment back then. Because at least one person along the line was smart enough to think “Gee, I’d really rather not have the stuff coming out of those weeping sores anywhere on my person”.

So between all of these there’s a real sense that a lot of real thought was put into making sure the doctors were protected, even if they couldn’t exactly be sure from what. They worked with what information they had. And frankly, it’s a great design given what was available! You limit exposure to aspirated liquids, limit exposure to contaminated liquids already present, you limit contact with the infected. You also don’t give fleas any really good place to hop onto. That’s actually useful.

Beyond that, there were contracts the doctors would sign before they even got near a patient. They were to be under quarantine themselves, they wouldn’t treat patients without a custodian monitoring them and helping when something had to be physically contacted, and they would not treat non-plague patients for the duration. There was an actual system in place by the time the plague doctors really became a thing to make sure they didn’t infect anyone either.

These guys were the product of the scientific process at work, and the scientific process made a bitchin’ proto-hazmat suit. And containment protocols!

reblogging for the sweet history lesson

(via science5life)

Parisian Awe-ssuary – The Bone-Filled Catacombs Underneath the City of Lights 
The Catacombs of Paris are a series of underground ossuaries that run for about 280km, or 170 miles.  The anonymous bones of the Catacombs are comingled in intricate patterns to form walls, columns, and artistic sculptures.  All of the bones from this monument came from local cemeteries in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The area in and around Paris has been permanently occupied since the Roman era.  When Paris was part of the Roman Empire, people buried their dead on the outskirts of the city.  Parisians changed to internments in consecrated burial grounds within the city after the rise of Christianity.
Cimetière des Innocents, or the Cemetery of the Innocents, was the oldest of these church graveyards.  The corpses from eighteen parishes, two hospitals, and the city morgue were all buried here.  By the 14th century, charneling on cemetery grounds became necessary because of the high density of bodies.  Eventually corpses were stacked on top of each other for meters underground and others had to be interred in mass graves.
The problem became so bad in the 18th century, after ten centuries of burials and decay, that bodies could no longer skeletonize in the soil.  Many of corpses saponified in the ground or putrified in huge holes that produced a rotting smell.  The cemetery became a health hazard because it was a source of disease and infection.
In 1785, the city prohibited further burials at the Cemetery of the Innocents and appointed a commission to find the best plan to remove the estimated two million remains buried there.  The commission decided that the abandoned quarries beneath Paris were the best place to entomb the bones.  The project had the added benefit of reinforcing the unstable mines, which had a nasty habit of collapsing and bringing down houses.
On April 7th 1786, a part of the tunnel system was consecrated and the long process of transferring the bones to the deserted mine was started.  The remains were moved by processions at night in black-draped carts and wagons that were led by chanting clergy.  After fifteen months, all of the bones from the Cemetery of Innocents were interned in the Catacombs.  The project was so successful that city officials repeated this effort with other local burial grounds.   When work was completed in the 1880’s, there were bones from an estimated six million bodies in the Catacombs.
The remains were left piled in unorganized heaps until 1810, when Napoleon authorized the General Inspector of the Quarries, Héricart de Thury, to renovate the Catacombs.  De Thury had the workers build artistic facades made of skulls and long bones behind which piles of the remaining bones were placed.

The Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp (above) and the Rotonde des Tibias are some of the Catacomb’s most famous skull-ptures.  The Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp, the first monument built in the catacombs, is in the Place de Saint-Laurent where the bones from the Saint-Laurent Cemetery were arranged.  The Sepulchral Lamp was originally used by the quarrymen for light and airflow but de Thury kept it as a centerpiece for this chamber.  The Rotonde des Tibias is a huge column constructed out of skulls, tibiae, and femora is in the final section of the walking tour.
There are over 200 entrances to the Catacombs because of its history as a mine, but there is only one “official” entrance, located at 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy – 75014 Paris.  Because there is too many entry points for security to monitor at all times, people are able to sneak in regularly.
The cavers who illegally explore the Catacombs are called cataphiles.  These people spends hundreds and thousands of hours down in the intricate cave system, some become so familiar with the tunnels that they don’t need maps.  Many of these urban explorers are dedicated filmmakers, artists, and writers with good intentions, but there are a few people who sneak in and are destructive.  In fact, the Catacombs have been shut down a few times over the years because of vandalism.
The Catacombs are open daily from 10am to 5pm, except Mondays and public holidays. But get there early because wait times are estimated to between three and four hours.
References:
Koudounaris, P. (2011).  The Empire of Death.  New York, NY: Thames and Hudson.
Ubelaker, D.H. Zarenk, K.M. (2010).  Adipocere: What is known after two centuries of Research. Forensic Science International. 2008 (2011): 167-172. Retrieved from: http://pawsoflife-org.k9handleracademy.com/Library/HRD/Ubelaker_2011.pdf

