A Dark Tale into Caribbean

Based in a True History

 

Gottfried Knoche was born in Germany in 1813, in the Halberstadt region (Prussian Province), located in the actual German state of Saxony-Anhalt. He studied in the University of Freiburg in 1837; afterwards, he worked at the university hospital.

Three years later, Knoche emigrated from Germany to Venezuela, driven by the need to combat plagues (cholera and yellow fever) which were afflicting Europeans in the New World. He settled in La Guaira and began work in the city as a doctor. Once he was fully established there, he brought his wife and nieces from Germany, putting them to work as his nurses and assistants.

Sometime between 1854 and 1856, Knoche founded the San Juan de Dios hospital. He gained a reputation as a charitable person by caring for poor patients without charge while tirelessly fighting against the cholera.

August 01, 2017

 

However, he had another objective in mind: to experiment new mummification techniques, inspired by the experiences of the Tantric monks from Japan and China, which promised to give eternal life and transcendence as a way to control future epidemics.

With this aim, he settled down in the mountains, near the town of Galipán, where the freshness of the environment facilitated his studies, and began to experiment with unclaimed bodies from the federal war (not a terribly unusual practice from physicians at the time), returning them on horseback from San Juan de Dios hospital to his laboratory in the Hacienda Buena Vista, the family homestead, located in the midst of Avila mountain.

Knoche's fascination and persistence in avoiding the inexorable process of bodies decomposing after death, he began to work tirelessly; over time, he created a “mummification serum” (embalming fluid, as we know it today) that could be injected into corpses that would keep the body pristine without necessitating the removal of their organs. In this fashion, the doctor kept several bodies mummified for studying purposes in his laboratory.

July 07, 2017

 

Francisco Linares Alcántara, president of Venezuela from 1878 to 1879, and Tomás Lander, a famous Venezuelan journalist and politician, were both said to have been preserved by Knoche.

Many rumors about these experiments circulated, giving rise to a popular apocryphal anecdote: the family of Tomas Lander, a journalist and politician, heard about his fluid and asked him to mummify Lander.

After finishing the process, with the corpse elegantly dressed and groomed, he placed it at a desk in the entrance of his (Lander's) house, where it remained for forty years, until President Antonio Guzman Blanco had it interred on behalf of Lander's descendants. Knoche mummified even his dogs and made

July 14, 2017

Knoche had anticipated the arrival of his own death, and made sure that Amelia Weismann, his niece and faithful nurse in charge of administering the mummification fluid to the bodies, had prepared doses for his own infinite preservation.

He then apparently had Amelia inject it into his still living body before locking himself in a Mausoleum for all eternity.  After this commission was carried out, Amelia remained at Buena Vista and lived there for 25 years by herself, surrounded by mummies, until her death came upon her in 1926 at the age of eighty-eight. 

As she became more reclusive, locals began to refer to her as the "Witch of Ávila" and she was said to have the power to talk to birds.

He then apparently had Amelia inject it into his still living body before locking himself in a Mausoleum for all eternity.  After this commission was carried out, Amelia remained at Buena Vista and lived there for 25 years by herself, surrounded by mummies, until her death came upon her in 1926 at the age of eighty-eight. 

As she became more reclusive, locals began to refer to her as the "Witch of Ávila" and she was said to have the power to talk to birds.

July 5, 2017

Although Amelia, the last survivor of Hacienda Buena Vista, seemed to have consulted with the German consul of the time, Julius Lesse, about writing a document stating that her last wish was to have her body cremated and the ashes thrown into the sea; the same doctor Lesse and Carlos Enrique Reverón went up to Buena Vista, and injected the dose prepared for her 20 years before by Knoche himself, closing the door of the mausoleum afterwards and throwing the keys into the sea.

Three years later, in 1929, an expedition to the Knoche's family Mausoleum found that many of the mummies had been removed from their niches and were scattered on the ground.

Ever since, the Knoche's homestead has been slowly engulfed by vegetation and pillaged by vandals, looters and medical students, either seeking the secret of the embalming fluid or attracted by the myth of this dark work.

Some of the exterior walls, doorframes of the main entrance, stables, a tank, the laboratory and oven are all that remain of the place. To this day, the exact composition of the substance used by Knoche to preserve his corpses has never been discovered