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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Playing Footsie in La Crosse

The hit TV show "Bones" exploits our fascination with gruesome images quite successfully, but it didn't invent that creative device.

For example, on December 1st, 1873, the press in La Crosse reported a strange discovery. While playing in an alley the previous day, two boys had stumbled upon a human foot. They reported it to the police, who took it to the station and put it in a cigar box for safe-keeping until it was claimed.

A reporter who examined it wrote that the foot appeared to be either well preserved or the result of a "recent tragedy." Exploiting the same voyeuristic urges as "Bones," the newspaper went on to describe how it had been severed just below the ankle and belonged to "a woman, in the prime of life" with an estimated shoe size of "number four."

And just as the television show lightens its macabre scenes with humor, the Victorian reporter speculated that the foot might have been inadvertently dropped by grave robbers. "It is well enough to dissect people, if it must be done, " he joked, "but this scattering of human remains about the street is disgusting."

The writer then went on to muse that perhaps its unhappy owner "threw her foot off" while trying to kick a drunken husband, and advised any man who suspected his wife had lost a foot to visit the police station to identify it.

Whether the foot was ever claimed is not recorded, and its owner's name remains a mystery. But titillating audiences with loathsome images is still a tried and true method of getting their attention between commercial advertisements.

[Source: Connell, Douglas. "True Tales of La Crosse: Unusual Stories from Old Newspapers of La Crosse, Wisconsin," page 124]
:: Posted in Bizarre Events on June 30, 2010

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