Famously exhumed people – a list!
If you’re anything like me, the matter of exhuming corpses greatly interests you. Usually, when a person is dug up and knocked out of his or her coffin, there’s been a scandal. Or good gossip. The rumors have gotten so out of hand, someone’s bones have to be poked through to clear up the matter. Other times, it’s just sad. (We’ll get to that.)
So, you can imagine how excited I was then to find that Mental Floss has constructed The Stories behind 5 Famous Exhumations.
It’s a fun article and you should read it, but I’ll give you what I thought were the most excellent parts here. (Remember, I’m paraphrasing. All the work was done by Mental Floss):
1. Jesse James. The outlaw James, who was killed in 1882, was dug up and probed in 1995 because of rumors that his young murderer shot the wrong man in an elaborate attempt to let James go into hiding.
Outcome: DNA proved it was James in the coffin. However, naysayers still didn’t believe it and had the remains of two other poor S.O.B.’s examined, too. In one case, the exhuming team dug up the wrong body. Oops. All the evidence – three exhumations – led authorities to believe it was, in fact, the real Jesse James was in his grave.
2. The Tomb of The Unknowns. This is an example of the aforementioned sad exhumation. I can’t imagine not knowing if a relation of mine was dead or not. And if he was, where his remains were. The Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery holds the remains of unknown soldiers from several of this country’s wars dating back to WW1.
In 1984, the remains of a soldier from the Vietnam War were buried in the tomb. A journalist began a lengthy investigation that led him to believe the identity of the soldier was Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie, a missing pilot shot down over Au Loc in 1972. With his family’s encouragement, the remains were exhumed in the mid-1990s. Outcome: The remains were those of Blassie and they were taken and re-interred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.
3. Our 12th President. To this day, no one is sure how ol’ Zachary Taylor met his demise. Was it cholera? Gastroenteritis? A heat stroke?
One historian’s theory that Taylor was murdered by arsenic poisoning seemed plausible enough and his body was exhumed in 1991. (Interesting to note: the historian paid just $1,200 to have the procedure done.) Outcome: nada. No evidence of poison. Maybe it was the heat stroke?
4. Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Worshipped as god incarnate by Rastafarians, the Emperor died mysteriously in 1975 after being disposed by his own army.
One faction of the army had the Emperor buried in a latrine on palace grounds. His body wasn’t removed until 1992 and his funeral wasn’t held until the year 2000. Rastafarians to this day don’t believe the Emperor died. They think he ascended to heaven in a fire whirlwind. I say it was heat stroke (see above).
5. Eva Peron. Yes, the lady who asked Argentina not to cry for her was exhumed. But that was the least of her corpse’s adventures. After Peron died of cancer in 1952, her body was kept hidden by her husband Juan Peron, even after her was overthrown in a military coup in 1954.
For 16 years the location of Peron’s body was kept secret. Extreme and weird measures were taken to conceal the whereabouts. For example, the new government had 25 wax replicas made Peron’s corpse and put in the offices of high-ranking officials to watch over until her burial with each official thinking his Peron was the real thing. (A historian wrote later that the officials did gross things to the fake corpses. At least one was sexually abused).
In 1971, an Argentinean official disclosed that several years before Peron’s corpse, dressed as a Catholic nun, had been smuggled into Italy. Peron was buried in Milan under a fake name. The body was exhumed and flown to Madrid to be reunited with the now elderly Juan Peron, living there in exile. For two years Juan Peron hept his former wife in her coffin in the house he shared with his third wife. In 1973, Juan Peron returned to Argentina with Peron’s corpse and buried it there.