“QUEER USES FOR DEAD WIVES
More than once has a dead wife been a source of income to the bereaved husband. A Kansas storekeeper is the fortunate possessor of a petrified wife. Though he has taken to himself a second partner, he still carefully preserves the indurated form of his first wife, which, at his present spouse’s suggestion, he keeps in his shop to attract custom. This decided draw would seem, however, to have aroused the envy of his neighbors, for already several, though hitherto futile, attempts have been made to deprive him of his treasure.
This sharp tradesman had a prototype in Martin Van Burchell, a quack doctor and dentist of considerable notoriety in the reign of George III. He could likewise lay claim to some originality, for when his life died he resolved to utilize her for the purpose of increasing his practice. He accordingly had her embalmed and placed in his parlor, where she was on view to such patients as favored him with their patronage. She was a decided draw.
When in the flesh, Julia Pastrana, the celebrated ‘Nondescript and Bearded Lady,’ was without question a source of considerable income to her husband, Mr. Lent, to whom, too she proved, when dead, scarcely less remunerative. Her demise, which took place at St. Petersburg, was followed by the prompt sale of her body for $2,500, to Professor Suckaloff, who embalmed it with such skill that the shrewd widower repurchased it for $4,000, with the intention of exhibiting it in Russia. This, however, he was not allowed to do, so he brought it back to this country, where, in 1862, it attracted crowds to the Burlington gallery.
The late Commander Cameron, in his entertaining book, ‘Across Africa,’ relates how on one occasion he visited a certain hospitable, but cannibally inclined potentate at the very time that he was bout to hold high festival by devouring one of his dead wives-also, by the way, standing to him in the relation of aunt-whom he had thoroughly prepared for table by exposing in a shallow brook, under a broiling sun, for several days. Needless to say that Cameron had a most pressing engagement elsewhere, so was obliged to decline the royal gourmet’s gracious invitation to the feast.
A small farmer, living in the neighborhood of Amsterdam, some time back lost his wife. Though the couple had always lived together without dissension, the love he bore his spouse did not equal that with which he regarded the fruits of his farm. So, at least, did it appear, for he hit upon the grewsome idea of utilizing the dead body as a scarecrow, the good housewife being found by some neighbors a day or two after her decease in a discarded suit of her husband’s, and keeping guard in a small orchard behind the house. Popular indignation was at boiling point, but luckily for the farmer, he was nowhere to be found. -London Tit-Bits.”
This article appeared in the Arizona Republican, January 8, 1910.