Podcast: Grave Robbing in Lincoln Park

New Episode!
Grave Robbing
in Lincoln Park

Chicago Unbelievable

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The first week of april will be grave-robbing week here at Chicago Unbelievable – we’ll be talking about a bunch of cases of grave robbing in Chicago. As a preview, Hector and I have journeyed out to the old City Cemetery to talk about grave robbing with Daniel Kraus, author of the new book, ROTTERS, which is all about father-and-son grave riggers. It’s out on April 5th!

Grave robbing in 19th century Chicago was very common – even during periods when the bodies bound for the Potter’s Field (where they buried the unclaimed bodies of the poor and friendless) were given to medical schools first, there was still plenty of money in digging up bodies to ship to the University of Michigan medical school (U of M seems to have had a real reputation as a good place to sell bodies; I have to wonder whether this what attracted H.H. Holmes to the school!)
Kraus’s book may be a novel, but it’ll tell you all you could ever need to know about robbing graves for fun and profit. How long should
In Chicago, even city sexton (cemetery manager) got in on the act of digging up bodies to sell, and people were always getting caught with wagons, barrels, and sacks full of corpses. This seems to have happened in most of the local cemeteries, but for this podcast, we’ll be talking about the big City Cemetery that was the city’s main burial ground from the 1840s until the late 1860s. All but a handful of grave markers were removed over a century ago when the space was converted to Lincoln Park – but it’s well known that plenty of the bodies were never moved. You know that little parking lot near the south end of the park that you use during Green City Market (when it isn’t full)? When they dug out for the lot in the 1990s, they found dozens of bodies.

Next week (starting April 4th) is Grave Robbing Week here at Chicago Unbelievable – we’ll be telling tales of grave robbing from Chicago history all week long!  We advise you not to check the blog too close to meal time for
a while.

For more about City Cemetery, see Pamela Bannos’ Hidden Truths Website.


    Above: the Couch tomb in Lincoln Park – the oldest surviving
   structure in the “fire zone.” But who’s inside?


Rotters by 
Daniel Kraus. 
grave robbing!
Adam and
Daniel are
a part of the
same violence
Above: illustration I made for the WEIRD CHICAGO book, back when I worked with them.
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