Debunking hoaxes and exposing scams since 2003!

Jump To: Example    Detailed Analysis   Comments   References

Were Cages Placed Over Graves in Victorian Times to Trap the Undead?

Jump To: Example    Detailed Analysis   Comments   References


Circulating message that features an image depicting a grave covered by a sturdy iron cage claims that the cages were used in Victorian times to keep vampires and zombies from escaping should they rise from the dead.

Image courtesy: Kim Traynor/Wikimedia Commons

Brief Analysis

The claim in the message is fanciful nonsense. In fact, the cages were used to stop grave robbers from stealing corpses for use by medical students and anatomists. The cages - known as mortsafes - were regularly used in Scotland in the early 19th century.



Bookmark and Share

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Learn how to stay safe online with Hoax-Slayer's comprehensive eBook:


Grave Cage

This is a grave from the Victorian age when a fear of zombies and vampires was prevalent. The cage was intended to trap the undead just in case the corpse reanimated.

Detailed Analysis

This message, which features an image of a grave entirely covered by a heavy iron cage, circulates via blogs, forums and social media posts. According to the message, the cages were used in Victorian times as a means of keeping the "undead" from escaping their graves should the corpses reanimate. Supposedly, people of that era had a widespread fear of zombies and vampires.

However, while the image itself is genuine, the explanation in the message is utter nonsense. In fact, the cages - known as mortsafes - were used to protect newly interred bodies from being stolen by body snatches. In the 18th and early 19th century, an increasing need for fresh corpses by medical schools fueled a burgeoning trade in bodies. Anatomists and medical students needed a constant supply of fresh bodies to practice on. Legitimate supplies of bodies, such as those of executed criminals, could not keep up with the demand. Enterprising people known as resurrectionists would thus dig up the bodies of the recently interred to supply this market. Because a supply of bodies were seen as vital to the advancement of medical science, authorities tended to turn a blind eye to the activities of the grave robbers. Bodies and body parts became a commodity.

Concerned family and friends of people who had died began to take measures to protect the graves of their loved ones. Mortsafes, invented around 1816, were one such measure. Mortsafes were mainly used in Scotland. The steel cages came in a variety of designs and were intended to make it difficult for grave robbers to get to the bodies. The mortsafes were often left on graves for a few weeks until the bodies they protected were sufficiently decayed so that they were no longer of interest to resurrectionists.

The Anatomy Act of 1832 in the United Kingdom meant that bodies could be more easily procured for medical dissection, although the stealing of corpses still continued for some years after.

Thus, as is often the case, it seems that some prankster has simply invented a fanciful tale to fit an interesting image. Ironically, as is also often the case, the real story is actually a lot more interesting than the made up one.
Graveyard at night

Last updated: April 23, 2015
First published: May 9, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

New Morbid Terminology: Mortsafe
Anatomy Act of 1832

More stories!

'Internet Capacity Warning' Phishing Scam
According to this email, which claims to be from the 'Support Department' at 'Information Technology Services', your internet capacity is 70% full and you therefore need to contact support to avoid problems.
Published: July 6, 2015

Kroger 'Free Coupons' Survey Scam
Message being distributed across Facebook claims that users can receive free coupons from American retailer Kroger just by sharing a message and visiting a third party website to claim their prize.
Published: June 16, 2015

Pointless Facebook Warning - Hackers Posting Insulting Messages or Sexual Content In Your Name
'Hacker' alert messages circulating on Facebook claim that, without your knowledge, hackers are posting insulting or sexual messages that appear to come from you onto your Facebook Timeline.
Published: June 3, 2015