January 18, 2019

Body Snatchers


Body snatching...that is stealing a body from a grave...such things have not been limited to old horror movies born in the imagination of a writer, or an occasional shocking case or two like Burke and Hare many years ago...and I’m not talking about any form of zombie apocalypse...no, the real thing—indeed, it has taken place many times all over the world...unsavory people who would go into graveyards armed with shovels and did such a thing were often called ‘resurrection men’...because they brought the dead back...not to life, but to something...like dissection...so it was kind of like a resurrection, a correction, a connection...between the dead and the living...sometimes they would use various accessories like tarps and such to help avoid their dirty deeds from being discovered...wooden shovels were sometimes used to make less noise, and there were a variety of methods to get to the corpse...one was to tear the top of the coffin off...wrap a rope around the body, and then drag it up out of the grave...pleasant work...others were more brazen and didn’t care if there ‘work’ was obvious or not...most of the time, these ‘body snatchers’ would then sell the bodies they dug up to doctors and medical schools that were in need of cadavers for study purposes...for some, it turned out to be a lucrative profession...if somewhat distasteful to some...the doctors who bought the bodies certainly weren’t going to say anything...back in the day, the law stated that bodies could be used for dissection if they were of criminals who had committed ‘harsh’ crimes...however, this law did not make enough bodies available for those who wished to study...therefore, a nice little trade started where some people would dig up freshly buried bodies and then sell them to those who wanted them...and had the money to pay...it became such a problem in England and Scotland that people would place stone with iron bars over the graves to keep the snatchers out, called mortsafes...or they would pay someone to guard a freshly used grave...at least until the ground settled and made the task more difficult...snatchers were always on the prowl for newly dug graves that would make their work easier...resurrection men weren’t above hiring people to go to a funeral to scout out if there might be any future problems in retrieving a body...sometimes, weights were substituted for an actual body by enterprising individuals who then sold the body to interested parties...body snatching has also been done to try and cover up crimes or to try to fool police or insurance investigators...in one example, a man wanted by the police dug up a body in a remote cemetery in Mexico and placed it in his car in an attempt to fake his own death...he made sure the car was incinerated by the staged ‘accident’...yet, there was still enough evidence that tipped investigators off that the body was not his...eventually, he was captured by authorities...body snatching is different from grave robbery in the fact that the body is not usually stolen when robbing a grave...only any valuables that might have been buried with it...such as looters plundering the tombs of the Pharaohs in Egypt...interestingly, body snatching was only considered a misdemeanor...some body snatchers were careful not to take any rings or jewelry as that would have made the crime a felony...in more recent times, sometimes when rural cemeteries were ‘moved’ to make way for ‘progress’, it was shocking to some that many coffins were very light to lift...a.k.a. empty.