Weird History The Man Who Killed John Wilkes Booth Was A Religious Nut Who Cut His Balls Off  

Noelle Talmon
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You know the name of the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln: John Wilkes Booth. But do you know about the man who killed him? His name was Thomas "Boston" Corbett, and his biography – and the story of the Boston Corbett castration – is one of history's weirdest tales.

Thomas Corbett was a devout Christian who enlisted in the military in 1861 during the Civil War. He wasn't exactly liked by his fellow soldiers. He carried a Bible with him and preached the good word while condemning those around him for taking the Lord's name in vain or cursing. Eventually, higher ups were so irritated by Corbett's behavior that they court-martialed him and sentenced him to death. However, Corbett escaped execution and was released from jail in 1863.

Two years later, following Lincoln's assassination, Corbett's regiment was tasked with apprehending Booth. They found Booth in a barn with an accomplice, but he refused to surrender. The regiment set the barn on fire, and still Booth remained holed up inside. Although orders were to keep Booth alive, Corbett shot him with a Colt revolver, claiming self-defense. The Union soldier who killed John Wilkes Booth became an American hero and media darling known as "Lincoln's Avenger."

What many probably didn't know at the time was that Corbett was living as a eunuch.

He Was A Hat Maker Who Was Probably Exposed To Mercury


He Was A Hat Maker Who Was Pro... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Man Who Killed John Wilkes Booth Was A Religious Nut Who Cut His Balls Off
Photo: Unattributed/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Corbett was born in England and moved to New York City in 1839. He became a hat maker, which was a respectable job for an immigrant at the time. But it wasn't exactly a safe one – mercury was often used to improve felt, one of the fabrics hats were made of. Mercury poisoning was not uncommon for hat makers in the 19th century and was known to cause dementia and erethism. The latter is feeling a sensitivity or an odd response when a body part or organ is stimulated.

His Wife And Baby Died, And He Had A Religious Awakening


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Photo:  George Eastman Museum/Flickr/No known copyright restrictions

Unfortunately, Corbett's wife and baby died during childbirth. In order to numb the pain, he turned to alcohol.

Then, in the late 1850s, he was in Boston and experienced a religious awakening. Corbett encountered an evangelist who was extolling the virtues of God. Before long, Corbett was regularly attending these sermons on the street. He changed his first name to "Boston" as a sign of his rebirth, gave up alcohol, and became a Methodist minister.

He Castrated Himself – And Then Had Dinner


He Castrated Himself – And The... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Man Who Killed John Wilkes Booth Was A Religious Nut Who Cut His Balls Off
Photo: Mathew Brady/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

At just 26 years old, Corbett had been born again. He grew his hair long like Jesus and spread the word of God on street corners. He criticized those who swore or slept with hookers.

One night, two prostitutes ridiculed Corbett and tried to tempt him into becoming a customer. He was so afraid that he would not be able to resist their wiles that he made a drastic decision. Corbett went home, took a pair of scissors, and removed his testicles through a small incision under his scrotum. Before seeking medical attention, he attended a prayer meeting and ate dinner. Only afterwards did he go to Massachusetts General Hospital.

He Claimed The Bible Instructed Him To Do It


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Photo: United States National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In castrating himself, Corbett believed he was doing what the Bible said to do. According to Matthew 19:12, Jesus says, "There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."

Later in life, Corbett explained that he felt the need to "preach the gospel without being tormented by animal passions." While making himself a eunuch prevented him from giving into sexual temptations, it did not stop him from apprehending one of America's most wanted men and becoming a hero.