Body photograph Auction

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Speaking of "morbid," the table where John Jacob Astor was embalmed in purportedly on display at another location in Halifax. (Joe Shomi -- November 2000 -- "Pictures of the Titanic's Dead")

Obviously this is a "better late than never" post, but I stumbled across the following today and remembered having seen that previous reference.

From: "Titanic Related Displays in other Areas of Nova Scotia" (


East Hants Historical Museum
Route 215, Lower Selma ( near Maitland ).
The portable embalming table believed to have been used with John Jacob Astor's body is on display at this museum in the summer. It came from J.A. Logan, an undertaker from near-by Shubenacadie who was called to Halifax to work on Titanic victims.

One can only wonder why it's only on display in the summer. ;-)
But this morbid curiosity is nothing new! Photographs of the dead from the Empress of Ireland disaster were made into postcards at the time!
True, morbid curiosity is nothing new! A few years ago (maybe 10) my students (I used to teach High School) organized a petition and a well worded letter to the company who was creating "collector cards" of mass murderers (Bundy, Dahmer, etc.)to express their disgust with the blatant and in their opinion, repulsive capitalization of morbid curiosity. I don't remember the outcome, but I was never more proud of a group of teenagers in my life. Everything has a balance I guess. . . thank goodness.
Geoff- A surprisingly wide selection of such cards depicting the Eastland were printed, as was a least one General Slocum postmortem stereo card. You're right, the morbid curiosity is nothing new.

Kate- Glad to read that the students out in your part of the country did that. I worked, at the time, in a place where those cards were sold and I always questioned the taste- and in some cases sanity, of those who purchased them.

Ben Holme

I once watched an interesting video on the Lusitania. An unecessary inclusion however, was some footage of several bodies still fully clothed. Among them, to my horror, were several infant victims. Depressing stuff...

Ben, Yes indeed, the Lusitania photographs were on public display back in 1915 and believe me, they are horrendous. I do think though that it was a rather unpleasant ploy to bring discredit upon the German Race. The childrens' photographs were the worst, not even afforded dignity in death, they were propped up along the harbour wall and photographed supposedly for identification purposes, although some of the little mites were so disfigured that they could barely be recognised as human. Nothing is sacred when it comes to getting one over on the enemy it would appear.

Ben Holme

Hi Geoff,

Absolutely! Talk about taking propaganda to an extreme! I seem to recall that the expressions on the faces of the bodies were similar to those described in Ballard's "Exploring the Lusitania".

Tracy Oost

Hello Everyone,

I would like to introduce myself as one of the Forensic Anthropologists who recently worked on the Titanic Exhumations in Halifax. Now, before you all throw rotten eggs at me for doing so, let me make it perfectly clear that I received no money for doing this, and the exhumations were done at the request of family members of Titanic victims. These families still hold on to the hope that their loved one was recovered and buried in Halifax, and they would dearly love to put names on the gravestones.

I was recently directed to this site due to the postings regarding the death photos being on sale on Ebay. In answer to someone's question whether an identification could even be made from these photos, the answer is yes, definitely! This is one of the techniques that forensic anthropologists use to identify the deceased.

So, I would like to enlist the help of any of you that downloaded the photos. Not out of morbid curiosity, but in a genuine attempt to identify victims. My email address is I would appreciate any assistance that you are willing to offer.

Tracy Oost
Curator, Forensic Osteology Laboratory
Laurentian University
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Tracy. Hello and welcome. Thank you for stopping in and showing a genuine interest in this topic. No rotten eggs here.... I am always eager to learn new and interesting facts. I had truly hoped that a "Morgue Photo" would open up possibilities, and I am certainly glad to hear that my suspicions were founded.
Please stop in any time! Although we do not always agree here, and fall in different areas and beliefs on many subjects, we all benefit from each others knowledge, and you have a unique perspective on a sensitive subject!
Welcome Tracy Oost, to this site. Glad you could make it over here.

I did not download the horrendous photos. The Passengers of Titanic has always been an extremely sensitive subject for me and I am not one to take delight in something so gruesome of Titanic and especially since my own family members were not involved. I let the photos be in peace.

I do not have any interest in looking at the photos but I do have an interest in who owns them and am also curious to know why they are for sale. I am finding it hard to believe that the photos were put on eBay for family recognition. eBay is a sale site, not a "missing persons" site. Having photos such as this for sale is almost a disgusting matter, wouldn't you think? It shows absolutely no respect for the family. Have the family members of these photos been notified that they are for sale? Or have no family members been attached to these photos. I am wondering.


Teri Milch

P.S. I don't know what I would think if Phil Hind had posted these photos on ET. I think yuk. Oh no, I just re-read the posts of this thread and realized that John Feeney posted (posted Friday, August 31, 2001 - 06:16 pm) the link to Phil Hind's archived photos in this area of his site: ET Message Board: Archive (Passengers and Crew): Pictures of the Titanics Dead

You know I'd be VERY curious to know what the King of Passenger Research thinks of dead photos being displayed on eBay is? Can anyone guess who the King of Passenger Research is? Oh yes! You got it right! Our one and only Phil Gowan. That's who. I am sure he has a deep respect for the Passengers of Titanic just like I do, and I'd be curious to know what he says of all this.

Oh, and are we gonna soon find photos of dead WTC victims on eBay? Whoever posted those photos on eBay should really think twice before doing something like that. Honestly!!!
G'Day Tracy Oost, we're not into pitching rotten eggs at anybody. At least not those who were just doing their jobs. It was the sale of these photos on EBay that offended. There's just something kind of YUK about the whole thing. I wish you all the success in the world in your endevour to identify the unknowns.

Michael H. Standart

Tracy Oost

Thanks to Colleen, Teri Lynn, and Michael for a warm welcome! I wasn't sure exactly how I would be received, but it's certainly nice to see how supportive the people here are.

I have been researching the Titanic for years and was very honoured to be asked to assist in the exhumation project. As a forensic scientist I have always viewed the Titanic as the ultimate mass disaster (until Sept. 11) that was never investigated properly, and never "solved" to anyone's satisfaction. Reading the archived descriptions of the bodies and personal effects it was clear that had the effort been made in 1912, many more of these individuals would have been identified.

My goal is to track down as many of the death photos as possible (with the proper acknowlegdement of sources, of course) and analyze them by comparing them forensically to life photos of the victims that were never identified. Again, any leads that anyone can provide would be much appreciated.

On the opinion side, I have yet to find proof of how many copies of these photos existed, and so much documentation is said to be "missing". However, IMHO none of this material just gets misplaced. It is unfortunate that it is human nature to keep souveniers that sometimes don't rightly belong to us. Eventually, some decendant comes into posession of the items and, well, possession is 9/10ths of the law. In a perfect world these photos would be given back to the public records office in Halifax (with a hearty acknowledgement to the donator) so that they are accessible to all researchers who need to access them.

In the meantime I have gained access to one death photo of an unidentified victim and comparisons have begun.
>>As a forensic scientist I have always viewed the Titanic as the ultimate mass disaster (until Sept. 11) that was never investigated properly, and never "solved" to anyone's satisfaction. <<

Tracy, that may well be the understatement of the age. The Titanic is likely one of the most over-documented and analyzed shipwrecks of all time, and yet the most misunderstood. One of the interests just about every board member shares here is a desire to cure that. I see you share the same goal, and in that, you've come to the best place on the web to do something about it.

Welcome aboard!

Michael H. Standart
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