A Modern Mummy: 1880

A. Beier, Undertaker and Embalmer, 1902

EMBALMING A MODERN MUMMY
Friends of the Deceased Would Call To Pay Their Respects.

[New York Herald.]

Strange, grewsome stories have been yielded by the old morgue, but what is doubtless the most remarkable tale of all was told yesterday by Undertaker Ferdinand Brown, of Sixth street. Brown has often spoken of the matter, but only now, after 14 years, does the strange incident reach the public.

Mummies are common in Egypt, but they are not looked for in New York City. Yet one could be seen in the morgue in this city from August 12, 1878, to July 5, 1880, sitting in one of the rooms of the deadhouse, placed there on private exhibition by Undertaker Brown, who had not been paid his fees by the relatives of the man. The person whose body was thus disposed of was Otto Berger, a German, who was born in Baden-Baden, and came to this country in 1875.

Berger was an eccentric individual, and when he died, penniless, in the city insane asylum, there was no one to prevent the disposition of the his body made by the undertaker. His father was the head servant for the Grand Duke of Baden in Carlsruhe. The son was wild, however, and some difficulty with a woman compelled him to leave Germany and come to this country. His old habits did not leave him in the new land, and though he worked now and again at his trade of upholstering, he went on frequent sprees.

He continued correspondence with his parents, and often they sent him money in answer to his urgent appeals for help. Finally they wearied of his repeated demands and his father wrote him that he could do no more for him, and that he would have to shift for himself.

Otto then resorted to various expedients to get money. An ingenious friend inserted a death notice in a newspapers and sent it to the father, requesting at the same time that he forward a sum of money necessary to pay the funeral expenses.

The Duke’s head servant was deeply affected by the news of the death of his wayward son, and he promptly forwarded the sum asked; thanking the friend of his son for looking after the body.

The poor old retainer’s money furnished the means for another long spree for Otto. Berger made the acquaintance of Carl Schmidt, a painter, who lived at No. 197 Seventh street. He took up his quarters with him, and they became fast friends. He did not give up his drinking habits, however, and his dissipations finally drove him insane.

Schmidt had him placed in the insane asylum on Ward’s Island, where he died two months after he was admitted, on August 11, 1878.

Schmidt determined to give the body of his friend a decent burial, so he gave it in charge of Undertaker Brown, who embalmed the body, and wrote to Berger’s father, in Carlsruhe, asking what disposition should be made of it. Great was his surprise when he received a reply from the perplexed father to the effect that he had already paid the funeral expenses, but if he had been deceived by a trick he was indifferent as to what became of his son’s body.

The idea then occurred to the undertaker of mummifying the body and putting in the morgue as an object of interest and curiosity.

He received permission from Register Nagle in writing to keep the embalmed body for six weeks, in case no offensive odors arose, until he heard from Germany. After that he readily had the permit extended. Brown then, by repeated embalmings, succeeded in hardening the body until it was like stone.

It was placed in a sitting position in a room in the morgue for two years, and there Brown and Schmidt took their curious friends and those who knew Berger in life.

The body was dressed as in life. Brown one day took a crowd of friends to the morgue. The body had been removed and was not to be seen.

“I didn’t want to have a petrified corpse here,” Morgue Keeper White said to him, “so I had it buried in potter’s field. I didn’t think it was right to exhibit such a thing in the morgue.

Brown never wrote Berger’s family of the disposition he was making of the son’s body, and for two years hundreds of persons gazed at the mummy in the New York Morgue. When I saw Mr. Brown last night he said he had grave doubts that the body was buried. He thought it had gone to some museum.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 13 October 1894: p. 14

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This article talks about the “extreme embalming” trend, where the dead are displayed in life-like poses.

https://www.the-sun.com/news/5049666/extreme-embalming-dead-funeral-pose/

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the DeadThe Ghost Wore BlackThe Headless HorrorThe Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.

No Funeral Balks and Blunders When You Have A. N. Johnson: 1917

NOTE: I have left the capitalization, spacing, and spelling as they were printed.

The Complete Business Equipped In Its Entirety

THAT IS THE

A.N. Johnson Undertaking Co.

