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Vampires or Body Snatchers?

It’s time to bring a little vampire history into your bloodthirsty lives! As you may know, a few centuries ago mass vampire hysteria spread across the world, nearly everyone lived in fear of the undead. The reason for this widespread fear is mainly due to ignorance, you see, during those old times they simple didn’t have the scientific explanations for many everyday occurrences, so they blamed in on the supernatural. Things like decomposition and diseases (such as rabies and porphyria) played a big role in the vampire hysteria reaching the level it did, but they’re not all, it turns out that there is yet another culprit – body snatchers.

Pretend you live in a time of superstitions, not science, and the corpse of your recently deceased loved one goes missing, what would you think? With priests and scholars constantly hollering about vampires you’d most likely assume that the person turned into a vampire and clawed its way out of the grave. But the truth is that it was probably a body snatcher responsible for the missing corpse, not magic.

Body snatching, the grisly practice of stealing a corpse, is believed by some to be responsible for many cases of vampire hysteria, as the disappearance of corpses often took place shortly after death (while the body was still fresh). There were a few reasons for body snatching; like necrophilia, but the main reason people were stealing corpses was to sell them to medical schools. That’s right.

The practice is believed to have originated in France, spreading elsewhere quickly once people learned how profitable it was. Medical schools in the 1600s and on into the 1800s had a very limited supply of corpses for teaching anatomy, so to keep themselves supplied with fresh bodies they purchased them from body snatchers, known as “resurrection men.” When the number of stolen bodies reached a ridiculous level, guards were placed over new burial sites. Deprived of their usual sources, the resurrection men took to murdering people so that they could have corpses to sell. The most infamous case of this was in 1827 when two men named Burke and Hare killed guests in Hare’s boarding house and sold the bodies to Dr. Robert Knox. They were caught and Burke was hung, however, the other two went free due to a legal technicality.

But I am straying from the original topic – before people learned the truth about body snatching quite a few of them believed that the bodies were simply walking out of their graves all on their own as one of the undead – cue the vampire hysteria. But eventually the facts were revealed and they discovered that it wasn’t vampires, just greedy corpse thieves.

If you’re into sick and twister history I highly suggest researching more into body snatching, it’s some crazy shit.

– Moonlight

By Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).

6 replies on “Vampires or Body Snatchers?”

we studied that in history once and it was very interesting, i went home and did a little more research on Burke and Hare and i learned Burke was a distant relative. i never thought my name Burke would ever be the cause of vampire hysteria- shows what i know! :P

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