Thursday, 4:30 PM
Mysterious grave robbery puzzles New Hampshire town
(Gilman Shattuck photo)
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
After she died in 1824 at the age of 30, Sarah Symonds rested in an out-of-the-way cemetery in the small town of Hillsborough, N.H., for nearly 200 years.
But sometime around Halloween her sleep was disturbed. Someone dug up her coffin and her remains, leaving behind only a few shards of wood, a meticulously dug hole -- and a mystery for the local police.
"It was dug in a very strange manner. It's perfect," said Hillsborough Police Chief Brian Brown. "You'd have to see it. The sides are all squared. The bottom's level."
"We just don't have any answers right now," he said.
Brown said the grave robbers had hit the Bible Hill Cemetery sometime between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. He said police were considering a number of possible theories in the case, including the possibility that the body was dug up by members of a satanic cult.
Gilman Shattuck, 80, a resident who is active in the local historical society, said he had researched Symonds since the incident had hit the news and learned she was born on March 29, 1794. Her headstone listed June 18, 1824 as her date of death. She was never married.
He said the small cemetery was in an isolated area of town with a stone wall around it and with probably 40 graves in it. The oldest grave goes back to the late 18th century. Most are from the first or second decade of the 19th century, and a few are from the late 19th century.
Chief Brown said grave robbers simply looking for valuables or a body wouldn't have had any reason to dig so neatly and would likely try to fill up the grave to avoid detection.
"You're not going to waste time to square the corners," he said. "Why leave it open? Why dig it so meticulously? ... Somebody obviously wanted us to find it at some point."
The chief said police were hoping someone from the public would step forward to shed some light on the case.