August 13, 2022

Grave Robbers Steal Charlie Chaplin’s Corpse

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr, otherwise known as Charlie Chaplin, was the British actor, composer and filmmaker who took to our screens and forever changed the history of film. He’s most known for his on-screen persona, The Tramp, a character who often finds himself in comedic and slapstick situations, but The Tramp was also one of the last great characters of the silent film era. In a time filled with daring heroes and beautiful heroines, The Tramp appealed to the general public with his working-class background and he quickly grew a huge following.

charlie chaplin

And Chaplin was able to hold onto silent film and to the legacy that The Tramp created when so many other filmmakers had moved to films with dialogues because, by this point, his work had become so successful that he was able to co-found his own studios, giving him better control over the movies he produced. But when he did finally make the switch to the new medium, the first movie with dialogue that he made was named “The Great Dictator” and it was a satire of Adolf Hitler and with that, Chaplin set the tone for how he meant to continue making movies.

Chaplin’s films and the man himself always made big waves, sometimes for his films’ comedic value, sometimes for their political or social messages, but one thing you may not know about Charlie Chaplin is that he continued to make headlines even after he’d died. 

Chaplin’s life had been filled with many ups and downs. His childhood was a difficult one, with his father being absent for most of it and his mother struggling to make ends meet. From a young age he started performing in an attempt to keep himself afloat and out of the workhouses, but it was through these performances that he was picked up by an agency that took him to America. It was in the States that he became the Charlie Chaplin that we all know and love, but under the surface, Charlie Chaplin had his fair share of struggles.

He married four times and it was only his marriage to his fourth wife, Oona, that would last. They had married in 1943, when Oona was eighteen years old and Chaplin fifty-four, and they were still married when Charlie Chaplin was banned from reentering the States when he was accused of being a communist sympathizer  The couple and their eight children moved to Switzerland where they settled down and it was here that Charlie Chaplin would live out the rest of his life.

Charlie Chaplin Last Photo Taken

charlie chaplin last photo

He died on Christmas Day, 1977 and he was buried in a cemetery near Lake Geneva, but just a few months later, in March 1978, his body was gone. Charlie Chaplin’s grave was robbed. The police launched a five week investigation after Oona received a ransom note, demanding 600,000 dollars for the return of her husband’s body, but Oona refused. She said that Chaplin would have found the whole thing ridiculous and eventually the police were able to track down the culprits behind the scheme.

grave robbers steal charlie chaplin

Two refugees from Eastern Europe, Roman Wardas and Gantscho Ganev, were the men who’d stolen Chaplin’s body. The two led the police to a cornfield where they had reburied his coffin and Roman Wardas was quickly identified as the mastermind behind it all. The two men were looking to fix their financial problems when Roman Wardas read of a similar scheme that had happened in Italy. The two quickly came up with the plan to steal Chaplin’s coffin and extort his family for the return of his remains, but Gantscho Ganev ended up with an eighteen-month suspended sentence and Roman Wardas with four years’ hard labour instead. 

Charlie Chaplin’s coffin was returned to his family who then reburied inside a concrete grave to make sure that another attempt to steal it could never be made.

Jason Horton

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Jason Horton

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