Before Great Britain's Anatomy Act of 1832, which allowed medical schools to legally obtain a sufficient number of cadavers for study, getting a corpse to dissect was no simple matter.  The Murder Act of 1752 stipulated only the bodies of executed murderers be used for such a purpose.  As medical science improved, the need for fresh cadavers began to rapidly exceed the supply of executed murderers.

Enter the Resurrection Men

In the late Regency period and the early Victorian era, grave robbing paid quite well and wasn't particularly risky because it wasn't a felony.  All the grave robber had to do was make certain he didn't help himself to any valuables buried along with the dead, such as an expensive piece of jewelry, and he had no fear of being executed for his crime.
Mort-Safe in Greyfriars Kirkyard to discourage grave robbing

Naturally, the bereaved fought back with vigils, watchmen, metal coffins, and even iron cages like the "Mort-Safe" above.  Others may have quoted Shakespeare's own admonition to body snatchers:

"Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,"
"To dig the dust enclosed here."
"Blessed be the man that spares these stones,"
"And cursed be he who moves my bones."

Taking It to the Next Level: Burke & Hare

In 1828, Dr. Robert Knox hired Brendan Burke and William Hare to procure cadavers for study.  But grave robbing was hard physical labor, especially when it came to getting a nice fresh corpse suitable for study.  (After all, this was before the advent of good embalming techniques or refrigeration.)  Burke and Hare decided it would be easier to create fresh bodies than to dig them up.  Their technique, to suffocate weak or inebriated victims, came to be known as "burking."  Their imitators in the city called themselves the London Burkers.

Up the close and down the stair,
But and ben with Burke and Hare.
Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief,
Knox, the boy who buys the beef.
—19th-century Edinburgh jumping-rope rhyme
Eventually the duo was brought to justice and hanged.  But the idea of Resurrection Men continued in popular culture for a long time after, and was referenced by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist.

Modern Day Resurrection Man?

Think ghoulish stuff like this only happened in the bad old days, or is just a matter of urban legends?  Click here to discover what happened to the body of the late Alastair Cooke, best known as the host of Masterpiece Theater.

Views: 18


You need to be a member of S.W.A.G to add comments!

Join S.W.A.G

SWAG Support Fund

Visit us on:

TWITTER                          TUMBLR



Latest Activity

Doc Coleman posted photos
May 4
Profile IconC.I. Chevron and Doc Coleman joined S.W.A.G
May 3
Harmonie Sjoblom is now a member of S.W.A.G
Mar 17
Leon Bawdon posted photos
Feb 6
magassia promotions posted a blog post

New Music Video NEW FLAVA by SMILEY

Hittown Records presents "SMILEY " . Smiley is a Broward County,FL artist with a bright future. "R.I.P 2 The Trap" the mixtape/album has plenty of flavor if your looking for something new. The edgy smooth voice and beats provide a sound and vibe for any occasion . The production and rhymes along with catchy hooks make this a guaranteed download to your playlist.Please make sure you follow and subscribe to all platforms.Get connected with Smiley on social media:Facebook:…See More
Jan 17
magassia promotions posted blog posts
Jan 11
magassia promotions posted a blog post

New Mixtape "Mass Up" by Boyz N Da Massis

Mass UpBoyz N Da Massis - Mass Up. Download the Mass Up mixtape or stream for free. No registration required.We are the Boyz N Da Massis which consist a group of 3 Blood brothers GTB Ball Hard, GTB Da Gasman, & GTB Block all born and raised in Birmingham, AL. The group was originally created in the streets and the original name was “Biker Boyz.” Eventually After a couple of years, the name was changed to BOYZ N DA…See More
Dec 19, 2018
magassia promotions posted a blog post

New EP "MIA VITA" by Salese

Change Has Come...Very rarely in the world of Hip Hop today do you encounter the best of all worlds. An artist with hit making ability, an image that is marketable yet honest and genuine, matched with sharp business savvy all wrapped in one.Recording artist SaleSe represents just that.And now more than ever, SaleSe feels the need to give the music business what it's been lacking: creativity, a fresh perspective, a reason to party and a dose of that New York City reality...After a slew of club…See More
Dec 9, 2018

Click here for SWAG badges for websites

Small Press, Indie & Anthology Covers

© 2019   Created by Lia Keyes.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service