Parisian Awe-ssuary – The Bone-Filled Catacombs Underneath the City of Lights 

The Catacombs of Paris are a series of underground ossuaries that run for about 280km, or 170 miles.  The anonymous bones of the Catacombs are comingled in intricate patterns to form walls, columns, and artistic sculptures.  All of the bones from this monument came from local cemeteries in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The area in and around Paris has been permanently occupied since the Roman era.  When Paris was part of the Roman Empire, people buried their dead on the outskirts of the city.  Parisians changed to internments in consecrated burial grounds within the city after the rise of Christianity.

Cimetière des Innocents, or the Cemetery of the Innocents, was the oldest of these church graveyards.  The corpses from eighteen parishes, two hospitals, and the city morgue were all buried here.  By the 14th century, charneling on cemetery grounds became necessary because of the high density of bodies.  Eventually corpses were stacked on top of each other for meters underground and others had to be interred in mass graves.

The problem became so bad in the 18th century, after ten centuries of burials and decay, that bodies could no longer skeletonize in the soil.  Many of corpses saponified in the ground or putrified in huge holes that produced a rotting smell.  The cemetery became a health hazard because it was a source of disease and infection.

In 1785, the city prohibited further burials at the Cemetery of the Innocents and appointed a commission to find the best plan to remove the estimated two million remains buried there.  The commission decided that the abandoned quarries beneath Paris were the best place to entomb the bones.  The project had the added benefit of reinforcing the unstable mines, which had a nasty habit of collapsing and bringing down houses.

On April 7th 1786, a part of the tunnel system was consecrated and the long process of transferring the bones to the deserted mine was started.  The remains were moved by processions at night in black-draped carts and wagons that were led by chanting clergy.  After fifteen months, all of the bones from the Cemetery of Innocents were interned in the Catacombs.  The project was so successful that city officials repeated this effort with other local burial grounds.   When work was completed in the 1880’s, there were bones from an estimated six million bodies in the Catacombs.

The remains were left piled in unorganized heaps until 1810, when Napoleon authorized the General Inspector of the Quarries, Héricart de Thury, to renovate the Catacombs.  De Thury had the workers build artistic facades made of skulls and long bones behind which piles of the remaining bones were placed.

The Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp (above) and the Rotonde des Tibias are some of the Catacomb’s most famous skull-ptures.  The Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp, the first monument built in the catacombs, is in the Place de Saint-Laurent where the bones from the Saint-Laurent Cemetery were arranged.  The Sepulchral Lamp was originally used by the quarrymen for light and airflow but de Thury kept it as a centerpiece for this chamber.  The Rotonde des Tibias is a huge column constructed out of skulls, tibiae, and femora is in the final section of the walking tour.

There are over 200 entrances to the Catacombs because of its history as a mine, but there is only one “official” entrance, located at 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy – 75014 Paris.  Because there is too many entry points for security to monitor at all times, people are able to sneak in regularly.

The cavers who illegally explore the Catacombs are called cataphiles.  These people spends hundreds and thousands of hours down in the intricate cave system, some become so familiar with the tunnels that they don’t need maps.  Many of these urban explorers are dedicated filmmakers, artists, and writers with good intentions, but there are a few people who sneak in and are destructive.  In fact, the Catacombs have been shut down a few times over the years because of vandalism.

The Catacombs are open daily from 10am to 5pm, except Mondays and public holidays. But get there early because wait times are estimated to between three and four hours.

References:

Koudounaris, P. (2011).  The Empire of Death.  New York, NY: Thames and Hudson.

Ubelaker, D.H. Zarenk, K.M. (2010).  Adipocere: What is known after two centuries of Research. Forensic Science International. 2008 (2011): 167-172. Retrieved from: http://pawsoflife-org.k9handleracademy.com/Library/HRD/Ubelaker_2011.pdf

(Source: commons.wikimedia.org)