Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 19, 2014

Today’s Incinerated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On September 1, 1894 a huge firestorm, fed by drought conditions and dry debris left behind by lumber companies, destroyed the town of Hinckley, Minnesota, killing over 418 people. After the fire, Dr. D.W. Cowan, coroner of Pine County, was one of the first on the scene. After rescuing survivors and administering temporary medical care to those who needed it, he turned his attention to his official duties as coroner. Many factors impeded the recovery, identification and burial of the dead.  First, the bodies were scattered over a large area, and locating them was difficult. Then, the September weather was hot, and decomposition set in rapidly rendering the work of burial particularly distasteful. Undertakers Frank Webber of Pine City, in charge of burial at Hinckley, advised that after a few days the bodies “must be buried where found. It will be impoosslbe to move them as they are literally falling to pieces.” Search parties worked from sun-up to dark to inter the dead as quickly as possible, but some bodies were not found until months later. In one case remains were found and identified four years later.

In Hinckley, a few horses, wagons and hayracks found unburned, along with others shipped in, were used to transport the dead to the cemetery. Volunteer crews scoured the areas near the town where people might have fled for shelter. In the swamp north of the Grindstone River ninety-six bodies were recovered, piled on the wagons and brought to the cemetery. The procession to the burial ground one mile east of town was a somber one. Here a few “fortunate” deceased were placed in ready-made coffins shipped in, others were given hastily-built wooden boxes, but most were buried en masse in four long trenches. Those deceased who had family members or friends among the living in town were buried in private graves.

Culled from: From the Ashes: The Story of the Hinckley Fire of 1894

Hinckley searching party at ruins of cabin in the woods.

Searching party finding an entire family.

As I’ve mentioned recently, I took a trip to the fun-filled Hinckley Fire Museum a few years back – here’s my travelogue.

Great Fire!


Morbid Link Du Jour!

I’m not an embalmer (I know, saying those words makes me sad too), but this seems to be a reliable enough article.  In any event, it makes for an entertaining read!  Thanks to beth60best for sending it my way.

10 Horrible Myths and Misconceptions About Embalming


Fetus Du Jour!

Here’s another preserved 1930’s fetus that I photographed at the Museum of Science and Industry last week.  I call this one: Adrift.

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