The Body Snatcher: ReckoningTenfold More Wicked
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- 1 Mar 2021
The climax of Burke and Hare’s story—will they both die on the gallows? Would their wives face the same fate? A twist on the tale is coming. And Dr. Robert Knox has a reckoning.
Written, researched, and hosted by Kate Winkler Dawson/producers Jason Wehling and Laura Sobel/sound designer Eric Friend/composer Curtis Heath/web designer Ilsa Brink
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This is exactly right. Hi, I'm Cara Klencke, and I'm Lisa Trager, and we are comedians as we used super fans and the hosts of That's Messed Up and Saorview podcast on the Exactly Right Network, every Tuesday will take you through an iconic episode of Law & Order Special Victims Unit and do a deep dove into the true crime it's based on. We also interview actors from the episodes. So far we've talked to Diane Neal, a.k.a. Casey Novak, Margaret Cho, Dan Florek, a.k.a. Captain Cragen, Wyclef Jean and so many more listeners subscribe to That's Messed Up and ASV podcast every Tuesday on Apple podcast Ditcher or Wherever You Pop.
John, John. I'm Melinda Jericho. I'm Daniel Henderson, and we are the hosts of I Saw What You Did, a podcast on the Exactly Right Network about the fun of watching movies. Each Tuesday, we pick a different theme. Then we pick two films that best showcase it. It's like having a friend who still owns a VCR handpick your movies. You'll definitely build your movie knowledge and find new things to watch.
So if you love movies are sick of falling asleep to the same sitcom every night, or just want to stop fighting with your family every time we try to find something new to watch, tune into. I saw what you did and be sure to subscribe on Apple podcast Stitcher or wherever you like to listen. This story contains adult content and language, listener discretion is advised. The end was coming. On the morning of November 1st, 1828, police arrested William Burke and Helen McDougal, the next day, they arrested William and his wife, Margaret.
This was All Souls Day, ironically enough, the commemoration of all of the souls of those who had died.
Catholics prayed for the newly departed as they waited in purgatory to enter heaven. And now William Burke, William Hare and their wives were entering their own purgatory. Dr. Knox was working in the anatomy lab that day when he heard something outside. He stuck his head out the window and spotted investigators in the yard below an anonymous tip led straight to his dissecting room. Knox swore at the police startling behavior for a distinguished doctor.
He threatened to blow their brains out. He refused to allow them inside. But the officers didn't flinch.
Knox's haughty attitude didn't intimidate them like it did some of his assistants. The investigators pushed through the door and found old Mary Daugherty's corpse cleaned and ready for dissection. They called in James Gray and Gray's husband and was William Burke's relative. James quickly identified Marie Daugherty.
The old woman suffered an undignified death, only now to be poked and prodded by a pathologist. Police desperately needed proof, evidence of her real cause of death. It was the only way to hold the four suspected killers in jail. The only one who remained free was Robert Knox for now, once the Scottish newspapers reported the story on November 6th. Police were flooded with inquiries and two very solid leads. Jamie Wilson's mother, identified as snuffbox, found with hair as one that belonged to her son.
Janet Brown went to the police and they showed her some clothing that was found in Brooks home, she recognized it as Mary Patterson's clothing. So these two women who fought so hard to be heard were finally believed. The murder spree was over. Now it is up to the Lord advocate and the police to prove how two hooligans were brilliant enough to murder 16 people without leaving a shred of forensic evidence. Sir William Ray was the prosecutor, he was irritable and nervous by mid-November, there was little physical evidence against Burke hair or the two women Borking left almost no bruising or signs of trauma.
The perfect murder weapon. The police search and struggle to find a cause of death for Mary Dockerty. He said, My own private opinion was that she had died by violence. But medically, I could give no opinion, quite certain of the cause of death. The forensic examiners were desperate. One of them even savagely beat a different cadaver with a broom during a series of tests early 19th century CSI. Was it possible that bruises could be raised on the body after the body was dead, it started hitting these other bodies, they had to see if bruises would come up and they did.
In a sense, Burke had no made yet another contribution to medical science.
