Show Goes on Even after Death Compendium Follows Up on Corpses of More Than 50 Famous People

Winnipeg Free Press, March 23, 2013 | Go to article overview

Show Goes on Even after Death Compendium Follows Up on Corpses of More Than 50 Famous People


For some bodies of the famous, it seems the show goes on even after death.

This aptly titled compendium follows up on the corpses of more than 50 famous people and the adventures (or misadventures) of their body parts.

As gruesome as her subject matter may first appear, Seattle-based journalist Bess Lovejoy rarely descends into the grisly.

Her very short chapters speed the reader along and her flippant humour often keeps the stories more gossipy than ghastly.

Rest in Pieces, Lovejoy's first book, spans more than 2,000 years, from Alexander the Great to Osama bin Laden. The varieties of indignities that can occur to a corpse are equally vast.

Lovejoy reports that film genius Charlie Chaplin's corpse was kidnapped and reburied in a cornfield while being held for ransom. Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara's hands were sawn off his corpse and stored in formaldehyde for access to his fingerprints.

Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin's penis was removed and is currently on display in St. Petersburg, although an item that was also reputed to be that severed member was later proven to be a sea cucumber.

Lovejoy admits that some stories about what happened to bodies are conflicting. In such instances, she chose the version she felt had the most-respected documentation.

In the case of actor John Barrymore, whose corpse was allegedly taken from the funeral home and propped up in a suit for a final drink with his buddy Errol Flynn, Lovejoy offers several of the circulated stories but concludes that probably none are true.

She provides a 30-page bibliography for readers "who want to take their own stab at unraveling the mysteries." A number of her sources are recent newspaper articles, thus updating other work in this area, including Edwin Murphy's 1995 collection, After the Funeral: The Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses. …

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