A ‘How To’ Guide …

Choosing a Cadaver…

If you’re planning on becoming a bodysnatcher and lifting a cadaver to ship to the teaching hospitals in our larger cities or fulfilling the requests of a local surgeon, there are certain key elements that need to be followed. Below are the basics to get you started, although over time you will no doubt find your own personal techniques that work best for you and in the churchyards in which you operate.

“Finding a fresh corpse is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of bodysnatching”

Timing is everything. The last thing any hard working resurrectionist needs is to discover he’s dug up a half putrid cadaver. It’s not the end of the world however, the less decayed bits can be cut off if they’re not too far gone and the teeth can be extracted for a separate sale, but it is best to find a fresh ‘subject’ or ‘thing’ in the first place.

A casual stroll through the churchyard whist the sexton is digging the grave, or an amble past a funeral mid service are just some of the simpler methods which can help to identify the location of your next target.

“Everyone has their price, and it shouldn’t take you too long to find theirs”

If you find it easier, or have set your sites on a large churchyard that you intend to ‘use’ for some time, then you may wish to get the sexton or even the vicar on board so that you make your job easier. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have seen the funeral – you may even have wangled a place among the mourners – you will probably have a general idea of how deep the parishioner has been buried. If you just happen upon a freshly dug grave and want to chance your hand, then a quick poke in the freshly turned soil with a stick until you hear the thud of the coffin lid should give you an idea on how deep to dig.

Of course, if you have got the church officials on board, then they can either remove the corpse for you when they’re back filling the grave or simply replace the cadaver in the coffin with a suitable weight substitute and have you collect the corpse from one of their back rooms later that day.

Luss Mortsafe, Argyll & Bute

It is perhaps a good idea to mention access at this point, not only into the churchyard, but also to the grave itself. More and more churchyards are using anti bodysnatching devises and it is always best to be prepared for any eventuality. A high wall can be scaled, if you remember to bring a ladder with you (if not, one can be stolen from a near by house). Keep an eye out for grave markers left by the poorer members of the parish. They like to pop the odd stone or stick on top of the grave in the hope that they will be able to tell if it has been tampered with. This however acts as an excellent marker for you, pointing out exactly where a fresh burial has taken place – just remember to put this back in the same position before you go. If you happen across a mortsafe or caged lair, try to choose another plot if possible, these types of deterrent are broken into but why give yourself extra work if you don’t have to. A watch-house or watchtower in the churchyard must be treated with extreme caution. Chances are that there are at least 2-3 men sitting waiting for you to arrive, and it’s always best to avoid arrest if at all possible.

“When you have decided on a location, you will need to get to work swiftly”

Don’t listen to the methods bandied about in the newspapers suggesting that the whole coffin is dug up or that the way to get at the cadaver is to dig a tunnel – you don’t have time for such fumbling methods and need to complete the task as quickly as possible. Do the job right and you could be out of there in under an hour. Put your sack over the feet end of the coffin, you’re aiming to drag the body out head first, so it’s important to dig at the right end! Using a sack will assist in getting the soil back into the grave quickly when you leave. Place the soil from the head end onto your sack and away you go until you hear a thud. Stop when you hear this as you’ve gone far enough. Wrench the coffin lid off where it is exposed – the weight of the soil at the other end will help it to snap – not forgetting to put a second sack on top of the coffin first to help deaden the noise. Lid off, it’s time to get down to business.

Using  hooks, which you have hopefully remembered to bring along with you, slip these under the corpses armpits or if you’re using a rope, tied this around the neck. You need to get a firm hold on the cadaver before you start pulling, less you’ll only have to start the whole process again. Once you’re sure you have a secure grip, start tugging. This may take some effort and you may need to work in shifts. Those of you less intoxicated may have to take the turn of some of your friends, but as long as the cadaver comes out whole, you can be compensated with a few extra shillings come divvying up time.
Once out of the grave, you need to strip the corpse of any grave clothes, jewellery or other adornments so that if the cadaver is found and later traced to you, you cannot be accused of theft. If you are caught with a body or two, unless you have murdered the ‘thing’ to get it, then you are probably looking at a short prison sentence, with or without hard labour, in addition to a fine. Once stripped, put or throw the corpse to the side whilst you refill the grave. It is customary to put the grave clothes into the coffin before you begin back filling, the last thing you want to do is to leave then strewn about the churchyard.

You may want to pause here for a minute before you pack up the corpse, to knock out the teeth. This can be done either with a pair of pincers, if you have any handy, or with the handle of your spade. This latter method however, does have the disadvantage of damaging the jaw of the cadaver which may reflect on the purchase price, although when you sell the teeth, any loss can be made up and with the modern craze for  human teeth, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a buyer.

Now turn your attention back to the cadaver. Lift it up, you’ll probably have to get quite close to it at this point – if you have and gin or brandy with you, now would be a good time to take a swig – and you are trying to get it into the sack you brought with you.

“Often you will need to bend the cadaver in
half in order for them to fit into the sack”

Rigour mortis has hopefully worn off by the time you’ve got the corpse, so thrusting it into a sack shouldn’t be too much trouble. If you do hear any snapping, don’t worry too much as the surgeons will mainly be interested in the fleshier parts of the body.  Once you have the cadaver secured in the sack and have checked the area for signs of disturbance, it’s time to leave.

Don’t forget your tools, you’ll need them for your next job…