Tag Archives | corpses

The Mortsafe: How To Protect Yourself From Bodysnatchers

mortsafeVia Kuriositas, this was a must-have for personal security during the height of the Victorian corpse-snatching era:

Medical students in the United Kingdom of the nineteenth century faced a quandary. They had been accustomed to using the corpses of executed criminals to study anatomy. However, the annual demand for bodies to dissect by the growing medical profession surpassed ten times that number. A thriving and historically infamous bodysnatching trade arose. However, those mourning the loss of a loved one soon developed a weapon against this: the mortsafe.

First made around 1816, the mortsafe was ingenious: a complex of iron rods and plates descending in to the ground and rising above it.

If this seems like a great length to go to, there was good reason. Grave robbers were crafty and would go to even greater lengths to retrieve a corpse from its coffin. It wasn’t, as you might imagine, a straightforward case of sneaking in to the graveyard and digging the deceased up at the dead of night.

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Melting Glaciers Revealing Frozen Corpses of World War I Soldiers

Pic: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio (C)

Pic: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio (C)

The slowly-melting glaciers of the Italian Alps are yielding up a gruesome find: The once-frozen corpses of World War I soldiers.

Via The Telegraph:

The bodies, when they came, were often mummified. The two soldiers interred last September were blond, blue-eyed Austrians aged 17 and 18 years old, who died on the Presena glacier and were buried by their comrades, top-to-toe, in a crevasse. Both had bulletholes in their skulls. One still had a spoon tucked into his puttees — common practice among soldiers who travelled from trench to trench and ate out of communal pots. When Franco Nicolis of the Archaeological Heritage Office in the provincial capital, Trento, saw them, he says, his first thought was for their mothers. ‘They feel contemporary. They come out of the ice just as they went in,’ he says. In all likelihood the soldiers’ mothers never discovered their sons’ fate.

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1,000 Unmarked Bodies Found Buried Below University Of Mississippi

bodies_msOddly, the developers’ renderings do not include the massive stacks of corpses of mental patients, slaves, and Civil War casualties which will form the buildings’ base. Via the Huffington Post:

Burial sites found on a college campus have created a potential nightmare for administrators. While surveying land for a new parking lot at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, officials made a grisly discovery: more than 1,000 bodies thought to have been patients at the old Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum.

The unnamed, century-old graves present a problem for the university, whose expansion plans could be halted over the cost of relocating the bodies.

It’s possible there could be more unmarked graves belonging to tuberculosis patients, former slaves, or even Civil War dead. Experts think that future additions to the medical center and other buildings on campus will have to be reconsidered.

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The Horrifying Necropants Of Iceland

necropantsThe Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft houses the only known intact pair of necropants, a beyond-disturbing item popularly used for purposes of traditional magic in seventeenth century Iceland. To make your own (and thus reap good fortune), strike a deal with a friend than whoever dies first will allow the other wear the lower half of their corpse as a pair of pants, day and night:

If you want to make your own necropants (literally; nábrók) you have to get permission from a living man to use his skin after his death.

After he has been buried you must dig up his body and flay the skin of the corpse in one piece from the waist down. As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin.

A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper.

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Selling Body Parts For Black Magic At Hospital Morgues

morgueIn the organ thieves’ defense, this is recycling. Via South Africa’s IOL News:

An extensive black market in human body parts has been uncovered in Swaziland’s second-largest hospital. Demand is strong in the country for human ingredients for use in traditional potions. Even the water used to wash corpses in the hospital mortuary is being sold to traditional healers.

The practice of selling human organs from the mortuary at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital in the central commercial hub of Manzini is an open secret. A human brain costs R1,000. Other parts, from internal organs to body fat, fetch from R400 to R1,000.

Body parts are roasted and pulverised into an ash, and mixed with herbs for a potion that is either drunk, ingested or in some cases rubbed into the blood through a razor cut to the skin. The user is then endowed with supernatural power, according to belief.

