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Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Grave-Robber’s Fate.

Dr. Henry W. Kendall was found in the graveyard of the Onondaga County Poorhouse with a bullet hole between his eyes the morning of May 19, 1882. He was alive but unconscious when found and died in the hospital later that day.

Exactly how Dr. Kendall met his fate was a mystery, but his reason for being in the graveyard was certain, he was there to snatch a body. He was found surrounded by tools of the grave robber’s trade—two shovels, a piece of old carpet, and a satchel containing a cant hook, a length of rope, a dark-lantern, and a bottle of whiskey. He was also found with a dirk and two revolvers. In his pocket was a card which read “Be sure 8 o’clock.”

Dr. Kendall made no secret of being a “resurrectionist” and bragged that he had stolen bodies from cemeteries in Manlius, Cicero, Cazenovia, and Syracuse and sold them to medical schools for dissection. It was not clear why he did it since he was a promising young doctor with a thriving medical practice in Syracuse. Dr. Totman, who had performed the post-mortem on Dr. Kendall, and had known Kendall in life described him as a monomaniac on the subject of grave robbing and said, “I have known him to rob a grave where there was no necessity for it and no demand for the body. He seemed to think there was something brave and daring in it.”

Kendall was known to use morphine; some believed that under its influence he became frightened and accidentally or intentionally shot himself. But the shot could not have been accidental, the angle of the wound indicated that the gun had been level with the forehead. The lack of powder burns near the wound ruled out suicide.

Perhaps Kendall had gone to the graveyard with an assistant and the two had quarreled. Kendall was described as “fearfully reckless” with a violent temper and he was always armed with a revolver. He may have drawn his pistol on the assistant who fired back in self-defense. But if Kendall had an assistant, no one could say who it was.

An organization called the Grave Protectors had recently been formed to combat the rash of graverobbing around Syracuse. Kendall might have lost a gunfight with one of its members, he had boasted that he would shoot any person who had the temerity to disrupt his right to steal a corpse. Even if Kendall had been caught in the act of robbing a grave, his shooter would face murder charges, and no one came forward.

None of these theories could be proved. With the lack of any suspects, the coroner’s jury found that Dr. Henry Kendall “came to his death from the effects of injuries received from a pistol shot in the hands of some person unknown.”

Sources:
“Body-Snatcher Shot,” Cleveland Leader, May 19, 1882.
“The Coroner in the Dark,” Syracuse Standard, June 12, 1882.
“Dr. Kendall's Death,” Syracuse Herald, May 21, 1882.
“A Ghoul's Death,” Critic-Record, May 20, 1882.
“A Grave Robber's End,” Evening Star, May 20, 1882.
“A Grave-Robber's Fate,” Indianapolis Indiana State Sentinel, May 24, 1882.
“Shot in a Graveyard,” National Police Gazette, June 10, 1882.
“Topmost Topics,” Middletown Daily Argus, May 19, 1882.

1 comments :

Unknown says:
June 10, 2018 at 8:45 PM

The desecration of a grave is one the lowest and vile actions a human being can commit...bordering on the demonic even. Evil men have no protection from evil when it comes for them...

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