Do you have skeletons in your closet? “Probably not. No real ones anyway, [says a writer who obviously hasn’t had many dealings with questionable Witches, desperate medical students, or mad scientists]. This expression, meaning something in your past that you wish to keep hidden away, comes from Old England.
I hope you are getting in the All Hallow’s Grim mood, my Wicked Luvs. Say hi to the skeletons in your closet for me. My skeleton came out a few years back. All he does is talk about his fabulous hair ;-)
In the Middle Ages, not much was known about human anatomy. Autopsies were occasionally performed after the Black Death plague of 1348, but dissections of human cadavers for purely scientific reason occurred very rarely. Bodies of executed criminal served as the only source of legal cadavers [I read this in Hannibal Rising, who said fiction is not an awesome source of grotesque medical knowledge?]. Women’s bodies, however, were rarely used and usually cadavers were mutilated during executions and also missing various body parts. Lack of refrigeration made for hasty dissections. Even the best universities performed dissections only once or twice a year. To overcome this scarcity of human bodies, medical students had to steal bodies out of the newly dug grave sites for study, or buy them on the black market. The grave-robbing business thrived in eighteenth-century England. Grave robbers become known as ‘resurrection men,’ [and if they got a corpse on the third day, they were called “savior snatchers.” Yes, I made up that last bit *grin*].
British law strictly prohibited surgeons from dissecting cadavers except for those of executed criminals. The ill-gotten skeletons were usually thrown into rivers or fed to dogs [that came equipped with femur-crunching-jaws and other power tools]. Skeletons were sometimes kept for future study, often locked away in closets, for possession of them was a punishable crime [skeletal possession, *teehee*].
New Yorkers rioted for three days in April 1788 when they learned that the doctors at the Hospital of the City of New York were robbing graves [naughty, naughty, body snatchers]. Subsequently, a law was passed in 1789 allowing doctors to legally obtain corpses for dissection,” [and for the totally chic, Bring Your Own Corpse to Dance Halloween Extravaganza, and then party until your date rots!].
You can find this and other must know facts, in Don Voorhees’ The Book of Totally Useless Information: Over Two Hundred Explanations for the Not-So Important Questions in Life.