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Detroit Man Stole Father’s Corpse, Attempted To Bring Him Back To Life

To be honest I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. CBS Detroit reports:

A man accused of stealing his father’s body from a Detroit cemetery with the hope of bringing him back to life has pleaded guilty in exchange for avoiding prison.

Bright, then 48, stole the body of 93-year-old Clarence Bright from Gethsemane Cemetery on Jan. 14, just hours before it was to be buried, and stored it in a home freezer. Police, acting on a tip from other family members, found the corpse in Vincent Bright’s home on Detroit’s east side.

Police said Vincent Bright is religious and took the body in hopes his father would be resurrected.

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Men Jailed In China For Stealing Corpses For ‘Ghost Marriages’

Just because you’re dead and rotting doesn’t mean you can’t be a hot ticket as a bride or groom. The Global Post reports:

Four men in northwest China have been sentenced for digging up the corpses of women and selling them for “ghost marriages” to families whose sons died as bachelors. The remains of ten “brides” were sold for a total of $38,000, according to court reports.

Ritual ghost marriages, which is believed to date back to the 17th century BC, is a custom in which parents find “spouses” for their unmarried, deceased children so that they can have a family in the afterlife. The tradition is rare in contemporary China, but still practiced in rural [areas].

Families often employ a matchmaker to help find a suitable spouse for their deceased loved ones. Chinese media have reported cases of brokers murdering women and selling their bodies. In 2006, a man from northern Hebei province murdered six women and sold them as “ghost brides.”

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More Than 100 Graves In Benin Robbed For Organs For Voodoo Rituals

Even after death, you may still be of use to the living. Via Reuters:

Tomb raiders have dug up more than 100 graves at a cemetery in Benin since Saturday for what authorities suspect is a black-market trade in human organs and skulls for voodoo ritual fetishes. The incident is the most serious case of grave-robbing in the West African state, the world capital of voodoo where most of the country’s 9 million residents practice a benign form of the official religion.

Authorities in Dangbo began an investigation after a mason working at the cemetery said he spotted several masked men digging up the graves, from which organs and skulls were removed. “The desecration of graves is about money in this region,” said Joseph Afaton, director of the cemetery. “It is for sacrifices, or for bewitching.”

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Ancient Vampire Burial Uncovered In England

Luckily it worked. Via the Telegraph:

The discovery of a skeleton found with metal spikes through its shoulders, heart and ankles, dating from 550-700AD and buried in the ancient minster town of Southwell, Notts, is detailed in a new report. It is believed to be a ‘deviant burial’, where people considered the ‘dangerous dead’, such as vampires, were interred to prevent them rising from their graves to plague the living.

The skeleton was found by archaeologist Charles Daniels during the original investigation of the site in Church Street in the town 1959, which revealed Roman remains.

John Lock, chairman of Southwell Archaeology, said the body was one of a handful of such burials to be found in the UK. Mr Lock said no one could be sure why the body was staked in the way it was: “People would have a very strong view that this was somebody who, for whatever reason, they had a reason to fear and needed to ensure that this person did not come back.”

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Bizarre Death Rituals In Newly Discovered Oldest European Town

The first known European settlement contains a 7,000-year-old tomb complex where corpses were chopped in two before being positioned upright…as if to prevent the dead from rising again and running amok, but allowing them to face each other and converse. The Daily Mail reports:

Residents of what is thought to be Europe’s oldest town cut their dead in half and buried them from the pelvis up, according to archaeologists. The newly discovered ancient settlement, thought to date back to 4700 BC, is near the Bulgarian town of Provadia, about 25 miles from the Black Sea coast.

Archaeology professor Vassil Nikolov led the dig which focused on the town itself and its necropolis, where the strange and complex burial rituals were discovered.

Nikolov [said] the town’s 300 to 350 residents lived in two-storey homes and earned their living mining the surrounding area for salt, which was as important to the ancient world as oil is today.

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