In 2011 my informant published a the book, The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses. The book’s 260 photographs were gathered by Dr. Koudounaris over the course of five years, during which he traveled to 70 different locations around the world, studying, visiting, and photographing charnel houses.
Dr. Koudounaris’ travels took him to the Catacombe dei Cappuccini (the Catacombs of the Capuchin monastery) in Palermo, Italy. Part of his process of learning about the catacombs included talking to the various fruit and flower vendors who sold their goods across from the monastery. Because the fruit and flower vendors are directly across from the monastery, they know everything that went on there and were able to tell him a variety of ghost stories about the monastery.
“The fruit and flower vendors are an incredible source of information. It’s hard to understand if you live in our type of society. Ya know, a street vendor, in societies like this is a source of incredible information. The fruit and flower vendors are across from the monastery and they know everything that goes on in the monastery. And everyone goes—it’s not like they go to super markets, they go to these vendors—so they are an incredible source of information if you really want to know what goes on in societies like that.”
The story is as follows:
“It’s a very complex story. She was a young girl and had fallen in love with this circus strong man. She was supposed to be married to a guy in Naples. Her family had arranged for her a marriage to this wealthy Neapolitan family but she was—was she 15 or 16?—anyways she was in love with this circus strong man named Garibaldi so she went to her parents and told her, ya know, that she would not marry the guy from Naples because she was going to marry Garibaldi, and Garibaldi was 47 and she was like 15, and that she had already given her virginity to Garibaldi which made her worthless and so her parents disowned her and cast her out. So she went to Garibaldi and Garibaldi, it turned out his only interest in her was sexual which is obviously not a surprise and so he, he was a circus performer and he started this pervert circus and it featured his young bride cause he married her at that time and they had private shows where she would have sex with midgets and animals and so fourth for wealthy clients. Eventually after a couple of weeks of this she wound up dead. They believe she had been penetrated by a horse and suffered severe injuries and her body was dumped in this alley where they found it and, her parents, ya know of course they were mortified but by this time ya know, they took her body but by this time she was dead. And they wanted charges brought against Garibaldi but it was not possible because of course no one would testify because to testify would mean admitting that you were at one of these shows. Anyways, these were wealthy Sicilians, members of the upper class and they weren’t going to say that they paid a 1000 lira to watch a girl have sex with a horse. Ya know, no way. So Garibaldi was going to walk free except that her ghost started pursuing and tormenting him and um, Garibaldi had left Palermo and gone to Siracusa uh, but apparently the ghost followed him to Siracusa. He had gone to a priest and asked the priest if he would help him and try to exorcise the ghost and the priest said that he would only help him if Garibaldi would make a full confession of his own misdeeds regarding the girl and Garibaldi refused. But eventually whatever was happening had gotten so bad that he decided he was going to talk to the priest and confess and he had left—this was still in Seracusa—he had left to go to the church and the priest was late that day and when the priest got there around noon he found Garibaldi’s dead body in the confessional booth. And the theory is that he had gone to the church and gone into the confessional booth but it was not the priest on the other side of the booth but the ghost and she had killed him. And the reason they believe that is because a candelabra was found shoved up his ass and he had died of also these internal hemorrhaging. Her injuries her vaginal whereas his were anal but it’s the same type of thing, so it was believed that perhaps that is how the ghost had enacted her revenge, by sodomizing him to death.”
This legend is a classic revenge tale. The girl loved Garibaldi and had given herself to him, which as my informant stated made her worthless. Once she had given her virginity to Garibaldi, there was no way for her parents to marry her off to the man they had promised her to. Finding out that Garibaldi wanted nothing from her other than sex and then to be exploited in the way she was ultimately resulting in her death left her as some might call, a vengeful spirit. Certain ghost beliefs say that a person wronged in life cannot go onto the afterlife until their killer has been brought to justice–one may assume that this is the case in this legend.