Episode 450: Arthur’s Seat Coffins
In late June 1836, a group of boys hunting rabbits on a hillside on Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, discovered a small cave hidden behind three slabs of slate, each piece carved into a rough conical shape. When they moved the pieces of stone, they found hidden within seventeen hand-carved miniature coffins, each containing hand carved figures. For nearly two hundred years, the mystery of the miniature coffins has baffled and delighted tourists and locals alike, all wondering who carved the coffins and why. Theories have been put forth claiming they’re everything from a satanic spell or witchcraft to an ancient custom or even the work of notorious Scottish serial killers and body-snatchers Burke and Hare.
Many thanks to the smashing David White for research assistance :)
Blackburn Standard. 1836. "Strange discovery." Blackburn Standard, 07 27.
Brown, Allan. 2000. "Coffins that came back from the grave." Sunday Times, September 17.
Chapman, Robert. 1958. "Seventeen Tiny Coffins." Derby Evening Telegraph, July 04: 18.
Dash, Mike. 2013. Edinburgh’s Mysterious Miniature Coffins. April 15. Accessed March 18, 2023. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/edinburghs-mysterious-miniature-coffins-22371426/.
Dundee Courier. 1836. "The Lilliputian coffins." Dundee Courier, August 25.
Harrison, Jody. 2018. "Edinburgh coffin-doll mystery 'cracked at last', claims writer." The Herald, April 17.
Horton, Julia. 2005. "Buried secrets of the city murder dolls." Edinburgh Evening News, December 2.
National Museums of Scotland. n.d. The mystery of the miniature coffins. Accessed March 18, 2023. https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/stories/scottish-history-and-archaeology/mystery-of-the-miniature-coffins/.
O'Neill, Emma. 2019. Sevene facts you may not know about Arthur's Seat. February 28. Accessed March 19, 2023. https://www.scotsman.com/arts-and-culture/seven-facts-you-may-not-know-about-arthurs-seat-1494785.