Things Made Out of Humans
A big thank you to everyone who voted on this topic - it’s a macabre one that I have been excited about. Is excited the right word? I mean THIS IS about things that have been made from actual human beings.
There was a surprising amount of objects that have been crafted from physical human bodies so I created a Top 10 list. Some categories will have more than one object that I talk about. Like multiple buildings or books.
George Francis Warden (AKA George Parrot or Big Nose George) was a horse thief and train robber in the late 1800’s. He and his gang killed a couple of officers and fled to Montana. Unfortunately for George, he couldn’t “[keep] his big mouth shut” and he was caught. He was then sentenced to hang but was lynched by an angry mob before his sentence could be officially carried out by the law. His neck didn’t snap and he was slowly suffocated. Wanna know the most disturbing part? He fought so hard against the noose while he was being strangled that he RUBBED HIS EARS OFF! omg…That’s why when you see a plaster cast made of his head after his death (a death mask) it doesn’t have ears.
As you can tell from the photo, George had an appropriate nickname. It was rumored that his nose was so big that in order to close his coffin they had to sit on the lid and nail the lid down. Geez. He wasn’t buried for long before he was dug up by two local doctors, Thomas Maghee and John Osborne. I do wonder if when they pried the nails out that was holding his coffin lid shut, if the lid sprang open? Anyone else have that thought? Dr. Maghee wanted to study how the criminal mind worked because his wife had suffered a head injury that had changed her behavior for the worse. He wanted to help “heal her”. They also had a grudge against him because he had a robbed a train that they were on and caused them to be late for a party.
This is where things extra gruesome. Dr. Osborne peeled the skin off of George’s chest and thighs and made a variety of macabre things:
a doctor’s bag.
a coin purse.
A pair of shoes. These shoes were actually only half human leather as the other half was reconstructed from the shoes that George wore when he was hanged. But still!! Ugh!
A death mask. Without the ears!
After they removed his brain, the piece of skull they had cut away was used as an ashtray.
Dr. Osborne was very proud of his creations and wore the shoes during his inauguration to become the democratic governor of Wyoming.
It was fashionable to have items crafted from human skin in the 1800’s. Did you know this practice actually has a name because it was so popular at one point in history - Anthropodermic Bibliopegy. Including book bindings, such as the “Destinies of the Soul” written by Arsene Houssaye and bound by Dr. Ludovic Bouland. Their thinking was that the only appropriate binding for a book about the human soul was human skin.
There are other morbid pieces of literature found in the world. Such as the collection of Dr. John Stockton Hough, who bound several books in the skin of his deceased patients. The most notable piece in his collection dates from 1869. Dr. Hough took the skin from a thigh of a woman (Mary Lynch) who had died from parasite trichinosis. I have no idea if she gave consent to this or not but I certainly hope she did. Otherwise, that kind of ups the creep factor! It took him a while to decide what to do with the skin exactly - like a few DECADES! - then he bound two books with the skin. I do wonder what he did with the skin before he “utilized” it. Did he just keep it in his pocket? It’s so weird it’s just beyond belief.
But wait, there’s more.
In 1821, 18-year-old John Horwood was hanged after he beat a girl to death with a rock. His body had been publicly dissected and skin removed. His skin was used to bind the pages that detailed his crime. It is now on display at a British museum.
This fad rose in popularity during the 1800’s after a law was passed that stated criminal bodies could not be buried. That’s just absurdly stupid in my opinion since you could be deemed a criminal for just having the unlucky lot in life of being dumb. The bodies of these criminals would be publicly dissected or they were just left wherever they had been killed. Public dissections were performed to try and understand how the criminal brain worked. Onlookers began taking pieces of the body, clothing, and whatever they could pry off as memorabilia. Well, that sums it up - people have ALWAYS been into murder and weird shit.
3. ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS
There are more structures made of human body parts than you may realize. I was definitely surprised. So, let’s start with the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic. A small Roman Catholic church with a rather impressive cemetery. Now, when you are looking at this church from the outside you wouldn’t think twice about it’s appearance but go inside and get ready to lose your shit because it is amazing!
