Five Famous Grave Robberies

by M-Gillies

Charlie Chaplin was born in London in 1889 and was orphaned at the age of 5. At 17 he moved to America. This monument to Chaplin was created by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli.

1: He was the silent-era’s replacement Buster Keaton, and his trademarked look as the Little Tramp earned him massive success in Hollywood. However, a few months after his death on Christmas day in 1977, Charlie Chaplin’s body was exhumed and stolen from a graveyard in Corsier near Lausanne, Switzerland. Shortly after the grave robbers demanded a ransom of ¬£400,000 or about $650,000 USD.

After months of false pay-off meetings, police assigned officers to watch as many as 200 phone booths, and when the Chaplin family received the call, police were able to trace it back to the originating booth, arresting two men who had buried the Tramp’s body in a cornfield 10 miles from the graveyard.

2: With a moniker like the father of Italian capitalism, it isn’t any surprise that powerful bank president Enrico Cuccia’s buried body was discovered to have been exhumed from its grave by his loyal housekeeper.

A few days later, the family received a phone call asking for the equivalent of $3.5 million to be deposited by Mediobanca (the bank which Cuccia controlled for more than 50 years). When the ransom was not immediately paid, a man called the bank to set up the transfer of funds, however, he was placed on hold after being informed that the bank president was on the other line. As the man waited, the police traced the call back to a small village and arrested Giampaolo Pesce with the theft.

3: With an estimated $40 million wealth at the time of his death in 1876, Alexander T. Stewart was buried in a vault at the St. Mark’s Church in New York City. It was a few days later when his body was stolen along with the name plate from his coffin and a piece cut out of the coffin’s interior fabric.

Throughout the next two years, the thief known as Romaine communicated with an appointed mediator of the Stewart family named Patrick Jones, through cryptic messages disguised as personal ads in the New York Herald.

Through these ads, Jones and Romaine negotiated the terms and ransom amount before settling on a secluded meeting, where the two exchanged the return of the body for a sum of $20,000. Romaine was never apprehended.

4: In 1876, a group of counterfeiters attempted to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body from his sarcophagus, hoping to hold it ransom for $200,000 and the release of one of the other gang members from prison.

However, police apprehended the crew as they broke into the cemetery. The police were waiting for them due to information they received from a paid informant. Unfortunately, a gun was fired accidentally and the crooks got away but were arrested a few days later.

5: With a 900-pound, steel-lined copper-plated coffin and the body of Elvis Presley resting peacefully there within, police were informed by a man named Ronnie Adkins, that a group of men were planning on stealing the King’s remains which they intended to hold for a ransom of $10 million.

When police apprehended three men snooping around Presley’s mausoleum, they couldn’t find any tools or explosives which could assist them in exhuming Presley’s body from the two concrete slabs and solid sheet of marble that covered his coffin.

With no actual crime having been committed with the exception of being in a cemetery after dark, the men were released. However, as a result, the Presley estate requested permission to move the bodies of Elvis and his mother to Graceland where they could be monitored 24-hours a day by staff security.

Read more:

Worth more Dead than Alive: 5 Famous Grave Robberies | Mental Floss Blog

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