Famous Stolen Body Parts

by P-Francone

Dr. John Lattimer's daughter Evan has the emperor's private part in her attic in New Jersey.

Maori Heads

In May 2010, France’s National Assembly voted to return the mummified heads of 16 Maoris from various French museums back to New Zealand. In Maori tradition, the very tattooed heads of people’s forefathers were kept as a way to honor their spirits.

In the 19th century when Europeans landed on New Zealand, a lucrative trade in Maori heads began, with many Maori pushed into slavery and decapitated by Europeans or locals looking to make a buck off their own people. In total, over 500 Maori heads were present in European museums. Most of them have since been returned to Maori people in New Zealand.

Santa Claus’ Bones

During the Middle Ages, saints’ remains were seen as being able to perform miracles. These remains were huge tourist draws, and pilgrims would travel across the Christian world to visit the bones. Many villages would hire gangs of thugs to steal remains from other areas and bring them back for them, the most famous caper during these days was the theft of St. Nicholas’ bones from Myra, in present day Turkey and bring them to Bari, in southern Italy. Bari still celebrates this theft annually with a parade and fireworks.

Geronimo’s Skull

In the early days of the United States, the Apache warlord Geronimo launched raids against American and Mexican troops in the Southwest until his capture in 1886. Not long after though, six army volunteers in Oklahoma, who were also members of Yale University’s secretive Skull and Bones society dug up Geronimo’s grave and stole his skull. One of these thieves was Prescott Bush, grandfather of President George W. Bush.

The skull is allegedly used in the society’s nocturnal initiation rites, staring hollowly at the future rulers of the nation whose expansion he fought so fiercely.

Anne Boleyn’s Heart

King Henry VIII took Catholicism away from England so that he could divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn instead. However, when she was unable to give him a male heir, he grew angry and accused her of having affairs with commoners and her own brother. Eventually he had her arrested and beheaded in the Tower of London in 1536. According to legend, he had her heart torn out and secretly kept in a heart shaped casket in a church alcove in Suffolk. In 1836 the heart was rediscovered and reburied under the church’s organ.

Benito Mussolini’s Brain

In 1966, American authorities contacted Mussolini’s widow in order to return part of his brain to her. In her memoir, Rachele Mussolini wrote that she reacted in horror when she first heard that Americans had kept part of his brain, stating that they must have “wanted to know what makes a dictator.” Apparently the Americans had requested a sample of his brain in order to study it, and also partly as a trophy.

Forty-three years later, his granddaughter Alessandro alerted police that someone was selling vials of Mussolini’s brains and blood on eBay for 15 000 Euros.

Napoleon’s Penis

During Napoleon’s autopsy in 1821, his penis was allegedly cut off by the doctor and given to a priest in Corsica. The penis has not been properly preserved, and has been compared to a piece of leather, a shriveled eel and beef jerky. In 1927 it went on display in New York and was widely ridiculed. In 1977 a urologist, who was outraged by the way the penis was ridiculed, purchased it for $3 000 and hid it under his bed. His daughter inherited it and has fielded at least one $100 000 offer.

Tom Paine’s Body

Poor Tom Paine! There he lies:
Nobody laughs and nobody cries
Where he has gone or how he fares
Nobody knows and nobody cares

That was a popular nursery rhyme in the early days of the union, and reflected the life of Thomas Paine. He was the greatest pamphleteer in history, and a hero of both the American Revolution and the French Revolution. He is alleged to be the first person ever to write down the words “The United States of America.” He ended up dying as a penniless drunk in Manhattan, and having just six people attend his funeral.

About ten years after being buried, William Cobbett, an overzealous journalist and fan exhumed Paine’s body and had it shipped to England where he hoped to build a grand memorial to Paine. Cobbett ran out of money however, so the remains rested in a trunk in his attic. After Cobbett’s death, the remains disappeared, apparently they were made into buttons. In the 1930s one woman in Brighton, UK claimed to have Paine’s jawbone.

St. Francis Xavier’s Toe

St. Francis Xavier spent a lot of time on his toes in the 16th century, spreading the gospel throughout Spain, France, Italy, Malaysia, Japan, Sri Lanka and India. A group of Christians disinterred his body a few months after his death, and according to legend, his body was still in perfect condition. His body didn’t rest for long though, as it was brought for a public exhibition in Goa, India. In a fit of reverence, a woman bit off his big toe, which allegedly began gushing blood, which helped people catch her as they just had to follow the path of blood she left.

Today, his toe is left on display in a silver reliquary in a cathedral in Goa. One of fingernails, now diamond encrusted is on display in a different village in the same Indian state. Part of one of his arms is on display in Rome, and one of his hands is on display in Japan.

The Head of King Badu Bonsu II

In 1838, after decapitating two Dutch emissaries and decorating his throne with their heads, the ruler of the Ahanta tribe in present day Ghana was beheaded himself by Dutch soldiers. King Badu Bonsu’s head was lost for 150 years, until it was discovered in a jar of formaldehyde in a Dutch museum. Ghana asked for the head back immediately, and in July 2009 members of the Ahanta flew to The Hague and staged a mourning ceremony before returning the head to the tribe in Ghana.

The Purloined African

During the 1800s, it was common for Europeans visiting Africa to bring along a taxidermist, as safaris usually brought with them large prizes of exotic animals. In 1830 a pair of French taxidermists went a step further, using their skills to preserve a deceased African man in the Kalahari desert. The corpse was then brought to Europe to be put on display, with his skin polished to appear ‘more African’. The body ended up being put on display in a small museum in northern Spain, until locals began complaining about it in 1992. The debate about whether to keep it or not was very controversial in the town, but eventually it was returned to Botswana in 2000 and given a full burial in front of hundreds of locals and foreign diplomats.

Read more:

Top 10 Famous Stolen Body Parts | TIME.com

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