Stealing a dead body can have many consequences with charges ranging from theft to abuse of a corpse and possibly even health code violations in some cases. Taking a corpse can land the body snatcher in jail, possibly even with lengthy prison sentences – all this besides the obvious nugget of common sense that should tell us that taking and then harboring a decaying corpse is not the wisest thing to do – the massive disrespect for someone’s passing and/or health risk issue aside. Once the living are no longer, the sensible thing to do is bury them, pay our respects and move on with our lives.
But as you’ve likely sensed from the title of this article, the offenders listed here are not people for who sensibility was a big priority at the time of their thievery. For whatever reason, it’s a commitment to some varying degree of mania when one decides to steal a corpse. There’s already a creep factor built in when someone steals a dead body but the people who stole these dead bodies managed to kick up the creepy by a notch or two. Whether driven by obsession, madness or greed, here are the stories behind fifteen cases where dead bodies were stolen for the creepiest of reasons.
15. Dr. Carl Tanzler Had An Undying Love For His Patient
When most people use the phrase “undying love” what they mean is that their love for a person is so strong and powerful that even when that person is gone, the love will last in their heart forever. For Dr. Tanzler, it meant that even after his beloved patient died of tuberculosis, he would reclaim her body from its entombment (which he paid for) and live with it as his companion. This story is the ultimate onion of body snatching stories. It all begins many years before Tanzler met the patient of his dreams, Elena. The story goes that a deceased female relative of his came to him in a dream one night and showed him an image of the woman that he was to marry. He carried that mental image around with him until the day he met the lovely Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, a Cuban beauty. Lo and behold, she was literally the woman from his dreams. When she contracted tuberculosis and he couldn’t cure her, he wasn’t able to accept her passing so instead he went to great lengths to preserve her body so that he could at least live with his dream woman.
14. Jean Stevens Was Lonely For Her Loved Ones
Jean Stevens was madly in love with James, her husband of almost sixty years so when he passed, she was understandably rocked with grief. In 1999, she decided that the only possible cure for her sadness was to dig up his grave which she did, settling her husband’s body in the couch in the garage. She claimed that it gave her a sense of comfort to know that he was there and to be able to talk with (at) him and touch him from time to time. Things only got worse when Jean’s twin sister, June was diagnosed with cancer. June came down to live with her twin and so in 2009 when she inevitably passed, Jean simply buried her in her backyard… only to dig her up as she had done with James. She kept her twin on a bed in her spare room. When the county health officials found out about Jean’s decaying secrets, they took the bodies away. But she befriended the local coroner and was told that if she built a mausoleum in her backyard to keep the bodies in, she could have them back. Jean was thrilled with the news.
13. Ed Gein, Inspiration For Horror Movies, Loved His Mother And “Homemade Furnishings”
All of the pain and tragedy that serial killer Ed Gein caused started when an undertaker that used to “look the other way” for Ed’s fetishes moved. You see, Ed had a thing for dead bodies and an undertaker used to turn a blind eye to the fact that Ed would sometimes steal a body or two… or five. Once he started, he couldn’t stop and when the undertaker moved away, Ed had to find some way to feed his habit. So naturally, he decided to “produce” his own dead bodies. He fancied himself a sick and twisted version of Martha Stewart as he enjoyed making things such as lampshades, chair covers and belts out of human leather hence the inspiration for the serial killer in The Silence Of The Lambs. When the police finally caught on to Ed’s sick ways, they found his house filled with human leather products. Kind of makes you want to switch to synthetic animal leather products, huh? Well, the creepy doesn’t end there, my friend. Ed went on to inspire Tinsel Town once more when he stole his mother’s body from the grave but not to make furnishings with her skin. He just kept her around the house.
12. Vincent Bright Wasn’t Ready To Let Go Of His Father’s Body
After his father, Clarence’s death, a grief-stricken Vincent Bright found himself in a courtroom facing charges of disinterring a body, which could have landed him in prison for ten years. The reason for the charge was due to Vincent’s belief that he could bring his 93-year-old father’s deceased body back to life even after his body had been buried in a cemetery. After the theft, he stored the body in his home freezer perhaps with the thought that once technology and science had improved, there would be a way to bring his father back to life. Luckily, Vincent was able to avoid prison altogether by pleading guilty and received credit for time served in jail along with probation. Unluckily, he was not able to find a way to revive his father from the dead. It’s probably best to leave cryogenics to the folks who know all about that stuff. Lesson learned.
