"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

When I come across a newspaper story explaining how exploding corpses are a palliative to grief, by God I’m running with it.  The “Kansas City Daily Gazette,” January 31, 1888:

"I don't think I ever heard of anything quite so ghastly as the experience Mrs.--I mustn’t give her right name--Mrs. Graham, of New Orleans, had a number of years ago,” observes a contributor to the Chicago Times. I am pretty sure it has never been told in print, though it is true in every particular, except as to the names. A small party of us had been traveling through the Holy Land, and had just gone over into Egypt, where Mr. Graham, a man of wealth and culture, met with an accident that cost him his life. Of course we all were terribly shocked, and as for poor Mrs. Graham, she was utterly inconsolable. As soon as she came out of the swoon into which she fell when she first heard the dreadful news, she sat and rocked herself to and fro and wrung her hands in the most exquisite grief. We did everything and said everything we could think of, but nothing consoled her in the least. 

"Finally it was decided that we should have the body embalmed and start for home with it as soon as possible. I was deputed to find an undertaker, and I want to say right here that, however much the ancient Egyptian used to know about embalming, the modern knows but very little. After almost a day's search I succeeded, however, in finding a man who at least said he could fix the body so that it should be preserved for several months. When he had completed his work we placed the remains in an air-tight burial case, which we then inclosed in a box. Thus it was taken on shipboard, and we all set out for home. 

During all this time poor Mrs. Graham called constantly for her husband, and would not be comforted. We were all fearful that she would lose her reason. The ship's doctor did everything he could think of, but as soon as she came out from under the influence of his opiates she resumed her moaning calls for her husband. We told her that Mr. Graham could not come back; that all that remained of his mortal self was in the box. Then she pleaded to be taken to the box. On advice of the doctor we had the box brought into the cabin, and Mrs. Graham knelt down beside it and rocked backward and forward in her agony, praying aloud to the Lord to open the coffin and give back her dear husband to her. 

"Then followed the most marvelous and awful thing I ever heard of, and yet, awful and ghastly as it is, I never can think of it without laughing. There was a crash and a report that filled the cabin, and before we could imagine what it was, Mrs. Graham was hurled back several feet upon the floor, and the air was filled with pieces of the box, and of the coffin and of the corpse. That Egyptian undertaker had embalmed the body with some sort of chemicals that had fermented, and the corpse had exploded. It had blown into a thousand pieces all over the cabin. In an instant Mrs. Graham, who was not hurt at all, took in the whole situation, and saw how it had all happened, and right in the midst of her terrible grief the ridiculousness of the thing struck her, and she burst out in laughter. As soon as we gathered our scattered senses we thought that now she had surely become a maniac, but in a little while we learned that it was genuine and sane laughter. She had many a crying spell after that, but as soon as she began to weep she ran away, for her tears were always the harbinger of laughter which she could not control and did not want to display. The doctor said that explosion probably saved her reason."


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