Gothic Homemaking: In Search of Human Remains with Voltaire

Fresh out of human remains? Voltaire shows you how to track down skulls and bones for some macabre home decor in the new episode of Gothic Homemaking.

In the latest episode of Gothic Homemaking Voltaire goes in search of human remains for his lair, since no goth should be without at least a few skeletons in the closet. His search for a human skull takes him to Nevertold Casket Company in Seattle, The Evolution Store in New York, a visit with Mike Zohn at Obscura, the Morbid Anatomy Flea Market, and a tour of the museum-like home of Ryan Matthew Cohn packed with skeletons, shrunken heads, and wax anatomical models.

In this episode you also learn how to make a gothic skull lamp with Voltaire, and visit Dead Horse Bay looking for bones with Purevile.

The Lost Chapel of Bones in Malta

Somewhere beneath the ruins of the Nibbia Chapel in Malta is an ossuary decorated in human bones exhumed from a nearby cemetery.
Nibbia Chapel of Bones in Valletta, Malta
Crypt beneath the Nibbia Chapel of Bones in Valletta, Malta

For nearly a hundred years a small church in Malta’s capital of Valletta served as a place of powerful religious devotion, as well as a macabre tourist destination. Known as the Chapel of Bones, the vaulted crypt beneath the church was elaborately decorated with human skulls and bones exhumed from a nearby cemetery in the mid-1800s. Bombs dropped on the city during the second World War, on February 14, 1941, left the chapel damaged. What remained was later demolished sometime in the 1970s. Only the sarcophagus of the chapel’s builder Fra Giorgia Nibbia, along with remnants of the foundation, were left standing.

The Nibbia Chapel was built in the year 1612. Nibbia, a member of the Knights of the Order of St. John (who controlled the island at that time) funded the construction of the Roman Catholic chapel beside a cemetery where deceased patients of the nearby Sacra Infermeria hospital were laid to rest. It was dedicated to the Madonna della Misericordia, or Our Lady of Mercy, and was originally called Taz-Zuntier, a Maltese word for “cemetery.” The altar had a Latin inscription that, according to the Times of Malta, “lamented the ephemerity of life and requested prayers for the dead.”

When Nibbia died in 1619, he was entombed in a stone sarcophagus within the chapel.

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The chapel was dismantled in 1730 to make room for expansion of the hospital. At that time, Nibbia’s tomb was opened, and his corpse was said to appear untouched by death. The church was rebuilt the following year in the Baroque style with architecture attributed to Romano Carapecchia. This new structure, as described by the Times of Malta, “consisted of a large portal panel having the main door set within two clustered sets of Doric pilasters on each side. The door’s architrave was adorned with a marble plaque at the centre and topped by a broken rounded pediment. A thin cornice separated the upper section which was made up of a central light arched window set between two smaller clusters of pilasters and running scrolls. Above the whole was a triangular pediment.”

In 1776, the decision was made to relocate the cemetery. The remains were exhumed and reinterred underground in a large ossuary beneath the chapel. Then, in 1852, hospital chaplain Rev. Sacco decided to use the bones as decoration, adorning the walls and ceiling of the crypt with elaborate shapes and patterns made entirely of human skeletal remains. He created intricate patterns with crossed long bones, scapulae were used for floral shapes, skulls lined the walls, and smaller bones were used as trim.

In the world, civilized and savage, there is not another such a gruesome and appalling spectacle.

In the 1914 book Six and One Abroad, author Sidney J. Thomas wrote about the Church of St. John in Valetta, where a relic said to be the mummified right hand of John the Baptist was kept (after Napoleon stole the diamond ring from its finger), before moving on to describe the city’s other macabre destination.

“But yet a more startling apartment in this remarkable edifice is a chapel whose walls and ceiling are lined with grinning human skulls,” Thomas wrote. “This gruesome decoration of bones is not disposed at random and in sparse bits here and there, but is arranged with artistic skill into all sorts of designs, shaped into full framed skeletons that leer at you with ghastly smiles, into the curves of arm bones and arches of clavicles and windows and wainscotting of ribs. In the world, civilized and savage, there is not another such a gruesome and appalling spectacle. It was a clever artist who assembled these, the relics of the sturdy Knights of Malta, into such extraordinary schemes of drapery and friezes and ornaments – here and arm bone finished off with finger joints and meeting another of the same kind and together holding a grinning skull as the keystone of an arch; yonder a row of columns with their tops decorated with skulls.”

A reaper in the Chapel of Bones

Though little remains of the Nibbia Chapel, the underground crypt is believed to still exist, and may one day be found.

This is What $100 Trillion in (Worthless) Zimbabwe Currency Looks Like

With the highest inflation rate in the world, Zimbabwe began printing extremely large denominations that are now entirely worthless outside of the novelty market.
Zimbabwe $100 trillion dollars
Z$100,000,000,000,000

Before their currency became worthless in 2009, a loaf of bread in Zimbabwe could cost anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 depending on the current availability of wheat. Prices were rising at least twice a day, and people had to carry bags full of money to the store. “It was terrible,” businessman Shingi Minyeza told CNN. “You’d have to pay for your coffee before you drank it because if you waited the cost would rise within minutes.”

To keep up with hyperinflation to the tune of 231 million percent at it’s height, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe began printing ridiculously large notes like the $10 trillion bills in the photo above. Their largest denomination, the $100 trillion dollar bill, didn’t even get you a ride on a public bus to work for a week according to the Telegraph.

The Zimbabwe currency was finally abandoned on April 12, 2009 for a multi-currency system, which dramatically dropped the inflation rate to -2.3%. In 2015 the Zimbabwean dollar was formally demonetized to zero, and the US dollar was officially adopted. At that time, the bank began exchanging Zimbabwean dollars for the new currency at a rate of 35 quadrillion (that’s 35 with 15 zeros) for one US dollar.

Today the old Zimbabwe currency is entirely worthless, except as a novelty. $100 trillion in $10 trillion dollar bills cost me $30 bucks on ebay. A $100 trillion dollar bill will run you about $50. The Zimbabwe government has stated that it would only consider returning to the use of their old currency when “key economic fundamentals such productivity in key sectors have been achieved.” So if you buy some defunct bills now, maybe one day you’ll be a high roller in Zimbabwe.

That’s my plan, anyway.

Zimbabwe $100 trillion dollar bill
Zimbabwe $100 trillion dollar bill

Bodies recovered from the Titanic sinking

What Happened to Titanic’s Dead?

Of the 1,500 people who lost their lives when the Titanic sank, only 333 bodies were ever recovered. What happened to the rest?

Croc Tries to Drag Elephant Down by its Trunk

Video shows a crocodile grab an elephant by the trunk and try to pull it down before other elephants come to the rescue.

A group of elephants are peacefully walking near the water when this startling video takes a horrific turn. When one elephant extends its trunk into the water, a huge crocodile suddenly springs out and clamps its jaws around the trunk.

The elephant immediately begins to thrash around, trying to shake it off, but it’s not until another larger elephant seemingly stomps the croc that it finally lets go.

Video shows crocodile attacking elephant in the water

The video was reportedly filmed by a boater in the Liwonde National Park in Malawi on April 10.