On an Uncouth Tourist

Americans have a reputation of being some of the most uncouth and self-centered travelers anywhere in the world but particularly in Europe. Perhaps it’s the American educational system that fails to properly prepare people by not providing them a broader view of the world. Maybe it’s that Americans are so self-centered that, if it doesn’t concern us, we simply tend to not care about it. For whatever reason, the reputation of many Americans who travel overseas is not a good one. In fact, you may sometimes hear the phrase “Ugly American” to describe someone from the United States who is unaware or unconcerned with another culture, language, or customs while traveling.

Case in point, a man in his 70s from the United States who visited France. What made this particular tourist noteworthy was that he had some money. He also had some education, so that excuse for his uncouth behavior in Europe doesn’t hold up. What is beyond dispute is that his actions shocked the people he encountered on his trip. For example, in a nation like France that is known for its haute couture, this American eschewed all sartorial convention and chose clothes of a much poorer person. This mystified the French he encountered.

And the wanton behavior! His wealth and business position in the States had caused a rift between him and his wife, and, while they never divorced, they lived separate lives for some time. She had recently died before he left for his France trip, and the man felt that he had the license to enjoy the company of some high-class French prostitutes. So, he did. In fact, he moved one of them into the apartment he rented in a Paris suburb. What made this behavior unseemly, even for the normally licentious French, was that the woman was more than 40 years his junior. And she was by no means not the only one he shared his bed with.

While these antics may seem eccentric in the case of the clothing or harmless in the case of the sexual exploits, it’s what we know of the man’s behavior in London that may be the most shocking of all his European escapades.

We might not have known about this most disturbing side of the man, but, luckily, the house the wealthy older American rented in London was renovated in the 1990s. It was then that the bones were discovered. A worker in the house’s basement unearthed a human thigh bone, and he called the police. Soon, hundreds of human bones were unearthed from the basement. And they could all be traced to the time when the American rented the house.

Was the American a murderer? Why would there be bones buried in the basement?

To this day, we don’t know for sure exactly what Benjamin Franklin had to do with it.

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