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A gory trace of the past



Aqueduto das Águas Livres,  Lisbon,  May 2017


Here’s a gory story, to accompany the beautiful viewpoint that I took you to a few weeks ago.

Back in the nineteenth century, Diogo Alves terrorized the people of Lisbon, killing and stealing at will. Although he was executed in 1841, he still “lives” on in a creepy way.  Long after his death, anyone with an interest in the macabre, can still see his perfectly preserved head inside a glass jar at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.

Diogo Alves is considered by many to be Portugal’s first serial killer. He was born in Galicia in 1810 and traveled to Lisbon as a youngster to work as a servant in the capital city, where he ended up in a house located on the Aqueduto das Águas Livres.

The aqueduct was the entry route to the city for farmers from the surrounding area, who came in to sell their products. Awaiting their return home, Alves met them at nightfall, robbing them of their earnings and throwing them over the edge, to their death. Between 1836 and 1839, he took around 70 lives.

Eventually he was caught and executed. Researchers of the time seized on this as an opportunity to research what makes a person evil:  his head was removed from his body and placed into the glass jar where it can still be found.




Copyright Debbie Smyth, 20 August 2017

Posted as part of Traces of the Past

12 replies »

  1. I couldn’t resist, I had to click to see what used to be his head. It gave me the creeps . Fascinating account, Debbie. Beautiful, romantic Lisbon holds many dark stories, and this is definitely the most interesting I’ve read. Thank you so much. The PoV in your images is fabulous. Is the second one a crop of the first one, or a new photo. I think it is a photo in itself. Crop would not be so good – still have to check out. 🙂 Have a good Sunday!

    Liked by 2 people

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