Authors Janet Philp and Owen Dudley Edwards say that investigators were obviously ill equipped for this type of case. Now they will be looking at sort of bruising around the nose, that sort of thing. You'd be able to pick up fingerprints off of the face of the victim and stuff, but there were no signs of them. Even the last case, they had three medical experts at the court and there was no evidence that that person had been murdered, but could explain this is being that he had been sold the body and he picked it up.
And yes, it must have got bruised on the packing. The prosecutor feared that a Scottish jury would demand substantial proof before sending them to the gallows. The public was outraged and so were the politicians. The prosecutor was concerned about riots both in the streets and in parliament. So they need to get very rapidly a conviction and a conviction which will satisfy both the anxieties of the public and the growing anger of the London government.
The evidence against Burke Hare and their wives was really weak. The only body that had been identified was Mary Daugherty's. Their final victim in the case of her murder was the only one they could take to trial. They needed one of them, Burke or Hare, to turn on the other to accept an immunity deal. But which killer would the prosecutor pick? He walked to William Hare cell door, the prosecutor just had a feeling about hair. He was young.
He was probably easily convinced to testify. Hare and his wife were offered immunity if they would testify against Berzerk. It was such a bad decision, Burke may have been the older and brighter of the two, but there was the vicious brute. The trial began on Christmas Eve morning of 1828 and Broo, which to me seems like odd timing. Not really, says Owen Dudley Edwards. If Burke had been trained in England, he probably would not have been tried on Christmas night and he certainly wouldn't have been tried in a trial which had gone from 9:00 in the morning on Christmas Eve to nine o'clock on Christmas Day itself.
Christmas Day, of course, wasn't a holiday in Scotland, which is a Presbyterian country. That night ushered in cries of revenge, violent retribution, even mutilation, the Scots demanded blood from the West, murderers, as they were called, and they wanted the head of the man who instigated it all.
Dr. Robert Knox, the anatomy professor, was the main catalyst for so many deaths. He paid Bachenheimer the money. He created demand and they answered with supply. Did Dr. Knox know that he was purchasing murder victims? How could he not? We've been asking that question this whole time, yet he did so much good with those bodies.
And as immoral as this sounds, was it for the greater good? Medicine and murder were now synonymous in Canberra, but Burke had a small bit of luck at the beginning of the trial thanks to Scottish legal rules, but of course, Scotland had a much more advanced criminological system than England did.
Burke would not have been around so much as a council, except for some very junior figure who would have been allowed to raise a couple of points of law in Scotland. Burke was given the best counsel that was ready to appear to him without free.
William Burke remains stoically loyal. He refused to implicate William Hare and Robert Knox. He insisted to police that the old woman choked on her own vomit after a night of hard drinking. They found her dead already lying in the shore, betting, he insisted. Burke told investigators her body was warm, but she appeared to be insensible and was not breathing. Burke insisted that Dockerty wasn't murdered. He would only admit that they both prepared the body, stuffed her into a tea chest and carried her to Knox's lab.
Burke said Hare proposed to strip the body and lay it among the straw hÉireann, his wife, may have taken the immunity deals to avoid the noose, but he did confess to helping Burke deliver Mary Daugherty's body to Dr. Knox's assistant. Yet Hare took no responsibility. Burke was the real killer. He said he told me to go down to his house and said that there was an old woman in the house that he was going to murder, that he got the woman off the street and that he thought she would be a good shot to take to the doctors.
It was damaging testimony, Hair described how Burke murdered Mary Dockerty, she moaned a little after the first cry, he pressed down her head with his breast. He put one hand under the nose and the other under her chin, under her mouth. So there it was. William Burke would pay the price for a year's worth of murders.
Under Harry's immunity deal, he could refuse to answer any questions about the other murders and his relationship with Doctor Knox. The prosecutor asked her. Had you had several interactions with Doctor Knox or his assistants and Burke?
Do you choose to answer that? And he replied, no. And Dr. Knox was nowhere to be found. The prosecutors did not force the anatomists to take the stand, there just simply wasn't enough evidence to connect Knox to the murders. Police investigators interrogated the professor for hours, but he was adamant that he purchased the bodies from grave robbers, not killers. The people in Oldtown didn't believe it a bit. Protesters marched through the streets declaring that Knox was to blame, too, to most of Edinburgh.
