Charlie Chaplin & Other Famous People Who Had Their Bodies Stolen

Famous people, whether they’re high-profile celebrities, poets or former presidents, still get their bodies stolen from the grave. Some thefts happened during the height of the body snatching period, others long after the threat from what we’d call ‘traditional’ body snatchers has passed. 

There are a number of cases where famous people have had their bodies snatched from the grave. TV broadcaster Alistair Cooke in 2005 and silent movie actor Charlie Chaplin in 1978, are among the most famous as far as celebrities go. Former American President Abraham Lincoln, assassinated in 1865, was snatched from his grave nearly ten years later and poet Percy Shelley had his heart taken from a funeral pyre during his cremation.

Modern Day Bodysnatchers

But a person is only famous if you’ve heard of them and so this list is either complete or incomplete, depending on how well you know history and what TV you watch. 

That said, there are a few famous people who everyone has heard of, or at least heard of their fate when it comes to their cadavers. Let’s look at those first and then take a look at some of the smaller snatchings that I’ve managed to round up from over the internet.  

So in no particular order, I give you five cases where famous people have been snatched from their graves – along with those where only body parts have been taken.

If you’d rather see a quick overview of the snatchings mentioned in this post where the whole cadaver was taken, you can see this in the table below.

Famous Name Part of Body Taken Snatching Location
& Date
Taken ByFinal Fate
of Cadaver
Alistair Cooke
(TV Broadcaster)
Whole-body by the removal of
various bones, tissues & organs
Daniel George
Funeral Home, Brooklyn,
New York, USA ~ 2005
Joseph Nicelli, Michael
Mastromarino, Christopher Aldorasi &
Lee Curceta
Body parts fold for transplants & medical study
Charlie Chaplin (Silent Movie Actor)Whole BodyCorsier-sur- Vevey Cemetery, Switzerland ~ 1978Roman Wardas & Gantcho GanevReturned to the original grave
Abraham Lincoln (US President)Non ~ whole body attempted but failedOakridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois, USA ~ 1876Jack Hughes & Terrence Mullen snatchingRemoved to an unmarked grave till 1901 when exhumed again & buried 10ft deep in original vault & covered in concrete
John Scott Harrison
(U.S Rep)
Whole BodyNorth Bend, Ohio, USA ~ 1878Dr Charles. O. Morton alias Dr H. Le CaronReturned to North Bend, Ohio
Eva PeronWhole BodyBuenos Aires Argentina & Milan, ItalyMilitary OfficersReturned to the family mausoleum in Buenos Aires

The Body Snatching of TV Broadcaster Alistair Cooke

Body Snatching of Alistair Cooke
Image | BBC News

In 2005, bones and the internal organs of TV broadcaster Alistair Cooke, best known for ‘Letter From America’  and ‘Masterpiece Theater’,  were illegally sold to medical establishments for use in reconstructive surgery. His bones were replaced with PVC piping and his internal organs replaced with surgical gloves and swabs.    

Implicated in the crime, which was dubbed by the press as ‘body-parts-for-sale-scam’, was former dentist Michael Mastromarino, owner of Biomedical Tissue Services, a company providing transplant services to medical institutions around New York.

Working alongside Mastromarino were 12 ‘body cutters’ or men who helped with the logistics and availability of the body parts. 

Falsifying funeral records and working in collaboration with a number of corrupt funeral directors, Mastromarino sold human cadavers for as much as £110,500 ($150,000 USD). 

Jailed in 2008, he was sentenced to 18-54 years in prison after pleading guilty to masterminding the whole affair. Mastromarino was to die five years into serving his sentence from complications linked with liver cancer. 

His main associate in the body parts scam was Christopher Aldorasi, whose role as a cutter made him £2 million ($2.7 million USD), useless when you think he too was sentenced to a ten year stretch in prison. 

