The Michigan Graverobbing Scam, 1870
There have been a handful of films that have centered around graverobbing: Frankenstein, The Body Snatcher, The Greed Of William Hart, Burke & Hare.....and, as a stretch, even Weekend At Bernie's.
So who woulda thought that there was graverobbing going on right here in Michigan? No big surprise to some, as graverobbing still goes on all over the country. But this particular incident happened in the Michigan Thumb town of Caseville, on Saginaw Bay.
According to the 1960 book “History of Caseville: Biographies and Legends” by Mary Cobb Langley, it took place in 1870 when Dr. S.J. Henderson had an office and drug store near the intersection of Main & Pine, close-by the present Civil War monument. The doc's little one-story shop had the old classic Michigan cellar, with log sides with a dirt and sawdust floor.
One particular morning, one of the doc's female employees found it necessary to go down into the cellar. Once at the bottom of the stairs she let out a piercing scream when she spotted a pair of feet sticking out of a sawdust pile. Thinking it was a man hiding, she ran shrieking up the stairs into a group of men. The men proceeded to go down to the cellar, probably to beat the daylights out of this guy. After getting a good look, they went for the local police.
Oh, there was a man in the sawdust alright, but he was not hiding...he was dead. It was the body of a man who had buried in the town cemetery the day before. It was obvious that someone had dug up the body, stripped off the clothes, dragged it into the cellar, and buried it under a mound of sawdust.
Wondering if any other body-snatching had been occurring, officers searched the Caseville and Bay Port cemeteries. Indeed, they discovered three coffins that had been recently emptied. Once news spread through town, a few locals came forth and claimed to have 'heard' or 'seen' something. For instance, a woman said she woke up at 2am one morning to the sound of a frenzied horse, being whipped by a carriage driver, with a human head hanging off the backboard. Her husband told her it was just someone taking a drunk home.
After a successful investigation, a graverobbing gang was exposed. A group of three men had been robbing the graves of the recently-buried in the Bay Port and Sebewaing area, selling the fresh corpses to medical schools. And yes, they were transported by a team of fast horses to Saginaw. The men were convicted and punished, and supposedly this ended the Michigan Thumb body-snatching.....
.....as far as we know.
THE CASEVILLE GRAVEROBBERS
MORE MICHIGAN GRAVES:
Vintage Michigan Graveyard Photos
CAMPSITE WITH GRAVE
The Secret Graves of Camp Grayling