In the 13th century, an Abbot named Henry was sent to Jerusalem on a diplomatic mission by King Otakar II. On his return journey he managed to scoop up some soil from the holy land and proceeded to bless the church with it. As a result, everyone wanted to be buried in the church’s small cemetery. It attracted the rich and powerful, plague victims, and casualties of war. With so many people vying for a plot, the ones in charge of the dead were forced to store the bodies in a separate crypt built specifically for that purpose. It was said that bones and body parts were just lying on the ground everywhere. It was reported that you could barely take two steps without treading on something (someone?).
Not knowing what to do with the copious amounts of bones the craftsman Frantisek Rint was hired to make something better. He had many ideas including the ones below.
As of today, it is estimated that 30,000+ people have their remains showcased at the Sedlec Ossuary.
Let’s continue our morbid tour by going over to Serbia where the Skull Tower of Nis is located. In 1809, the country was in the midst of a rebellion uprising against the Ottoman Empire. At one point the rebels, wanting to avoid having their heads chopped off and put on the end of spikes, killed themselves. By blowing themselves up with gun powder I believe. Anyway, the empire decided to use these rebels as an example and had all of their heads (all 952!) built into a literal tower. Story time my friends, my family and I live in the country. Like OUT IN THE COUNTRY. We have a coyote problem and to ward them away from the livestock on our property we have to do something kinda gross and somewhat disturbing. When we kill a coyote we will hang their dead body on the barb wire fences on the perimeter of our land. But guess what? It keeps them away - most of them anyway.
The Serbian government later removed all but 58 of the skulls and gave them a dignified burial. Why only 58 and how they chose which ones to leave behind I have no clue. They could have put models in their place or something! To further preserve the tower as a historical monument a building was constructed around the tower and you can still visit it today. Soak up some of that creepy history next time you’re in the area.
Nope, not done yet.
In a small Polish village there is a tiny, unassuming church. Built in 1776, the interior of the church was quickly adorned with the bones of those who were victims of disease and war. That seems to be a common thread with all of these buildings. Have too many bones just laying around - build something! Constructed out of at least 3000 skulls and countless smaller bones.
This particular church mainly utilized the shin bones and skulls - hence the name The Czermna Skull Chapel.
Holy shit, is she finished yet??
The Capela Dos Ossos (The Chapel of Bones") can be found in Portugal. Yep, ANOTHER church. Built in the 16th century, it has a message behind it’s construction. The motto of the church is written above the entrance, “We bones that are here, for your bones we wait.” Everyone who lives - dies. Death is the inevitable end to EVERY.ONE. That’s some deep shit you 16th century monks.
More. More. More. More. More. More. More. More. Moooooorrreeee buildings!
Described as “frightening beautiful”, the Eggenburg Charnel was built in the early 14th century using the remains of 5,800 individuals. I bet you’re wondering what makes this bone church different from the others that I have already talked about? Well - There is a focal point in the center of the church that is a small pile of skulls which are surrounded by longer bones (femurs maybe?) and enclosed by a semi-circular shape. I guess that’s not really all that different from the others, huh?
I bet you are dying to know about another bone church! Well, to be honest, I am kind of sick of talking about bone buildings so let’s move on.
4. KANGLING FLUTE
This may seem like a dark practice but it’s actually a respectable means of recycling human parts into useful tools. Kangling is a Tibetan word that means (roughly) “leg-flute” and is made from a human thigh bone. Sometimes called “The Bone Trumpet”. These flutes are made for use as a sacred instrument so only certain people could donate their bones after their death. You could donate your bones if you were “free from worldly stains” but not if you died from disease or from an accident. The only time this flute is played (and there is strictly NO PRACTICING on it - practice on something else! This is not a cheap recorder that you played in elementary school) is during a “Chod” ritual which reminds the participants of their mortality. I think that is actually a beautiful message
Here you can listen to its eerie, wailing sound.
5. HUMAN LEATHER
So, there is a company out there (in the UK I think) where they sell imitation human leather. Not sure why they would want to do such a thing but I want to talk about genuine human leather. There are few examples of human leather artifacts but I want to share the one I found the most disturbing. Necropants. O yea, it’s gruesome. A somewhat common practice for the 17th century Icelandic people, they would make pants from the skin of the recently deceased. They are believed to be magical (not sure in what way but they are). To make these “magical pants” (does that sound like the most macabre episode of Spongebob ever?) you would need to get permission before the person died - or the magic wouldn’t be activated! Then, after they die and are buried for a bit, you dig them up and begin the tedious process of peeling their skin from their body. All the way from the waist down. You CANNOT tear or poke a hole in the pants or they will lose their magical powers. And that would be a shame, wouldn’t it?
