few weeks ago I heard the strangest story. The intriguing story of Dr. Knoche "the embalmer of the Avila" here it is in case you want to get to know new places in Caracas:
Dr. Gottfried Knoche was born in Germany the 17th of March 1813, in the German region Halberstadt (Prussian Empire), located in the actual German region Sajonia-Anhalt, where you can find the famous gothic church of Halberstadt.
He studied in the University of Friburgo in 1837, afterwards he worked at it’s Hospital. Knoche left Germany and went to Venezuela in 1840, there he started living in La Guaira, where he took care of the health of Germans that were already living there. In La Guaira he reestablished the "San Juan de Dios Hospital" between 1854 and 1856.
His life’s most important research was the invention of a method in which he was able to mummify corpses without taking their organs out, instead he injected a solution (made out of aluminum chloride) in the jugular vein of the corpse.
He basically used this method in body's that were not claimed in the morgue of the San Juan de Dios Hospital in La Guaira. He transported these corpses with horses to his ranch, outside of La Guaira. Inside his ranch he had a lab with dozens or corpses that he embalmed. This way Knoche was able to practice and improve his embalmer’s technique. He even was mummified dogs and put them in the entrance of his mausoleum.
Dr. Knoche died in his ranch, Buena Vista, in 1901 at the age of 88 years. After he died he was put on his corresponding spot in the familiar mausoleum. Amelia Weimann, last member of the family that lived in the ranch Buena Vista, said that the doctor left instructions on how to embalm him. He even left the needle ready.
Testimonies tell that it was very common that the corpses of the morgue in the San Juan de Dios Hospital that were not claimed were immediately taken to the Buena Vista ranch.
The most famous case is the one of a corpse that didn't want to be mummified. The body fell from the back of the donkey that was taking him to the farm, when the corpse fell from the donkey it loosed its head so it became impossible to embalmed. This body was never found.
Another Knoche legend narrates that a person who was visiting the mausoleum after the doctor died drank what he thought was an alcoholic drink; instead he got petrified as a consequence of his imprudence. Later on, his body was confused with one of the doctors mummies and was put in an exhibition in the mausoleum.
The neighbors of Knoche are still afraid to pass through his ranch at night. They believe that the soules of the dead live in the house in the form on fireflies.
After the dead of the doctor Knoche Amelie lived there for 25 years surrounded by mummies. This was the born of the witch of the Avila.
In our next post we will explain how to get to the mausoleum.