11. Brothers Arif And Ali Farman Loved The Unfortunate Taste
They are called the “Cannibal Brothers.” Arif and Ali Farman of Pakistan were each sentenced to twelve years in prison in 2014 when the remains of a young boy were discovered in their home and more disturbing, that they had been eating pieces of it. Later, officials learned that the pair had dug up and eaten more than one hundred and fifty bodies from a nearby cemetery. Getting the brothers sentenced was a bit tricky as there is no current law against cannibalism in Pakistan. The brothers were eventually charged with defiling the grave sites which carries a prison sentence. Unfortunately, Arif and Ali have been known to do this before so hopefully, their time in prison helped them to see the error of their ways so that they won’t go back to this nasty habit.
10. Italian Bank President’s Body Was Taken Hostage
The bank president was taken hostage! Well, his body was at least. Enrico Cuccia was a classic overachiever. He was an Italian businessman with a law degree who worked as a journalist, a personal advisor and the president of a popular Italian investment bank. He was also known as a significant figure in the history of capitalism in Italy. He had a successful personal life with a wife and children but he sadly succumbed to prostate cancer in 2000. His body was only put to rest for one short year before it was stolen for ransom. Thieves sent a letter to Cuccia’s family asking $3.5 million for the corpse to be returned. However, Cuccia’s remains were found before the ransom could be dealt with and two men were convicted of the crime. It is quite sad that a man who worked so hard and dedicated his life to protecting money had his afterlife tainted by greedy criminals after a grisly monetary profit.
9. William Burke And William Hare Looked To Profit Off Of Dead Bodies By Selling Them To Students
Call it a case of limited supply and high demand. Thanks to a malevolent pair of Williams, the people of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1828 were living in fear due to their fellow townspeople dropping like flies. The truth later came out that Mr. Burke and Mr. Hare, both named William, used to make a pretty sweet profit selling corpses they would steal to a doctor who would use them as teaching tools for his medical students. Everything was going smoothly until a bump in the road came along for Burke and Hare. The people of Edinburgh were remarkably healthy for a period of time and they had nothing to sell the good doctor for dissection and lecturing. So they decided to create their own inventory and murdered around sixteen people who were worth much more dead than alive to them.
8. Anatoly Moskvin Stole Bodies Of Little Girls To Make “Dolls”
What must Anatoly Moskvin’s parents thought? In 2011, Anatoly was arrested when police discovered the mummified remains of twenty-six little girls in his room. The corpse dolls were all well dressed with care. In fact, this story just gets stranger because he lived with his parents who saw the bodies but mistook them for dolls. This makes one wonder what his parents were thinking when they saw that their adult son was into collecting large dolls that resembled little girls.
But Anatoly has an explanation for his strange fascination. The man, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, said that when he was a child, he attended a funeral for an eleven-year-old girl. An adult pushed his face onto the dead girl’s face to make him kiss her cheek. Ever since then, he had a strange interest in death, especially concerning small girls. He’s been described as an academic genius and an expert in death.
7. The Villagers Of Ma’Nene In Indonesia Reunite With Their Loved Ones And Dress Them Up In Fresh Duds
When most of us say our final earthly goodbyes and pay our respects to our loved ones that have passed on, we’re not expecting to see them again, at least not in physical form. The villagers of Ma’Nene in Indonesia do things a bit differently. Every few years, they head to the graves of their beloved family members and friends and dig up their bodies. But this is body snatching of the most respectful kind. The Ma’Nene villagers re-dress their deceased family and friends’ bodies in new, fresh clothing, typically suits and dresses, and give their graves a thorough cleaning. But that’s not the end of the ritual. Before returning them to their (almost) final resting place, they walk their bodies around the village as sort of a parade or celebration of the dead. It’s meant to show their love by symbolizing giving the deceased fresh air as well as showing how much they are still a part of their lives. If you’ve grown up with this ritual, it’s a time-honored tradition but for many of us, this seems very creepy.
6. Julie Mott’s Body Was Stolen Possibly By Her Former Boyfriend
When Julie Mott was just two years old, her parents were given the devastating news that their young daughter had cystic fibrosis and wasn’t expected to live past age four. Julie, described as a loving young woman who was full of life, defied the medical world and lived until the age of twenty-five but sadly, instead of mourning and celebrating Julie’s life, her loved ones faced yet another devastating loss and were split into camps over who stole Julie’s body from the mortuary. Her parents and brother believe that the body snatcher was her former boyfriend, Bill, who they claim was obsessed with Julie. Bill believes that the mortuary accidentally lost and perhaps cremated her body, believing it to be someone else’s body. But the mortuary staff points the finger right back at Bill, stating that he was the last one seen with Julie’s body. The case is still unsolved at the time of this writing.