Knox was clearly culpable. He was immortalized in caricatures that hung alongside Burke here and their wives in butcher shops and pubs.
Boys hawked a broadsheet with Knox's head on it crying. Here you have a likeness of Dr. Knox and a poem on the murders for a half penny.
And a gruesome rhyme was chanted throughout the city that men skill with subject law was frequently supplied by law to take Questrom when also the person Brault had gone to.
It was 24 hours of hell for the hundreds who packed the tiny, stifling courtroom on Christmas Eve. The window was finally cracked just to let in the cold, wet breeze.
People cloaked their heads and gowns and handkerchiefs. It was actually a little spooky here, detailed all 16 murders to the horror of the jury, placing all of the blame on Burke. And then jurors leaned forward.
When Margaret Hare took the stand, she sobbed in the witness chair with a baby in her arms. We assume it was her first child, but her testimony was virtually useless.
She appeared as a witness in the court case. She didn't really add anything. She appeared on the stand with a child who had whooping cough. And every time she tried to say anything, this kid started coughing. What she did say on the stand was that she was aware that these things had happened before. So she almost implicated herself, saying that she knew what was going on.
Nellie McDougal sat silently at the defendant's table, trying desperately to mask both seething rage and fear. Finally, the jury was handed the case at eight thirty Christmas morning. Burke was pronounced guilty 15 minutes later, not a big surprise. The courtroom erupted in applause as he slumped, it would be a death sentence. And then came over him a sudden, dismal feeling, he looked over at the love of his life, Nelly McDougle, her verdict would be read next.
She was found not proven, which is a Scottish unique verdict, which is, you know, innocent, but we haven't found enough evidence to find you guilty. So not proven.
It was the one bright moment during the entire ordeal for William Burke. Burke put his arms around her and kissed her and said, you are out of the script now.
Namely, the convict hung his head as the presiding judge announced his death sentence, a public hanging followed by a public dissection. How terrifying. Burke was in tears. He was a hopeless man, convicted of brutal crimes for which he alone was paying the price.
News of Burke's guilty verdict rang throughout Europe and America. Hundreds of young men erected an effigy of Knox near his home, and they birthed it amid loud huzzahs.
The mob squeezed and beat the body for hours and then they tied a rope around its neck. They suspended it from a tree outside of Knox's house. The rioters broke every window of his home. They even attacked nearby houses. The Knox family snuck out and retreated to a seaside residence a few miles away.
But Knox wrote to a friend that he wasn't actually afraid he had carried weapons with him and he knew how to use them in self-defense. He told his friend, You see my arms. And had I been called upon to defend myself, I would have measured a score of the brutes.
At the end of January, there came more bad news for Dr. Knox, a scandalous pamphlet was published by an anonymous writer under the pseudonym The Echo of Surgeons Square. The author claimed to have seen the doctor purchasing cadavers directly from Burke and Hare, even though Knox had always denied it. It was such a damning accusation.
What is he saying? What were the highlights of this document that was printed? Well, he was mainly saying is that Knox knew all about it, that he met them. He said Knox met them to be fair books, and Knox met them. But it was only a couple of times he was saying that they they knew each other a lot.
The author also confirmed that William Hare was clearly a killer, despite what he had claimed in court. It really was incriminating insider information, but the likely source was a problem. There's only one particular person who says that he has a vendetta against Knox at that point. Patterson. Yeah.
Knox's former reporter, David Patterson, was the author, the lowly doorman who had recently been fired by the anatomist.
Knox sacked Paxton. He left. And it's then that we see all the stories coming out from Patston as to what happened. So at this point, you have to think that this is somebody who is now without a job with reputation.
How much faith you put in what he's saying?
Were these just the rantings of a bitter former employee who was likely not treated very well? Or was it even more evidence that the professor was complicit? We'll never know. A month after the trial, despite a torrential downpour, a throng of 30000 people pressed together in the town square to watch a spectacle like no other seen in the long, rich history of Scotland.