THERE IS NO FUNERAL DIRECTORY THE ENTIRE COUNTRY SO WELL EQUIPPED TO TAKE CARE OF FUNERALS AS THAT OF A. JOHNSON. NOT MAKESHIFT, SO-CALL-ESTABLISHMENT WITH JUST ENOUGH OF EQUIPMENT TO THE TRADE OF UNDERTAKING, DEPENDING UPON LIVERYMEN, EXPRESSMEN AND HACKMEN TO MAKE UP FUNERAL, BUT UNDER ONE ROOF EVERYTHING DESIRED AND NECESSARY FOR COMPLETE FUNERAL.

ONLY UNDERTAKER WITH DOUBLE SERVICE

Our Horse

SERVICE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE BEST, SO CONCEDED BY THE ENTIRE PEOPLE OF NASHVILLE. THE ONLY UNDERTAKER WHO OWNS SNOW WHITE PINK SKINNED ARABIAN HORSES, BEAUTIFUL, GENTLE AND WELL BEHAVED. THESE MAGNIFICENT STEEDS COST THE PUBLIC NO MORE THAN THE VARIOUS VAREGATED AND OFF COLORED HORSES WHICH ARE FURNISHED IN COMPLETION. THERE ISN’T EVEN A CHILD IN NASHVILLE BUT WHO KNOWS JOHNSON’S BEAUTIFUL HORSES WHEN HE SEES THEM.

Ambulance Service

THE ONLY UNDERTAKER WHO HAS EVER EMPLOYED AMBULANCE SERVICE FOR COLORED PEOPLE. WE DO NOT USE THE SAME VEHICLE FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT CONVEYANCE ALTOGETHER. OUR AMBULANCE PROTECTS THE PATIENT NOT ONLY FROM THE COLD IN THE REAR BUT THE PATINET IS IN AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT APARTMENT FROM THE DRIVERS IN THE FRONT.

Funeral Cars THE LARGEST NUMBER, MOST ELEGANT AND VARID ASSORTMENT OF ANY UNDERTAKER ANYWHERE.

Child’s Funeral Car.

THE ONLY UNDERTAKER WHO FURNISHES A SMALL WHITE SILVER MOUNTED FUNERAL CAR FOR CHILDREN; DRAWN BL SMALL SNOW WHITE PINK SKINNED HORSES, AND THE ONLY UNDERTAKER PREPARED TO GIVE YOU A CHILD’S FUNERAL.

Black Funeral Car

UDOUBTEDLY THE MOST HANDSOME AND ELEGANT, PIECE OF ARCHITECTURE CARVED EBONY IN THE CITY.

White Funeral Car

WE HAVE THE TWO MOST BEAUTIFUL SNOW WHITE FUNERAL CARS MADE; SO THAT IN ANY EMERGENCY WE ARE PREPARED WITH A SUFFICIENCY TO ACCOMMODATE THE PUBLIC.

Royal Purple Funeral

THE ONLY UNDERTAKER ANY WHERE WHO FURNISHES A ROYAL PURPLE FUNERAL CAR, NOT A WHITE OR BLACK HEARSE WITH PURPLE CURTAINS, BUT THE HANDSOMEST WOOD CARVED DRAPED PURPLE CAR THROUGHOUT THAT HAS EVER BEEN MADE, SPECIALLY BUILT FOR US.