5. Charlie Chaplin’s Body Was Held For Ransom
In 1978, two months after beloved film actor Charlie Chaplin passed away, two men dug up his body from the Swiss cemetery where he was laid to rest and soon after, his window Oona received a call asking for $600k for his remains to be safely returned. But much to the body snatchers’ surprise, Oona refused to pay the ransom, saying that Charlie would have found it “ridiculous.” Investigators worked hard to crack the case to give Charlie’s family much-needed closure and soon, their hard work paid off. The thieves, two mechanics, were later found out as was the location of Charlie’s body which had been re-buried in a cornfield. The mechanics claimed that they needed the money and were inspired for the idea when they read about a similar body heist that happened in Italy. Could it have been Enrico Cuccia’s story they read about?
4. Le Van Kept His Wife’s Body For Hugging
“I’m a person who does things differently, I’m not like normal people,” Le Van has said and we would have to agree. That’s because this heartbroken widower couldn’t stand to be apart from his beloved wife so he dug up her body in 2004 and brought it home. Then he moulded clay around her body to protect it from decay as much as possible and to give the appearance of her normal features. Finally, he dressed the body and placed it in his bed. Then he slept with his deceased wife’s body for nearly five years and didn’t let anyone come over during that time. His children had become concerned about their father. Before he removed his wife’s body from the gravesite, he would sleep on top of the grave but weather elements prevented him to keep doing this so he dug a tunnel underground to visit her. When his children found out about this, they closed it off. Out of options in his mind, Le Van dug up her body and took it home to hug and cuddle with.
3. Cult Leader Tony Alamo Held On To His Wife Susan’s Body
In 1982, things were not going so great for fugitive cult leader Tony Alamo. He was on the run after fleeing from child abuse charges and he had lost his wife to cancer. He and his wife, Susan, had operated The Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation together. The foundation became known for spreading anti-Catholic pamphlets. After his wife’s death, Tony believed that her body would be resurrected. Deputy marshals woke up on a Monday morning to hear that Susan Alamo’s body had been removed from its granite mausoleum on the cult’s compound. One marshal said that it looked like someone had taken a sledgehammer to it. It was suspected that Tony took his wife’s body over the weekend out of fear that the marshals were going to take it when they took property belonging to the cult to satisfy legal proceedings for the court case that Tony ran from. I guess he thought it was better to play things safe. No word on if he managed to pull the resurrection off.
2. The Body Of John Scott Harrison, A Man With Presidential Ties, Was Stolen
To date, John Scott Harrison is the only person who has been a father and son to U.S. Presidents. His father, William Henry Harrison was the ninth U.S. President and his son, Benjamin Harrison served as the twenty-third President. Sadly, John Scott’s legacy is a bit darker thanks to body snatchers. John Scott died in his sleep in 1878 and shortly after he was put to rest, it was discovered that a freshly dug grave was disturbed and the occupant was stolen. Benjamin and his brothers didn’t want anything to happen to their father’s grave so they went to great measures to see that it was enforced with concrete and even hired a security guard to watch over it.
Wanting justice for the family and victim of the grave theft, John Harrison Jr. went to the nearby medical school on a hunch. There, he found not the body of the victim whose grave had been disturbed but the body of his own father. Later, the janitor for the college was arrested but soon released because the college paid his bond. Do you think someone at the school specifically requested the body of presidential royalty to learn from?
1. The Third Richest Businessman In The World (At The Time) Alexander T. Stewart’s Body Was Taken For Riches
Alexander Turney Stewart, a man who ended up with a toe tag in 1876, may be the businessman responsible for the price tag. He was worth an estimated $50 million at the time of his death (check out that year again, wow!) and became the most successful retailer before chain stores were invented. Instead of wasting time haggling on prices, he marked prices directly on his items and discounted prices for items he needed to clear out. Two years after his death, someone decided to clear out the silver knobs on Stewart’s crypt as well as Stewart’s body. A ransom was later asked for the body in the amount of $250k. Stewart’s representatives negotiated down to $20k and his remains were returned, proving that even in death Stewart’s legacy of shrewd business skills continues on.