The Dependent Magazine is a Vancouver-based publication of daring and creative works of journalism and entertainment.
Want to get involved?
Send text, pictures, videos, and crude drawings to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Mac. We’ve got a beauty for you.”
Several minutes after hearing these words, Vancouver Coroner Glen McDonald receives what may be the most unusual -and certainly the most famous cadaver of his career: Errol Flynn.
“I was about to leave [the] office when the telephone rang,” McDonald will recall, in his 1985 book “How Come I’m Dead,” “I was looking forward to a gin and tonic.”
Flynn -one of Hollywood’s most notorious stars, and well-known for his heavy drinking, drug use, and insatiable sexual appetite, had fallen ill on his way to the airport, after a week in Vancouver with his 16-year-old lover, Beverly Aadland. Despite being brought to the Burnaby Street apartment of Dr. Grant Gould, Flynn’s hard-living ways had finally caught up with him; he was pronounced dead less than two hours later.
“[...Flynn's] face was sallow and a bit puffy and he looked an awful lot older than fifty years,” McDonald will recall. “He looked worn out, wasted.”
The autopsy concludes that the movie star’s death was due to a number of factors associated with his flamboyant lifestyle, including heart disease, diverticulosis, and cirrhosis of the liver. However, during the final moments of the examination, MacDonald and Chief Pathologist Tom Harmon make another interesting discovery: a number of sizeable venereal warts on the end of Flynn’s penis.
“Tom seemed fascinated,” MacDonald will recall, “[and said] ‘Look, I’m going to be lecturing at the Institute of Pathology and I just thought it might be of interest if I could remove these things and fix them in formaldehyde and use them as a visual aid.’ ‘No way!’ I said. ‘We’re not going to do that. I don’t want anything done that isn’t relevant to the case because we’re really in the limelight tonight. We’re on the hot seat. How can we send Mr. Flynn back to his wife with part of his bloody endowment missing?’
However, when McDonald returns to the obervation room after a brief absence, he discovers that the venereal warts have disappeared.
“The first thing I noticed was that the VD warts had gone – vanished from the end of Mr. Flynn’s penis,” McDonald will continue. “Then I spotted a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf that looked suspiciously like it might contain VD warts. It did[...] I sighed and asked the Doc, ‘Did you have to remove those bloody warts … Did Errol Flynn expire because he had warts on his dong?’ Tom looked sheepish but we were both laughing at the utter silliness of the whole thing. ‘Put them back,’ I said, ‘Right now!’ Maybe the Doc had never seen warts of that enormity. Maybe he wanted a souvenir. I never did figure out why the temptation had been too great … So the bloody warts were fished out of the formaldehyde jar and, using the good offices of scotch tape, Doc Harmon and I stuck them back where they belonged. Everything was back to normal. And I was relieved to learn later, talking with the Chief Coroner in Los Angeles, that a further autopsy was performed and the results concurred in every respect with what we had found. The scotch tape was never mentioned.”
IMAGE: Coroner’s photograph of the body of Errol Flynn, October 14th, 1959. Obtained by FOI request through the BC Archives.