Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 17, 2015

Today’s Sanitary Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1885 the first cremation in Britain took place at Woking. A number of reformers, led by Sir Henry Thompson, Surgeon to Queen Victoria, had campaigned for this sanitary form of disposal of the dead, arguing that it would reduce funeral expenditure, spare mourners from weather and prevent premature burial. Also ashes could be kept in columbaria safe from vandalism. After finally overcoming the objections of the Home Office, a London woman – Edith Pickersgill – was cremated on March 25, 1885, at the Woking Crematorium, established by the Cremation Society of England.

Culled from: The London Way of Death

I like how they list “prevent premature burials” as an advantage of cremation.  Aren’t they really swapping out one unfortunate occurrence (awakening in a coffin) for another (awakening in an oven)?  Oh well, the screaming is over faster in the oven!


Funeral Trains

Here’s some more interesting Chicago history that Aaron sent me: an article about the funeral trains that used to take mourners (and the corpses) out to the cemeteries that were then (early 1900s) on the outskirts of town.

When You Could Ride An ‘L’ Train To Your Grave

I discovered this phenomenon on my own when I explored Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago’s Northwest side years ago.  Rosehill is the biggest cemetery in Chicago and I used to live conveniently close to it and would explore it frequently.  I noticed overgrown steps coming down from the railroad line, which is now used by the Metra trains that run to the suburbs, and I also noticed a narrow, tall building along the edge of the cemetery.

A little sleuthing confirmed what I suspected: these were remnants of the old Rosehill Cemetery funeral stop.  The steps would be descended by the mourners, while the corpse in the coffin would take the elevator down (lazy bum).   Finding these little remnants of the past always makes me happy… even if these particular remnants represent so much forgotten sorrow.

Here are a few photos I took of these remnants.

The Stairway Of Sorrow

The stairway leads down to…
The Ornate Front Gate of Rosehill Cemetery

And around the corner you will find the…
Coffin Elevator:



Brain Du Jour!

Another excerpt from Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital.

Study No. 99:
Agyria lobi.
fron. lat. utr.,

This brain belonged to a patient suffering from lissencephaly. The disorder causes smooth surfaces rather than folds on portions of the brain. A perfectly smooth brain such as this is extremely rare.

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