"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Some years ago, there was a “Midsomer Murders” episode where a killer had the bright idea to hide the body of his victim in someone else’s grave.  This story from the December 19, 1874 issue of the “Louisville Courier Journal” (via Newspapers.com) suggests that such a scheme may have successfully played out in real life.

[Springfield, Ky. Letter to Lebanon Standard]

Your reporter gathers the following facts from the Rev. Miles Saunders.  The family burying-ground of Judge P.I. Booker has been charged to Springfield cemetery; the exhumation we spoke of in a former number of your paper.

Among the number of graves is that of Mrs. Samuel Booker, step-mother of Judge Booker.  She was buried twenty years ago this month.  On opening her grave a human skeleton was found lying diagonally across, and about eighteen inches above the coffin of Mrs. Booker.  The body was in such a position it seemed that it had been chucked into the grave, as it were.  The left leg was drawn up, with the hands to the left side of the face, and the head was drawn over on the breast as though the body had been very hurriedly thrown in, without regard to position or care.  It had been put in without any coffin, box, or covering of any kind, as no signs of any were seen, save of a broad, very thick, poplar plank, which seemed to have been placed over the body.  The coffin of Mrs. Booker was in good condition and untouched.

We understand that, about a year and a half after Mrs. Booker was buried, a large freestone box or tomb was placed over the grave, and large, thick stones set up edgewise and running with the length of the grave.  The freestone box consisted of two very thick stones, three feet long at the sides and two shorter at the ends; these supporting a slab six feet long, four inches thick, and broad enough to cover the grave, on which was the inscription.  Now, the body must have been thrown into the grave during the interval of eighteen months from the time Mrs. Booker was interred to the time of placing the monumental box over her remains.

It is related that about the time of the burial of Mrs. Booker, or sometime after, it is not certain, a loose horse, saddled and bridled, came to the gate of a gentleman in the neighborhood of Judge Booker’s and no owner was ever found or heard of.  We are informed that Judge Booker did not own the farm at the time Mrs. Sam Booker was interred, but had sold it about six years before to Dr. Ashby.  A great deal of interest and curiosity are manifested generally and many suggestions and ideas advanced concerning this mysterious burial in the grave of another person.


  1. What immediately occurs to me is that this was the work of whoever had been hired to place the monument on top of the grave. They would have had perfectly legitimate reasons to be digging (monuments have to be set into the ground a bit, since they need to be pretty perfectly level on hard-packed dirt and usually planking, or they risk falling, cracking, and/or subsidence) which no one would have questioned even if they were witnessed, and once the the mystery body was buried, the ground levelled on top, and stone slabs placed, they would 1) have had no real reason to believe anyone would ever disturb the site again, and 2) even if so, they would know perfectly well how much time and effort would be required, once placed, to ever move those slabs again and start excavating, giving them a reasonable head start to flee and escape detection.

    I would imagine anyone who works in the funeral industry could probably make a body disappear with a minimum risk of detection, and this likely goes double for anyone working in that industry before the advent of modern administrative tracking/documentation/etc. (This is, after all, another one of the million theories/rumors about what really became of Jimmy Hoffa.)

    I sometimes wonder if things like this were/are actually more common than anyone realizes, and how often archaeologists (and any other profession which involves excavation, at actual burial sites or otherwise) stumble across old crime scenes.

  2. Someone got away with something...


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