So all of these windows were rented out for the whole street was full of people, and he got bought up early in the morning. They bought him there early because they thought there might be riots. At some public hangings, the crowd might actually pity a criminal who they deemed unfairly persecuted. But today, with the cold rain thudding down, they Harod as they stood on their tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the doomed man. It was rare in Scotland for the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor to ever mingle, to find common ground where the people in the new town was actually once you were on the anatomist slab, everybody was the same, made no difference.
So it's not something that was exclusively to the poor. So Burke and had their victims were all from the old town. But you could see the Newtown people thinking, actually, if they're going to stop murdering people, that could be us. I think was one man who really wanted to be and Burke said that he was always getting nightmares about the people whom he had killed. He gave a full confession in the presence of his priest. His execution would be a public spectacle like no other window.
Seats and tenements overlooking the scaffold were hired at prices ranging from five shillings to one pound. That's a lot of money in the 1920s. Inside his hood, Burke could hear his own heartbeat and boos, hisses and cheers rising welling in the city streets. As he stepped onto the platform, he remembered what the priest had told him to do. You're beyond the scaffold. See the our father, the Hail Mary and the glory be to the father, say all of them.
When you've done that, you will give the hangman the signal. The hangman pulled the lever and Burke dropped down.
But it was a short drop so his neck didn't break. Instead, he choked to death. It was a brutal way to die. There was no intention to break his neck, but this is prior to hanging, so there was generally no intention to break anybody's neck when you were hanging them. Shango. Yeah. So they left him there for five minutes, cut him down, put him back in the prison, and then they transferred him to the medical school under the cover of darkness and also under a tunnel.
Historian Owen Douglas Edwards feels a little bit of sympathy for William Burke.
He had loved Helen McDougall and willingly risked and indeed sacrificed his life so that she would be safe from that point of view. There's something quite positive to be said about him.
Maybe William Burke decided to make the ultimate sacrifice. Remember, he was once very religious, but Janet Phelps suspected that Burke was willing to die for quite a different reason. She and her team at the University of Edinburgh made an interesting discovery, and that Discovery encouraged her to launch a genealogy project to find any of Burke's surviving male relatives to warn them.
I, Milada Chako, I'm Daniel Henderson, and we are the hosts of I Saw What You Did, a new podcast on the Exactly Right Network about the fun of watching movies. Each Tuesday, we pick a different theme like the L.A. Rebellion. Is it good or was I horny? I wish you were never born. Prank phone calls and the brothers Wayans. A critical assessment of esthetic. Then we pick two films that best showcase it. It's like having your friend who still owns a VCR, handpick movies.
He'll definitely build your movie knowledge and fill your streaming cues. If you love movies are sick of falling asleep to the same sitcom every night or just need to stop fighting with your family. Every time you try to find something new to watch, tune in every Tuesday to I saw what you did and subscribe on Apple podcast Stitcher or whatever you like to listen and find us on Instagram and Twitter at isopod for all your double feature needs. You know, at the beginning of an episode of Law and Order for You, there's that little message that comes on the screen and says the following story is fictional and does not depict an actual person or event.
We don't believe you. Hi, I'm Cara Klank. And I'm Lisa Trager.
And we are comedians as few super fans and the hosts of That's Messed Up and You podcast on the Exactly Right Network. Every Tuesday we chat about a classic episode of SVO and break down the true crime the episode is based on. We also interview an actor from the episode. So far we've talked to Diane Neal, a.k.a. Casey Novak, Margaret Cho, Dan Florek, a.k.a. Captain Cragen and Wyclef Jean and so many more. And this podcast is for Espie watchers and non watchers alike.
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Dun dun. Hello, I'm Bridger Winoker, I'm sorry to interrupt whatever it is you're doing, but I had no choice. I've been trying to get in touch with you and you've made it extremely difficult. I've texted. I've emailed, I've driven by your house multiple times. Your yard looks beautiful. I've been wanting to tell you about my podcast. It's called I Said No Gifts. And it has one rule, no gifts. Unfortunately, every one of my guests disobeys me, meaning we end up having to discuss the gift they brought.
