CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — 207 years ago on Wednesday, the Massachusetts State Legislature banned grave robbing — and a group of enterprising young men from Harvard Medical School were at least partially to blame.
Just a few years before the first shots of the American Revolution were fired, an underground club was started at Harvard around 1770 with the express purpose of digging up cadavers for medical study and dissection, according to the Harvard Crimson.
A paper published by the American College of Surgeons says early medical schools in the United States were in deep need of the bodies to train their students — but the group from Harvard, called the "Spunker Club, " took things into their own hands by digging up the bodies themselves.
The rest of the New England states followed by 1818, but the paper said that did little to stop the flow of badly-needed bodies.
The Crimson said proof of the plundering came after a construction crew, renovating the Holden Chapel in 1999, discovered that the basement walls were lined with human remains.
Well known figures in Boston history were reportedly part of the club — Doctor Joseph Warren, who became famous for his leadership at the Battle of Bunker Hill, founded the club.
William Eustis, the future governor of Massachusetts, and the son of Samuel Adams were also notable members.