Luke De Stéphano has been passionate about history for a long time. He has written books on the regions of Vaudreuil, Soulanges and Salaberry-de-Valleyfield under the GID banner. This time he returns with a historical book on the thefts of corpses in Rigaud, published by Les Publications généalogiques.
Mr. De Stéphano says his goal as a passionate of history is to bring past events to life for the readers of his books.
“I want the experience to be as immersive as possible, he says. I accompany my texts with historical photos as well as newspaper transcriptions in order to give readers as much relevant information as possible.”
Period newspapers are gold mines, according to the author. Not having much entertainment, people read the newspaper religiously. So the journalists explained in the smallest details the scenes available to them.
“Today, journalists’ articles are more like soap operas, he says. This is really good, because I have even more information in order to have a complete picture of the situation.”
A rather incredible story
Luke De Stéphano explains that there was a series of thefts of corpses in the Municipality of Rigaud at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The thefts were directly linked to the market for the sale of cadavers to medical students studying in Montreal.
“They could not practice their surgical techniques or study bodies at their university, because there were no bodies available to them, said the enthusiast. So they started stealing the corpses from Montreal cemeteries.”
He goes on to explain that after several thefts, Montreal cemeteries hired armed security guards. The dead body theft market has therefore moved to more rural places, according to Mr. De Stéphano.
“In a small town like Rigaud at the time, there were people who specialized in theft of corpse for a price, he says. They stole the bodies in the winter, because having no machine to dig the frozen ground, the bodies were stored in a mass grave near the cemetery. The thieves just had to break the lock and help themselves.”
According to the author, the market for stolen corpses has gone beyond the simple Montreal area. There was also a demand from university students coming from the United States.