Body Snatching Essay

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Body snatching, as the name suggests, was the act of stealing dead bodies. Bodies were stolen for multiple reasons, usually for monetary gain. Body snatching became a common fear and many families took steps to prevent this occurrence from happening to the bodies of their loved ones. The poor of the 19th century were often buried in mass graves. This gave an easy target for many grave robbers as they were able to dig up just one grave yet obtain multiple bodies. Had they chosen to excavate a single grave, they would have done much more work for little gain. In Europe, body snatching became a crime thanks to the 1832 Anatomy Act passed in the United Kingdom. Even with this law in place, body snatching continued. They went as far as the bodies of some Canadian students being stolen before they were even claimed by their families in the late 1800’s and body snatching continues to be a part of the black market even today. Body snatchers were also known as “resurrectionists” and generally preferred fresh graves as they were easier to dig into. Digging into ground that had already settled proved to be more difficult than necessary. Some groups of resurrectionsists would send scounts to funerals to develop a plan of action to stealing the bodies. Body snatching was such a lucrative business that a pair of entrepreneurs took their endeavors a step further. William Burke and William Hare murdered adults then sold the bodies to doctors for research. Due to the lack of dead bodies available, the doctors did not question the origins even though they were usually only allowed the bodies of criminals that had been executed. To prevent body snatching, many families would put up a metal cage around the gravesite. Iron coffins were also known to have been used to deter grave robbers. It also wasn’t unheard of to have family members rotate shifts at night to watch over the grave to insure their loved ones body remained in the ground. More recent re-excavations of the bodies has...
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