Automobile Service Employed

THE A. N. JOHNSON CO., WERE THE FIRST TO INSTALL AUTOMOBILE SERVICE IN NASHVILLE. NOT A MAKE SHIFT SERVICE JUST TO “GET BY,” CALL IT AUTO SERVICE, WHEN IT IS A TRUCK, TEN LIZZIE SERVICE. We COULD HAVE GOTTEN ANY OF THE WELL KNOWN TRUCK, DAILY SEEN IN DELIVERING MILK, GROCERIES AND FREIGHT ABOUT THE CITY AND ALTERED, REMODELLED AND CHANGED THE BODY TO CARRY THE DEAD, BUT WE NEVER DID BELIEVE IN MAKE SHIFTS TO SERVE TO OUR PEOPLE WE COULD HAVE BOUBHT A HALF DOZEN “FLIVVERS” FOR THE PRICE OF ONE OF OUR MACHINES, BUT WE DIDN’T BELIEVE IN CHEAP THINGS FOR OUR PEOPLE. OUR AUTOMOBILE SERVICE CONSISTS OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, ELEGANT, HANDSOME AND APPROPRIATE FUNERAL CARS, LEMOZINES, SEDANS, AND TOURING CARS MADE. MC-FARLAN, CHANDLER, STUDEBAKER, PACKARD AND WINTON SIX MODELS. JUST THE VERY BEST THAT GENUIS, TALENT EXPERIENCE AND CAPITAL HAVE PRODUCED. THEN THIS OUTFIT DOESN’T COST ONE CENT MORE THAN THE CHANGED TRUCK AND TIN LIZZIE SERVICE. WE SIMPLY CAN’T HELP GETTING THE HELP AND WE DESERVE THE SUPPORT OF THE PEO—

Conducting Funerals.

In times of funerals, when the family is destressed and the people come in crowds, then there is needed a “Directing Genuis” possibly the intermate friends called to serve as pall bearers have never before performed such services, the society has ceremonies, others occupy their space at the church and in part, there are hundreds of things arising from time to time which need attention and you need a man quick, accurate, alert, sane and with executive ability to act for you. You don’t want balks and blunders when you have funerals, and you don’t have them when you have A. N. Johnson. That’s why you hear people say they want A. N. Johnson for their undertaker. They know he knows how to care for the body, how to care for the distressed family, how to take care of and seat the most people and have quietude and not confusion. The entire atmosphere and the moral of the people is different when Johnson serves.

Embalming

A. N. Johnson has the education and the experience in embalming. From the beginning of the modern methods, more than a quarter of a century ago, he was one of the leading and has kept abreast of the time in the science, art and every technique of embalming. He employs all the methods and materials suited to the particular case under treatment and the result is universal satisfaction. Much of the burden of grief is passed when your loved ones are restored to that beautiful appearance and expression that they wore when their loving smiles greeted you. Then it is safe and sanitary. You get the service of the master, the expert, the man who knows embalming when A. N. Johnson does it.

We Have the Apartments

The morgue is one of the essentials of embalming. If the surgeon can give you the best results by taking the patient to a well equipped hospital, just so can the embalmer employ his morgue when he has every facility for scientific embalming. Embalming has become almost universal, while it was rarely done in years agone. So has the morgue come into use. When allowed, we remove the remains to our morgue which is equipped with every appliance and facility for preparing the dead. Embalming at the home when preferred, but we have every facility for the removal of the dead to our morgue and with our well opportioned Chapel we have the opportunity of serving our people as well as the finest undertaker in the largest cities of the world.

We Are Not Jobbers

We have the most complete line of Caskets, Coffins, Robes and Funeral Furnishings to be had in our own place of business. We buy from the best manufacturers throughout the entire country. We buy the best that each makes and do not keep a sample or two and have to order a coffin whenever we have a call. You can get the plainest wood Coffin or the most costly Metallic Casket made, right out of our house. There is nothing created that is good, desirable or elegant but that we keep it in our place of business.

PRICES

This is a vital question in our business. We charge no more for carriages and horses than the others. Our auto carriages or limousines are furnished at the same price to our people as are charged for horses, if the ride in carriages. Because our Cortege is the finest it is sometimes inferred wrongly that our prices are higher. It is not so. Whatever we sell it is bought for cash and at the best price and we limit our profit to the most reasonable rate and you pay less for what you get from us for better service and material. In fact, you select what you want at the price you want to pay as shown to you when you need our services.

Come and visit our place, see how well we are prepared to furnish funeral service. When you need a carriage or an auto, call us up or come and see us.

Nashville [TN] Globe 21 December, 1917: p. 3

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead and on Twitter @hauntedohiobook. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

A Father’s Vow: 1882

A FATHER’S VOW

He Declares That His Dead Children Shall Never Leave Him

He Has Their Bodies Embalmed, and the Casket Placed in a Room Where He Keeps Them for Twenty Years.

