Etiquette & superstition: stealing from dead people

Scrooge does it. Dentists do it. Sun-Tzu advocates doing it. Even Wall-E does it. What’s so wrong about stealing from the dead? It depends.

ETIQUETTE: From a letter to a local newspaper from a resident of Shaniko, Oregon, a ghost town that received a bit of attention for a short time in the ’60s: “… the public is carrying Shaniko away, piece by piece… Among us are several who have had belongings of varied value, both sentimental and intrinsic, taken from their property, and the schoolhouse and surroundings have been devastated by souvenir-seekers. In short, our privacy has been invaded and we are irked to say the least…”.

The book Oregon Ghost Towns by Lambert Florin puts it simply: “Such souvenirs as are found in the brush by the side of the road are legitimately carried home. Parts of buildings still standing, or furniture in them, we don’t include in the souvenir category, however. The old towns are melting away too fast as it is.” Have some respect for the dead. They might not be as dead as you think they are.

SUPERSTITION: If you really need some butter, go get yourself a corpse’s hand. Hold the hand while you churn some cream, and you will have butter within nine churns. If you don’t have any cream, possession of that corpse’s hand will give you the ability to take anybody else’s butter without consequence. That hand will also cure warts, hunchback and scrofula. Tip for the squeamish: you can cure your affliction by just going up to a corpse and rubbing its hand on your troublesome area. Only the butter fiends need to take the hand with them.

“Sardgrin2” by John Cain – screenshot from film Mr. Sardonicus. Via Wikipedia

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