As reported in Smithsonian and The New York Times, archaeologists using ground penetrating radar have recently discovered that despite its dire inscription of “Curst be he moves my bones,” William Shakespeare’s tomb was probably disturbed in the late 18th century by grave robbers out to steal the genius’s skull. In a startling turn of events reminiscent of the astonishingly lucky find of Richard III’s remains on the very first day of digging, we now know that this missing skull has come to light half a world away, in Brooklyn!
“Do not even ask me how it got here,” insists Florence Eugenio, 68 and a lifelong resident of Sheepshead Bay. A compulsive hoarder suffering from Collyer’s Syndrome, this last August Mrs. Eugenio was threatened with eviction in 30 days if she failed to clean up the hazardous mess that filled her home from top to bottom. With the assistance of relatives, and a copy of Marie Kondo’s popular The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up as her guide, Mrs. Eugenio set out to change her life, or at any rate to save her home. On the eighth day of cleaning, her nephew Gary Opplemann opened up one among several old cases stuffed with toys for the many cats living in the domicile, and was stunned to find an old skull inside.
Asked what led him to suspect the skull’s startling origins, Opplemann produced an old Dymo label that had been affixed to the base of the skull:
Just last week, comparisons of DNA recovered from one of the skull’s remaining teeth against that of living descendants of the Bard’s sister Joan Hart conclusively establish the skull as having indeed belonged to William Shakespeare. The only mystery is, how did it get there? The answer may lie in the supposed initial motive for the grave robbery: phrenology.
Brooklyn had been a thriving center of phrenological “science.” Notably, Brooklyn’s own Walt Whitman had been an enthusiast in phrenology, and wrote “The builder, geometer, chemist, anatomist, phrenologist, artist, all these underlie the maker of poems.” Whitman’s own Leaves of Grass was published by Orson and Lorenzo Fowler, leading phrenologists of the day. It is perhaps not surprising that this Holy Grail among phrenologists made its way to Sheepshead Bay, only to become badly misplaced for over a century.
As for what’s next for the famous relic, sitting in her newly clutter-free home, Mrs. Eugenio observed “I had quite a struggle over this. I really did. The last thing I need in my life right now is another dust-collector. I was this close to tossing it – I mean, I’m hardly what you’d call a fan. But after a lot of quiet thought, I’ve decided to keep it around. There’s no denying, the man really does spark joy.”
To see another amazing Shakespearean artifact that also sparks joy, be sure to visit The First Folio, on display at Seattle’s Central Library through April 17.