For most of us, our journeys have come to an end when we die (at least, in the terrestrial sense). Once they incinerate you, toss you in a box, or donate you to science, the odds of you going on a globetrotting adventure are pretty slim. But not if you're a famous person. In that case, your remains suddenly become valuable souvenirs. That's why ...
5Frederic Chopin's Heart Was Stolen By Nazis
While on his deathbed in Paris, legendary composer Frederic Chopin asked for his heart to be cut out and then buried a thousand miles away from the rest of his rotting body. We'd have to say this is about the most metal funeral request we've ever heard, second only to JFK insisting that his grave be, "Just like, on fire. All the time."
Back then, being mistakenly buried alive by bumbling, impatient undertakers was a legitimate concern, so it could be that Chopin just wanted to make one billion percent certain he was dead before anyone tried stuffing him into the ground. Any possible secret motives notwithstanding, what he told his sister was that he wanted a piece of him to be carried back to his home of Warsaw, Poland to be buried, since by that time, he was far too ill to make the journey himself, and nobody wants to ship a whole dead guy all the way from France to Poland.
So once Chopin finally passed beyond our realm, his sister did as he bade and had her brother's heart removed and dropped into a vial of Cognac to be smuggled into Poland. However, rather than carry out the least-insane portion of his request, she chose not to bury it, but to enshrine it in the Holy Cross Church, where it sat for decades as a symbol of Polish pride ... until the Nazis showed up and ruined everything (as they do).
"Be cool, Poland. We're sure this won't escalate any further."
Chopin had been targeted by the Third Reich's campaign of historical obliteration -- all of his music was outlawed, and any statues or images of him were destroyed. Fearful that the Nazis would destroy Chopin's heart (which they absolutely would have), a sympathetic German priest named Schulze offered to take it away from the war zone. The Polish priests accepted the kind proposal and entrusted the heart to Schulze ... who immediately turned it over to the Nazis, with whom he shared a rousing chorus of treacherous German laughter.
Luckily, the Nazi who claimed the heart was Heinz Reinefarth, a huge Chopin admirer who was appalled by the thought of destroying such an artifact. He made sure the organ stayed intact until it was eventually returned it to the Polish, who, having learned a powerful lesson about trusting World-War-II-era Germans, kept it hidden in the village of Milanowek just in case Reinefarth changed his Nazi mind. When the war finally ended, the heart was returned to its place in the Holy Cross Church. Which, as you may recall, is still not where Chopin wanted it to be.
WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images
He should really speak to someone about that.
4The Liver of Mary Shelley's Husband Was Traded Between His Friends
You probably know Mary Shelley as the author of Frankenstein (a story she slapped together to win a contest at a party). But her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was also a big deal -- an influential British poet who rolled with professional literary maniac Lord Byron. So maybe what happened to his earthly remains isn't that surprising.
Shelley drowned off the coast of Italy in 1822 while attempting to sail through a storm. It took ten more days for his body to wash ashore, and as one might imagine, he was in less-than-pristine condition by then -- bloated and rotting, with any part of his body not covered by clothing picked clean to the bone by opportunistic fish. Since Italian quarantine laws forbade a corpse like that from going anywhere near society -- both to prevent the possible spread of disease and from what we assume was a powerful fear of sea zombies -- this meant his body had to be cremated right there on the beach. So Shelley's friend Edward Trelawny built a giant Darth Vader funeral pyre, while his buddy Lord Bryon hung out in the carriage (presumably with his pet bear).
Louis Edouard Fournier
And Hayden Christensen, because George Lucas knows no bounds.
As the fire began to die down, Trelawney noticed that one stubborn part of Shelley's body refused to burn. Believing the partially charred mass to be Shelley's heart, because 17th-century twenty-something poets were much more familiar with flowery romanticism than human anatomy, he reached into the flames and grabbed the blazing hot organ, presumably burning the almighty fuck out of his hand like the evil Nazi accountant in Raiders of the Lost Ark in the process. Although no one can say for certain, there's almost no possible way the organ in question was Shelley's heart, since such a frail, hollow lump of tissue would've been quickly incinerated, like a wad of bacon in a campfire. In all likelihood, what Trelawney fished out of the impromptu funeral pyre was his friend's liver. In addition to being the largest internal organ in the human body (meaning it takes more time to burn), Shelley's liver would've been engorged with seawater like a grotesque sponge, making it even more unlikely to crumble in the blaze.
"Definitely works better than the Chianti."
Heart or liver notwithstanding, Trelawny didn't keep his dead friend's underdone torso meat for very long. He soon bequeathed it to Leigh Hunt, another poet friend of Shelley's who hadn't bothered to show up for the beach blanket corpse bake. Hunt was so overwhelmed by the gift that he immediately passed it off to Mary Shelley, Percy's infinitely more famous wife. Appropriately, the woman whose magnum opus involved a reanimated corpse puzzle had absolutely no problem hanging on to a chunk of her dead husband. She lovingly wrapped the (probable) liver in silver, stuck it in a silk bag, and kept it at her side until her death in 1851, which concludes our entry on Percy Bysshe Shelley and the goose-shittingly insane people he hung out with.