The Grave Scandal of the Day

Yep – graves have been dug up at Burr Oak Cemetery in the suburb of Alsip and stashed in a pit. Usually when graves are dug up, it’s a case of vandals (like, say, Bachelor’s Grove, where cops caught kids digging up bodies for kicks at least a couple of times in the 1960s and 70s), but in this case, it’s a matter of the cemetery employees digging up bodies so the plots could be re-sold. The cemetery in question is about 20 blocks due north of Bachelor’s Grove.

Comments below the Trib story seem to be one person after another saying “what has the world come to? this is a new low!” or some variation on that, but there’s nothing new about this at all – double-selling grave plots is one of the oldest tricks in the book. In fact, at City Cemetery (Lincoln Park since the late 1860s), families would often break ground on a plot and find someone already there – no one can say if this was a case of bad record-keeping or of unscrupulous double-selling by people who couldn’t be bothered to move the original body, but it was probably a combination of both. One person suggested that this might lead to the mayor deciding to force cemeteries to sell graves for 75 years, instead of permanantly, so the city could resell them – nevermind that selling term graves was a pretty standard practice back in the day. Just about every girl ever suspected of being Resurrection Mary was buried in a term grave.

I’m especially reminded of a case in Georgia five or six years ago when it turned out that a crematory outfit had been saving on their gas bill by tossing bodies in the woods instead of actually cremating them. Around the time the story broke, I had to work an event at a school in that town – I was stationed in a classroom where the teacher had a little urn on her desk, a sign on which read “ashes of problem students.” The urn was empty – I left a note reading “Boy, doesn’t anyone in this town know the difference between ‘cremate’ and ‘dump?'”

For the record, no – we will not be going to the cemetery on our tours. It’s out in the burbs, far from the tour route, and getting a bus into a cemetery at night is shaky legal ground. The most any tour company could do is drive past it, and it getting there and back would take just about the entire tour.

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