Who would sleep with a dead person? Surprisingly, many people have. Sometimes, it happened due to old age, and other times, alcohol was involved. There were cases of intentional necrophilia, and there were coldhearted cases of brutal murder.
In every one of the following instances, a living person curled up in bed or on the floor to sleep with someone who was well past their expiration date. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
10 Wellman’s Arctic Expedition
All alone in a stone hut on Franz Josef Land, Bernt Bentsen and Paul Bjorvik made each other a solid promise. If one of them died, the other would keep the body inside the hut to protect it from polar bears until it could be buried.
Sure enough, having been stationed on the archipelago in the middle of winter in 1898, Bentsen passed away. With barely any food and no fuel supplies, Bjorvik stayed true to his word. He kept his friend stuffed in a sleeping bag and slept beside the body in the tiny hut.
To keep his spirits up during the long wait for the other members of the expedition to arrive, Bjorvik read poetry by Henrik Ibsen to his frozen friend.
Finally, two months later, the rest of the expedition arrived, and Bentsen was given his shallow burial under a heap of stones.
9 All The Houses Looked Alike
It was late at night, and the young Philadelphian only wanted to find his boarding house. He was tired and, truth be told, slightly inebriated. His only problem was that all the boarding homes along the street looked alike.
After a moment of trying to figure out which house he’d rented a room in, he picked one, walked in, and went upstairs to his second-floor room. Inside the door, he searched for some matches but quickly gave up when they weren’t where he had left them. He got undressed, crawled onto the bed, and passed out.
It was a deep sleep, and at first, he did not notice the hardness of the bed or the lack of covers, but at some point during the night, he rolled into something cold beside him on the bed.
His eyes shot open, and by the moonlight, he was able to see a well-dressed corpse beside him on what was actually a table. The young man jumped up, threw on his clothes, and ran from the building.
Shortly afterward, it was discovered that he had not only entered the wrong house, but that there had been a death in the neighbor’s house. The corpse he slept next to had been prepared for viewing the next day. The year was 1860.
8 Homeless Hazards
There was a time when it was fairly common for homeless people to sleep in barns, sneaking into them under the cover of darkness to catch a few winks while being protected from the elements. For example, in the winter of 1901, Steerson, described as a tramp, snuck into a barn in Ohio only to feel that there was another man already in there.
Steerson did not mind, however, and curled up close to the other man before falling asleep. It was not until the early morning light crept into the barn that Steerson woke to find himself sleeping next to a dead body. The police were called in, and the body was discovered to be that of a burglar who was mortally wounded fleeing a crime scene.
A similar incident happened in 1921. This time, it was in Yarrawonga, Australia. James Kinno entered a small caretaker’s hut one night and saw another man curled up on the floor. James called out a welcome to the man but got no answer. Assuming the other man was passed out drunk, James also made a spot for himself on the floor and went to sleep.
After James woke up the next morning, he noticed that the other man had not moved at all during the night. Not daring to touch the other man with his hand, he instead reached out with his foot and gave the other man a nudge on the leg. Sure enough, his hut companion was stiff.
The police were brought in, and it was determined that the body had been lying there dead for some three days. It must have smelled awful, but perhaps it was no worse a smell than some of the other places James had slept in, and therefore it raised no immediate alarms.
7 One Of The Lucky Ones
Henry Hughes was born in North Wales in 1825. By the time he was 11 years old, he was working in the coal mines like so many other boys his age.
One day, there was a cave-in. Henry and 30 others were trapped inside the mine without food or water. Within three days, 12 people had perished from suffocation.
Henry was trapped inside a small enclosure, 1.2 meters (4 ft) high and wide. There was about 15 centimeters (6 in) of mud on the ground. Being so young, Henry was fortunate that another trapped young man, John Jones, took Henry in his arms and kept him out of the mud.
As more time passed by, gases filled the tomb, and the men lost consciousness. Nine men drowned in the mud, and the remaining men suffocated, but Henry slept in the arms of young John. When help finally arrived and he was awoken, Henry found that his friend had perished holding him safe from drowning in the mud.
Henry was the only survivor of the mining tragedy.
6 She Went Through His Pockets
Out of Perth came a horrible story of spousal abuse in 1947.
John Johnstone insisted it was not murder. He was only angry because he caught his wife going through his pockets after he showed up at home drunk. Her intrusion into his privacy made him lash out and hit her. His wife landed, unconscious, on the floor, but he insisted that he was good enough to pick her up and plop her onto the bed. He himself lay down beside her and, in his drunken state, passed out.
