6 Restless Corpses: Heads of State Edition

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The reason for exhuming, mummifying, or otherwise displaying the deceased bodies of heads of state is to either 1. continue to pay your respects, or 2. to make sure they are really dead, depending on your end of the political spectrum.

Eva Perón

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Eva Perón was first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death from cancer in 1952. A monument was to be built where her body could be displayed, but when president Jaun Perón was overthrown by the military, he fled the country without making arrangements for his wife's corpse. Evita's body was missing for 16 years, until the military  government revealed she had been buried in Italy. In 1971, Juan Perón had her body exhumed and delivered to his new home in Spain. He returned to Argentina in 1973 to begin his third term as president. After his death in 1974, his successor (and third wife) Isabel Perón arranged for Eva's coffin to be brought back to Argentina, where she was displayed beside her husband's body for a time. She was finally buried in Buenos Aires in an extremely secure tomb to guard against further "disappearance".

Juan Perón's grave was desecrated in 1987, and his hands were stolen.

Nicholas II

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The last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II was executed in Yekaterinburg in 1918, a year after he abdicated the throne. His wife, four daughters, son, the family's doctor, and three servants were also killed. The bodies were hidden in a mine shaft, then later taken to the woods and dismembered. Nine skeletons were found in 1991. DNA tests revealed that five were of the same family, and four were unrelated. The related bones were found to match DNA of various royal families that were related to Nicholas or his wife Alexandra, leading scientists to conclude they belonged to the tsar and his family. The bones of the Romanov family were reburied in July of 1998 in the Saint Catherine Cathedral in St. Petersburg, despite reservations from the church, as skeptical officials cited the two missing children.  The remains of what is believed to be the other two children were found in 2007.

Ho Chi Minh

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Ho Chi Minh was the leader of North Vietnam for 24 years, as prime minister and then president until his death in 1969. He had wished to be cremated, but his body was instead put on display in a mausoleum in Hanoi. The Soviet Union, which had founder Vladimir Lenin on display, made a gift of a crystal coffin, and lent technological expertise in the embalming procedure. "Uncle Ho's" tomb is open for visitors every day.

Mao Zedong

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Mao Zedong led the Communist party in China and was the leader of the People's Republic of China from 1949 until his death in 1976. Like Ho Chi Minh before him, he wished to be cremated, but was instead placed on public display. A mausoleum was built right after his death at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, on the site that was once the main gate of the Imperial City. Since Mao's internment, there have been at least three vandalism attempts, all thwarted by police.

Ferdinand Marcos

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Ferdinand Marcos was president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. His body was refused entry into the Philippines, so his wife Imelda arranged to keep it in refrigeration at a mausoleum in Oahu. In 2001, Marcos' corpse was allowed to return to the Philippines during the administration of president Fidel Ramos, who is distantly related to Marcos. However, plans to bury the former president anywhere in the Philippines brought instant protest. Imelda Marcos refuses to bury her husband's body until he is given full military honors, so he remains in a glass-topped coffin, on display at the Marco's family mausoleum in the village of Batac.

Abraham Lincoln

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President Abraham Lincoln's coffin was moved 17 times after his funeral, mostly for construction and renovation of his tomb in Illinois, and the coffin itself was opened five times! A gang of counterfeiters attempted to take Lincoln's body from his tomb in 1876. The plan was to hold the corpse for ransom, but they only moved the coffin a few inches when they were interrupted by police who were alerted by a Secret Service agent who had infiltrated the gang. Lincoln's coffin was removed from the tomb during reconstruction of the tomb in 1900-1901. Before the reburial, the coffin was opened for witnesses. 23 people took a look and agreed that the body, with its still-recognizable features, was indeed Abraham Lincoln. Afterward, Lincoln's coffin was buried for the final time, and covered with 4,000 pounds of concrete.

Further reading: 6 Restless Corpses and 6 More Restless Corpses

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April 10, 2008 - 1:13am
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