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The most kissed corpse of all time

It’s ironic that we practice lifesaving techniques on someone who is already dead.

The face of the CPR dummy known as Resusci Anne is based on the death mask of a real woman who drowned in France’s Seine River over a hundred years ago.

Or did she drown?

When The Unknown Woman of the Seine was pulled from the water in the 1880s, there was no evidence of a struggle or any violence on her body.

unknown woman of the seineThe authorities at the time assumed she must have committed suicide, but her sweet smile is a puzzle to this day. The girl, who was believed to be sixteen years old, seems completely at peace. This isn’t the expression of someone who committed suicide or even drowned accidentally.

So how on earth did she end up in the river?

The pathologist who examined her was so taken with her beauty that he had a cast made of her face. The resulting mask became all the rage in Europe, with many copies made and hung on the walls of Parisian mansions. Her enigmatic smile has been compared to the Mona Lisa’s.

She went from object d’art to lifesaver in the 1960s, when her face was used for the CPR mannequin. This is how the unknown woman became the most kissed face of all time.

What do you think happened to her? Did you know Resusci Anne was modelled after a dead woman?

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24 Comments

  1. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    I had no idea she was modeled after a real person. I learned CPR a few years ago and now I’m creeped out knowing was a real person.

    Reply
    • JH

      It is creepy. I guess they figured it made sense to attempt to save a drowned woman, but still pretty morbid!

      Reply
  2. Frank

    You find the weirdest, and most interesting, facts. I’ve always found that face to be rather creepy and this explains why. It is really cool that her face has been used to save so many lives but yeah, still creeps me out.

    Reply
    • JH

      I don’t blame you, Frank. I’d love to know what actually happened to the real woman…and who she was.

      Reply
  3. Lisa S.

    Interesting post!
    Total wild guess: overdosed in drug euphoria while sleeping; then dumped in river by someone wanting to disposed of her body.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hmm…interesting theory. Could be true!

      Reply
  4. Birgit

    Did anyone ever lay claim to have known this girl? I had no idea the face was from a real person-how Victorian!

    Reply
    • JH

      No, she’s still known only as the Unknown Woman of the Seine. Very romantic name, don’t you think?

      It’s always surprising just how morbid the Victorians were.

      Reply
  5. Patricia Lynne

    I didn’t know the dummy had the face of a real person. I’m torn between that being cool and a bit creepy.

    Reply
    • JH

      I vote for creepy, but I guess you knew that already. 😉

      Reply
  6. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    That totally creeps me out!

    I wonder if in the moment she died – whether accidental or otherwise – she saw something wonderful – an angel, a white light, something – and that’s why she has the smile on her face? Maybe she just experienced a sense of peace and no more pain?

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s a nice theory, Madeline. I like that one.

      Reply
    • JH

      Makes you think, doesn’t it?

      Welcome back, Sam! I’ve missed you.

      Reply
  7. Roland Yeomans

    All that repressed sexual drive certainly made the Victorians excessively morbid. Brrr. It didn’t have to be drug euphoria but merely having died in her sleep in a place that would prove highly inconvenient to someone of importance. Another fascinating article. Good for you, Roland

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for the kind words, Roland. That’s a good point. There’s lots of reasons someone could have dumped her body. Maybe her parents couldn’t pay for a funeral or burial. That’s a possibility as well.

      Reply
  8. Sara C. Snider

    Well, that’s creepy. I’m feeling torn between being glad I didn’t know this back in high school when I learned CPR, and being bummed because then I could have freaked everyone one else out along with me. 😛

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome back, Sara! It’s great to see you again.

      It would have been an awesome story to use in class. I’m sure it would have spooked everyone!

      Reply
  9. Chrys Fey

    Ew! That is creepy. Why would anyone use a dead woman’s face as the mask for a CPR dummy?

    Reply
    • JH

      Good question, Chrys…but why would tons of people think her face would look good on their wall? I guess there must have been something about her that captivated everyone. Very strange.

      Reply
  10. Shadow

    Whoa. Didn’t know it was a real persons face… that is creepy. But very sweet too in a weird kinda way.

    Reply
    • JH

      I love digging up these weird, creepy facts for my readers. Glad I could surprise you!

      Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  11. Clarissa Johal

    How sad! It would be interesting to time-travel, wouldn’t it?

    Reply
    • JH

      Even so, you’d have to be at the right place at the right time.

      Reply

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