So I read about this guy who founded the first progressive college in London in 1826, whose seated corpse is on display in the college's main building. Well, I just had to meet him. Turns out he didn’t found the college at all, but is considered to have inspired its founding and was a supporter. Turns out his head is not on display, but only his skeleton, dressed in clothes that he wore, with a wax head.
And it turns out, he’s one of my new heroes.
Bentham has also been hailed as the first patron saint of animal rights and he was highly active in law and prison reform, among many other things. If you want to know more about him, check out his page at the University College of London. He’s considered the college’s spiritual founder because in his time, membership in the Church of England was required of students entering Oxford and Cambridge. The University College of London was the first in England to admit all, regardless of race, creed, or political beliefs.
So why is Jeremy Bentham’s body on display at the college? He requested it. On his death, he wanted to be dissected for the education of medical students, and then mummified, dressed, and displayed as if he were sitting at his desk writing. They tried to mummify his head using the practices of the Maori of New Zealand, but this left it looking too gruesome to display (although you can view it at the college). Bentham’s body was therefore given a wax head fitted with some of his own hair, and the real head is locked away separately somewhere in the college. There are some disturbing myths to read about this strange display, such as one about students using Bentham’s head to play football. But there are other true stories to check out if you wish. Oh, and you can see a revolving 360° image of Bentham’s body online. You know you can’t resist. Go ahead, check it out.
GUEST WRITER'S BIO
Vicki Speegle is an award-winning screenwriter whose feature script LOVED ONES was in development at Amazon Studios and was a finalist for best screenplay. Her screenplay DEAREST was a finalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and her television pilot THE WAKES OF WILBUR POE recently placed in the finals of Slamdance.
Vicki grew up the daughter of a gay single mom turned pastor in Akron, Ohio, where she helped take care of her two younger brothers, an experience that provided fodder for a number of short stories and scripts. Her infatuation with storytelling began at the age of five when she sent a love letter to Donny Osmond, and since then she has worked an eclectic mix of jobs to support her writing habit, including 4 years in the U.S. Navy tracking nuclear submarines on a tiny island called Adak, Alaska, assistant to a very eccentric New York City artist, and a brief bout as the world’s worst waitress. Vicki studied music performance and education at Akron University before making the move to New York University, where she earned her BFA in Film & Television Production. During her studies at NYU she interned as assistant to the editor for Ken Burns’ production of THE WEST. She wrote, directed, and produced several shorts, including her thesis film OLDER, which went on to screen at the Tribeca Underground Film Festival and won 2nd place in the Pioneer Theatre Short Film Slam in New York City.
After graduating from NYU, Vicki joined Rigas Entertainment as assistant to the Director of Development, helping in the development of feature films with directors Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Maggie Greenwald (SongCatcher). In 2005 Vicki began shooting a documentary about her mother’s struggle to reconcile her faith as a pastor with her advancing Alzheimer’s. The project is currently in post-production and has garnered the support of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In 2007 Vicki’s screenplay LOVED ONES placed in the top 5 of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition and won Screenplay Live at the Rochester Film Festival. Her works have placed in several other competitions, including Women in Film, Chesterfield, and American Zoetrope. Vicki’s credits include a teen comedy for Applause Films and radio scripts for Wynton Marsalis, Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Vicki lives and works as a writer, filmmaker, and web producer in New Jersey. She is still waiting for Donny’s response.