I've received gifts from all kinds of people, people like Emma Thompson Way, Aimee Mann, Chris Fleming, Casey Wilson, Sasheer Zamata, Joel Combustor and more. The list truly goes on and on. Now, I'm not going to tell you any of them brought me. I said I would tell you some of my guests. And in exchange, you swore that you would listen to the podcast. I've upheld my end of the bargain. Now I trust you to do your part.
Please don't let me down. I'm not in the mood. Subscribe to I said no gifts now on Stitcher, Apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you like to listen. That's none of my business and make sure to follow. I said no gifts on Instagram and Twitter. I love you very much. Tell me how you found Burke's relatives looking to the rumor that he had testicular cancer because there's a genetic component to testicular cancer and we're going to sequence some of his DNA was a plan back then.
And so I just wanted to make sure that there weren't direct mail descendants. So it turns out they didn't find any direct mail descendants and now they don't think that Williamsburg actually did have testicular cancer. But it does seem likely that he had many different sexually transmitted diseases. He was likely in tremendous pain and he should have been on bread and water. And he wasn't like they varied the diet because they had to keep him alive long enough to kill him.
So actually, probably being hanged might not have been a bad way to go for him if he wasn't and he was going to slowly rot away, which then brings up the whole conspiracy theory that maybe he took one for the team.
The next morning, William Burke was publicly dissected in the anatomy theater of the University of Edinburgh's Medical School, his body sprawled out on an exam table just like his victims. Thousands stood in line in freezing temperatures and began to shove their way inside.
Finally, one of the university professors decided to allow gawkers to pass through in batches of 50 at a time. Ironically, Dr. Knox's chief rival was the anatomist selected to conduct Burke's dissection.
After a two hour procedure, Dr. Alexander Monro engaged in a macabre ritual, he dipped his pen into Burke's blood and wrote on some paper, This is written with the blood of William Burke, who was hanged and all this blood was taken from his head. 25000 people eventually filed past works, dissected body. His skin was flayed, that bit figured into my tour of Edinborough with Janet Philp. The interesting point up here, though, actually, is a shop called the Cádiz, which has a calling card that's made of William Burke's skin, which is on display in their shop, if you want to see it.
I do. So it's just in here. Hi, this is Kate. She's a professor from Texas doing a podcast on Burkean hair. So we just came to have a look at your. Oh, of course. Yes, you go. So that is a cool inculcates made from William Bushkin.
How is something like that authenticated at all? And all these guys do have all the paperwork. So Emberg is executed, is still in prison, so Burke doesn't know that he got off scot free.
William Hare was immediately placed on a male coach heading toward a small Scottish town.
Hare was put on a coach down towards Dumfries under the name of Mr Black, and it was raining that night. He persuaded his way inside the coach. So by the time they got to Dumfries, everybody in that stagecoach knew who he was.
A mob formed in Dumfries.
It seemed like all 8000 of its residents were there to see him. He was recognized at the train station and then at the hostel where he was staying that night.
As he tried to sleep, he could hear him being chanted for hours.
The mob hurled stones at the door and windows. Street lamps were smashed before 100 special constables arrived to restore order. Officers smuggled hair across the border into England, where he eventually disappeared. There were unfounded rumors about his fate.
So the common story is that he was recognized. He was thrown into a lime pit which blinded him, and he spent his days as a blind beggar on the streets of London. There's absolutely no evidence for that whatsoever. The common belief now is that he's actually buried in an unmarked grave in the remains of a workhouse in Khelil in Northern Ireland. Hare's wife, Margaret, was mobbed three times and rescued each time by police, she was secretly transported to her family's home in Glasgow, where her fate was unknown.
Burke's wife, Nellie McDougall, brazenly returned to her flat after her release, but when she ventured out the next morning to buy spirits, she was attacked by an angry mob and saved by police when she arrived at the police station. The mob surrounded the building. She had to sneak out wearing men's clothing. The story of Burke's brother is quite sad. Constantine Burke lost his job as a scavenger, and he began to drink alcohol more often. He was constantly afraid of being mobbed, so he packed up Elizabeth and the three kids and left for Glasgow.
