Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

George Parkman

The Remains Discovered

Littlefield borrowed a hatchet, drill, crowbar and mortar chisel, and while his wife stood guard, he went to work. He went down a tunnel into the vault where the wall had felt so hot and began to hack at it right where Webster's lab privy emptied into a pit. No one had checked that because no one imagined a man might toss a body down into it. Or else, no one wanted to bother looking there.

He went through two layers of brick in just over an hour, and then knocked off to go to a dance. He figured he still had several more layers to hack his way through, and he would work on those the next day.

He worked for quite some time until he managed to punch a hole into the wall, at which point he felt a draft so strong he could not get a lantern to stay lit inside. Maneuvering the lantern, he looked here and there, ignoring the foul fumes and letting his eyes adjust to the dark. Finally he saw something that seemed out of place. He narrowed his eyes and looked more sharply until he just made out on top of a dirt mound the shape of a human pelvis. He also saw a dismembered thigh and the lower part of a leg.

"In the pale lantern light," writes Thomson, "the pieces of the body looked ghostly white against the black earth."

His suspicions confirmed, Littlefield began to tremble quite violently. The light went out again and he stumbled in the darkness out of the vault and through the tunnel until he came out into the building. He yelled for his wife and told her what he'd seen. On his hands, as proof, there was blood mixed with the dirt. Then without waiting to put on his coat, he ran to the home of another professor, Dr. Bigelow, who then found Marshal Tukey.

Not everyone was eager to believe that these remains belonged to the missing George Parkman. The vault where they tossed the remains from human dissections was in that lab, so it could be that there was nothing amiss at all.

By the time Tukey arrived at the college, the word had spread, and a whole party of men was waiting for the official report: were these the remains of George Parkman?

Tukey first had Littlefield go through the dissection room and inventory the specimens to make sure that none was missing. Then several men went into the tunnel and moved toward the vault. It was a nasty business and they finally decided upon the man with the longest arms to go into the privy and hand out the remains, one by one.

He went in and handed out the pelvis, the right thigh, and the lower left leg, and these were placed on a board to await the arrival of the coroner, Jabez Pratt.

When this was done, Marshal Tukey went out to arrest John Webster on the charge of murder.



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