[Philadelphia Press]

A funeral took place in Palmyra, N.J., on Tuesday last, which furnishes the sequel to one of the most remarkable cases ever known. The bodies of three embalmed children, which had been preserved by an eccentric father for twenty years, were interred in one grave, the father having died three months before, and the remaining members of the family being unwilling to perpetuate his singular ideas, in violation of common custom.

In 1859 Henry Coy lived in a comfortable old-fashioned dwelling, on the northeast corner of Front and Cooper streets, Camden. His family then consisted of himself, a wife and two children—one a girl of five years and the other a curly-haired, handsome boy of two. Mr. Coy was a surgical instrument maker, engaged in business in this city, on Eighth street, near Walnut, and afterward in the neighborhood of Second and Dock streets. He was regarded as a skillful man at his trade, and was said to be worth money, but his reticent disposition and disinclination to mix in society prevented any specific inquiry as to his exact financial standing. People who knew him in a business way, however, were content to spread the rumor that he was a man of no inconsiderable wealth. His entire time out of business hours was spent with his family, to whom he appeared devotedly attached.

THE FATHER’S STRANGE CONDUCT

Soon after the war began, Mrs. Coy died, after giving birth to another child—a girl. She was buried, and after that the father seemed more than ever in love with his children. The little daughter was rather a delicate child, and in 1862 she was taken ill and died after a few weeks’ sickness. Unceasing attendance at the little one’s bedside, and the constant loss of sleep, seems to have strangely affected the fathers mind. He would not permit any of the neighbors to touch or even look at the dead body, and declared that it should never leave his sight while he lived. And the eccentric man then went to work to accomplish that purpose. With the assistance of a mysterious stranger the little corpse was subjected to an embalming process and then incased in an air-tight casket and carefully deposited in one of the upper chambers of the dwelling. Old-time residents of Camden remember well that it was a popular superstition that the spirit of the child used to regularly appear at the windows in a supplicating attitude, and the house was said to be haunted. All attempts to see the mummified corpse or to learn the truth of the queer story were fruitless, and in a few months there were not many persons who gave it credence. Some time between the latter part of 1863 and the summer of 1864 observing people noticed that the baby had disappeared, and the previous appearance of a physician’s chaise at the door a dozen times during the week led to the believe that the infant had died and had been embalmed, as the first one had been. The doctor was a strange one, and nothing could be gleaned from him. Just when the boy died is not known, but it is supposed that he followed not long after the second death, and was also put in a casket and laid alongside his brother and sister.

MOVING THE BODIES

In 1866 the story of the mysterious embalming was renewed, and for some unexplained reason it was whispered about the upper part of Camden that Mr. Coy was a Mormon; that he had a dozen or more wives concealed in the house, and that every night prayers were said over the bodies of the dead children. There appeared no just foundation for these stories, for the father was rarely seen on the street, and during his brief absence from home the dreary-looking old house seemed entirely deserted. The upper stories were never opened, and cobwebs collected over the windows and under the eaves. The man became such a thorough mystery that all efforts to ferret out his secret were abandoned, and the gossips were obliged to build their startling stories of ghosts and uncanny noises by night purely from imagination. Mr. Coy left Camden for a time, and, it was popularly supposed, took the bodies of his children along with him; but nothing definite was known of his movements nor of the truth of the rumor, until five or six years later, when he moved. It was then noticed that three oblong boxes were carefully packed in a wagon, and the father drove away with them.

Nothing more was heard of Coy until his recent death was announced, and then the story of twenty years ago was either forgotten or deemed too incredible for revival. The triple burial at Palmyra on Tuesday, refreshed the strange tale in the minds of a few, and it was shown that the rumor had been correct.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 6 May 1882: p. 10

Henry is buried at the Epworth Methodist Church Cemetery under a stone which reads “Henry – Sarah Coy and Family.”

A chapter titled “Bone of My Bone: Collecting Corpses, Relics, and Remains” in The Victorian Book of the Dead tells of other mourners who just could not let go of their loved ones. 

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead and on Twitter @hauntedohiobook. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Elbows on the Table – Professor Segato’s petrified corpse furniture

Segato's Table
Professor Segato’s petrified corpse table. Not made of marble.