Nellie McDougall apparently went along with them.
The rumors had gone for years that McDougle tried to start a new life in her hometown of Stirling in Scotland, but was driven out of there too, and that she died in Australia some years later. But I found several articles that claimed she had lived out her years with Constantine's family in Glasgow, and she actually lived until she was quite old.
I'm now updating William Burke's relatives, Dan and Susan, they hadn't been very interested in learning more about their great, great, great uncle, but they both wanted to know whether Constantine Burke and his daughter Elizabeth actually knew what William had done. Neither of them had heard of Constantines, two other sons, William and Richard. Their sister Elizabeth was just seven years old when all this happened. But she's the reason why the family eventually ended up in California. She's their great grandmother and she's their link to William Burke.
She probably took the kids out when the murder happened, but it was a very close quarters. This is not multiple rooms.
Well, I guess that answers your question living like they were in close proximity. You have to assume that it would be difficult to conceal what they were up to. Yeah, I think so. I think you're right. As a seven year old, you're pretty aware of what's going on. So young Elizabeth probably knew.
I told Susan about what happened after Constantine Burke carried a text down to Seargent Square for his brother and Mary Patterson's landlady came by his home. Here's the thing that makes me a little uneasy. It's that Constantine and Elizabeth said that Mary Patterson had moved to Glasgow to be with a peddler.
So he had to have known that that's who was in the tea chest that he carried over to. Right.
They lied. Wow. Wow. How how could you not be suspicious of that?
And what about Dan and Susan's great grandmother, Elizabeth, who was just a little girl when her uncle killed all of those people?
I can't imagine that if Helen McDougall lived with her, you know, I can't imagine she wouldn't have known this whole thing. So then the question is why she would not pass this through the family, which seems pretty obvious, why I never heard anything about this.
I imagine it's something she just tucked inside of her soul or heart or whatever and decided she was just going to carry that burden and not share it with anyone because she was too embarrassed. Uh. The Burkes cousins, Anna James Gray, were hailed as heroes in Edinburgh, but their future was bleak. James Gray died just a few months after Burke's trial, leaving Anne and their child penniless. She appealed to the city for assistance, but with no results.
She then disappeared.
Knox kept silent about Burke and Hare. Except in a letter that he wrote to the editor of the Caledonian Mercury newspaper three months after the trial, he said, This is the very first time that I have ever made any statement to the public in my own vindication. And it shall be the last. No person can be at the head of such an establishment without necessarily running the risk of being imposed upon by those who furnish the material of their science to anatomical teachers.
Mine happened to be the establishment of which Burke and Hare chiefly dealt. Scarcely any individual has ever been the object of more systematic or atrocious attacks than I have been.
Once the drama of the trial and execution died down, Robert Knox returned to teaching at the anatomy school, but his students were worried about his safety and theirs.
He told them, Do not be alarmed. It is my life, not yours. They seek the silence of our peace may be big and menace, but they are too cowardly in act to confront in spite of daily warnings and the destruction of my property. I have met you at every hour of lecture during the session. His notoriety didn't discourage students from taking his classes. He was actually as popular as ever.
In fact, students gave him a standing ovation during their first class and their opinions were the only ones that mattered to Robert Knox. He said. I have never disguised from myself, nor shall I attempt to disguise from you that the connection of my establishment with the late atrocities, however accidental, is a very severe misfortune, the heaviest calamity of my life. Knox blamed his professional rivals for the investigation. He demanded that an independent committee look into the scandal.
He even asked author and Scottish luminaries Sir Walter Scott to be on it to help his case.
He asked Sir Walter Scott to be the chairman of that commission, and he turned it down because he said it was just going to be a whitewash. And lo and behold, the commission did come out with the fact that he didn't know anything about it.
The committee might have exonerated him. But the Edinburgh mob still branded Robert Knox a criminal, and Knox really didn't help his own reputation.
Incredibly, he continued to purchase cadavers, though this time the victims presumably died of natural causes and then his colleagues turned on him.
Almost immediately after Burke's execution, they viciously attacked his character. He resigned less than two years later in humiliation. Again, Dudley Edwards says that Knox was no less to blame than Burke and Hare were, maybe even more to blame.
