Featured Artifact

Syphilitic Skull of Frederick Davis

In 2007, ASI was retained to exhume and identify a group of hanged prisoners from the Don Jail cemetery site in Toronto.

This particular individual is Frederick Davis, who was convicted of a gruesome murder in 1920. He was executed on May 9, 1922 at about 46 years of age. Prior to his arrest, the Toronto Daily Star (1921) reported that he had a pre-existing fatal medical condition and wore a wig, all of which are consistent with the advanced tertiary syphilis that are identified in his skeletal remains.

It is possible to see advanced tertiary syphilis in the form of lesions in the frontal bone. (Note the rippling effect of the lesions on the top of the skull.) Davis would have worn a wig to cover the surface of the syphilitic lesions. It is also possible that Davis suffered from dementia as a result of the disease.

To watch the trailer of the documentary Hangman’s Graveyard about the Don Jail excavations, visit our film section.

Syphilitic Skull of Frederick Davis
by ASI
on Sketchfab