The object above looks like an indifferent specimen of Renaissance pietra dura/ pietre dure,the decorative art of hardstone inlay, or perhaps clever marquetry, made to look like polished jasper, carnelian, and sardonyx. It is, however, made of petrified pieces of human viscera, bone, and muscle, the creation of Professor Segato of Florence, who discovered a process to preserve human remains by turning them into a stone-like substance. Dura mater instead of pietra dura.

I first ran across a hint of this ingenious mineralizer in an 1881 newspaper squib:

 A Florentine chemist has by some mysterious process converted the corpse of a girl to the semblance of marble, perfectly white and hard, and the petrified body is being shown at the Milan exhibition. Jackson [MI] Citizen 22 November 1881: p. 3

Professor Segato (1792-1836) was featured in an 1855 article in Harper’s Magazine:

 “In this hospital [Santa Maria Nuova, Florence] is to be seen the museum of the late Prof. Segato, who discovered the process of petrifying animal substances, so that, while they retained their natural colors and shapes, they became as hard as stone. The church, as usual, interfered with his art, on the grounds that it was contrary to the Scriptural doctrine of “into dust shalt thou return.” Consequently, unable to prosecute the discoveries further, he soon after died, leaving to the world this unique museum as the evidence of his success and to tantalize science with regrets for the last secret.”

Concerning a remarkable table made by this discoverer, the writer says:

“It comprises every portion of the human body transformed to stone, destined to endure as long as the world itself, if not ground to pieces by violence. There are two tables, one finished and polished, the other incomplete, made of mosaics, formed by sections of human bones, brain, lungs, blood vessels, intestines and muscles, as firm as marble, showing the internal structure of each, all resembling colored stones. Without an explanation every visitor would presume them to have come from some stone mosaic manufactory for they are symmetrically arranged in squares, with the great variety of colors nicely graduated. Different portions of the human body, showing the internal anatomy, are so perfectly petrified as to form perfect objects of study of the medical student. Even morbid anatomy was subjected with entire success to this process. Animals of all kinds, reptiles, chickens, in and out of the egg. In short, nothing that had warm blood was capable of resisting his petrifying touch.”

“The Roman Church, above all others, did wrong to discourage the art. Next to medical colleges it is the largest dealer in dead men’s bones. What an improvement it would have been, instead of exhibiting a knee-pan in a vial, or a dried skull in a gold case, to have held up for adoration an entire saint as fresh as in life. All skepticism in relics would then disappear, for however easy it may be to substitute one bone for another, there could be no possibility of destroying personal identity. The stone saint would be the actual image of the live saint; no daguerreotype could be half so exact; and when not in use, could be quietly laid by on the shelf, as is frequently done in life.”

“There is, however, in this museum the head of a young girl, with long flaxen hair, of remarkable beauty, as soft and tresslike as in life. Belonging to this head is a virgin bosom, snow white, and of a perfection of form that nature seldom equals, and art never surpasses. Power’s Greek slave, or the Venus de Medici, could exchange busts with this maiden without loss; so exquisite are its proportions, and so pure its outlines. Here, then, is a figure which women will envy, and men admire through all time, as cold and hard as flint, yet warming feelings with love and pity for the fate of one so young and beautiful. All that is known of her is that she was found dead under the roof of a church that fell in, and Segato possessed himself of her corpse.”

The story above was quoted in the “Curiosity Shop” question column of the Chicago Inter-Ocean.  The paper continued its article with details suggesting that the story was a traveler’s tale, but then gave an account of an investigation by the New York Sun, which seemed to conclude  that the table was real.

 “The author of the above does not give his name, but investigation through periodicals of the last quarter of a century shows that Segato’s table has “cropped up” every little while as a favorite “traveler’s tale” for the assistance of sensation-seeking newspaper correspondents. Not more than two years ago an account of it was given in a medical journal, which should have known better than to give place to such an account without full verification. The writer mentions, but one table and places it in the Pitti Palace, though none of the guide books bear out his story by any mention of it.

