Tag Archives | Graverobbing

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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Thieves Target Sigmund Freud’s Ashes In Raid On Cemetery

Pic: PD

Pic: PD

London’s Hoop Lane Cemetery houses the remains of Bram Stoker, Amy Winehouse and others.

Via The BBC:

Thieves have tried to steal an urn containing Sigmund Freud’s ashes in a raid on a north London crematorium.

The burglars “severely damaged” the 2,300-year-old urn that contains the remains of Freud and his wife Martha.

They attempted to take it from Hoop Lane Cemetery in Golders Green overnight on New Year’s Eve.

Freud, who became known as the founding father of psychoanalysis, died in London in September 1939.

Read the rest of the story at The BBC.

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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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Body Missing from New Jersey Mausoleum; Police Suspect Palo Mayombe

Via CBS News:

A corpse has disappeared  from a Pleasantvile, NJ family crypt, and Chief of Police Rocky Melendez  believes that practitioners of the Afro-Caribbean religion Palo Mayombe may have been involved:

Spinelli’s body was dressed in a powdered blue gown when it was taken, according to Lafolette. Police are still investigating.

“To go the extra step and remove the casket, pry it open and remove the body, I don’t want to hang my hat on just vandalism,” Melendez said.

According to CBS Philly, police said the body may have been taken for use in some sort of ritual. They are looking into possible cult or religious activity including one group called Palo Mayombe.

“It has been said that they do use human remains and animals to do…either their sacrifices or their religious services,” Melendez said.

Chief Melendez may be jumping to conclusions in assuming Palo Mayombe’s involvement, but he may be justified in doing so: There have been several grave-robbing incidences in New Jersey connected with practitioners of the religion.… Read the rest

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Russian Historian Lived with 26 Female Corpses Dressed Up As Dolls

Anatoly MoskvinaVia MSNBC:

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia — Police have discovered the remains of more than two dozen women who were dug up from their graves by a man some described as a “genius.” The bodies were found this week in the home of 45-year-old Anatoly Moskvina, who lives alone in the city of Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia. The discovery was made when Moskvina’s parents visited him after returning from a vacation.

Russian media reported that Moskvina kept at least 26 bodies in his small, three-room apartment. They all belong to females aged between 15 and 26 who died years ago. The bodies were “dried up,” Interfax reported.

Life News reported [translated link] that Moskvina, who is a historian and was also involved in journalism, visited hundreds of cemeteries at night and dug up the bodies with a shovel. He then put the remains in plastic bags and dragged them to his home.

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Arrest For Pakistani Brothers Who Made Curry From Corpses

s-CANNIBAL-CURRY-large300Ever acquire a habit and get totally carried away? For years a pair of brothers dug up fresh graves in search of corpses to make into curry dishes, after the cuisine “became an addiction.” Via Guardian:

Police in Pakistan have arrested two men for allegedly digging up a newly buried corpse and eating its flesh in a curry.

The two brothers are said to have cut the legs from the body of a 24-year-old woman and cooked the flesh in a steel pot. Some of the gruesome dish had already been eaten when police raided the brothers’ home in a remote part of Punjab province.

A senior police officer, Malik Abdul Rehman, told the Guardian the brothers had been eating corpses for at least a year, but some local media reports alleged that they had been human flesh eaters for a decade.

Rehman said that the brothers, Muhammad Arif, 40, and Farman Ali, 37, seemed to have taken up cannibalism as an act of “revenge” after their mother died and their wives left them.

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Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius

I don't usually link to book reviews but this one is fascinating. Check it out, from California Literary Review:
The clunky, oddball title is both intriguing and off-putting, the subtitle quaint and risible — evoking images of Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman excavating a plot in a downpour (“Young Frankenstein”) or possibly Oliver Hardy whacking Stan Laurel’s toe in the graveyard dirt (“Habeas Corpus”). In this age of cremations, cryonic storage, and ashes shot into space, grave robbing seems to hail from another era. However, the theft of human remains persists as a rare but fascinating phenomenon. ... Still, it’s a shock to open Dickey’s book and learn that the skulls of some very prominent people — composers Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Joseph Haydn; painter Francisco Goya; Renaissance scholar and theologian Sir Thomas Browne; and scientist and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg — were dug up, stolen, mutilated, handed from one person to another, and perhaps in some cases mislaid or lost forever. How could this have happened?
[continues at California Literary Review]
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