Mastromarino was headline news for a while as the case was playing out and this is only a brief introduction to Cooke’s terrible case. To find out more on this, and about Charlie Chaplin who’s coming up next, I think you’ll enjoy reading one of my other blog posts about some modern body snatching cases  

Charlie Chaplin’s Body Is Stolen In Switzerland

Famous body snatching cases Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin Body Snatched | Aberdeen Evening Express

In March 1978, the body of silent movie star Charlie Chaplin was taken from its grave in Corsier-sur-Vevey cemetery, Switzerland and held to ransom for £320,000, the equivalent of £1.9 million today by Roman Wardas and Gantcho Ganev. His corpse was later found in a field 15 miles (24km) away from where it had originally been buried.  Chaplin’s body was reinterred in the same grave he’d come out of which was reinforced with concrete. 

The theft of Chaplin’s body in 1978 centred on a ransom request of nearly £2 million or $2.5 million USD. It’s a lot of money today, never mind in 1978 when it was the equivalent of £320,000 or $467,750 USD.

With over 2500 calls and letters to the police from the public following the snatching, the police were still at a loss as to who’d taken the body. Eventually however a small chink of hope entered the investigation when a lead directed police to the Swiss town of Lausanne.

The ransom calls to the police were made from public phone boxes dotted throughout the town and with clever surveillance work, one of the snatchers was actually caught red-handed while using one of the phone boxes no less! 

Despite being missing for three months and holding Chaplin’s body to ransom, the family refused to bow down to the body snatchers’ requests and Chaplin’s body was later found unceremoniously buried in a cornfield near the village of Noville.

Reburying Charlie Chaplin

Taking no chances of a repeat performance, Chaplin’s family had him reburied in the same grave in which he came out of, but this time reinforced the actor’s final resting place with concrete. 

Roman Wardas and Gantcho Ganev, both from Eastern Europe were sentenced on 15th December 1978. Ganev, got off the lightest with an 18 month suspended sentence while accomplice Wardas, endured four and a half years behind bars. 

Abraham Lincoln’s Body ‘Nearly’ Stolen From Its Grave

Abraham Lincoln Body Snatching
Lincoln’s Funeral | Harpers Weekly May 6 1865

Lying in a concrete filled grave in a vault in a cemetery in Illinois, USA, lies a man that probably needs little introduction.

A failed body snatching attempt on Abraham Lincoln’s body, 16th President of the United States occurred in 1876, eleven years after his death. Counterfeiters Jack Hughes and Terrence Mullen were disturbed during the raid on the President’s tomb on the 7th November. They’d planned to hold Lincoln’s body to ransom for $200,000 in an attempt to get fellow counterfeiter Benjamin Boyd released from prison. 

Why was Abraham Lincoln’s Body Taken?

Abraham Lincon wasn’t stolen because he had a specific ailment or because someone wanted to use his bones in medical science. 

No, Abraham Lincoln’s body was taken because of its overall value as a bartering chip and was to be used in an attempt to get counterfeiter Benjamin Boyd released from prison. 

You see, Benjamin Boyd was part of one of America’s largest counterfeiting gangs, also based in Illinois. In fact, he’s even been described as the gang’s ‘master engraver’, thought to have been responsible at one point for printing over three hundred thousand $5 bills (yes you did read that right)  into general circulation.  

According to, the Treasury of the United States even recalled its genuine $5 bills from circulation as an ultimate tribute to the counterfeiter. 

A severe blow to a gang whose whole operation counted on producing counterfeit coins. 

Sentenced to ten years in Illinois State Penitentiary, in the spring of 1876,  it was pretty critical for the gang to come up with some form of rescue attempt for one of their main breadwinners. 

Who Tried To Steal The Body Of Abraham Lincoln?

Boyd worked under James ‘Big Jim’ Kinelly/Kinealy, the man responsible for hatching the plan to break into Lincoln’s tomb. But after a night of excessive drinking, the plan to steal Lincoln on the night of 3rd July 1876 was leaked in a pub and the snatching had to be put on hold. 

Undeterred, Kinealy tried again, only this time from a new base in Chicago. Four months later, on the 7th November, which according to the American Heritage magazine was election day, they planned to try again. 

