I have to admit, just before I hit the "publish" button for this post, I thought, “Do I really want a blog that features tales of women being wooed by talking corpses?”
And then I remembered just what sort of joint I’m running here. The “Los Angeles Herald,” November 27, 1887:
A great many people are under the impression that when the breath is out of the body there is nothing animate or intelligent remaining. It is true that religion teaches us to believe that the better part of man--the soul--lives after the collapse of the mental frame. But nowhere until recently has the idea ever been advanced that a corpse can be so arranged under the ministrations of science as to preserve the intelligence and perspicacity of the natural man. It has, however, been left to an undertaker of this city to demonstrate that this very thing can be done.You have to admit that this isn’t the sort of love story you see every day.
Not a great while since there died in San Francisco a gentleman who was on a visit to this coast from the East. He was apparently a person who commanded sufficient means for all the ordinary purposes of life, but when he died only a small sum of money was found in his possession. His relatives were communicated with, and instructions came from his wife to have the body embalmed, preparatory to shipment to his old home in the East. This was done, and the bill, representing rather a steep figure, forwarded to the grieving widow. The sum so far exceeded her expectations, that she indignantly refused to pay it, and the corpse was left on the hands of the undertaker.
This gentleman had read somewhere that in a similar case down in Arizona the conductor of funerals had utilized the corpses left on his hands as an advertisement for his trade. Acting upon this suggestion he had the cadaver in question taken from the neat metallic coffin to which it had been fitted and dressed up in a Prince Albert suit, adjusted to a sitting position in a chair in the back parlor of his establishment. So perfectly had the embalming been accomplished, that with the exception of the grayish pallor which overspread the face, the dead man looked as natural as life. The circumstance suggested to an ingenious young man connected with the undertaking establishment the idea of utilizing the corpse for entertaining visitors. To this end the chair in which it sat was placed against a thin partition, which had been previously pierced for the reception of a speaking tube.
This was so arranged that the tube rested against the coat collar of the corpse. By speaking through this from the other side of the partition, in the dim light of the back parlor, to the casual observer it appeared as if the corpse was talking.
Fortunately, however, the upright position and graceful poise of the body of this interesting person, led all who looked upon it to conclude that it was only a middle-aged gentleman sitting there at his ease. But this was not all.
The undertaker's ingenious clerk had attached to the right arm of the corpse the wire of a galvanic battery, and by the proper manipulation of the instrument he could cause the arm to rise or fall or gently circle around any object near it. One day a spinster lady of uncertain age came into the parlor to make some inquiries relative to a prospective funeral. As she entered, the corpse, which she supposed to be a well-dressed visitor, gracefully bowing, invited her to take a seat at his side, where a vacant chair was ready for her service.
"Take a seat, Miss, sit here, (indicating the chair.) “I am charmed to have the pleasure of seeing in this desolate apartment a lady of such fascinations.”
"You are very polite, l am sure," murmured the flattered fair one.
"I make it a point, my dear," continued the corpse, "to note every beautiful face that comes into this room. You must know that I remain here all the time, night and day, and my only happiness consists in receiving and entertaining the occasional visitor."
"Why, how curious! You stay here all the time?"
"All the time, my dear, night and day. In fact, I never leave this chair," softly and sadly remarked the dead man.
“Are you doing a penance, sir?" inquired the lady.
"Oh, no; the undertaker is my jailer."
For a single moment the lady was frightened. The thought occurred to her that she was in the presence of a maniac and a thrill of apprehension shot through her heart. But the calm, serene face reassured her, and when the corpse gently raised its right arm and calmly encircled her waist, she no longer doubted its sanity.
"You are very beautiful, my dear," sighed the middle-aged cadaver.
"Oh, sir, how strangely you talk," and the lady blushed to the tips of her pink-like ears.
"You see, my dear, to a lonely man like myself, condemned to sit day after day in this darkened chamber, such a lovely vision as yourself comes to me like a gleam of sunlight. I trace in your fair face some of the sweetest memories of my youth, when in long by-gone years I was loved and was beloved in return. When you entered this dreary place a moment ago you seemed to bring me a vision of the beautiful world which lies beyond the threshold l am never allowed to pass, and my withered heart turned to you with an emotion of delight."
It must not be supposed that the lady listened to these bold words without sweet and tender reflections. Upon the possibilities they might lead to. She was not very old, but she had wanted a husband longer than she cared to acknowledge, and words like these naturally raised a flood of most agreeable thoughts. Nevertheless she deprecated the dead man's enthusiasm and insisted that he was speaking unadvisedly.
Still she turned upon him a tender glance, which would have had anything but a chilling effect upon the ardor of a veritable wooer. It seemed to send fire through the veins of the dead man. The arm tightened around her waist. His words grew musical and soft.
“I see in you, my dear," continued the corpse, "the embodiment of all my dreams of bliss. If I only had your sweet companionship in this desolate room its gloom would take the hue of radiant sunshine, and I should be content to sit here forever, warmed by our smiles and gladdened by the tender glance of your eyes."
“Oh, sir," sighed the lady.
''Can it be possible, continued the enraptured dead man, "that you reciprocate my passion; that you will be mine?"
The fair head was gently inclining to the shoulder of the corpse when the undertaker entered. The lady screamed. The corpse sat upright.
“Why, how is this?" exclaimed the astonished dealer in coffins.
"Oh, sir," gasped the fair one, "this gentleman has been talking so very strangely."
“Talking?” shouted the undertaker. "Why you must be mad. How can a dead man talk?"
"Dead?” screamed the lady.
"Why, yes; look at him. Lord help you! You have been courted by a corpse."
The astonished spinster cast one fond despairing look on the ashen face of her wooer, and, flinging her arms above her head, cried piteously: "Heavens! does my beauty charm the dead?" and fainted away.