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TRAVEL The Crypt Of The Moving Corpses …

Posted by on 3. März 2016

Kapuzinergruft

8000 mummified corpses, exhibited since 1599 ...

Kapuzinergruft

… moving when the weather changes ...

Kapuzinergruft

… and some with the tongue sticking out

YES, I KNOW, YOU HAVE SEEN AND HEARD EVERYTHING about the collection of thousands of dried corpses beneath the Capuchine Monastery in Palermo (Sicily). I tell you, you haven’t! This pervert touristic highlight is so popular that – secretly – it gets replenishments from time to time. The crypt now is home to roughly 8000 people who died since 1599, exhibited hanging from hooks on the walls, sitting, lying or squatting in wooden boxes, on cupboards or on the floor. A gruesome sight, especially when mothers appear to mourn their recently deceased, publicly exhibited children. Or when some of the monk-guides don’t refrain from demonstrating secret monstrosities, like pulling a preserved tongue from an otherwise bony skull. But the most horrible thing I encountered recently, and unfortunately I was alone in the Catacombs: Some corpses moved! They turned their heads slightly, stretched an arm maybe a third of an inch, pulled their legs up in a flash, and when I scanned the nearest wall, I saw minimal, but effective movements all along! Was it a stunt? Another, unnecessary, „service“ of the Capuchines to generate horror – and better tips or donations? Or did I see things which weren’t real? No, because by chance I found the following paragraph in a book by the German author Otto Julius Bierbaum, written in 1909: „Once the corpses, fixed to the walls on hooks by their necks,even turned around completely, an Englishman went crazy, when a corpse in front of him, almost embraced him. To avoid these movements, the monks fastened them around the waists, but the corpses still wobble with their arms from time to time.“ And why is that so, I asked my monk-guide. His answer: „They do this, when the weather changes! The Catacombes are not air-conditioned, the dead feel the climate. The movements are caused by the added or minimized humidity. But don’t be afraid. I tell you: All the people down here are really dead.“ In a place like this it’s appropriate to say „Thanks god.“ But I tell you: The crypt of the moving corpses is better than any Vampire movie …

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