When he awoke the next day, he realized that his strike has killed his wife, and in a mad panic, he picked up her lifeless body and carried it to a wooden shed outside his flat.
Shortly afterward, he returned to the shed. Thinking he could get rid of the evidence of his crime, he gathered up her body and dumped it in a railway yard, where the police later found it. Johnstone was arrested and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was given ten years of penal servitude.
5 A Twisted Love Story
Books have been written about all the strange things that have happened in Key West, Florida, but this bizarre love story tops them all.
Carl Tanzler, a German bacteriologist and radiologist, worked at a tuberculosis hospital when he met the woman of his dreams, Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos. Sadly, Maria was diagnosed with tuberculosis and passed away while under Tanzler’s care.
Tanzler, knowing that Maria was the only woman for him, persuaded her family to allow him to build a mausoleum for her, which he did. For two years, he visited her body, but it simply was not enough for him and his obsession with the Cuban beauty.
Unknown to her family, he stole Maria’s body and began experiments on her to restore her to life. She was covered in beeswax and chemically treated. As her hair fell out, she was given new tresses.
For seven years, Tanzler slept with Maria’s body in bed until rumors began to surface that he had her corpse in his home.
Police showed up in the fall of 1940, and there, on his bed, they found the wax “doll” that was Maria.
Maria’s body was returned to her family, although Tanzler was never charged for his actions due to the statute of limitations having expired. His lived out the rest of his days in quiet.
4 A Nap In The Park
Francis Crotty, 20, had been inside a fish shop in Western Australia with two of his friends in 1949. While eating, he got into an argument with another patron, and soon, there was a fight. Crotty was knocked out, and his friends dragged him to safety in a nearby park.
For the next several hours, his friends lay down beside their friend, one of them resting his head on the still body, waiting for dear Crotty to wake up, but he never did.
An autopsy later revealed that after being dragged to the park, Crotty became ill from the knockout punch he had received and choked on his own vomit. His friends, while loyal, never realized that the young man was in need of medical care and not the fresh air of the local park.
3 Beyond Death
In February 1913, a skeleton, covered with a cloth, was discovered by police in the bed of a house in Wimborne Minster, England. The story that unfolded was both odd and terribly touching.
Two women had lived together in the house for 30 years and, as reported, were “passionately devoted to each other.” When one of the women passed away, the other was so distraught that she spent two nights sleeping on top of the deceased body, hoping that it would return her love to life.
As we all know, the deceased was never reanimated. Instead, the remaining woman kept her lover in the bed in the hope that when she passed away, the two could be buried together.
2 After 50 Years Of Marriage
Newspapers from the past are full of stories about the elderly sleeping with a deceased spouse, but none are as sad and touching as the story of Evan Williams, aged 74 in 1929.
Evan and Ellen, 72, had been married for 50 years in Fairfield, New South Wales. Never had they left each other’s side, but Ellen had grown ill with heart problems and would sometimes not speak for days during her more severe bouts with sickness.
In May of that year, Ellen grew quiet. She would not respond to her husband’s questions. Thinking that she was simply sick and would eventually sleep it off, he went about his days as normal and crawled into bed with her each night.
This went on for ten or 11 days. Eventually, Evan had to accept that Ellen had passed away, and he went to the police. There, he told them that after a few days, “I finally got to feel lonely, and then I came to the conclusion that she had gone. I didn’t think she would leave me . . . ”
Upon entering the home, the police found poor Ellen in a desperately poor state. Her eyes were gone, and her nose was mostly rotted away. Skin and bone, Ellen was taken to the morgue, and Evan returned to their quiet, lonely home to live out the rest of his days.
1 Eastern State Penitentiary
A stay in Eastern State Penitentiary was never a pleasant ordeal. After all, the historic Pennsylvania prison housed such criminals as Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton. However, in 1903, there was a particularly gruesome event.
Cornelius Bush, serving time for assault and battery, and James Pratt, in for burglary, were locked up tight in their cell. Having little else to do, they got into an argument over religion.
When the fuss was over, Pratt lay down and went to sleep, but Bush was still fuming. Bush picked up a stool and proceeded to crush Pratt’s head. Then, with a table knife, he decapitated Pratt.
All the activity must have finally tired out Bush because his next move was to get on the bed and go to sleep beside his dead cellmate.
The next morning, after Bush had gotten up, a guard found Pratt’s brutalized body wrapped up in the sheets. His head was wrapped separately in an old shirt and resting on a table inside the cell.
Elizabeth lives in the beautiful state of Massachusetts where she is currently involved in researching early American history. She writes and travels in her spare time.