The Effigies of Arthur’s Seat

Smack dab in the center of Edinburgh, Scotland, loom the atmospheric remains of an extinct volcano long known as Arthur’s Seat. Several boys were rabbit hunting there in 1836 when they found a small niche behind a few sheets of slate. Deposited inside were 17 miniature coffins containing wooden figures, each dressed  in distinct material and style. Some looked old and decayed, some looked relatively fresh, which seemed to indicate long intervals between placement. Their provenance then gets murky–over half were lost or destroyed–but in 1901 eight remaining examples were donated to the National Museum of Scotland where they are still exhibited today. Who made them or what they mean presents a beguiling mystery, but the most popular theory is that they are somehow connected to the infamous West Port murders perpetuated by William Burke and William Hare, two Irish immigrants who sold the bodies of their 17 victims to a prominent local surgeon for dissection.