Canada · Female Killers

Woman executed for murder of her husband, begins a ghost story about her skeleton

April 18, 1763
Quebec City, Quebec
Marie-Josephte Corriveau is hanged for the murder of her second husband, and placed in a gibbet

Corriveau’s first husband may or may not have died as a result of being wed to Corriveau. While there is no concrete evidence suggesting she may have murdered him, rumors circulated after her second husband’s death, and theories were proposed that the first husband met a grim fate at her hands, as well.

When her second husband, Louis Étienne Dodier, was found dead with head wounds that were officially explained as horse kicks, locals began to suspect either Corriveau or her father had a part in the death. It was known Dodier was not getting along well with his wife and her father. A trial was held and Corriveau’s father was found guilty and sentenced to die, while Corriveau was sentenced to 60 lashes and to be branded with the letter M on her hand. However, just before his execution, Corriveau’s father confessed he had nothing to do with the murder and only assisted his daughter after Dodier was dead. Another trial began, and Corriveau was found guilty and sentenced to hang before being placed in a gibbet (a human-shaped metal cage).

Corriveau’s body and gibbet were left at a busy crossroads for more than a month before locals requested she be buried, as her decomposing body was no doubt unkind to the eyes and nose. She was buried with her cage until it was unearthed by the church in the mid-19th Century. The newly rediscovered skeleton brought interest to Corriveau back, and tales of her vengeful ghost, in the shape of a skeleton housed in the metal cage that delighted in terrorizing travelers, began circulating.

Her skeleton and gibbet were put on display at the church until stolen, eventually winding up in the hands of P. T. Barnum and later the Boston Museum.

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