13 January 2018

Severed foot in the Garden of Earthly Delights

It has been almost two years since I've been able to add any material to the 29 posts in TYWKIWDBI's category of severed feet.   So, a tip of my blogging cap to Miss Cellania at Neatorama, who found one in Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights.

A quick search led me to a claim that "the severed foot is one of the most repeated in the Bosch's panel paintings, appearing in several works, as in the Garden of Delights and in the central panel of the Temptation of St Anthony triptych in Lisbon." Although this is offered as support for the premise that Bosch was depicting sequelae of ergot poisoning, the one pictured above appears to me to be traumatically severed, not withered by occlusive vasculitis.

And speaking of severed feet, by an improbable coincidence, the Washington Post is reporting this week that severed feet continue to wash ashore in the Pacific Northwest.  Those were the odd events that prompted me to create this category for TYWKIWDBI back in 2008.
Sixteen of these detached human feet have been found since 2007 in British Columbia, Canada, and Washington state. Most of these have been right feet. All of them have worn running shoes or hiking boots. Among them: three New Balances, two Nikes and an Ozark Trail.

The most recent one turned up earlier this week.
More information and a video at the link, but no explanation for the phenomenon.

Reposted from 2016 to provide some addenda:
I continue to encounter the odd report of severed feet (and longtime readers occasionally send me links of such incidents).  Rather than put new reports on the front page of the blog, I'm going to convert this post into a linkdump.

Via Nothing to do with Arbroath:
"Three severed human feet found in and around a park are likely to have been educational medical exhibits or from a private collection, an investigation has concluded. The first foot was found by dog walkers in Weston Park East Bath, Somerset, in February. A second was discovered in the garden of a property in Weston Park in July and a third in a garden in nearby Cranwells Park a month later. Avon and Somerset Police said they found no evidence of foul play..."
 A website that sells severed animal feet (dried, salted, or preserved in alcohol).

Severed feet as a theme for Cake Wrecks.

At Rio's 2016 summer Olympics: "A beach goer Wednesday discovered human body parts that had washed up on the shore, right in front of the Olympic Beach Volleyball Arena on Rio's famed Copacabana beach. A dismembered foot and another body part still unidentified was found..."

"The freelance journalist told the Bath Chronicle: "It was just like CSI. There were a few of us out walking our dogs and then a lady came running over to find us and said there's a foot in the hedge."

"The Sonoma County coroner's office is investigating a foot in a shoe that washed ashore at Doran Regional Park south of Bodega Bay" (Feb 2017)

"After a shoe with a human foot inside turned up on a dock in Charleston, South Carolina, investigators are trying to figure out whose it was and how it got there." (May 2017)

A severed foot in a tennis shoe was discovered in a county park in St. Louis, Missouri.  The park was adjacent to the Mississippi River, so it could have come from an aquatic incident.

A tip of the blogging cap to long-time readers Phil and Bub, who remembered this series of posts and sent me a link about yet another foot washing ashore in Canada (13 since 2007...).  This one was remarkable for having the tibia and fibula still attached (photo at right).

I was pleased to see in Neatorama today a link to a Wikipedia page that provides comprehensive coverage of this topic (at least as it relates to the Pacific Northwest).


Another update from British Columbia after the discovery of a fourteenth severed foot.

A 2019 report of a fifteenth severed foot from the Pacific Northwest, with a reasonably concise and comprehensive summary of all the available evidence from past reports.


  1. More have washed up? They just keep coming! Where are the people they belong too?

  2. Yeah, what T said. You'd think by now we'd have at least ONE DNA match to a missing person.

    It's Land Sharks, I tell you.


  3. It seems to me that if your body were lost at sea, the one part of you that wouldn't be eaten by predators, sink to the bottom or disintegrate would be your feet. They are each strapped tightly into their own personal flotation devices. The rest of you just gets consumed by the elements like so much fish food. The floating feet could travel for weeks or months and many miles until they are discovered by some aghast beachcomber.

  4. The prevalent theory on the shoes with a foot in them is that they are drownings, probably suicides. The action of the ocean waves seems to disarticulate hands and feet rather quickly, then the shoe keeps the foot buoyant while also protecting it from being eaten. Eventually the tide washes it ashore. Although this theory makes sense, there's no definitive proof.

    1. If this were true it would be happening ALL OVER THE WORLD and for a long time.

    2. my experience is that deep water drownings end up with the body on it's back when the victim is wearing shoes with a foam component. Usually the feet are raised, as though the person is sitting on a chair tipped back to horizontal. It makes sense that with decay or predation, the buoyant shoes(plus contents) would surface and travel with the winds and tides.

  5. you might be interested in this:

    He wrote Contested Will about the Shakespeare question - I haven't gotten to the question and answer session. Apparently there are some Oxfordians in the audience.

    1. Thank you, Bub, but it's a bit too linear, and skipping through the timeline I couldn't find the highlights. He seemed mostly to be promoting his book.

  6. Hi Minnesotastan, if you need some more severed foot material, this just happened down the road from my house...
    Still waiting for confirmed details at this time, but thought it might be of interest.

    1. Thank you, Els. The Bath Chronicle is not a site I would have explored on my own (although a quick Google for followup shows the story to have been picked up now by BBC and others). I'll bookmark for a future blog post.

  7. https://www.facebook.com/theoatmeal/photos/a.10150413121115078.628758.220779885077/10156567293740078 It's blowing up!

  8. Not an actual severed foot, but perhaps of interest: http://paleo.cc/paluxy/boot.htm

  9. This is something I seen today on Reddit from user "shaidyn". I dont have a reddit account, so dont know proper protocol for linking to one persons comment in a discussion..


    I can clear up the feet thing. I'm a british columbian, and I recently completed my education in forensic investigation. I asked two different professors, both former law enforcement officers, about it.

    1) People die at sea. Like, a lot. It's not at all rare or uncommon for people to die on ships. Every day or so someone somewhere in the world falls off a ship, gets in a boat crash, or gets pulled out to sea.

    2) One of the weakest joints in the body is the ankle. When a body decomposes at sea/gets eaten, feet are going to come off.

    3) Shoes float.

    4) The currents in the pacific ocean push a LOT of stuff into the BC coast. We get garbage from Japan over here pretty regularly.

    There's no real mystery. There was just a statistically improbable number of feet at one point in time, which got a bit of media attention, and now every foot gets added to the count so it sounds like a big deal. But if someone were to do a world wide analysis of body parts found washed on shore, BC's number (while higher than average) wouldn't point to anything nefarious.

    1. Yes, that is the recognized explanation.

    2. Oh! I had not heard about this explanation until today. Was years wondering about it. Amazing what can seem such a strange mystery can have such a logical explanation


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