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The ‘Doctored’ Epitaph

People are, usually, seen to express their love and concern through verses and music. However, Dr Samuel Bean was markedly different from others. For nearly 40 years, he refused to pay his tribute to his lost wives. In fact, he took the secret to his grave when he drowned during a vacation to Cuba in 1904. Dr Bean expressed his love to his wives, Henrietta and Susanna, after their demise with a 15-square-inch puzzle grid on a marble tombstone dedicated to them. He created the puzzle by carving different letters on the marble tombstone in which his love for wives was hidden. Although many puzzlers made attempts to crack the puzzle, it took more than a century to solve it. It may be added that before he drowned during a vacation to Cuba in 1904, Dr Bean got married for a third time.

Henrietta and Susanna were Dr Bean’s first two wives. Henrietta was born in Philadelphia in 1842, and Dr Bean tied the nuptial knot with her in February 1865. However, Henrietta left this world in September 1865, seven months after their marriage. There was also a puzzle in Henrietta’s memorial card through which the invitees were informed how old she was and how she died. Dr Bean mentioned in the card that his first wife, Henrietta, a model by profession, died on September 27, 1865 at the age of 23 years, two months and 17 days after 11 weeks of illness. His second wife, Susanna, was born in 1840 in an area between Wellesley and Crosshill. She gave birth to Dr Bean’s daughter after their marriage. Susanna took her last breath on April 27, 1867 at the age of 26 years, 10 months and 15 days. There was a puzzle in her memorial card, as well!

The tombstone

Dr Samuel Bean had his wives buried side by side, at a cemetery in Crosshill, Ontario; and he arranged to have 225 different letters carved on their memorial, thus leaving a puzzle for others. Dr Bean had the names of Henrietta and Susanna carved, too, at the top of the memorial. At the bottom, it is further written that “Reader meet us in Heaven”.

Many had made attempts to figure out what was actually written in the puzzle, but failed. John Hammond, the groundskeeper of the cemetery, claimed to have solved it in 1942. However, he didn’t share his solution, leaving his claim unverified. Finally, a 94-year-old lady, who lived in a nearby retirement home, cracked the puzzle in 1970, and shared her solution, solving the mystery that had lasted over a century.

Solved Mystery

According to the lady, Dr Bean’s message read: “In memoriam: Henrietta, Ist wife of S Bean, M.D., who died 27th Sep. 1865, aged 23 years, 2 months and 17 days, and Susanna, his 2nd wife, who died 27th April, 1867, aged 26 years, 10 months and 15 days. 2 better wives 1 man never had, they were gifts from God but are now in Heaven. May God help me, S.B., to meet them there.

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