Exhumations are fairly rare events. Generally when someone is buried and gone, they stay buried, but from time to time events dictate that a body must be brought from the grave. This seems to happen even more often with the famous, for a variety of reasons. Here is our list of the 30 most famous people who were exhumed:
Daniel Boone founded the settlement of Boonesborough in Kentucky and blazed a path called Wilderness Road, which went through the Cumberland Gap and into central Kentucky, back in the late 1700’s. (Some may associate him with coonskin caps but while Davy Crockett sported them, Boone preferred felt hats.) Boone was buried in Missouri in 1820 but his body was exhumed and moved to a cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky. There is some controversy over the move because some claim the remains in the grave in Missouri were not Boone’s and Missourians let the wrong remains be taken to Kentucky. In 1983, a plaster cast of Boone’s skull made before the Kentucky reburial was examined and determined that it might be the skull of an African American. Both graveyards in Kentucky and Missouri claim to have Boone’s remains.
John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was an actor in the 19th century and his best-known part was assassinating President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. Booth was killed 12 days later after attempting to hideout in Virginia. His body was buried in a storage room in the Old Penitentiary at the Washington Arsenal until the prison was demolished in 1867. Booth’s body was moved to a warehouse, and then in 1869, it was released to the Booth family and buried in the family plot in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Big Bopper
Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., aka The Big Bopper, was a disc jockey best known for his song “Chantilly Lace.” Richardson died at the age of 28 in a plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens in 1959. In 2007, Richardson’s son requested an autopsy of his father to be sure that the rumors about a gun being fired and Richardson surviving the crash initially were in fact false. (Surprisingly, Richardson’s body was well preserved and even 48 years after his death, he could still be recognized.) No signs of foul play were found and the body was reburied in a new location at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, next to his now deceased wife, in Beaumont, Texas.
Louis Braille invented a reading and writing system for blind and visually impaired people using an arrangement of one to six raised dots in 1821. A system that has been adapted to almost every known language and is still used today. Braille died of tuberculosis in 1852 and his body was exhumed in 1952 to be honored by reburial at the PanthÃ©on in Paris.
Al Capone is well remembered as an Italian American gangster who led a criminal organization dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor during the Prohibition Era of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Capone died in 1947 after suffering a stroke, getting pneumonia and then going into cardiac arrest. He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago’s far South Side but he was moved to Mount Carmel Cemetery on the far West Side in 1950.
Karen Carpenter was one half of the popular 1970s duo The Carpenters with her brother, Richard. She died in 1983 at 32 years old from complications from anorexia nervosa. Carpenter was initially buried in the Carpenter Private Mausoleum in Cypress, California but was moved in 2003 to another mausoleum in Westlake Village, California. The new mausoleum was constructed in Texas over seven months and cost around $600,000.
Charlie Chaplin was a famous actor, director, composer and musician. He is best known for his character “The Tramp” who wears a tight coat, oversized pants and shoes, a derby, carries a cane and has a toothbrush mustache. Chaplin died on Christmas Day in 1977 of natural causes at the age of 88. He was buried in Vaud, Switzerland but robbers stole his corpse in 1978 in hopes of getting money from his family. The robbers were captured before they could get any money and the body was recovered. Chaplin was reburied under concrete to prevent any more attempts at stealing his remains.
Christopher Columbus was responsible for initiating exploration by Europeans to the “New World” in the late 1400’s and established a settlement on the island of Hispaniola. Columbus died in 1506 at the age of 55 in Spain. He was first buried in Valladolid, Spain and then moved to a monastery in Seville, Spain. In 1542, his remains were moved once again to Santo Domingo, Hispaniola. In 1795, the French took over Hispaniola so Columbus’ remains were moved to Havana, Cuba. They were moved back to Seville in 1898 after Cuba became independent but a box found in Santo Domingo in 1877 containing bone fragments and a bullet, made some question if they had the correct remains. DNA analysis was done on the remains in Spain and they are not conclusive but show that the remains tested are possibly that of Columbus. The remains in Santo Domingo have not been released to testing so it’s unknown if they are in fact part of Columbus.
Marie Curie was a Nobel Prize wining chemist and physicist who was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity. She is the first and only person to be honored with Nobel Prizes in two different sciences. She died in 1934 in France, most likely from exposure to radiation, and was buried in Sceaux. Her remains (along with her partner and husband Pierre Curie’s remains) were exhumed in 1995 and moved to the PanthÃ©on in Paris in honor of their work.
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sammy Davis, Jr. entertained in a variety of ways. He was a dancer, singer, impressionist, comedian, and actor and played multiple instruments. (Random fact: Davis was in a car accident in 1954 and almost died. He lost his left eye and wore a glass eye for the rest of his life.) He died in 1990 of complications from throat cancer (he smoked 4 packs a day) and was buried in Glendale, California. When his wife, Altovise found out that Davis was nearly bankrupt, she had her husband’s body exhumed so she could take out the $70,000 worth of jewelry that had been buried with him.
sco de Gama
Vasco de Gama was a Portuguese explorer who commanded one of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India. De Gama died in 1524 and was first buried in Kochi, India but in 1539, his remains were moved to Portugal. In 1880, what was thought to be his remains were moved to a monastery outside of Lisbon and in 1898, it was proved that the wrong coffin was moved so his true remains were placed near Portugal’s most famous poet, CamÃµes in Lisbon.
Dodi Al-Fayed spent the last night of his life being chased by paparazzi through the streets of Paris with his girlfriend, Princess Diana. He was known as the son of billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed and worked as a film producer. After his death in 1997, he was buried at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey, England but was moved a few months later to his home 25 miles away and reburied.
Che Guevara worked throughout his life as an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, politician, author, physician and guerrilla leader and was executed in 1967 for his work. Guevara’s hands were amputated for fingerprint identification and were sent to Buenos Aires and later Cuba. His body was placed in an undisclosed location until 1997 when an author researching a book found the location of his body in Vallegrande, Bolivia. Guevara’s remains were moved to Cuba and placed in a specially built mausoleum in Santa Clara.
Benny Hill is best known for his role on The Benny Hill Show, which aired on BBC from 1969 to 1989. Hill died in 1992 and was buried near where he was born in Southampton, England. A few months later, thieves exhumed his body looking for the large amounts of gold jewelry he was supposedly buried with, but when authorities got there the next morning, there was no treasure left in the open coffin. Assumedly, the thieves took any treasure in the coffin and Hill was re-buried with a new coffin lid and a solid slab across the top of the grave.
Adolf Hitler was the Chancellor of Germany and a leader of the Nazi Party. He committed suicide with his wife of one day when the Soviet troops were about a block away from them. Hitler’s body was put in a bomb crater and set on fire and reports conflict as to what then happened to his remains. Russian reports claim that his remains were reburied in Madgeburg, Germany at the SMERSH headquarters. When the facility was to be turned over to the East German government in 1970, his remains were reportedly exhumed and cremated. In a 2000 exhibition, a small piece of human skull was on display and suggested to be the only fragment of his remains left but historians have challenged the authenticity of the skull.