In 1875, Chicago's county hospital was located in the South Side. Even then it was considered old and rickety. The morgue was an out-house attached to the hospital. It was located apart from the main building because of the bad odor coming from it. Only during winter months did the place did not smell like a charnel house.
There were slabs were the bodies awaiting burial would be stretched out, however a gruesome find was made in four barrels at the beginning of 1875.
Bodies were doubled across the middle and had their chins rammed down upon their knees so as to pack them in the narrow space.
At 167 No. Wells Street. Mr L. Braussweig testified that on December 15, 1874 he had rented his barn as a stable to a young man named George G. Green. He paid two month's rent. A servant for Mr. Braussweig commented to him two weeks later that he had never seen a horse or a buggy in the barn.
He went to the barn accompanied by his brother-in-law but could not gain entry. With a hatchet they knocked in a board, and a "cash boy" crawled in through the opening. All they found were empty boxes and a dark lantern.
Mr. Braussweig reported to police that he had seen the boy who rented the barn, load boxes into a wagon on the night of January 14th.
North Side policemen were detailed to watch the barn. Nothing occurred during an entire weekend until Monday night, when a wagon driven by two men drove up. He went inside and brought out a barn to lift into the wagon. When the police approached, both men ran away. Inside police found five barrels with bodies inside. All the bodies were naked except for wearing gloves and stockings, and looked to have been stolen from their graves.
Receipts that were recovered inside the barn show one consigned to a destination in Dexter, Michigan and the other to a druggist in Iowa City, Iowa. Expressmen who had been picking up the barrels testified later in court that they had been picking up barrels for three months.
Four North Side undertakers came to look at the bodies but did not recognize any of them. One of the resurrectionist that was arrested was Dr. L. R. Williams, his brother who was an accomplice escaped.
Dr. Williams was freed on $1500 bond, which he jumped. Further examination of the bodies were found that they were robbed from the Potter's Field at Jefferson Cemetery.
It seemed that during the winter was the time when the resurrectionist would ply their trade since they could transport the bodies long distances before they would start to stink from corruption.
The belief was that other bodies sent to Iowa were destined for the Iowa City Medical School, and the name of the recipient there Thomas Green, turned out to be the janitor for the college.
The corpses were removed by opening the front lids of the coffins, and then a butcher's hook was thrust into their eyes to pull them out. They were stripped of their garments, stuffed into a bag and then taken to the barn on Wells Street. They made sure to reinter the coffins so no one would notice the graves had been disturbed.
One of the corpses was eventually identified as an unknown woman who was found frozen to death on the corner of Emerald Avenue and 29th Street and was buried in the potter's field.
One of those implicated with the transportation of the corpses was a Dr. Wilder who had graduated from Northwestern University and had been an assistant house-surgeon at Mercy Hospital. It was later discovered that he was also an abortionist who would steal the corpses of women who had died from botched abortions along with their infants.
Fast forward to Chicago in the 21st century and the location where all this skullduggery took place is a Hooters at 660 N. Wells Street.
It's not surprising that those who work there have reported eerie sights and weird sounds in the basement. Items fall for no reason from the shelves.
Some believe they are trapped souls.
The morgue not only provided corpses for the body snatchers, but 844 victims of the 1915 Eastland cruise ship disaster on the Chicago River were brought there.
There are many who could be causing the disturbances, so many of them were unknown in life, and may have died under horrible circumstances only in the end to have their bodies desecrated.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer