Famous corpses we have known

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When yer dead, yer gone and that's it -- or so they say. Ashes to ashes, right? Not necessarily: here's a list of people who refused to molder quietly into that good grave; who nature, and/or some very strange morticians, decided to keep around for awhile longer.

Vladimir Lenin

According to Uncle John (king of bathroom books), more people have seen Lenin's mummy than any other mummy in history. The man shuffled off this mortal coil in 1924, but to look at him today, hyber-embalmed and lying in an airtight glass coffin in his humidity- and temperature-controlled mausoleum in Red Square, you'd think he kicked it last week. Despite his requests for a modest burial, a few days after his death, a team of Soviet scientists began working to preserve him forever. This "body brigade" has been on the job for 83 years now, giving Lenin a thorough dusting and embalming touch-up twice a week, not to mention a new hand-tailored suit every eighteen months. Lucky stiff.

Jeremy Bentham
Jbentham.600px.jpgMeet Jeremy Bentham. One of 18th century England's foremost thinkers, he was by most standards a genius, and by all accounts, a pretty eccentric fella. To wit: his will mandated that his body be preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet at University College London, which he founded. It sits there today, at the end of a hall, wearing the same clothes he wore when he was alive. His head, badly damaged in the preservation process, sits in a jar at his feet. The "Auto-Icon," as it is known, is hauled out for University Council meetings from time to time, at which Bentham is listed on the official register as "present but not voting."

The Tollund Man
Homme_de_Tollund.jpgNamed after the village of Tollund in Denmark he was discovered in one of those remarkable peat bogs in 1950, he was so well preserved by the anaerobic environment of the bog that police initially thought they had stumbled upon a recent murder. In fact, T.M. died in the 4th century B.C., with the rope that hanged him still around his neck. Some experts speculate that he was ritually drowned in the bog as part of the cult of Nerthus, the Danish subjugation of which a few centuries later lay behind the epic Beowulf. (Don't expect the Tollund Man to show up in a supporting role in Robert Zemeckis' new adaptation, however; word on the street is that it's all about Angelina Jolie -- or rather her strange, motion-captured avatar -- being half-nude throughout.)

Otzi the Iceman
OetzitheIceman-glacier-199109b.jpgOtzi died after a skirmish in the Ötztal Alps about 5,000 years ago. Having been preserved by a glacier and rediscovered in 1999 by hikers, his body and tools have been a veritable smorgasbord for anthropologists. Being 53 centuries old makes him Europe's oldest mummy, and something of a cult icon. A footwear company is developing a shoe based on the ones Otzi was wearing (between those and McFlys, you'd have quite the anachronistic shoe collection). X-rays have revealed that Otzi was also one of history's most illustrated men, sporting more than 57 tattoos.

Lucy: now on tour!
Lucy_fossil.jpg
Discovered on an African dig in 1974, Lucy is one of the oldest known hominid fossils ever discovered -- more than 3.2 million years. Named for the Beatles' famous ode to LSD -- which was on heavy rotation in the anthropologists' camp during the dig -- Lucy is just 3.5 feet tall, a member of the Australopithecus afarensis species. Long kept locked away in an Addis Ababa museum, she's now preparing for a six-year tour of the U.S., which will help to raise funds for the impoverished museum where she normally resides.

September 13, 2007 - 3:52am
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