“’In the Pitti Palace at Florence is a table which for originality in the matter of construction and ghastliness in conception is probably without a rival. It was made by Giuseppe Segatti, who passed several years of his life in its manufacture. To the casual observer it gives the impression of a curious mosaic of marbles of different shades and colors, for it looks like polished stone. In reality it is composed of human muscles and viscera. No less than a hundred bodies were requisitioned for the material. The table is round, and about a yard in diameter, with a pedestal and four claw feet, the whole being formed of petrified human remains. The ornaments of the pedestal are made from the intestines, the claws with hearts, livers, and lungs, the natural color of which is preserved. The table top is constructed of muscles artistically arranged, and it is bordered with upwards of a hundred eyes, the effect of which is said to be highly artistic, since they retain all their lustre, and seem to follow the observer. Segatti died about fifty years ago. He obtained his bodies from the hospitals, and indurated them by impregnation with mineral salts.’

“A few months ago a correspondent of the New York Sun undertook to run the story of this remarkable table to earth and find out how much truth there really was in it, and the alleged great discovery of its maker. He ascertained that some fifty years ago there was a physician in Florence named Giuseppe Segato, who declared that he had discovered a process of so changing the constitution of human flesh as to render it perfectly hard and make it keep its form and appearance indefinitely. He is said to have submitted specimens of his work to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who thought well of the discovery and offered to purchase it. The physician refused the offer, and while he waited for a higher bid died, either suddenly or after a very short illness. He never revealed his process and his secret was buried with him.

The traveler who is curious to look up the specimens of Segato’s work, which are in St. Mary’s Hospital in charge of one Dr. Stanislao Bianchi, is amazed to find them very different from what he has been led to expect by the accounts he has received of them. The “table” is oval, of what looks like mahogany; it is about eighteen inches long by twelve wide, and consists of a top only; it has no appearance whatever of ever having had a pedestal. The human petrifications on it consist of thin and small sections or slices about one-sixty-fourth of an inch thick, which are veneered upon it. Some are diamond shaped, some oval, others square, with surfaces like fine-grained wood, all arranged in a symmetrical rectangular oblong design; there is a border around it, presenting at first sight the appearance of a checker board. Some of these veneers, by the effects of dampness, have become detached; one or two have fallen off altogether.

Professor Bianchi pointed out that these veneers were small bits of organisms of the human body such as the loins, kidneys, liver, spleen, lungs, skin, all of natural color, and that probably, in order to get them of small size, they had been taken from boys’ cadavers. There were, however, no human eyes in the border or anywhere else. Dr. Bianchi showed other specimens of Segato’s process—a female scalp of perfectly natural color, with long flowing hair attached; a woman’s breasts, fair and white, perfectly life-like. These preserved parts were not hard and stony to the touch, as though actually petrified, but were like pasteboard in thickness and firmness. It seems fair to conclude that the veneered pieces on the table had similar texture. Other specimens, including fishes, reptiles, human hands, and feet subjected to the same process seemed much firmer. The officers of the hospital evince far less interest than might have been expected in these curious articles in their care, and further investigation must be looked for to assure us of what importance the discovery may prove to science. Daily Inter Ocean [Chicago, IL] 20 April 20 1889: Vol. XVIII, Issue 27, Part 2, p. 11

Despite the detail, this account seemed completely improbable to me. The newspapers of the 1870s and 1880s were noted for their interest in petrified corpse stories. Even if such macabre mobili had existed, surely they had been “ground to pieces by violence” or by time.

But the internet is a wonderful thing. Today you can see, at this online museum, Professor Segato’s astonishing and disturbing handiworks.  [site is in Italian.]

If you have any interest in a more detailed analysis, see “An anencephalus foetus petrified by Gerolamo Segato (1792-1836),” R. Ciranni, G. Fornaciari, V. Nardini, D. Caramella in Med Secoli. 2008;20(1):7-17. It is fascinating to note that, despite radiography, CT scans, 3-D reconstruction and virtual endoscopy, Professor Segato’s method of petrification is still a mystery.

His grave, in Santa Croce Church, Florence, bears an epitaph that translates loosely as “Here lies Girolamo Segato—who would be intact, petrified, if the secret of his art had not died with him.”

Portions of this post appear in The Victorian Book of the Dead, also available in a Kindle edition.

See this link for an introduction to The Victorian Book of the Dead, a collection about the popular culture of Victorian mourning, featuring primary-source materials about corpses, crypts, and crape.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.