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Κυριακή, 3 Φεβρουαρίου 2013

Top 10 Famous Stolen Body Parts

Remains of Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, the greatest pamphleteer in history, a hero of both the American and French revolutions and allegedly the first person to write the words "the United States of America," died a penniless drunk in Manhattan. Only six people attended his funeral, and a popular nursery rhyme at the time of his death went:
Poor Tom Paine! There he lies:
Nobody laughs and nobody cries
Where he has gone or how he fares
Nobody knows and nobody cares
Even after death, Paine couldn't catch a break. Some ten years later, overzealous journalist and Paine fan William Cobbett, exhumed Paine's body and shipped it to England where he hoped to build a proper memorial. Cobbett couldn't raise the money needed, so Paine remained in a trunk in his attic. After Cobbett's death, Paine's remains disappeared. Legend has it that his bones were turned into buttons, though in the 1930s, one woman in Brighton claimed to have his jawbone. Poor Tom Paine!
Napoleon's Penis
People have been fixated on Napoleon's penis since Napoleon's doctor allegedly cut it off during his autopsy in 1821 and gave it to a priest in Corsica. The penis, which was not properly preserved, has been compared over the years to a piece of leather, a shriveled eel and to beef jerky. In 1927 when it went on display in Manhattan, TIME weighed in, comparing it to a "maltreated strip of buckskin shoelace." It's enough to give anyone a complex! In 1977, a urologist living in New Jersey purchased the modern-day relic for $3,000 and stored it under his bed until he died 30 years later. His daughter inherited Napoleon's penis and has fielded at least one $100,000 offer.

 Benito Mussolini's Brain

 In 1966, twenty-one years after Benito Mussolini was executed, America gave part of the former Italian dictator's brain back to his widow. In Rachele Mussolini's memoir, she writes that, to her horror, she discovered Americans had "taken away half of his brain," explaining that the Americans must have "wanted to know what makes a dictator." It turns out the U.S. government had requested a sample of Il Duce's brain ostensibly to study it, but also as a macabre trophy. Forty-three years later, Mussolini's granddaughter Alessandro tipped off police that someone was selling glass vials alleged to hold the remaining brains and blood of Mussolini on eBay for 15,000 Euros. eBay promptly removed the listing. 


Anne Boleyn's Heart

 Henry VIII ripped England away from Catholicism to divorce his first wife and marry the witty and sophisticated Anne Boleyn. But Henry, desperate for a male heir, thought the marriage cursed after Anne produced only a daughter and multiple miscarriages. The king accused her of having affairs with commoners and even her own brother. Anne Boleyn was soon arrested and beheaded at the Tower of London in 1536, and legend has it that on the orders of King Henry, her heart was torn out. Allegedly, Henry secretly kept it in a heart-shaped casket in a church alcove in Suffolk, until it was rediscovered in 1836 and reburied underneath the church's organ. 


Geronimo's Skull

 It's a strange fate that the bones of one of America's most fearful enemies have come to define one of its most hallowed institutions of power. The Apache warlord Geronimo, part-guerrilla, part-shaman, launched raids across the Southwest and harried and evaded U.S. and Mexican troops for nearly three decades until his capture in 1886.

But, as the story goes, the legendary rebel was not allowed to lie in peace after his death in U.S. captivity in 1909: Six members of Yale's Skull and Bones secret society, including Prescott Bush, grandfather of 43rd President George W. Bush, allegedly dug up Geronimo's grave while serving as army volunteers in Oklahoma during World War I. A letter written by one of the member's of the society in 1918 was brought to light by a New Haven-based researcher four years ago: "The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible," it read, "exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club... is now safe inside the tomb and bone together with his well worn femurs, bit and saddle horn."
The second "tomb" mentioned presumably refers to the society's windowless, red stone edifice in New Haven. A flurry of law suits to retrieve Geronimo's skull followed, but have been deflected by the Skull and Bones, which denies possession of the Apache's remains. It still can't ward away campus rumors of the skull appearing in the society's nocturnal initiation rites, staring hollowly at the future rulers of the nation whose expansion he fought so fiercely.

