Tales of the Bizarre: Charlie Chaplin’s Body & Coffin Were Stolen Two Months After His Death

Charlie Chaplin collage
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There’s no question that Charlie Chaplin was one of the best performers of all time. The comedian and filmmaker was responsible for iconic films such as The Great Dictator, Modern Times, City Lights, The Gold Rush, and more. While he will be forever remembered for his contributions to Hollywood, he will also be remembered for the bizarre story that happened after he died in 1977.

Police at the desecrated grave of English film actor and director Charlie Chaplin (1889 - 1977) in the cemetery at Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, March 1978. Chaplin's body was disinterred and stolen on 1st March in an attempt by Roman Wardas and Gantcho Ganev to extort money from Oona Chaplin.

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Two months after he passed away at the age of 88, villagers in the Swiss village of Corsier-sur-Vevey discovered that his grave had been dug up and his body and coffin were missing. Everyone was horrified and things got worse when Chaplin’s widow Oona and her lawyer began receiving threatening phone calls. The grave robbers demanded around $600,000 to return the body. Oona did not want to pay off the criminals, believing her late husband would have found the demands ridiculous.

Charlie Chaplin (Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, 1889 - 1977), English film actor and director, with his wife Oona O'Neill after receiving a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London. Original Publication: People Disc - HW0508

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So, the police began monitoring the phone lines and eventually tracked down and arrested the criminals. 25-year-old Polish refugee Roman Wardas and Bulgarian immigrant Gantscho Ganev were taken into custody. They revealed that they re-buried his body in a cornfield, about a mile away from the Chaplin home. They were convicted of grave robbery and attempted extortion and said that they only did it to get out of their financial hardships.

Exclusive: Charlie'S Chaplin'S Manor: A Last Private Visit Before It Becomes A Museum. On March 25, 2003 In Switzerland. The Cemetery Of Corsier Sur Vevey. The Tombs Of Charlie Chaplin (1977) And Oona Chaplin (1991).

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Oona eventually forgave the criminals after they wrote her a letter and seemed genuinely remorseful about their horrible actions. Chaplin was re-buried in the local cemetery and this time, his body and coffin were protected by reinforced concrete to ward off any copycat criminals. What do you think about this crazy story? Do you remember hearing about it on the news?

Want more Tales of the Bizarre? Check out our other stories and get your fill of weird history.

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