Conclusion of an epitaph on a tombstone in eastern Tennessee:

She lived a life of virtue, and died of cholera morbus, caused by eating green fruit, in the full hope of a blessed immortality, at the early age of twenty-one years, seven months, and sixteen days. Reader, go thou and do likewise.

From Epitaphiana: or, The Curiosities of Churchyard Literature, 1873.

A Grave Cradle

The Hereford Times of November 16, 1901, reprints the following case from Pauillac. A Madame Bobin arrived there on board the steamer ‘La Plata,’ from Senegal. She was supposed to be suffering from yellow fever, and was transferred to the Lazaret by order of the officer of health. There she became worse, and apparently died. The body became rigid, and the face ashen and corpse-like, and in that condition she was buried. The nurse, however, had noticed that the body was not cold, and that there was tremulousness of the muscles of the abdomen, and expressed the opinion that Madame Bobin was prematurely buried. On this being reported to Madame Bobin’s father, he had the body exhumed, when it was found that a child had been born in the coffin. The autopsy showed also that Madame Bobin had not contracted yellow fever, and had died from asphyxiation in the coffin. A suit was begun against the health officers and the prefect, which resulted in a verdict for £8,000 damages against them.

— William Tebb, Premature Burial and How It May Be Prevented, 1905

The Human Paperweight


Thanks to Joseph Karwowski, you’ll never have to say goodbye to your Uncle Julius. Patented in 1903, Karwowski’s “method of preserving the dead” hermetically encases the corpse in a block of transparent glass to prevent decay and maintain a lifelike appearance.

Bonus: “In Fig. 3 I have shown the head only of the corpse as incased within the transparent block of glass, it being at once evident that the head alone may be preserved in this manner, if preferred.”


This is the Roundhay Garden Scene, the earliest surviving motion picture, shot in 1888 in the Leeds garden of Joseph and Sarah Whitley.

The scene is only 2 seconds long, but it seems to have conveyed a queer curse. Sarah died only 10 days after the shoot; director Louis Le Prince vanished from a French train two years later; and actor Alphonse Le Prince was found dead of a gunshot in 1902. There’s a novel in here somewhere.

Dead Heat

Monument inscription, Whitby churchyard, North Yorkshire:

Here lies the bodies of FRANCIS HUNTRODDS and MARY his Wife who were both born on the same Day of the Week Month and Year (viz) Septr ye 19th 1600 Marry’d on the day of their Birth and after having had 12 Children born to them died Aged 80 Years on the same day of the year they were born September ye 19th 1680 the one not above five hours before ye other.

Husband, and Wife that did twelve Children bear,
Dy’d the same day; alike both aged were,
Bout eighty years they liv’d, five hours did part,
(Ev’n on the marriage day) each tender heart.
So fit a match, surely, could never be
Both, in their lives, and in their deaths agree.

Infinite Egress


Leinbach had discovered a proof that there really is no death. It is beyond question, he had declared, that not only at the moment of drowning, but at all the moments of death of any nature, one lives over again his past life with a rapidity inconceivable to others. This remembered life must also have a last moment, and this last moment its own last moment, and so on, and hence, dying is itself eternity, and hence, in accordance with the theory of limits, one may approach death but can never reach it.

— Arthur Schnitzler, Flight Into Darkness, 1931


In memory ov
John Smith, who met
wierlent death neer this spot
18 hundred and 40 too. He was shot
by his own pistill;
It was not one of the new kind,
but a old fashioned
brass barrel, and of such is the
Kingdom of heaven.

— Headboard, Sparta Diggings, Calif., cited in Walter Henry Howe, Here Lies, 1900

The Dog of Pompeii


When Vesuvius erupted on Aug. 24, A.D. 79, a Roman fuller named Vesonius Primus fled toward the sea, leaving a watchdog chained to a post in the atrium of his house. It appears that the dog managed to survive the night by climbing continuously atop the mounting ash, but at dawn it reached the limit of its chain and was buried alive.

Like other victims of the eruption, its body left a vacancy in the ash layer, so a plaster cast could be made of its final position.

“Extraordinary Prediction”

It is recorded of the poet Dryden, by Charles Wilson, in his ‘Life of Congreve,’ that having, strange to say, belief in astrology, he was careful to ascertain to the second the time at which his son Charles was born. He then calculated the boy’s nativity, and was alarmed to discover that evil influences prevailed in the heavens. … He concluded that in his eighth year, and on the day of birth, his son’s life would be seriously endangered if not lost; and that if he lived, the same danger would exist when he attained his twenty-third birthday, and again on his thirty-third or fourth. On the boy’s eighth birthday, despite every precaution to keep the boy from every possible danger, he was nearly killed by the fall of a wall. On his twenty-third birthday he was seized with giddiness and fell from an old tower belonging to the Vatican at Rome; and he was drowned at Windsor while swimming across the Thames in his thirty-third year.

The World of Wonders, 1883