There are some people so famous (or maybe infamous) that their contemporaries realize they should probably hang onto their bodies after death. Or, at the very least, they should hang on to the good parts.
On this short list: an eyeball (or both), an entire skeleton, a brain, and a penis.
Yes, a penis. And as you can imagine, this organ doesn’t exactly hold up well to the elements.
Alternatively, there are some people who are super-famous, and whose corpses are just sort of..left.
Read on to find out what belongs to who and where exactly these body parts sprung up (hehehehe).
#4. All of Richard III
I mean, if anyone has ever forced you to sit through the Shakespeare version of old Dick III’s life, you probably realize that no one much cared for the man while he was alive. It might surprise you to learn, however, that he was so universally disliked (and considered un-kingly, maybe having to do with that unsightly hump and stuff) that no one cared where he was buried or marked his grave or anything.
He died where he fell in the Battle of Bosworth – just two years into his reign – and was shoved into a shallow grave without so much as a how-do-you-do. Richard’s remains laid in a church graveyard for many years, but when the buildings were eventually razed to make room for a parking lot, no one bothered to dig up the human remains (kingly or otherwise) ahead of time.
Then, in 2012, the city decided that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to find the old guy’s bones (if only to make sure you know where he is in case he decides to haunt you, I guess). They found a skeleton with some of the genetic markers associated with the unpopular monarch (horrible scoliosis, most notably) and dug up a close enough relative to get a DNA match.
Some argue that because Richard’s grandmother had so many children, her DNA could be found in any number of random dead Englishmen, so maybe it’s not him. But maybe it is. You believe what you’d like.
#3. Walt Whitman’s Brain
One of America’s most beloved poets, Walt Whitman himself was a believer in oddities and in pseudoscience, and he gladly offered up his brain for study after death. It was collected by a group called the American Anthropometric Society (AKA the Brain Club), who hoarded a bunch of famous brains around the turn of the century in order to try to understand what makes human beings cross from mundane into exceptional.
And I suppose all was going well, until 1907 when an assistant dropped the brain jar, and Walt’s brain jelly turned into floor jelly.
Or at least that’s what lead pathologist Dr. Henry Ware Cattell wanted everyone to think. As it turns out, it was actually his fault that the brain was ruined. He left the lid off the jar, and the accident haunted him for years, a truth he revealed in an 1893 diary entry (his diary was sold and made public in 2012) that, honestly, was pretty intense considering all he did was ruin Walt Whitman’s brain. I mean, the guy was already dead.
#2. Einstein’s Eyes
Albert Einstein went out of his way to request that his body be cremated and not fawned over by other scientists who should be focused on their work (seriously!), but pathologist Thomas Harvey just couldn’t bring himself to toss out such an amazing brain. Which one could almost forgive, except that he also removed Einstein’s eyes so that he could pass them along to a colleague, and that makes the whole thing more than a little strange and dark.
The colleague was Einstein’s family physician and eye doctor, Henry Abrams. While some people might think this makes sense, I can’t imagine my doctor – or anyone, really – wanting to hang on to my disembodied eyeballs after I die.
But I’m not Einstein I guess…
Dr. Abrams is (understandably) very private about the whole situation, so all we really know is that he keeps them in a jar in a New Jersey safe deposit box. There was once a rumor that he refused to sell them to Michael Jackson, but we don’t know a whole lot since he thinks the media is “sleazy” for asking questions.
Dr. Pot, paging Dr. Kettle. Ahem.
#1. Napoleon’s Penis
This list would not be in any way complete without telling you that the only part of Napoleon’s body that remains is his penis. I find this (a) so awful and (b) oddly appropriate given the “little man complex” jokes that have been made at his expense for decades.
Here’s what happened: The doctor who handled Napoleon’s dead body was sympathetic (I guess?) and decided that he deserved to go home. Or at least, part of him did. He cut off the emperor’s penis and handed it over to a priest, who returned with it to Corsica. His family took charge of the organ until 1916, when it was bought by a British collector, who soon sold it to the Pennsylvanian Museum of French Art.
Art, y’all. I’m sorry, what!? I know, we all love those things, but they are not art, no matter who they used to hang off. Also, this seems like it would be even more true after a hundred years or so of little-to-no preservation, right?
The peanut gallery agrees with me, calling the member a “piece of leather,” “piece of jerky,” “shriveled eel,” and “maltreated strip of buckskin shoelace” (take your pick). Then, in 1977, a Good Samaritan (good-ish?) purchased the piece and spirited it from public display. For many years, the artifact resided in the home of a New Jersey urologist and collector of strange relics (what a moniker, right?). Fittingly, and perhaps as part of some fertility ritual, the man kept the object beneath his bed. After his passing, his daughter inherited just what all daughters hope to one day inherit from their father – Napoleon’s penis.
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