Those involved included: 

  • Jack Hughes – Serving bail at the time, but skilled in the art of passing forged notes
  • Terrence Mullen – Age 27  & bartender/owner at ‘The Hub’ saloon (HQ for the operation)
  • Lewis C. Swegles – Professional informer for the Secret Service
  • Bill Nealy – ‘Billy Brown’, an undercover friend of Swegles

Although James ‘Big Jim’ Kinelly/Kinealy was the mastermind behind Abraham Lincoln’s body snatching attempt, the men chosen to carry out the physical task of robbing the grave were Jack Hughes and 27 yr old, Terrence Mullen. Undercover Secret Service Agent, Lewis C. Swegles, was also included in the plans to rob Lincon’s tomb. 

Unbeknown to Kinealy, Lewis C. Swegles wasn’t there to help him rob Lincoln’s grave.  

How Did They Plan To Steal Lincoln’s Body

Kinelly’s plans to steal President Lincoln’s body from his grave weren’t too far removed from the modus operandi of the Georgian body snatchers, although the early body snatchers didn’t blow up tombs with blasting powder to gain access.

The plan was to take Lincoln’s body over 200 miles away to sand dunes at the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Using numerous horses planted along the route, Lincoln’s body was to be whisked through the night and then in a fate similar to that of Janet Spark in 1808, his body reburied in sand dunes around the lake. 

Once there and the grave was marked, they would then put Lincoln’s body up for ransom. The plan was to leave identifiers in Lincoln’s tomb so that authorities would know exactly who was responsible. 

They planned to make things pretty obvious too. Using an English newspaper only available in certain retailers as bait, the gang hoped it would highlight that they were the true kidnappers if any ‘have a go’ criminals tried to get in on the deal. 

They’d leave a section of this paper in the tomb behind them once they’d fled with Lincoln’s body. The other half was to be hidden under a bust of Lincoln that was sitting behind the bar at ‘The Hub’, the saloon the gang used as their headquarters. Hopefully, the police would put two and two together.

How Did Lincoln’s Body Snatchers Get Caught?

Following a further leak of the planned raid, the Secret Service quickly infiltrated secret agent Lewis C. Swegles into the gang. 

Acting as informat, Swegles’ job was to ‘big up’ respected crooks, building trust (read respect here) and be taken into the bosom of the gang, not because of what he could do, but because of who he knew. 

The magnitude of the raid slowly dawned on authorities and additional help was drafted in. This included:

  • Elmer Washburn – former chief of the Secret Service
  • Allan Pinkerton – Head of Pinkerton National Detective Agency
  • John C. McGinn – Employee at Pinkerton’s 
  • George Hay – Employee at Pinkerton’s 
  • John McDonald – Detective from Illinois Humane Society
  • John English – Washburn’s former private secretary

The men made their way to Lincoln’s tomb arriving there shortly after nightfall. Descending into the tomb itself, men were positioned in the darkness, waiting for the body snatchers to make their move. 

The break-in started at 9pm, with Hughes and Mullen taking 20 minutes to saw off the lock which kept the burial chamber secure. 

As the body snatchers concentrated on removing Lincoln’s body, Swegle was tasked with getting ‘Billy Brown’ round to the front of the monument with the getaway wagon. It’s at this point that he gave the signal to authorities that now was the time to strike.

But as the detectives had entered the tomb and prepared to make their arrests, they soon discovered that it was empty. 

Evading The Law: Lincoln’s Body Snatchers Escape

In a pure act of genius, Hughes and Mullen had slipped out of the tomb to wait for the getaway cart to arrive and were hiding behind a nearby tree as the detectives were sneaking into the burial chamber. 

Making their escape, the pair caught a midnight train taking them back to Chicago, finally finding refuge in a farmhouse seven miles out of Springfield.

Here they stayed till morning until they went their separate ways, Mullen returning back to ‘The Hub’. 

The pair were finally arrested on 17th November, ten days after the attempted theft of Lincoln’s body. The two day trial in May 1877 resulted in both men being found guilty. 

They were sentenced to one year and one day in Illinois State Penitentiary. 365 of those days were to be spent at hard labour, the additional day was reserved for a spell in solitary confinement. 

