The “Cemetery Gun”: One Defense Against Grave Robbers

March 20, 2013
Advertisement

In the 18th and 19th centuries, grave-robbing was a serious problem in Great Britain and the United States. Because surgeons and medical students could only legally dissect executed criminals or people who had donated their bodies to science (not a popular option at the time), a trade in illegally procured corpses sprang up. This cemetery gun, held in the Museum of Mourning Art at the Arlington Cemetery of Drexel Hill, Pa., was one dramatic strategy used to thwart so-called “resurrection men.”

Advertisement

The gun, which the museum dates to 1710, is mounted on a mechanism that allows it to spin freely. Cemetery keepers set up the flintlock weapon at the foot of a grave, with three tripwires strung in an arc around its position. A prospective grave-robber, stumbling over the tripwire in the dark, would trigger the weapon—much to his own misfortune.

Grave-robbers evolved to meet this challenge. Some would send women posing as widows, carrying children and dressed in black, to case the gravesites during the day and report the locations of cemetery guns and other defenses. Cemetery keepers, in turn, learned to wait to set the guns up after dark, thereby preserving the element of surprise.

Because the guns were rented by the week and were prohibitively expensive to buy, the poorer people most likely to end up beneath the anatomist’s knife—historian Michael Sappol writes that these included “black people, criminals, prostitutes, the Irish, ‘freaks,’ manual laborers, indigents, and Indians”—probably wouldn’t have benefited from this form of protection.

[via: Slate.com]

Thanks to curator Elizabeth Wojcik of the Museum of Mourning Art at the Arlington Cemetery.

CDFuneralNews

ConnectingDirectors.com is the leading online daily publication for funeral professionals with a reader base of over 45,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the profession. With ConnectingDirectors.com we have created a global community through an online platform allowing funeral professionals to Stay Current. Stay Informed and Stay Elite.
Advertisement

You may be interested

Jobs
2 views

Preneed Funeral Sales Advisor

CDFuneralNews - August 11, 2017

Premier Funeral Solutions is currently seeking a Preneed Funeral Sales Advisor . Premier Funeral Solutions offers tools and methodologies developed to help…

12 Benefits of Social Media Every Funeral Home Needs to Know
Marketing
3 views
Marketing
3 views

12 Benefits of Social Media Every Funeral Home Needs to Know

Ryan Thogmartin - August 10, 2017

Social media is 'marketing.' It's not the new marketing, it's the current state of marketing, and funeral homes and death care companies can no longer afford to ignore it. There are so many reasons why death care companies need to get their heads out of the sand and start engaging on the platforms used by over 68% of all Americans.

Six Times Twitter Reminded Us Funerals Don’t Have to be Boring
Humor
57 views
Humor
57 views

Six Times Twitter Reminded Us Funerals Don’t Have to be Boring

Madison Ashby - August 9, 2017

These six people had funerals on their mind for one reason or another and decided to share with the Twitter world what they were thinking, and I’m pretty glad they did. People can come up with some pretty crazy things if you let them ramble.

Comments