Those body snatchers

Digging in the Dark: A History of the Yorkshire Resurrectionists - Ben Johnson

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.  Note the ARC did not have a source listing, I presume this is that the case for the print version.


                Shortly after finishing this book, the now annual war between woodchucks and dogs started.  To call it a war is wrong, it is more like Darwinism in action as in woodchucks that are so stupid to enter a fenced in yard that contains two dogs deserved what they get, especially when said woodchuck gets caught at the apex of three fences.  This year, the new dog apparently believes that offering me a dead woodchuck as a tug toy is the way to go.


                I suppose it is better than dismembered woodchuck over the yard.


                It made me think of this book.  True, the history detailed in Johnson’s book doesn’t involve dogs wanting to play tug with dead rodents, but it does involve the digging up of bodies, and as I have had to dispose of one.


                My favorite story about grave robbers or Resurrection men is not included here, not surprising considering that the story takes place in Edinburgh and Johnson’s book details those of Yorkshire.


                We are talking about grave robbers and body snatchers in case you didn’t know.


                Johnson provides background before moving into full, detailed history of various resurrection men.  This overview also includes those who met have cheated death, including a piper who could not be hung but who was buried anyway.  That’s all I am going to say about that, and if you want to know about that story (and you should), read the book.


                Johnson’s discussion includes the most famous Resurrection Burke and Hare, but the majority of the book is centered on Yorkshire and less known cases, including ones involving children’s bodies.  The trials are discussed in details, including actual reporting and transcripts from the time.  While at times, this can be a bit slow considering the style of whichever source he cites.  Yet, what comes across quite clearly, is the fascination and interest that Johnson has for his subject matter. His interest in the subject more than compensates for various slow points in quoted material (and he gets credit for quoting the sources).

                I do hope that Johnson delivers a talk about this subject in the US because I sense that he would be fun to listen too.