I’ve given just a summary of Lincoln’s attempted body snatching. I cannot recommend American Heritage’s article, ‘The Plot To Steal Lincoln’s Body’  mentioned above if you’d like to read a fuller account of the whole plot.

The Theft of U.S Rep. John Scott Harrison’s Body In 1878

John Scott Harrison Body Snatching
Body Snatching | Unknown Source

In 1878, John Scott Harrison, ‘was discovered with a rope around his neck, by which he was suspended…in the dissecting room of the Medical College of Ohio’ so starts Michael Sappol’s account of the snatching of one of the most famous cases of body snatching in America.

Having died in his sleep on the night of 25th May 1878, nothing could have perhaps been further from the thoughts of family members as they buried the father of future president Benjamin Harrison in a brick-lined grave some four days later. 

But relatives at the funeral that day in North Bend, Ohio, happened to glance at the grave of Samuel Augustus Devin. Devin was only 23 when he was buried 11 days previously, having died from a haemorrhage caused by being struck on the back four years earlier. 

Signs of a disturbance were clear all around Devin’s grave and Harrison’s family took further precautions against would-be grave robbers.

The Reinforced Grave Of John Scott Harrison

Over the casket were placed three stone slabs which were further held in place by a covering of cement. On top of this, the family paid three watchmen $30 to watch over John Scott Harrison’s grave for 30 days – long enough for the surgeons to have no interest in the body. 

Or was it that his body was encased in metal? The more you research the more you find different versions of the same story and I have also read that Harrison’s grave was dug deeper than most, that it took 16 men to lift his coffin and that small wooden pegs acted as a monitoring device in case the grave was tampered with. 

Bodies Are Found At The Medical School Of Ohio

A search was made the next day for Devin’s body, and together with three police officers, members of Harrison’s family knocked on the doors of the Medical School of Ohio. 

It is here that things took a considerable turn for the worst. 

A search of the premises perhaps brought up more than they were expecting and under the eagle eyes of janitor A.Q or J.Q Marshall, bodies and body parts started to turn up. 

One body, in particular, wasn’t quite what they’d expected. 

The search party were looking for a young 23 year old and so when the body of an older male was hoisted up on a pulley dangling from his neck with a cloth over its face, they immediately presumed that it was none of their concern. 

Persuaded to check by Detective Snelbaker, Harrison peeled back the cloth to check the identity of the corpse. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the corpse dangling from the rope was his father, John Scott Harrison.

How Was John Scott Harrison’s Grave Broken Into?

With all the added safety precautions around John Scott Harrison’s grave, it’s hard to understand how his corpse could have been snatched. Especially if three men had been employed to stand guard for thirty days. 

It is thought that Harrison’s grave was broken into while the family were at his wake. That the guards had been bribed and that the encasements, still fresh and probably a little unstable, had been prised open and the body removed. 

Again, different stories abound as to how the body snatchers accessed the corpse. Did they drill down to the lid and prise open the coffin lid in a similar method to body snatchers before them? Pulled out by his feet rather than the conventional head end of the coffin. Who knows. 

Who Had Stolen Harrison’s Body?

Investigations as to who the perpetrators could be soon led to Dr Charles. O. Morton, a physician who is said to have had a ‘slippery character’ and had already been arrested on previous body snatching charges. 

Hiring the same detective agency that investigated Lincoln’s snatching two years earlier in 1876, The Pinkerton Detective Agency, they soon found that Morton kept slipping from their grasp. 

As the years rolled by Morton kept evading arrest and eventually turned up under the alias Dr H. Le Caron in London as a key witness in a trial having infiltrated himself into a number of Irish – American Societies spying for the English Government.   

He escaped trial and disappeared into the pages of history without much more of a mention. 

What Happened to The Bodies Of Harrison & Devin?

Both Harrison and Devin found their way back to their original burial plots. 

Harrison was offered a final resting place in a number of different cemeteries, all promising to look after his body better than the last. 

It was however seen fitting that he should be reinterred in the same cemetery where he started this journey, North Bend, Ohio, in a tomb reinforced with iron gates. 

The body of Devlin was tracked down to pickling vats in the Ann Arbor Medical College in Cincinnati. 