Here’s a weird thought - if you were a man wearing these, would you stuff your own wiener down into the penis skin?? That’s disturbing…
6. RITUAL MASK
Okay, so I know that the necropants above could be considered ritual clothing but I thought they deserved their own spot. So, let us move onto to masks made by the Ekoi people of Nigeria and Cameroon. These I found particularly interesting because they were usually created for rituals and celebrations and these people would use the skin of their slaves. What kind of ceremony did they use these for - well I’m not really sure.
You can buy replicas of them today (though, this in your house might be “kinda” scary) that are made out of tanned antelope hide.
Antoine Le Blanc was a man who in 1833 was tried, convicted, and executed for murder. Instead of being buried he was turned into memorabilia.
A death mask
The doctors who flayed him and created this macabre collection said they wanted to make “charming little keepsakes”. Isn’t that just charming? Can you hear the sarcasm in my words through the screen? But of course with such unique objects they were in high demand. Those that couldn’t get their hands on one of the actual objects could buy a small strip of Le Blanc’s skin that had been signed by the sheriff to verify it’s authenticity. What do you do with a strip of signed skin? Put it in a frame? Carry it around in your wallet? What the hell people?
8. THE WITCH OF BUCHENWALD
Was there no end to the suffering of the Jews during the holocaust. The more I read and research about the holocaust and the Nazi’s the more I can’t believe that people that cruel ever walked this earth. One woman in particular (who I am definitely going to be doing a deeper dive onto one day) was Ilse Koch aka “The Witch/Bitch of Buchenwald”. She was too evil even for the Nazi’s and they eventually imprisoned her for stealing money and valuables from the Jews they had murdered. That’s just…you can kill all of these people but if you steal from them, then it’s a step too far.
Koch became widely known for her sadistic behavior and macabre collection. What did she collect you might wonder? Well, if Koch found a tattoo she liked on a prisoner she would have them skinned and turned into various objects. Such as:
book covers. She loved to cover her books in tattooed skin.
It was rumored that she had a purse
she also collected organs and had them preserved
She eventually succumbed to the delusion that prison camp survivors were sneaking into her prison cell to abuse her. She committed suicide in 1967. I imagine that if they could have gotten to her they would have done much worse than just “abuse her”.
9. A LYRE
This musical “thing” looks like something straight from a Grimm’s Brother fairy tale. The origins of this instrument have been lost to time but it has been suspected that a skilled craftsman connected antelope horns to a human skull and created it. They most likely wanted to play up stories of “monsters” and “demons” of 19th century lore.
10. WHO’S READY FOR THE BIG ONE? THE ULTIMATE? THE WORST OF THE WORST - ED GEIN!!!
I actually had a difficult time deciding about whether or not to give this final position to Ilse Koch or Ed Gein. Ultimately, you know my decision.
SO, Ed Gein was primarily a grave robber though he did kill two people. I NEED to do a full report on him, he is one of the big hitters. The classics. Anyway, he made himself a vast collection of actual crafty things but also bits and pieces of people he hadn’t “gotten around to”.. Ready for this?
human bones and fragments
ten female heads with the tops sawed off
human skin covering several seats of chairs
a head in a paper bag and another in a burlap bag
nine vulvas in a shoe box. VULVAS!!! Say that with me - he had vulvas in a shoe box.
Skulls on his bedposts
Organs in the fridge
lips on a draw string for a window shade
a female nipple belt
a lampshade from a human face
Ed Gein had some mental issues - if you can’t tell - and he spent the remainder of his days in a hospital setting.
Now I bet you’re ready for the most interesting part - the pictures.
That’s it my darlings! We live in a crazy world and I find myself fascinated with something new almost every day.
Which was your favorite? I can’t really decide. Gein was great because he inspired so many great movies and such but all of that architecture was just breathtaking. I can’t decide.
Visit my ART SHOP to see what macabre beauties have been inspired by these gruesome stories.