The Lancet reported another method. A manhole-sized square of turf was removed 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 m) away from the head of the grave, and a tunnel dug to intercept the coffin, which would be about 4 feet (1.2 m) down. The end of the coffin would be pulled off, and the corpse pulled up through the tunnel. The turf was then replaced, and any relatives watching the graves would not notice the small, remote disturbance. The article suggests that the number of empty coffins that have been discovered “proves beyond a doubt that at this time body snatching was frequent”.
In the 1530s while studying in Paris, Vesalius was accustomed to robbing the Paris graveyards with fellow anatomy pupils. Body snatchers in France were called “Les Corbeaux” (the crows). Violation of graves could result in a year’s imprisonment plus a stiff fine. In Dublin, Ireland, the medical schools of the 18th and 19th centuries were on a constant hunt for bodies. The Bullys’ Acre or Hospital Fields at Kilmainham was a rich source of anatomical material as it was a communal burial ground and easily accessed. Soldiers attached to the nearby Royal Hospital were always on the alert for grave robbers mainly because many of their comrades were buried there. In November 1825 a sentry captured Thomas Tuite, a known resurrectionist, in possession of five bodies. When searched his pockets were found to be full of teeth–in those days a set of teeth fetched £1 (about £50 in 2011). Many other graveyards were targets of the medical students or those who made robbing graves their profession. The largest cemetery in Ireland, Glasnevin Cemetery, laid out in the 18th century, had a high wall with strategically placed watch-towers as well as blood-hounds to deter body snatchers.
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ScienceAlert: Archaeologists Find Evidence of Ghastly ‘Coffin Birth’ in a Medieval Grave.