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What is the meaning behind Key West Cemetery’s Bound Woman statue?

No one knows why this statue of a nude woman in historic Key West Cemetery is depicted with her hands bound behind her back.
Bound Woman statue in the Key West Cemetery
The Bound Woman statue on the grave of Archibald John Sheldon Yates, Key West Cemetery

Beneath the blue skies and palm trees of Key West, Florida, the historic Key West Cemetery is the final resting place of numerous tragedies, including slave burials, brutal murders, Civil War soldiers, sailors who died when the USS Maine was blown up in 1898, even the bizarre story of Carl Von Cosel’s demented love affair with a corpse.

Established in 1847, the cemetery was built on the highest point in Key West after a hurricane wiped out the old graveyard and scattered bodies the previous year. Among the monuments and above-ground vaults are legendary locals like barkeep “Sloppy” Joe Russell, and humorous epitaphs like “I’m just resting my eyes,” “A devoted fan of singer Julio Iglesias,” and hypochondriac B.P. “Pearl” Roberts’ “I told you I was sick.”

But perhaps the strangest thing you will find while wandering around the Old Town cemetery is the grave of Archibald John Sheldon Yates, adorned with a statue known as The Bound Woman. The figure, said to represent Yates’ wife Magdalena, sits nude above his head, her hands tied behind her back.

In the book The Florida Keys: A History & Guide, Joy Williams writes:

She’s no angel certainly and her posture seems to suggest something other than grief, but Archibald John Sheldon Yates really, really wanted her on his grave and there she is.

Front view of the Bound Woman statue in Key West Cemetery

Tied hands of the Bound Woman in Key West Cemetery

The Bound Woman has been mystifying visitors for years. No one knows why Yates insisted on having this statue placed on his grave, or what it is meant to represent.

Images via cruisingat60