10 Celebrities Who Really Should Have Been Left in the Ground

by Miranda Marquit

When you're buried, most people expect you to stay buried. However, there are instances that might require the exhumation of a body. Some people are exhumed so their remains can be moved elsewhere, whether to be closer to their families, to be buried in honor, or to make way for some new building. Others are exhumed for stranger reasons, including criminal investigations, paternity suits or for monetary gain. Celebrities, as you might imagine, make the most sensational exhumations. Here are 10 celebrities who were exhumed for weird reasons:

1. Charlie Chaplin: Exhumed for Ransom

Normally, kidnappers take live victims in the hopes of getting money from a wealthy family. These snatchers ask for money from the family in return for the loved one's safety. In the case of Charlie Chaplin, the famous silent film actor, kidnappers were actually grave robbers. They exhumed Chaplin's body in 1978, hoping to ransom it and get money from Chaplin's survivors. Happily, police caught up with them before the family paid. When he was reburied, the Chaplin's family chose to use concrete.

2. Benny Hill: Exhumed by Treasure Hunters

Rumors that Benny Hill was buried with large amounts of gold jewelry proved rather tempting to some treasure hunters. As a result thieves dug up Hill's grave in Southampton and broke into the coffin. However, it appears that they found nothing, since reports say that the shroud remained in place. Police re-interred Hill, and then put a slab across the top in order to discourage future treasure hunters.

3. Abraham Lincoln: Exhumed for Further Protection

The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, wouldn't be held hostage to anyone during his life, but he was almost held hostage in death. When Ben Boyd, a master engraver for a counterfeiting organization, was jailed, his fellow criminals, led by Jim Kennally, hatched a plan to get him out: Steal Abraham Lincoln's body and hold it as a hostage for Boyd's freedom. The plan didn't work, and eventually concerns about theft led the authorities to exhume Lincoln's body and bury it beneath concrete.

4. Sammy Davis, Jr.: Exhumed So His Wife Wouldn't Be Broke

A talented entertainer, Sammy Davis, Jr. enjoyed plenty of fame as a member of the Rat Pack. What many didn't know, though, was that by the end of his life he was nearly broke. After his burial, Davis' wife found out there was almost no money left. She decided the best thing to do was have Davis' body exhumed so that she could recover the jewelry that had been buried with him - all $70,000 of it.

5. Eva Peron: Exhumed World Traveler

One of the most influential and outspoken women in South American history was Eva Peron, wife of President Juan Peron of Argentina. When she died of cancer, she was embalmed and put on display for two years. (Juan Peron was overthrown and exiled to Spain.) Then, Eva Peron's body was placed in a military attic before being buried in Italy under a false name, in order to protect her. In 1971, when a military coup overthrew the government that overthrew Juan Peron, Eva's body was exhumed and sent to her husband's Spanish villa. Eva's body stayed behind, though, when Juan returned to Argentina. When Juan died, Eva was brought from Spain and her casket placed in the presidential palace. Finally, though, Eva found a resting place in her family's tomb - after 26 years of world travel.

6. Bobby Fischer: Exhumed to Play Dad

Word famous chess player Bobby Fischer was banned from the U.S. after breaking international sanctions and choosing to play a chess match in what was then Yugoslavia. His comments about the U.S., as well as his renunciation of his American citizenship has helped him lose the popularity he won when he beat Soviet Boris Spassky. Iceland finally granted him citizenship and took him in. Now, a woman has come forward, claiming that her daughter is Fischer's from when he lived in the Philippines. Fischer's body was exhumed for paternity tests (results pending).

7. Thomas Paine: Exhumed and Sold at Auction

Thomas Paine was an American revolutionary and the author of the well-known Common Sense. After his death, William Cobbett, a rival-turned-admirer, exhumed Paine's body without permission and took it to England. The plan was to build a memorial to inspire democracy in the British Isles. The memorial never came to be, and Corbett's descendents began auctioning off bits of Thomas Paine. Now, he is thought to be all over the world, his bones used to make buttons, a rib located in France, and his skill - possibly - in Australia.

8. Stonewall Jackson's Arm: Exhumed to Join the Family

Famous Civil War general Stonewall Jackson had his arm amputated as a result of friendly fire. His left arm was buried at Chancellorville, Virginia, at the site of the battle. Jackson, though, was buried in Lexington, Virginia soon after the amputation. Jackson's arm was exhumed and taken to the Jackson family cemetery at Ellwood plantation in Virginia. Stonewall Jackson's arm has its own grave marker, and is surrounded by Jackson's family, but Jackson's body is still in Lexington.

9. Joseph Haydn: Exhumed for Pseudo-Science

When famous composer Joseph Haydn died, there was a great deal of interest in the study of phrenology. One phrenologist, Karl Rosenbaum, wanted to prove that Haydn had the "musical bump," accounting for his genius as a musician. Rosenbaum bribed the sexton at the church to help him exhume Haydn's body and steal the head for study. More than 10 years later, when Haydn's remains were to be moved, the missing head was discovered. Rosenbaum substituted a different head for Haydn's, and the real head was passed through various owners until finally reunited with its body in 1954.

10. Nicolae Ceausescu: Exhumed for Identification

Nicolae Ceausescu, ruler of Romania, is commonly classed as one of the world's most brutal dictators. After his government was overthrown, Ceausescu and his wife were executed and buried in a Bucharest military cemetery. However, there is some doubt about the identities of the bodies in the designated grave. In order to confirm the identities of the dictator and his wife, the Ceausescu bodies have been exhumed as DNA testing is underway.

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{ 2 comment… read it below or add one }

Aaron August 12th, 2010
While hardly a current celebrity, there is also the tale of Pope Formosus, whose body was exhumed and placed on trial in the year 897. Here's the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Formosus
Triple Net Kirk September 1st, 2010
A very interesting cast of characters. Too bad for Sammy Davis Jr. as he did not deserve that. Great topics in your Blog.

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