From here he was returned back to his family and reburied on 17 June 1878, barely a month after he was first interred. This time a guard was placed around his grave to watch over him until his body was no longer fit for the surgeons.

Eva Peron’s Embalmed Corpse Disappears

Body snatching Eva Peron
Preserved Corpse of Eva Peron | Unknown

It took two years to embalm Eva Peron’s body when she passed away from cervical cancer in 1952 before she was laid to rest in the bowels of a custom-made mausoleum. 

Three years later, Eva’s widow and President of Argentina, Juan Peron, was overthrown and the First Lady of Argentina was about to embark on the most impossible journey a corpse has ever been on. 

The embalmed body of Eva, also known by her nickname Evita, was taken by military officers and stored in a variety of different locations including: 

  • A van parked on the streets of the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires
  • Behind a cinema screen in the city
  • Secreted away inside the main city waterworks 
  • The Offices of Military Intelligence

After this, Eva disappears for 16 years until stories pick things up again, this time showing that Eva is buried under a false name in a grave in Milan, Italy. 

Hidden in a cemetery under a gravestone bearing the name Maria Maggi, she was once again exhumed and taken on a further journey to Spain in 1971. It is here, during her final journey, that she is returned to her husband, slightly damaged and dirty from her years hidden away. 

Before reburial her body was carefully cleaned and preserved, the damage noted in an interview by the BBC  

  • The end of one finger was missing
  • The body was dirty from the earth 
  • The nose was dented, and there was blows to the face and neck 
  • One knee suffered a serious blow
  • Due to having been kept in a standing position, the feet were in a very bad state

For those of you with a morbid disposition, you can actually see Eva Peron’s body before it was cleaned and preserved in this short YouTube video. It’s in Spanish and I do warn you that the images are quite graphic and so viewer discretion is advised. 

Today, Eva Peron is buried in a far more secure location in Buenos Aires. She is buried in the family mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery where she has been since 1976.

Human Heads & Etc. Taken From The Grave

You’ll notice that all the snatchings I’ve mentioned so far relate to the theft of the whole body, rather than just a specific limb or appendage. The list could technically go on forever if I didn’t stop somewhere. 

However, there are some equally famous cases where just the head has been snatched and, because  I’m nothing but thorough, it would be a bit bad if I didn’t include some of the better-known ones here. 

Famous NameBody Part Taken Snatching Location & DateTaken ByFinal Fate of Cadaver/Body Part
Native American Leader GeronimoSkull & 2 Femur BonesFt. Sill, Oklahoma, USA ~ 1918Believed to be Prescott Bush & individuals unknownRumours of theft are denied and Geronimo’s skull & femur bones still remain in his grave.
F.W Murnau (Film Director)SkullStahnsdorf Southwestern Cemetery, Germany ~ 2015UnknownUnknown
George Mackenzie aka ‘Bloody Mackenzie’HeadGreyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh ~ 2004Sonny Devin & a 15yr old male who could not be namedReturned to its rightful place
Percy Shelley (Poet)HeartFrom the funeral pyre on a beach in the Gulf of Spezia in Liguria, Italy ~ 1822Edward Trelawney2 thoughts ~ Originally preserved in wine & then buried at St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth or Christchurch Priory, or wrapped in silk & kept in a desk drawer by wife Mary Shelley till her death
Benny Hill – British ComedianNone ~ thieves were after jewellery & moneyHollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, UK ~ 1992UnknownBody left untouched by thieves. Grave reinforced with concrete

Yale’s Skull & Bones Crew Steal Geronimo’s Skull & Bones

Yale's Skull and Bone Crew Suspected Body Snatching of Geronimo's Skull
Emblem of Skulls & Bones Society | Yale University | Wikipedia

In 1918, nine years after the death of Goyahkl, the famous 19th Century American Indian leader better known as Geronimo, was buried; his grave was rumoured to be disturbed by members of the Skull & Bones Society from Yale University. 

The society has venomously denied the theft of Geronimo’s skull and two femur bones, something which historian Marc Wortman believes could actually be true following a discovery in 2006. 

