I will admit, I don’t actually read science journals and blogs to find story ideas. It just… happens sometimes. I can usually count on historical accounts of any era to spark some evocative mysterious questions that just beg to be fleshed out. Because there’s no other way to answer some of these long-cold cases than to spin a tale around the kernel of truth.
So when I started reading the article on how the archeologists were examining a Viking burial, my interest was largely in the ‘how’d they do that?’ realm as a scientist. But then when I came to the conclusion, my mind picked up the ball and ran with it. You have to admit, the discovery of an empty burial boat in a stone circle isn’t in itself provocative. There are empty graves in modern cemeteries with headstones, for so many reasons, more of them prosaic than not. So that wasn’t it. No, what was the part that caught my imagination was how they proved there had been a body there. Briefly. And then… it was gone.
Viking bodysnatchers. Who’d a thunk it? From the evidence collected at the gravesite, we can deduce a lot about the grave. From the presence of raspberry flowers (which turn out to be common in Viking funerary rites, a charming item I shall remember) they know the burial took place in midsummer. From the presence of fleas in the feather pillow remains, we know that the burial took place very soon after death, as fleas will not stay with a dead body. From the presence of blow fly pupae, we know the body was, indeed, dead, not shamming death. But it’s the absence of any other insects we link to death and decay that tell the really interesting part of the story. Someone, for some reason, removed the body shortly (within days) after burial.
Now, me being the criminology freak that I am, I immediately thought of Carl Tanzler, who stole a body, embalmed it in wax, and lived with it as his ‘bride’ for several years. Yeah. humans are… human. With all the depravity that implies. So was the body snatched by an obsessive lover? Did Vikings have vampire myths that drove them to exhume, and destroy the body of someone they blamed for a plague? What story would you tell about the Case of the Viking Bodysnatchers?
(header image from Pixabay)