Well, I don't have any doubts as to whether Dr. Knox knew. I think he was a very cold blooded swine. Knox was one of the most dangerous figures in human history as regards the history of race is concerned. From that point of view, he caused much greater evil, in my view, than Burke contended.
Knox moved to London, but he found it impossible to find a post as a surgeon. He wrote several medical books, but he never gained back his previous fame. He was terribly depressed when he wrote his nephew from London. He said, I have been listlessly pacing London's idle, busy streets with nothing to look at but miles of hideous brick walls with holes in them called doors and windows. Do not forget to make all round you comfortable. Mary, I suppose, manages chiefly let Bonnie, Barry and Bob have some pocket money for sweets.
Anatomy professor Tom Gillenwater says that Robert Knox will always be an enigma.
Knox is as a he's a underexploited character, isn't it? I mean, he really is. He's he kind of disappeared from view. I think he probably got away lightly, certainly if something like that happened now and I was in Knox's shoes, I wouldn't get away with it as he did. No way. There's an iconic landmark in Edinburgh called Arthur's Seat, it's a mountain that's popular with avid hikers, and it provides us with a mysterious postscript to the story.
I talked about this season so much that my family was determined to climb Arthur's seat when we were there, all that you want to go to the tippy top? Yeah, look, that's pretty high then. Yeah, I never thought about it.
In 1836, seven years after William Burke was executed, a group of boys climbed Arthur's seat and made a fascinating discovery. The boys were hunting rabbits inside the caves when they found something hidden behind some pieces of rock. There were 17 miniature coffins with tiny bodies inside, each expertly carved out of wood and even clothed with outfits made of cotton. Their maker had laid them in two rows of eight with one on top, of course, Burke and Hare had 16 victims, but old Donald was one of the first bodies sold.
Back then. There were rumors that the dolls were connected to witchcraft or they were voodoo dolls, but perhaps they were surrogate burials for the 17 people who were fated for Robert Knox's anatomy.
Table eight of the dolls and their coffins are on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
And recently, experts there discovered that the figures were all made from one single piece of wood using tools likely owned by a shoemaker, a cobbler like William Burke. So Janet Philp and other experts have a theory.
The suggestion is that this is book making the little effigies of the victims that then were buried at night.
It is possible. I mean, if they were made with cobbling tools, he was a cobbler. He was prior to this a religious man who walked around carrying a Bible. It would be nice to think that Burke had enough of a conscience that he did that. But we're never going to know. Remember, Burke appeared to be a devout Catholic. So that theory seems to make the most sense to me. Just a five minute walk away from the miniature coffins at the National Museum is another relic, a more gruesome one.
So here we have the most infamous resident skeleton of William Black. And also we have a life mask, death mask book.
My guide, Malcolm McCollom, is pointing to William Burke's skeleton. He's not very tall or broad, but I'm not actually sure what the bones of a serial killer really should look like.
Burke's skeleton is now a popular display in the Anatomy Museum of the Edinburgh Medical School, along with his death mask and a book made from his tanned skin.
And that's really quite chilling echo from the past. So having this skeleton is a loaded thing because it's obviously it's a person and it's a notorious murderer. And it's in a location where he probably didn't want to be because he was dissected by the medical school. It's an endlessly fascinating skeleton. People want to look at it and come and see it and measure.
Woman and anatomy professor Dr. Tom Gillenwater is the skeletons guardian.
I have the dubious honor of having responsibility and ownership of a mass murderer skeleton. And that's not something I ever thought I'd be saying or would come with the job title. And part of me thinks, what?
Crikey, I don't like that. That's not something that I'd want to.
But the way that his legacy can be turned out to be positive is really heartwarming.
He says that the story actually helps him educate people, especially children.
He's a great discussion point. There's a great way in to having these discussions around death, around bodies, around dying, around organ donation, around body donation.
You know, we have school kids come to the museum lots.
That's the kind of questions adults are two to or I must ask to be appropriate. They'll just ask you. They'll they'll come straight out with the brilliant questions.