Geronimo, who in 1858 returned home from a trading trip to find his family completely slaughtered, vowed to get his revenge. Over the next 30 years, Geronimo dedicated his life to destroying those who had destroyed his family. 

Who Stole The Skull Of Geronimo?

When he died from pneumonia in 1909, Geronimo, whose name translates to He Who Yawns, was buried at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma where he would lay in peace until the Skull & Bones society had other ideas.

It is rumoured that Prescott Bush, a ‘boneman’ or member of the society, along with additional ‘bonemen’, took the skull and femur bones from Geronimo’s grave while stationed at Ft Sill in 1918.

Prescott, the father of President George H. W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush has never officially been implicated in the supposed raid, and I can find no information on the others involved. 

If you want to take things a bit deeper, there’s a quick 5-minute podcast or story from NPR news giving Geronimo’s story in more detail that I can recommend. 

The book is by Alexandra Robbins called ‘Secrets of The Tomb: Skull and Bones, The Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power’, which at the time of writing I found on (USA). I’ve not read it (yet) but it certainly sounded interesting.

Where is Geronimo Buried

Geronimo is buried in a small cemetery at the army base at Ft Sill, Oklahoma. Access to the cemetery requires registration at the army gates upon arrival. 

His grave is a pyramid embedded with stones on top of which stands a stone eagle. People leave items at Geronimo’s grave to bring them good luck. 

Director F.W Murnau’s Skull is Stolen in Germany

In 2015, in a graveyard about 12 miles south-west of Berlin, Germany, the skull of horror film director F. W. Murnau, known mainly for his adaptation of Dracula, Nosferatu, was stolen. 

He’d been dead since 1931, having died in a car crash at the age of 42 and was interred in a family plot in Stahnsdorf Southwestern Cemetery in Germany. 

Believed to have been stolen as part of an occult ritual, Murnau’s skull has still never been found and nobody has been held responsible for the break-in. 

This, however, was not the first time the director’s grave had been disturbed. 

Having been embalmed following his untimely death in 1931, Murnau was then placed inside an iron coffin being shipped to Germany from America in 1932. In 1970 his iron coffin was said to be damaged but his body remained untouched. 

Head of The Mackenzie Poltergeist aka ‘Bloody Mackenzie’

Modern day body snatching  Bloody Mackenzies Edinburgh Greyfriars Kirkyard
Head of Bloody Mackenzie | Daily Record

Take a trip to Edinburgh Greyfriars and it won’t be long before you’re standing in front of one of the most haunted mausoleums in the world, supposedly. 

I’ve gone into more detail in another post about ‘Bloody MacKenzie’  but his final resting place, known better as The Black Mausoleum has had its own share of break-ins over the years.

Aside from the hauntings, which if you’re brave enough to go on the notorious City of The Dead Tours you’ll know are a nightly occurrence, MacKenzie also has been unfortunate enough to have had his head stolen.

Known for his relentless persecution of the Covenanters during the reign of Charles II, Sir George MacKenzie, (1636/38 – 1691), MacKenzie’s first modern ‘disturbance’ happened in 1999 when a homeless gentleman fell through the floor of the tomb when trying to find shelter for the night. 

MacKenzie then had his head stolen in June 2004 and his grave was further violated as recently as 2020.  

Bloody MacKenzie Has His Head Stolen

Thought to be the only theft of an actual body part from the tomb of Bloody MacKenzie, these next two ‘robbers’ certainly have more guts than I do. 

Sonny Devlin, then aged 17 and a 15-year-old, who, due to his age could not be named, cut off MacKenzie’s head with a penknife and proceeded to play with it among the gravestones.

Causing over £10,000 worth of damage, Devlin is said to have even put his fist up through the neck of the skull and talked to it like a puppet – wonder what MacKenzie thought about that! 

Both boys were sentenced to probation, accused of ‘violating a sepulchre’, a law that hadn’t been used in Scotland for over 100 years. 

The Black Mausoleum Broken Into In 2021

As recently as 2021, reports that MacKenzie’s grave had been broken into again were circulating. 

This time, the break-in, as reported in the Daily Record is reputed to have been down to a member of an Edinburgh Tour firm who appears to have accidentally been given keys to the  Black Mausoleum. 

Although those involved only removed the coffin lid, the break-in was hoped to determine the sex of the corpse that rested within the walls of the mausoleum.

Poet Percy Shelley Has His Heart Stolen By A Friend

Famous people bodies stolen poet Percy Shelly
The Funeral of Shelley by Louis Édouard Fournier 1889 | Public Domain

Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was only 29 when he died in a storm off the coast of the Gulf of Spezia in Liguria, Italy in 1822. 

Refusing to take notice of the warnings that a storm was brewing, Shelley took ‘Don Juan’, his small boat topped with additional masts and sails and set sail in the Bay of Spezia. 

In the boat with Shelley that fateful night of the 8th July, was his friend Edward Williams and 18-year-old boat hand, Charles Vivian. None would survive the trouble they were about to get themselves into. 

Insisting on setting sail, Shelley took his boat out onto the water only to be spotted during the height of the storm by a group of fellow seafarers. They pleaded with the party, who by now was clearly in difficulty, to be rescued, but were met with refusal. 

It would be ten days before Shelley and his fellow sailors were found washed up on the shores near Viareggio. By then Shelley’s face and hands had been eaten away by marine life and he was only identified from the clothes that he was wearing. 

Lord Byron Exhumes Shelley’s Body

Legislation stipulated that all three men had to be buried in the sand where they were found and so a grave was dug right where the sea had spat the men out, right there on the foreshore. 

Shelley’s body was exhumed one month later when it was gently laid on a funeral pyre and burnt. The scene was watched by Shelley’s friends:

  • Lord Byron ~ British romantic poet 
  • Leigh Hunt ~ British author & poet
  • Edward Trelawney  ~ British author 

Shelley’s heart failed to be exhumed from the flames and was swiftly reduced by his close friend Edward Trelawney who then did one of two things with it. 

Where is Shelley’s Heart Buried?

I have read two accounts of what happened to Shelley’s heart after it was rescued from the flames. One via and the other via, dare I say it, Wikipedia

The two accounts differ greatly: 

  • Wordsworth ~ states Edward Trelawney rescued it from the burning pyre and gave it to Shelley’s wife, Mary, (yes the lady who wrote Frankenstein), who then wrapped it in silk and placed it in her desk drawer where it stayed till she died
  • Wikipedia ~ Shelley’s heart was taken by Trelawney and given to Leigh Hunt who then preserved it in spirits of wine refusing to part with it, even to Shelley’s wife. Mary. At some point he relented and Shelley’s heart is now buried either at St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth or Christchurch Priory. 

On the Shelley tomb at St Peter’s Church, there is no mention of the poet’s heart being interred with his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley on 1st February 1851.

And finally…

British TV Comedian Benny Hill’s Coffin Broken Into

Benny Hill Grave Robbery
Robbing of Benny Hills Grave| Sandwell Evening Mail

Benny Hill was found dead at his home in Teddington, in south-west London on the night of 21 April 1992 at the age of 67. 

Buried in the family plot alongside his parents in Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, at the start of October, reports were coming in that Hill’s grave had been vandalised. 

Rumours had started to circulate that Hill had been buried with jewellery and part of his vast wealth after it was discovered that his will had never been updated and all his beneficiaries had since died off. 

Hill’s grave was found to be open and the coffin desecrated. His body, however, remained untouched in its burial shroud. 

Just like Chaplin, Hill’s grave was reinforced with concrete following the grave robbing attempt. 

As a little bit of extra info for you, according to the Aberdeen Press & Journal, when Robert Downy Jnr was researching his role as Charlie Chaplin, he contacted Benny Hill, just a few months before the comedian died so that he could teach him how to slip on banana skins! A very tenuous link between the two actors for you there. 

There are a few corpses and body parts that haven’t made this list, after all, I have to stop somewhere. 

If you want to head down a few more rabbit holes, then follow links to my recommended blogs on Mata Hari’s body and head, and William Shakespeare’s skull

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