Monday, 6 August 2012

Underground - Chapter Five Posted!

Chapter five of Underground, “Resurrectionists,” is now available at  Have a read and pop back here to let me know what you think!


My gratitude to the staff of the Bracken Health Sciences Library of Queen’s University, for their help and patience in locating some interesting books.

Thanks to everyone who helped pick out a suitably seedy location for this chapter: Aaron, Erin, Jenn, Ron, and Steve.  In the end, it came down to two establishments: the Crown and Anchor and the Cushindall Inn.  I chose the Cushindall, since the Crown and Anchor sounded more like a soldiers’ haunt than a workman’s, and it was generally members of the working class who moonlighted as resurrectionists.

Finally, as always, my thanks to the folks at Effective Editing, for tidying up the final draft for me.

Some Notes on the Chapter

The Cushindall Inn was a tavern owned by Alexander McKillop, located on Johnson Street.  I found it in the Kingston directory of 1865; there was no directory for 1864.  I could find no photographs of the tavern, and the building in which it operated no longer stands, so the description of the inn is entirely fictional.

Resurrectionists or sack-‘em-up-men were workmen who, for a substantial fee, would rob fresh graves to provide bodies for medical students and physicians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Although the Anatomy Act of 1841 was intended to curtail the need for grave robbing, reports of resurrectionists persisted in Canada as late as 1885, when an article in the Glob accused Queen’s medical students of making off with yet another body.


If you’re interested in the resurrectionists, or in nineteenth-century medical education, I highly recommend any or all of the following:

Ball, James Moores. The Sack-‘em-up-Men: An Account of the Rise and Fall of the Modern Resurrectionists. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1928.

Bonner, Thomas Neville. Becoming a Physician. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Frank, Julia Bess. “Body Snatching: A Grave Medical Problem.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 49:4, 1976, Available online at

MacGillivray, Royce. “Body-Snatching in Ontario,” 1988, available online at

Neatby, Hilda. The History of Queen’s University, Vol. 1. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1974.

Sappel, Michael. Traffic in Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Don’t Forget!
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