Saturday, November 5, 2022

Body Snatching- Easy Serial Killing

 Author: M. Baylee Burckhalter 

Anatomy and medical related classes began to make their appearances into colleges in Scotland, specifically in Edinburgh. In the anatomy classes they would examine human bodies to study, along with practicing some medical procedures. Body Snatching the act of taking freshly deceased bodies from their final resting point, then selling them for money. This act was usually used for lower income or poor men. Two unwealthy men took this particularly too far. 

William Burke and William Hare
William Burke, born in 1729, and graduated from Dublin’s Trinity College. Burke set out to study law in London, he eventually gave up on law and began writing. His father being an attorney, the word broke should not associate with him. Down the road, Burke ends up owning his own lodging place. He would rent out rooms, until one day, that low money got the best of him. Burke has a conversation with his friend William Hare. Burke describes how hard it is to be broke, he could use the extra cash. Days later, a lodger comes up deceased in Burkes rooms. Consulting his friend Hare, the boys sell the body to a local anatomy professor by the name of Robert Knox at the University of Edinburgh.

Burke and Hare’s actions are not exact representations of body snatching, but their murders were inspired by them. The men continued to intoxicate and follow up with murdering at least sixteen people. Making roughly eight united states dollars per body, Hare taking the bigger half of the money.

 After authoritative forces were notified of a body under Burkes bed, the boys were taken into custody November 1st, 1828. William Hare and his wife Margaret testified the murders against William Burke and his wife Helen. Burke was found guilty Christmas Day of 1828 and was hung on January 28th, 1829. Hare, on the contrary, took a plea and was never heard from again. As for Burke, after being hung, his body could not go to waste. His body was dissected and studied; he was skinned after the dissection. His skin was used to make a notebook, along with having the word “Burking” coined after his committed murders.  

Book Bound in Serial Killer’s Skin

As these murders were horrendous, body snatching helped the world understand how the body truly worked. Anatomy Act of 1832  was eventually passed as well. The act made it legal for the corpse of those who died, who were not claimed, to be used by private anatomical teaching institutes. 

Works Cited: 

Jacobson, Molly, 2017. “A Beginner's Guide to Body Snatching.”  Atlas Obscura. Available at:

<> [Accessed 18 October 2022]. 2022. “Body snatching - Wikipedia.” Available at: <>

[Accessed 18 October 2022].

“The pocketbook, bound in the skin of 19th century murder William Burke.”, 26th November 2014,

“The Burke and Hare murders.”, 5th November 2021,

Links for Further Research: 

Deutschmann, Jennifer, 2022. “The Messed Up Truth Of Burke And Hare Body Snatchers Turned Murderers.” Grunge. Available at: <>  [Accessed 18 October 2022]. This article written by Jennifer Deutschmann gives a brief rundown on what exactly it was that Burke and Hare were doing during the period of body snatching She describes how body snatching is the act of digging up unalive bodies from the ground to then sell them, typically to scientists studying anatomy. The purpose of this article is to discuss the significance of body snatching in the 19th century, with the findings of serial killers. This source is unique over other sources because it gives descriptions of each of the sixteen bodies that were sold, along with how they each occurred. It is relevant to my research because it shows how serious body snatching was taken, along with the side effects of the action occurring in repeat offenders. The article is specifically intended for an uneducated audience, with little background on what body snatching is.

 The University of Edinburgh. 2021. “5 Things You Didn't Know About Burke & Hare.” Available at: <> [Accessed 18 October 2022]. An article written by The University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, same place these serial killers made their appearances. This specific article includes “fun” facts on the two serial killers, Burke and Hare. The purpose of this article is to inform information seeking individuals with a few extra facts that may not be told in other articles. This article is special for my paper being I can use some extra facts to either lengthen or spice up my paper for the better. It is beyond relevant to my research by giving a brief background on the individual killers along with facts not everyone may know. This article is intended for prior knowledge holding individuals who are interested in small facts on the serial killers. 2022. “Pocketbook made from Burke's skin - Surgeons' Hall Museums, Edinburgh.” Available at: <> [Accessed 18 October 2022]. Although this is not an article, this specific website contains a key supplement for my research. This supplement is meant for someone who has detailed background information and education when it comes to body snatching along with Burke and Hares serial killings. What’s the background knowledge knowing that Burke was hung, and his skin was made into a notebook, the specific website contains the picture of the notebook at Burkes skin was made into. This is severely unique being that I can find a picture and see why they made Burkes skin into a notebook. The purpose of the picture is to show what the book look like after it was made, from the picture you can tell it was stained a darker brown color, not the color of his skin

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