Schiller Skull Mystery

Hulton Archive / Getty

German historian, poet and dramatist, Johann Schiller

The bells had struck midnight when a cheaply made coffin was carried through the deserted streets of the German town of Weimar on May 12, 1805. Its cargo: the rapidly decomposing body of Friedrich Schiller — poet, philosopher, historian, dramatist and rebel, who had died three days earlier. Its destination: the local Jacob's Cemetery, where his corpse was unceremoniously lowered into a common grave with, as Thomas Mann wrote in 1955, "no mild sound of music, no word from the mouth of priest or friend."

It was a rush job, and an end hardly befitting one of Germany's...

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