Friday, September 2, 2011

caged graves

image source: Hunting Kiwis
image source: Here & There

Here's an interesting burial practice going back to at least the 18th century and became rather obsolete by the end of the Victorian era- covering the graves of deceased loved ones within strong iron cages. 

Why?  To protect the world from a Victorian zombie apocalypse, or just to keep a vampire within his underground resting place, as some of the sites from which I found these images claim?

The answer isn't quite so supernatural.  According to an article in the Columbia Historical and Genealogical Society's newsletter, these iron cages, known as mortsafes ("mort" being a French word for death") were intended to deter body snatchers from stealing the remains of the deceased.  Not a bad idea in a time where human anatomy was still relatively unknown and the only bodies that were allowed to be dissected in many parts of the Western world were those of executed criminals.

Read the full article here- it's very informative and an enthralling read for anyone interested in the society of the 19th century or with a fascination for graveyards.  The few mortsafes still standing are considered to be tourist attractions in Scotland.

image source: LuckyLobos's soup

image source: Seleste DeLaney


  1. This post is absolutely compelling with pictures to match! Even the newsletter was enticingly creepy but informative.
    Thanks so much for the fantastic read!

  2. I am so glad you posted this. I keep seeing these caged graves pop up on tumblr with a text explaining about how terrified Victorians were of the zombie apocalypse, when zombies were virtually unknown outside of Haiti until the publication of The Serpent and the Rainbow /grumpiness.
    You also found a great collection of caged graves. The second is especially lovely.

  3. "when zombies were virtually unknown outside of Haiti until the publication of The Serpent and the Rainbow /grumpiness."

    That was published in 1985. The Magic Island was published in 1929 while that might not be well known now it was fairly well known at the time.

    Nevermind that zombies were pretty widely know after Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968.

    Zombies have been around in popular culture for awhile. They were known of in the 19th century even if they weren't the crazy fad they are now.

    1. Not to mention the most popular book of all time talks about zombies in several places, and has been around for almost 2000 years. Victorian England was well aware of it.

  4. What an ingenious idea. We've all seen a zillion movies about the grave robbing that was so common in that time, but I've never heard of this solution. Functional and beautiful.

  5. Fascinating info you've dug up there (excuse the pun!). And brings greater depth to the caged grave image used from my site, Hunting Kiwis. I will send this link to my blog readers, they'll love it.

  6. Love this post, thank you so much for the information!

  7. This kind of stuff is what makes the Victorian age so fascinating. Great article.

  8. Sorry but this is not true :(

  9. I love graveyards and would really enjoy visiting one with graves like these.

  10. Fascinating post! I've only found one in Indiana, for an infant. More of a wrought-iron cradle than a cage. If I get a digital photo, I will share.