True crime 12 Gruesome And Macabre Crimes Committed in Cemeteries  

Elle Tharp
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Whether it's bored teenagers, grave robbing, or murder, nothing good happens in cemeteries at night. While most graveyard lore deals with ghouls, ghosts, and demonic possessions, sometimes the scariest things to happen in graveyards have nothing to do with the supernatural. People find a lot of scary things there - and not just dead bodies. 

Maybe graveyards are the perfect place to commit a crime because spooky stories of graveyards keep most people out. But the criminals in the following cases weren't as stealthy as they thought, as they were all eventually caught for their cemetery crimes. So while these stories have nothing to do with ghosts, there are still plenty of horrible crimes committed in graveyards that are equally as scary.

Two Cannibal Brothers Robbed More Than 100 Graves


Two Cannibal Brothers Robbed M... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 12 Gruesome And Macabre Crimes Committed in Cemeteries
Photo: Pixabay

Pakistani brothers Mohammad Arif and Farman Ali were arrested for a second time in 2014 for their unique hobby of stealing and eating human corpses. After neighbors complained of a horrible stench coming from their residence, police found the severed head of a boy, as well as other body parts, stewing in a pot. Arif and Ali were originally arrested in 2011 for snatching bodies (and body parts) from more than 100 graves to satiate themselves. Since Pakistan has no laws against cannibalism, the brothers only served two years for de-humanizing a body.

Ed Gein Was Creating A Suit Of Human Skin With Bodies He Stole From The Cemetery


Ed Gein Was Creating A Suit Of... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 12 Gruesome And Macabre Crimes Committed in Cemeteries
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As far as serial killers go, Ed Gein has to be one of the creepiest. Gein didn't kill many people, but he was known to steal bodies from the graveyard. Why? He was building a suit of human flesh, as well as decorating everything in his house with bones and skin.

Gein started grave robbing before he eventually was arrested for the murder of a local woman. Upon searching his house on an isolated farm, police found human flesh to be the centerpiece of Gein's interior decorating. In addition to the furniture and fixtures made out body parts, he was fashioning a suit made of female skin that he could wear around while pretending to be his dead mother. 

A Pet Cemetery Groundskeeper Murdered The Owner


A Pet Cemetery Groundskeeper M... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 12 Gruesome And Macabre Crimes Committed in Cemeteries
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In a case almost as bizarre as pet cemeteries themselves, Brandon Nodier pled guilty to the murder of heiress Dorothy Thompson in 2014 after the case went cold for 30 years. Nodier started working as a live-in caretaker for Thompson's New Orleans pet cemetery in 1980. Known around town as a con artist, Nodier convinced Thompson - a heavy drug user - to give him a 99-year lease on the property for a mere $20 a month. In 1984, Thompson came to her senses and accused Nodier of tricking her, and filed a civil suit against him. Before the case could be resolved, her body was found chained up with a plastic bag over her head in the Mississippi river. 

The case went cold until a witness came forward. He told police he had spoke to Nodier, who confessed the crime to him. When he realized the police were on his trail, Nodier panicked and began to threaten another key witness, who also worked at the cemetery and had witnessed him strangling Thompson. Nodier was able to plead guilty of manslaughter in 2014 and received only 10 years in prison.

Charlie Chaplin's Body Was Held For Ransom


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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Two months after Charlie Chaplin's death in 1977, his body was stolen from a Swiss cemetery. The culprits soon contacted Chaplin's widow, Oona Chaplin, seeking $600,000 for the return of the body. Oona refused to pay the ransom because she believed her husband would've thought the demands were outrageous. Police started investigating the case, and five months later two auto mechanics were arrested for the theft. They temporarily buried Chaplin's body in a cornfield while trying to collect the money. He was exhumed and returned to a safe-guarded concrete tomb. 

An Ohio Cheerleader Was Murdered In Cemetery


An Ohio Cheerleader Was Murder... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 12 Gruesome And Macabre Crimes Committed in Cemeteries
Photo: Erin Wilson/Find A Grave

The unsolved case made headlines for 18 years: Jessica Lyn Keen, a pretty high school cheerleader, was found dead in Foster Chapel Cemetery in West Jefferson, OH. Keen had been staying at a safe house for troubled teens and runaways after arguing with her mother. One night, she was kidnapped, raped, and murdered, but the police were unable to find her killer. That is until convict Marvin Lee Smith gave a DNA sample from jail for an unrelated charge that connected him to the murders. 

Authorities later learned that in 1991, Smith snatched Keen from a bus stop. She managed to get away from him into the nearby cemetery, but ran into a fence post. Smith caught up with her and bludgeoned her with a 70 pound headstone he pulled out of the ground. He was sentenced to 30 years to life in 2009. 

Medical Students Snatched A Politician's Body


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Photo: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Back in the 19th century, body snatching was a common crime among medical students. Doctors were expected to have extensive knowledge of the human body for surgery, yet there were very few specimens, partly because donating your body to science wasn't quite yet a thing. Which left medical students in a bit of a predicament. 

One such snatched body belonged to politician John Scott Harrison, son of president William Henry Harrison, and father to future president Benjamin Harrison. On the day of his funeral in 1878, mourners noticed the nearby grave of a man named Augustus Devin had been emptied. One of Harrison's sons, a friend of Devin's, went searching for the body at Cincinnati medical schools. Instead, he found his father's naked body hanging by a rope in a chute. Devin's body was later found in a vat of brine at the University of Michigan. 

A Grave Digger Used The Graveyard As His Drug Dealing Spot


A Grave Digger Used The Gravey... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 12 Gruesome And Macabre Crimes Committed in Cemeteries
Photo: Stamford Police Department/ via The Hour

What do you do when you're the nighttime caretaker of a dark, expansive cemetery? You deal drugs of course! Omar Cruz was the caretaker of the Woodland Cemetery in Stamford, CT, when police started getting suspicious of him. After getting a tip he was selling drugs, police started tailing him. When they couldn't find any drugs at his apartment, they figured the only other place he had unrestricted access to was the graveyard. Using their drug-sniffing dog, Titan, who found 10.6 grams of cocaine hidden inside a commercial sized lawnmower parks on the cemetery's grounds.

A Woman Stole Headstones To Decorate Her Yard


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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rather than heading to Crate and Barrel like a normal person, this lady in West Virginia decided to decorate her backyard with stolen grave markers. Penny Snodgrass stole a set of family headstones out of Brounland Cemetery to line her burn pit and decorate her driveway. Police could see the headstones just from driving by her backyard and charged with grand larceny. To add insult to injury, the gravestones belonged to decorated veterans from the community.