A New York City 1859 Mass Murder Prank

15 Dead Bodies Discovered in The East River

A shocking discovery was made on Thursday June 9, 1859 near Hell Gate in the East River, when some fishermen picked up a box which contained 15 dead bodies in various states of decomposition.

Death on the River print 19th centuryAs was common in early journalism there were mistakes made when the papers first broke the story.

They reported the box contained seven bodies, all dressed in fine night clothes, packed in lime and shavings and having the appearance of recent decease.

This caused a bit of panic among New York’s citizens who concluded that a whole family had been murdered in their beds and packed off to sea to conceal the crime.

The investigation by city authorities three days later revealed the true nature of what had transpired.

The bodies had been removed from the old Potter’s Field and were being transported by barges for re-interment in Long Island.

The box containing these bodies went overboard, and the workmen let it go without trying to retrieve it – just to see what an excitement it would create!

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