And it's great because I wouldn't want to engage them with. OK, so what do you think about folks? What are you going to do when you die? I can't think of anything worse to try and engage with a group of 11 year old kids. Burke's execution marked the end of a devastating chapter in Canberra's sordid history. But those crimes would linger in haunting ways for the compelling and tortured protagonists insurgents square. The case changed law and inspired copycats.
Two years later, in 1831, four men in England dubbed the London Burqas, modeled their attacks on indigence after the Scottish murderers killing three people.
There were people down in London who were supplying bodies for the medical schools. They did drug their victims and they drugged them with laudanum and they hung them upside down in a in a well to drown.
OK, but they only supplied two or three bodies. But they were the London burkas. They were inspired by Birkenhead.
The British public had finally had enough.
I think the biggest legacy, however, by far is the introduction of legislation that followed. There was a growing acceptance that what was happening could not continue and should not continue. And the introduction of the Anatomy Act really then set the blueprint for what we as a society felt. The process of body donation and the usage of bodies should be going forward. The year after Burkean, Hare's case, the country tried to pass an anatomy act, but the proposal failed.
Three years later, British Parliament passed the Anatomy Act of 1832, the first national law of its kind and a guide for the rest of the world, including the United States.
It said that people who practiced anatomy had to be licensed and had to take responsibility for treating the corpses properly. The law gave schools and doctors access to unclaimed bodies and charitable hospitals and workhouses and prisons, including the debtor's prison, the poor from the workhouse, the unclaimed dead can be dissected.
When I first read this, I thought, well, that's the people who haven't got any families. And that's a way of almost, you know, a stopping point on the way to burial. They'll go through the medical school and then get buried.
Next of kin could also donate corpses of loved ones in exchange for a proper burial paid by the medical schools, but only after the bodies had served their purpose on the anatomies table. The new law helped advance science, but there certainly was a cost.
It's a dissection used to be a thing that was associated with having committed a crime. And then when the anatomy came in, it became a thing that was associated with being poor. So it was then linking in the minds of some people, poor people, with criminals.
But regardless, the Anatomy Act was a big step forward.
And if Burke and Hare hadn't done what they did, we wouldn't have happened. So that is probably their legacy.
Britain's anatomy law quickly traveled to America, shaping state laws and becoming the standard anatomical legislation. These laws and the advent of embalming to preserve corpses effectively ended the practice of grave robbing. Doctors in Britain and America weren't relegated to deteriorated bodies for research. The progress of medical science sped up Burke and hair had changed medicine in America. For almost two centuries, Burke and Hare have haunted Britain murderous fiends who frightened wicked children into minding their parents.
Their sensational crimes provoked contemporary artists and writers, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Walter Scott. Stevenson wrote his famous short story, The Body Snatchers, based on Burkean hair and knocks in 1957. Actor Peter Cushing would later use Knox as his inspiration for his performance in the classic movie The Curse of Frankenstein. And the themes from Burke and Hare story continue to resound loudly today. Now, when questions are raised about the lucrative medical transplant industry or the illicit harvesting of body parts, the story of Birken hair is often resurrected.
The legacy of Burke and is to remind us that if we don't do things properly, if we don't do things with that respect and dignity that the law kind of enshrines for the donors, we risk going back to a situation that is not good for either the public, for the universities, for the medical schools or for the doctors that are being trained in hoping to benefit from it.
Dr. Robert Knox, the anatomist, once had an illustrious name in Edinburgh, but ultimately he will be remembered as the star of one of the most gruesome stories in world history. A ghastly reminder, a quiet warning of greed, damnation and the uneasy relationship between saving lives and saving souls.
We hope that you've enjoyed season two of tenfold more wicked on exactly right. Season three drops on Monday, March 29th. It's a wild Texas story. Look for the trailer in just a few weeks.
If you love historical true crime, be sure to order my book, American Sherlock. It's about a real life Sherlock Holmes who solved some of the most gruesome murders in the 1920s. This has been an exactly right and tenfold fold more media production producers Jason Whaling and Laura Sobell, sound designer. Eric Friend, composer. Curtis Heath artwork.
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