In Edinburgh, stands a majestic hill, known as Arthur’s Seat, the seat of King Arthur. It is said that beneath these lion-shaped rocks, sleeps the mythical king, waiting to be woken up.
It was not in Arthur’s time, however, that the hill experienced its most mysterious event. In 1836, as young people scoured the terrain in search of rabbit burrows, they found a shallow cavity on the northeastern slope of the ridge.
Intrigued, the friends began to dig, to release the opening and to examine the interior of the crater. To their surprise, their eyes fell on 17 small coffins. Inside, there were 17 wooden dolls, handmade and dressed in clothes. Some appeared old, others had been recently made.
To explain their presence, the press of the time went wild: it must have been witchcraft, it was to cast bad luck, but nothing came to confirm it. Other newspapers recollected ancient customs where, to save the souls of sailors who had disappeared at sea, they were given a burial on the land.
A few years later, another hypothesis emerged. At the beginning of the 18th century, Edinburgh had become a hotspot for medical research and for that, it required bodies for dissection. Smelling the good deal, two men, Burke and Hare, decided to engage in the corpse business. After 10 months of criminal activity in 1828, the number of their victims rose to 17 … a case that echoes beyond the city’s borders.
17 small coffins to honor the 17 victims? An act of witchcraft? A burial for sailors? An offering to King Arthur? Nobody has ever found the truth to the story. Eight of these coffins are on display at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, and even today every visitor scrutinizes them, hoping to finally break through their secrets.