Washington Irving Bishop: The Mind Reader Who Was Killed By His Own Autopsy

Washington Irving Bishop entertains a crowd.
Washington Irving Bishop entertains a crowd.
Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Washington Irving Bishop was an American mentalist and mind reader of some repute toward the end of the 1800s. Born in New York City in 1855, Bishop spent years building up his act and eventually embarked on a world tour where he showcased his "thought reading" skills. Bishop was adamant that he had no supernatural power or gift—he just was extremely skilled at picking up on body language and the signals people often unconsciously give off.

However, Bishop suffered from cataleptic fits, which sometimes saw him go into prolonged states of unconsciousness. As the resulting comas could last anywhere up to 18 hours, Bishop traveled with a note in his pocket explaining his condition and how these comatose episodes should not be confused with death.

Not everyone got the memo.

Walter & Son, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On May 12, 1889, Bishop was performing his act at the Lambs Club in New York City when he began falling into a coma. He recovered and continued the show, only to suffer another attack. This time, however, he was pronounced dead.

Just a few hours later, two doctors—Dr. Ferguson and Dr. Irwin—performed an autopsy on Bishop’s body, cutting out and removing his brain, reportedly without the coroner's consent. Bishop had collapsed around noon that day and the autopsy was performed at 3:45 p.m., leading some people—including Bishop's mother, Eleanor Fletcher Bishop—to believe that the mentalist was actually still alive when his autopsy commenced. Which would mean that Bishop's own autopsy was what killed him.

According to Atlas Obscura, “whether or not that note warning potential physicians of Bishop's condition was on his body, and why the brain was so quickly removed, were the subject of debate and litigation for years to come."

Bishop’s mother fought for the next nearly 30 years to bring the doctors who performed the autopsy to account. Her son’s cause of death remains listed as “hysterocatalepsy."

This story has been updated for 2020.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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13 Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions

Would you fly in this?
Would you fly in this?

As it turns out, being destroyed by the very thing you create is not only applicable to the sentient machines and laboratory monsters of science fiction.

In this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy takes us on a sometimes tragic, always fascinating journey through the history of invention, highlighting 13 unfortunate innovators whose brilliant schemes brought about their own demise. Along the way, you’ll meet Henry Winstanley, who constructed a lighthouse in the English Channel that was swept out to sea during a storm … with its maker inside. You’ll also hear about stuntman Karel Soucek, who was pushed from the roof of the Houston Astrodome in a custom-designed barrel that landed off-target, fatally injuring its occupant.

And by the end of the episode, you just might be second-guessing your secret plan to quit your day job and become the world’s most daredevilish inventor.

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