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:
“In the late 19th century, an old woman who had grown up in Palermo had—she had moved to Campania, and came back from Campania in the late 19th century and she found herself with some vaginal discharge so she went to the office of a gynecologist she had visited when she used to live in Palermo 20 years before. Um—she met a doctor at the office who was not the doctor she had seen 20 years ago, she was told that that doctor had retired but this new doctor had taken over her practice and he could see her and he strapped her into a harness and then attempted to take sexual liberties with the old lady so she uh, she went to the police and she reported the doctor. In the report she said he attempted to eat on my pubic hair like a cow chews the grass. He did not perform the act of cunallingus but he kept eating the hair. I screamed at him to stop—he chewed it like the cow chews cud. Anyways, she broke from the restraints and fled from the doctor’s office and um, ya know this should have been easy for the police to go to the doctor’s office and find the man, but the problem was—the perpetrator she had described had in fact died five years earlier—so it was a bit of a conundrum that she had reported that a ghost was eating her public hair… like a cow chews the cud. Anyways, they went and found his body, which had been mummified in the Palermo catacombs, and they took her down there. His name was Remegious Segumundo, and um cause her description exactly matched this Remegious Segumundo and they asked her if she would be able to identify him and they took her to see the mummy and she shrieked in horror and it confirmed that the mummy was her sexual molester.
The woman was thought to be delusional, but over the next ten years, a series of sexual assaults occurred around the old office building and every time they occurred, the perpetrator was described as exactly matching this appearance of this mummy—um—eventually, I believe this was the 1890’s word eventually got to the widow of the doctor who died and she confirmed for the police that her husband was a pervert. She said that if anyone could stop his misdeeds it was her. So they took her to the Palermo catacombs, to the mummy and she asked to be alone with him—that she had some words for him. No one stayed—they gave them their peace and no one knows what was said between the two because it was a private matter but no sexual assaults were ever reported again involving the mummy. His widow set him straight.”
While often times ghost stories have some sort of moral to them, the events in this one could easily be an account of some random perverted individual, aside from the fact that the perpetrator was not actually alive at the time he conducted his misdeeds. Though the woman was originally thought insane, as my informant explained to me, as similar happenings matching the same description of the perpetrator kept occurring, the police had the wife of the deceased perpetrator visit the catacombs to speak with his mummy. If anything, this story shows us how seriously ghost happenings are taken in Palermo, Italy.