Welcome to my new website featuring free history stories! Every month I will post a true story from
my files—covering topics such as historical true crime, politically incorrect history, amusing glimpses
into the past, ghost tales, etc. A few will be samples from my published books, but most will be BRAND
NEW and PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED ANYWHERE! Some are sections omitted from my books due to
space considerations; some were unprinted because they made publishers nervous; some were written
expressly for this website.
If you like the stories, links on this site will show you how to find my published works.
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* All illustrations, unless otherwise noted, by Kyle McQueen.
* Webmaster: Darren McQueen.
All material herein copyright 2012-2014 by Keven McQueen.
* Author photo: Denise Smith.
STORY FOR OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2014: The Strange Death of Jessie Boust
Genre: Historical Weridness
Poor Jessie Boust! The daughter of storekeeper Charles Boust, she was the belle of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, until she went insane in 1885 at age eighteen. She was sent to the asylum at Danville in January 1890, but returned home after a month’s ineffectual treatment.
On February 25, 1890, Jessie’s last night on this earth, she was overtaken with maniacal energy. She played “beautiful and weird refrains” on the family’s upright grand piano—and then she smashed it and other furniture as well. She retreated to her room, and all was quiet. Her family assumed she had worn herself out and gone to sleep.
They learned the awful truth next morning when Mrs. Boust took breakfast to Jessie’s room and found her dead in bed. “Her features bore a look of agony and were horribly distorted,” wrote a reporter who knew that his readers craved such details. The doctor came and pronounced her dead of “congestion of the brain”—a vague nineteenth-century catchall medical term for any number of ailments, but usually meaning a stroke. The undertaker showed up an hour later. By then Jessie’s face had turned black. He countered this circumstance by squirting a gallon and a half of embalming fluid into a vein.
Whatever was in that embalming fluid, it was good stuff. Ten hours after the treatment, Jessie’s grieving mother entered the parlor to gaze once more upon her daughter’s countenance and nearly fainted: Jessie seemed to be coming to life again! Her face had regained its natural color; her cheeks were apple red; and her grimace was gone, replaced with a winning grin.
Mrs. Boust was convinced Jessie was merely in a trance (and had somehow managed to survive taking over a gallon of embalming fluid into her body). The undertaker and Dr. Sheetz reexamined the corpse and assured the family that she was most decidedly dead.
Mrs. Boust still had her doubts. When Jessie’s funeral was held three days later the house filled with mourners, the minister preached a sermon, and then Mrs. Boust told everyone to disperse as there would be no funeral after all. She was certain Jessie was alive and refused to bury her.
Days passed. Jessie remained in the parlor. Friends and relatives dropped by to pay respects and to stare. The body had not decomposed in the slightest.
On March 25—by which time Jessie had been deceased an entire month—undertaker Bright gently persuaded Mrs. Boust to permit the burial on the grounds that it was such a lovely day. The formerly dismissed pallbearers were recalled and they carried Jessie to her waiting grave in the cemetery on the northern side of town. She remained lifelike and smiling right to the end, and as far as anyone knows she still is.