Bring out ye dead!

Posted: September 26, 2011 in Cemetery, Horror, Medical, Morgue, Unusual Findings, Weird

One of the ingenious little things human’s invented to avoid the profit making body-snatcher’s, a rather ghoulish profession also referred to as Ressurectionists.

The most famous pair in history were Burke and Hare (who also murdered to ensure fresh bodies), the profitable corpse stealing business was down to the needs of the anatomy schools. The recently buried were much sought after, the fresher the body the better. The students paid to go and learn about the body, the schools needed them to do this first hand.

Bodies were limited by the government, only criminals could be used for the medical science. With the supply on a limited roll out the schools would have a no questions policy for those willing to dig up a decent resource.

The Mortsafe was a cage put around the body, iron coffins or even watch houses for the dead.

August 1832 brought in the Anatomy Act, which put an end to the practise because any unclaimed body would be used for the schools. Anyone from a poorhouse etc could be put through, people could even donate their bodies to the schools.

By 1842 some of them were pretty ingenious though, a couple of them continued their trade as they could supply the dentists with teeth.

I suppose one of the ironies I would mention here is that the Victorian christian’s seemed to have little problem with the idea of using mummies for paper making, train fuel or something to show off at home with an unwrapping.

Anyways, the mortsafes and other devices –

The mortsafe appears to have been invented around 1816 and they were iron contraptions padlocked around the coffin which would be removed by two people with keys, they were put over there for about 6 weeks. Some of them however were left in place and a few examples can be found.

Vaults/Watchhouses came into play as well, They were used to put the bodies in for a few weeks before being correctly interred. They only seem to have been put into use around Scotland, other than Northumberland there is little evidence for them being used in England.

There are a few of the mortsafe’s surviving in churchyards. May are broken and rusting away, some however were rescued for historical purposes and can be seen.

Image from Princekarr




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