Brain of One of Italy's Most Revered Saints Found in a Teapot

A plaster replica of Saint John Bosco on display in Liverpool
A plaster replica of Saint John Bosco on display in Liverpool
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It's not every day you find a saint's brain in the kitchen cupboard.

John Bosco, one of Italy's most popular saints, was a 19th century Roman Catholic priest, writer, and educator known for his work helping impoverished youth. He founded the Salesian religious order in 1859, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934. These days, more than 600,000 pilgrims a year visit his basilica in Castelnuovo, near Turin.

But on June 3, some of those pilgrims were disappointed to find a small room near the altar of the basilica that normally holds some of his relics marked "Closed. Under Construction." Soon the church revealed there was no construction—a thief dressed as a pilgrim had made off with a reliquary containing fragments of the saint's brain the evening before.

Police set up roadblocks around northern Italy and searched cars, while faithful Catholics around the world prayed for the relic's safe return. Italian newspapers speculated that the relic had been stolen for ransom, or (more ominously) a "satanic rite."

Fortunately, it didn't take long for police to find some suspicious fingerprints on the glass protecting the reliquary, as well as some shoeprints nearby. After submitting the prints to a forensic lab in Parma, digital fingerprint technology found a match, as The Telegraph reports: a 42-year-old man with a record living in Pinerolo, near Turin. The authorities have identified him only as "C.G."

After obtaining a search warrant, police found the reliquary intact in the man's kitchen cupboard, nestled inside a copper teapot. C.G. apparently believed the reliquary was made of solid gold (it's not), and would fetch a hefty sum. The recovery of the relic was announced on June 16, and it is now safely back in the basilica.

Bosco's brain is far from the only pilfered relic, which Catholics believe can be used for healing, protection, and sometimes even miracles. During the Middle Ages, when dead saints were celebrities, there was a thriving trade in relics stolen (or "translated") from one church for another. More recently, thieves have been stealing relics for ransom, to sell to collectors, or for more obscure reasons—such as the theft of the 800-year-old preserved heart of St. Laurence O'Toole from Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Enrico Stasi, the Salesian provincial for the Piedmont region, told The Telegraph the Carabinieri (Italian military police) had done an "excellent job" recovering the relic. "Obviously we are very, very happy," he said.

[h/t BizzarroBazar]

Man Opens Can of Beans, Finds Just One Bean

Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

In Heinz-sight, Steve Smith should’ve ordered take-out for his Tuesday night dinner.

The 41-year-old Conservative councilor in Bristol, England told The Independent that he returned home late from a residents’ meeting and tore open the last can of Heinz Beanz from a multipack in the cupboard.

What he found inside would’ve broken the spirit of even the most steadfast optimist: A pathetic, lone bean drowned in a sea of savory-yet-unsatisfying bean juice.

Smith handled the catastrophe the old-fashioned way, by tweeting a video of his miserable meal and tagging the culpable corporation.

“I thought it was funny—but annoying,” Smith told The Independent. “I thought they might see the funny side.” Heinz responded with an apology and a request for Smith’s details, hopefully to offer him a lifetime supply of beans.

To put it in perspective, an average can of Heinz contains around 465 beans, enough to make your intestines groan. Smith said he eats a can every couple weeks.

For those of you worried that the woebegone bloke went to bed famished, you can rest assured that this story has a happy ending ... at least if you associate happy endings with eggs. Smith scrambled some up to fill the leguminous void in his stomach (and his heart).

[h/t The Independent]

Here's Why You Can't Keep Your Loved One's Skull

hayatikayhan/iStock via Getty Images
hayatikayhan/iStock via Getty Images

Even if showcasing your grandfather’s skull on your living room mantle is the type of offbeat tribute he absolutely would have loved, your chances of making it happen are basically zilch. Mortician Caitlin Doughty explains exactly why in her new book Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death, excerpted by The Atlantic.

Having written permission from dear old Gramps stating that you are allowed to—and, in fact, should—display his skull after his death simply isn’t enough, for two reasons. First of all, most funeral homes lack the equipment required to decapitate a corpse and thoroughly de-flesh the skull. Doughty admits that she doesn’t even know what that process would entail, though her best guess for a proper cleaning involves dermestid beetles, which museums and forensic labs often use to “delicately eat the dead flesh off a skeleton without destroying the bones.” Unfortunately, the average funeral home doesn’t keep flesh-eating beetles on retainer.

The second hindrance to your macabre mantle statement piece is a legal matter. In order to maintain respect for the dead, abuse-of-corpse laws prevent funeral homes from handing over corpses or bones, but the terms differ widely from state to state. Kentucky’s law, for example, prohibits using a corpse in any way that would “outrage ordinary family sensibilities,” but leaves it entirely open to interpretation how an “ordinary family” would behave.

Sometimes, of course, it’s relatively obvious. Doughty recounts the case of Julia Pastrana, who suffered from hypertrichosis, a condition that caused hair growth all over her face and body. Her husband had her corpse taxidermied and displayed it in freak shows during the 19th century as a money-making scheme—a clear example of corpse abuse. Since the laws are so ambiguous, however, funeral professionals err on the side of caution.

Funeral homes also must submit a burial-and-transit permit for each body so the state has a record of where that body went, and the usual options are burial, cremation, or donation to science. “There is no ‘cut off the head, de-flesh it, preserve the skull, and then cremate the rest of the body’ option,” Doughty says. “Nothing even close.”

If you’re thinking the laws sound vague enough that it’s worth a shot, law professor and human-remains law expert Tanya Marsh might convince you otherwise. As she told Doughty, “I will argue with you all day long that it isn’t legal in any state in the United States to reduce a human head to a skull.”

The laws about buying or selling human remains also vary by state, and are “vague, confusing, and enforced at random,” according to Doughty. Many privately sold bones come from India and China, and, though eBay has banned the sale of human remains, there are other ways of procuring a stranger's skull online “if you are willing to engage in some suspect internet commerce,” Doughty says.

[h/t The Atlantic]

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