Santa Claus' Bones

 During the Middle Ages, the body parts of saints attracted pilgrims from all over Christendom with their supposed abilities to perform miracles. Because few towns would willingly part with such an obvious cash cow, villages would hire gangs of thieves to steal relics from others. One of the most famous capers involved the theft of St. Nicholas, the model for Santa Claus. St. Nick's remains were said to exude myrrh, making him a particularly valuable bag of bones. In 1087, the Italian town of Bari hired men — some accounts call them pirates while others refer to them as "privileged mariners" — to steal St. Nicholas from Myra, a town in present-day Turkey. The theft of Santa's bones is still celebrated in Bari with an annual parade and fireworks.

 Maori Heads

In May 2010, France's National Assembly voted to return the mummified heads of 16 Maoris from various museums back to their homeland in New Zealand. In traditional Maori practice, the heads of one's forefathers, often tattooed to the bone of the skull, were kept as totems honoring their spirits. But a macabre colonial-era fascination with these remains led to a lucrative trade, and many of the embalmed heads whisked away to Europe in the 19th century were actually Maori slaves, forcibly tattooed and decapitated by local or foreign opportunists.
At one time, over 500 Maori heads languished in the cellars of European museums; only in the past two decades, following calls from the New Zealand government as well as rights groups, have over 320 been repatriated. "You do not build a culture on trafficking," said France's culture minister, Frederic Mitterand. "You build a culture on respect and on exchange." Just four years ago, though, his ministry blocked a French museum's independent offer to return the lone Maori head in its possession, fearful that it could lead to an emptying of other untold skeletons in France's closet.

St. Francis Xavier's Toe

 In the 16th century, St. Francis Xavier spent a lot of time on his feet, spreading the gospel throughout Spain, France, Italy, Malaysia, Japan, Sri Lanka and India, dying at sea en route to China. When a group of Christians disinterred his body a few months later, they were surprised to see it in a perfect state of preservation. But just as in life, his "incorrupt body" didn't stay at rest for long. In its first public exhibition of corpse in Goa, India, in fit of reverence, a Portuguese woman bit off his big toe. Allegedly, the toe gushed blood, and she was caught when people followed the grisly trail to her home. Today, St. Francis Xavier's toe is on display in a silver reliquary in a cathedral in Goa. And it isn't the only part of St. Xavier's corpse to travel: There's a diamond-encrusted fingernail on display in a different village in Goa, part of an arm was sent to Rome, and there's a hand in Japan. 


The Head of King Badu Bonsu II

 In 1838, after decapitating two Dutch emissaries and decorating his throne with their heads, King Badu Bonsu II, the ruler of the Ahanta tribe in present day Ghana, was himself beheaded by Dutch soldiers. For more than 150 years, King Bonsu's head was lost until an author found it stored in a jar of formaldehyde in a Dutch museum. Ghana immediately asked for the King's severed head back and, in July 2009, members of the Ahanta flew to The Hague and staged a mourning ceremony that included pouring gin libations on the floor of the Foreign Ministry before taking the head back to Ghana. 


The Purloined African

 Well past the beginning of the last century, it was not uncommon for intrepid and wealthy Europeans visiting Africa to bring along a taxidermist or two. A safari could always yield a prize rhino or lion that would need stuffing. But, in 1830, a pair of French taxidermists took their trade a further step, exhuming the body of a deceased African man from the Kalahari desert. They had the corpse embalmed and stuffed for show in Europe, its light skin polished black to make him look more "African" — a sign of an era when such racialized curiosity in other (and often subject) peoples was common throughout the Western world. The body ended up on display in a small museum in the northern Spanish town of Banyoles for the better part of century until a local doctor of Haitian descent complained about it in 1992. The ensuing controversy drummed up much support in the town among those who wanted to keep the specimen — commemorative chocolates were issued celebrating the man known simply as "El Negro" — but the body was eventually returned to Botswana in 2000 and given a full burial in front of hundreds of local dignitaries and foreign diplomats.

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