Jonathon R. Bass

“The Ossified Man”

(November 25th, 1830 – September 13th, 1892)

Jonathan Bass was born to William Bass and Fannie Richardson Bass in Cambria, NY.  Jonathan suffered bouts of rheumatism while young but he managed to work on his family farm for the majority of his life.  

In 1848, his health began to deteriorate and eventually he could only walk with a cane or crutches.  He saw several doctors but the rheumatism led to ankyloses of all his joints.  The International Journal of Surgery featured Bass, explaining his condition, and proclaimed, “He boasts the best of health, and, though on his back all the time, eats and sleeps well.” “All the muscles, tendons and joints have been converted into solid bone; he is incapable of any motion whatever, being a prisoner in his own frame.” He ate by sucking food into his mouth and swallowing it whole. A specially made bed helped him sleep at night. In general, he did not suffer from pain.  Dr. J.M. Reed of New York City examined Bass and called him "a living wonder," while Dr. D.F. Smith of Plymouth, Pennsylvania said Bass was "the greatest freak of nature I ever saw."


Unable to work and support himself, Jonathan allowed himself to be exhibited at dime museums and sideshows. All over the country, people would come to look at his frozen, emaciated form, which was usually propped up and strapped to a board. He only weighed 75 pounds. Life was relatively good, until 1892, when Bass became frustrated with his weekly $25 earnings. So he fired his manager and hired his remaining brother. Later that year, he reportedly caught pneumonia while on display at Huber’s 14th Street Museum in New York City.  Jonathan made it back to Lewiston by train on September 11 and the famous ossified man died two days later. Due to threats of body theft, his family refused an autopsy and buried him in a “burglar-proof” vault in Glenwood Cemetery.