The Art of \'Bumpology\'
Ever since the good ol’ pioneer days, many of us seem to have inherited this morbid fascination for bushrangers and murderers … No? Okay, maybe it’s just me. But to be honest; how many of you have stared for ages at the death masks of criminals past and photographs of bodies that have been disfigured and burnt beyond recognition? Of bushrangers who have been laid out after death with pennies over their eyes or strung up against a lockup door?… Okay then, maybe it is just me.
But I’m not as obsessed as those buggers back in the good ol’ days; No, they had to get up close and dirty and rip off a souvenir or two. When poor young Johnny Gilbert got laid out at the Binalong police station he ended up looking like Angry Anderson after souvenir hunters knocked off most of his locks. And what about that miserable bugger Dan Morgan. Someone cuts off his marble bag and uses it for a bloody tobacco pouch. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. Not because I feel sorry for him but just so grateful I wasn’t Dan Morgan and still breathing when they did it.
So how did all of these poor devils end up in such a situation? If they had only gone to a Bumpologist early in their short lives they could have avoided all of this grief. Now if you’re not scientifically minded like myself, you’re most probably asking yourself; what the hell is a Bumpologist? Well it’s simply in layman’s terms; a bloke who reads bumps on your head to see if you’ll turn out to be an evildoer or a do good doer. If you’re still confused I’ll explain. Way back in the 1700s, a Viennese scientific nutter by the name of Franz Joseph Gall, after doing the rounds of the prisons and asylums, came up with the idea the human brain contained 30 compartments tied in with the nervous system and was the mainspring for all human activity, and each faculty was an element that made up the character. Phew! I think he was doing all right until he started to associate all of this with the different bumps on some poor bugger’s head. Like everything else, this great scientific discovery finds its way to Sydney and then to Melbourne gathering increased popularity as the years tick past. By now it’s being declared that once the bumps are identified it’s possible to transform the evildoer’s character to righteousness.
In the 1850s when the art of Bumpology is starting to become a crowd puller, another Bumpologist by the name of Philemon Sohier brings along his own wax modeller by the name of Ellen Williams and starts getting into the death mask business. Before you know it, he’s displaying heads of highway robbers and other evildoers and bringing the house down. The money kept flowing in right up until the 1870s when every man and his dog was trained in the science of Bumpology and set up beside a fortune teller or some other whacko in just about every arcade in the town. For the grand sum of two and sixpence you could get your bumpy head read and walk away with the knowledge that you could soon be waiting for a turn on the gallows. In 1863 another person who was in partnership with Philemon Sohier was non other than the wax modeller Max Kreitmayer. Everyone seemed to be making a quid out of poor unfortunate buggers, even the Governor of the Melbourne Gaol, John Castieau. From what I’ve read, Johnno had a little business on the side flogging death masks to his acquaintances.
Now in 1880, who should happen along to the Melbourne Gaol but none other than Edward Kelly, the Holy Grail of all Bumpologists. The word had got around and all the Bumpologists were now falling over each other to get to Ned’s bumps. One mad professor by the name of A.S.Hamilton writes to the Chief Secretary asking for permission to study Ned’s bumps before they hang him. Now this bloke gets a big knock back but quick; not because he was a mad professor, but because he also happened to be the President for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. The government hated this bloke almost as much as they hated Ned Kelly. Mr. Hamilton believed that these evil doers should have had the chance to be treated and have their aggressive bumps ironed out and that hangings badly affected the spectators. (How do you think the poor buggers getting hanged felt?) I’ve got to give it to Hamilton though; Any bloke who had the nerve to want to feel Ned’s bumps the day before he’s to be hanged is a very brave man indeed; or was he just plain stupid? He also offered to do Ned’s death mask but Maxy K got the gig only because he’d done contracts for the government before.
On the 18th November, Mr. Hamilton uses Max’s masterpiece to write a study for his Bumpological findings to be published in the Morning Herald. The following is what Hamilton revealed about Ned Kelly.
He had a number of over developed cranial regions including combativeness, destructiveness, and love of approbation.
Underdeveloped in the outlaw were the qualities of cautiousness, sublimity and conscientiousness.
The conclusion of this lengthy analysis was that most of Ned’s evil doings could be ascribed to his gargantuan self-esteem. He also tells of the dangers that craniums of Kelly’s shape posed to society. … there are few heads amongst the worst that would risk so much for the love of power as is evinced in the head of Kelly from his enormous self-esteem. This self-esteem, combined with large love of approbation combined with hope, would often make him appear bright, dazzling and heroic to those who could not see through the veil which vanity threw around him.
So there you have it; The art of Bumpology. Maybe the next time you take a look at Ned Kelly’s death mask you might find yourself taking less of a glance at his face and spending more time studying his evil doing bumps. I know from now on I’ll be very suspicious of people wearing beanies. Is it because they’re trying to hide the ever increasing loss of hair follicles or are they simply trying to conceal the reason for their evil doing ways? Food for thought.
Keep Ya Powder Dry.
Notes from Dean Wilson’s article from the Latrobe Journal Explaining the ‘Criminal’ Ned Kelly’s Death Mask.