An Unsolved Mystery: The Body in the Box

Just before Halloween on in 1903, a man called the 50th street police station to inform authorities that men excavating a gravel pit at 56th and South Park Avenue had struck a box containing a body.

The police borrowed a gasoline-powered torch from a nearby fruit stand and searched the gravel pit. In it, they found a coffin-shaped box. Inside it, wrapped in carpet, was a dead man his hands folded across his chest. “The body was in a mummified condition,” papers wrote, “and evidently had been exposed for a long time after death. In the botto of the box a rusty sword, with the point broken off, was found. Beneath the head was a faded gray-striped bathrobe. The carpet wrapped about the body was dark red and green.” The man was about 50 years old, had dark brown hair, and a gray mustache. His throat had been cut, then stitched shut.

Initially, police assumed that it was a body that had been stolen, sold to a medical college, and dissected. After further examination, though, they hatched a theory that the man had been murdered, and the stitches were just to make people THINK he had been dissected.

Other still believed it was grave robbers, and that the body was of a recently-dead man whose funeral had been held, but at which mourners only witnessed the burial of an empty box.

“The police,” the paper wrote, “are at a loss to offer a plausible explanation why they vacan lot should have been chosen as a place for concealing the body. From the fact that the boards of the box are in good condition, Lt. Backus declares the body could not have been hidden in the gravel pit more than a few weeks.”

We can’t find any follow-up on the stoy, so it remains an unsolved mystery.