A sensation was created some days since in the vicinity of Potter's Field, at the discovery of a body which had undergone a remarkable transformation. The body had laid under three tiers of corpses, says the New York Evening Post, and the head and feet had disappeared, while the remaining portion, which was somewhat enlarged above its natural dimensions, presented the appearance of wax of an alabaster whiteness. In short, the whole muscular structure had been changed into the substance known as " adipocere." This is a species of soap formed upon a principle analogous to what is known as " fatty degeneration in livingbodies." The acids of fat (the stearic and margaric) are formed, and combine with ammonia and lime, which are derived from the elements of the body. Attention was first called to this singular transformation of bodies near the end of the last century, upon the occasion of thp removal of the remains from the churchyard of Les Innocens, in Paris. The place had been used as a cemetery for centuries. The whole area, occupying about seven thousand square yards, was perceived to have swollen to an elevation several feet above the natural level. On opening the ground, the dead bodies were found, while retaining their shape, to have been transmuted into an unctuous gray substance, and with a peculiar, but not highly offensive smell. They had been deposited in pits about thirty feet deep, capable of holding from twelve to fifteen hundred bodies, and the transformation had taken place according to the length of time they had been deposited. It was most complete in those bodies placed near the cen. ter of the pits, which had been buried at least three years. Every part, except the bones, hair, and nails, had been converted into gras de cemetiens—a compound adipocere. When the ammonia had been separated, the substance remaining was found, both in its physical and chemical properties, to resemble spermaceti. It i? asserted that a wick inserted in a body thus transmuted will burn for many hours.
This article was originally published with the title "Curious Phenomenon in Potter's Field"