Greyfriars Bobby and Kirkyard

Body snatchers in Greyfriars Kirkyard's history

Also linked to Greyfriars is the case of the "Resurrection Men". In the 18th and 19th century, Edinburgh University had become one of the finest in the world. Its medical department was equally revered with an excellent anatomy department. But to teach anatomy, a constant supply of bodies was needed, so a whole new career started: body snatching.

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The Resurrection Men -- such as the infamous Burke and Hare -- would sneak into Greyfriars at night and dig up recently buried corpses to sell to the medical students at the university for as much as 12 pounds each. In many cemeteries of the time towers had to be built so that guards could keep watch over the graves, but guards can be bribed.

It was not unusual to see families, rich and poor huddled round the graves of recently deceased relatives. They kept watch day and night until the bodies of their loved ones had decomposed enough to be useless to the anatomists and of no further use to their suppliers. In the kirkyard you can still see today the 'mort safes' - cage-like devices intended to protect fresh corpses.

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