April 27, 2005
Eh, It's a Living

The more morbid and/or odd-history fans out there should find this Washington City Paper article on the history of body snatching in the DC area of interest:

When it came to professional grave robbers, the District of Columbia—which boasted four medical schools and some 50-odd cemeteries—had them in spades. In the last two decades of the 19th century, it was home to some of the most infamous resurrection men—and women—in the United States. William Jansen, the brother-and-sister team of Percy and Maud Brown, and the trigger-happy Marlow Gang all conducted business in the city during those years. All of them achieved the kind of public notoriety that is reserved, nowadays, for upper-echelon Mafiosi and high-profile killers.

The city's laws against grave robbing were, until the very late 1800s, remarkably lax. Indeed,Washington had no law against body snatching per se until the 1890s. As long as the "ghouls" left the victims' clothing behind, they couldn't be prosecuted for larceny. As a result, police who caught grave robbers even in the act were reduced to charging them with violation of obscure laws that brought about only token penalties.


Posted by scott at April 27, 2005 02:19 PM

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