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Appalling Auctions

Most of us are familiar with celebrity memorabilia sold at auctions for thousands of dollars. These auctioned-off items typically include signed posters, clothing or props that once belonged to movie sets or celebrities. 

Besides for investment purposes, collectors often purchase memorabilia in an effort to feel closer to the item’s original owner. Although these possessions are usually light-hearted, there are much stranger celebrity artifacts that money can buy. The following examples range from the grotesque to the absurd.

John Lennon’s Molar

John Lennon once gave his housekeeper a yellow, rotted molar to give to her Beatles-obsessed daughter. The tooth was eventually auctioned off in 2011 to Canadian dentist, Dr. Michael Zuk, for $30,000. 

In an eerie turn of events, the dentist revealed his hope to clone Lennon by the year 2040. Dr. Zuk said, "I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon's DNA (from the molar) … With researchers working on ways to clone mammoths, the same technology certainly could make human cloning a reality.”

William Shatner’s Kidney Stone

Shatner of Star Trek fame notoriously auctioned off his kidney stone in 2006 and gave the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity. Golden Palace Casino bought the kidney stone for $25,000. Richard Rowe, CEO of GoldenPalace.com, said it was "a bold new addition to our fleet," according to People magazine

Knowing how much Shatner’s kidney stone cost, while he’s alive, one wonders what that price might rise to after he passes.

The Brains and Blood of Benito Mussolini

In 2009, vials of fascist dictator Mussolini’s blood and brains were allegedly auctioned on eBay for more than $22,000. Mussolini’s granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini, conducted a police investigation on the eBay sale. 

She said, "I was advised this morning that pieces of my grandfather's brain and some of his blood were being sold … This is very serious, these are the kinds of things we have to guard against.” Selling human matter is prohibited on eBay, so the listing was canceled before any bids were made. 

Alessandra Mussolini claimed her grandfather’s remains were stolen from Milan’s Policlinico hospital, where they were preserved after his 1945 post-mortem examination. In response, the Policlinico hospital said Benito Mussolini’s blood and brain samples were destroyed in 1947. 

Whether the eBay user was truly selling Benito Mussolini’s remains is unclear, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Penis

Bonaparte’s severed penis currently resides in the possession of New Jersey woman, Evan Lattimer. Her father, John J. Lattimer, was a urologist who purchased the relic for $3,000 at a Paris auction in 1977. 

The item embarked on a notoriously long journey from its first separation from Bonaparte’s body to its current residence underneath Lattimer’s bed. Legend has it that physician Francesco Autommarchi cut off Bonaparte’s genitals during his autopsy. 

It passed through an Italian priest’s family and was eventually bought by American collector A.S.W. Rosenbach in 1924. It later traveled to the London auction market and was in circulation until John Lattimer’s purchase in 1977. 

Due to poor preservation, the 250-year-old object is often compared to a piece of leathery beef jerky. Despite this, Lattimer allegedly received a $100,000 offer for the mutilated artifact.

Truman Capote’s Ashes

In 2016, Capote’s ashes were sold for $43,570. The “In Cold Blood” author’s remains were previously owned by his friend Joanne Carson. After Carson’s death, her estate didn’t know what to do with Capote’s ashes, so they sold them on the vending platform Julien’s Auctions.

Darren Julien, founder of Julien’s Auctions, said, “This is a fact: Truman Capote loved the element of shock. He loved publicity. And I’m sure he’s looking down laughing, and saying, ‘That’s something I would have done.’”

Is selling the remains of a celebrity exploitative? Maybe. Is it creepy? Definitely. But it also brings up the intriguing topic of celebrity infatuation and parasocial relationships. 

In the cases mentioned above, items such as ashes, which would normally go to friends or family, are instead given to an adoring and financially eligible fan. The physical remains of icons are somewhat advertised as commodities. 

If you cannot know a celebrity personally, the next step might be to own something physical of theirs. The only person in the world who owns a celebrity’s ashes must feel not only privileged, but also connected to them in a way that surpasses the average fan’s experience.

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