In 1978 the movie Faces of Death, directed by Conan LeCilaire, blurred the lines between real death scenes and recreations to shock audiences around the world. While Faces of Death would come to be known as the first “shockumentary,” many more would follow in their footsteps, bringing scenes of death, gore, and unspeakable carnage straight to the viewer’s living room.

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None too surprising, the popularity of these films began to die off once video sharing on the internet became common place. Today we can simply visit a video sharing website like Liveleak.com and view all manner of gruesome footage. Oddly enough, it would be YouTube that would lead me back to the old days of shockumentaries and send me jetting down a rabbit hole of found footage, tape trading, and grave robbing.

The mystery began with a simple video upload to YouTube. Two years ago, a user by the name of Simon Predj uploaded a clip titled “Grave Robbing for Morons.” In the video, a teenage boy with a speech impediment claims to have robbed a grave, showing the camera a realistic looking skull throughout the footage.

 
 
The creator displays his inexperience throughout the half-hour film, admitting that this was only the second time he had been grave robbing and provides the viewer with ridiculous tips like “knocking out” any witnesses “so when they wake up they think it was a dream.” At the end he identifies himself as Anthony and his camera man as Gino, and also credits two others not in the film named Bucchi and Taco before signing off with the promise to rob Houdini’s grave.

After watching the clip I dug around a little more and discovered that it had a bit of a cult following already. Dozens of people were interested in the origins of “Grave Robbing for Morons,” as well as our modern-day Burke and Hare, Anthony. A little more searching on Google and I found myself in a Reddit thread where one user commented that the clip had come from a shockumentary titled Ensuring Your Place in Hell.

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The link the user had provided to purchase the video was no longer active, but I was able to locate the film on an Ebay-style auction website called IOffer. After placing my order with the seller, I noticed the payment went to a company called Serial Killer Calendar. I had been familiar with this site for some time and had even interviewed one of the owners for a previous article I had written for Sword and Scale. I reached out to Kris Saunders to see what information he might have on the video, or more specifically, the clip in question.

Kris was quick to respond and said that he didn’t know anything about the video, referring me instead to James Gilks, his business partner, who sold these DVDs on the side. Taking Kris’ advice, I then reached out to Gilks, explaining who I was and why I was interested in the DVD. Unfortunately, he had little information on the film except for what had been written on the cover. I would have to wait for my DVD to arrive before I could investigate any further.

Two weeks after I had exchanged emails with the guys from Serial Killer Calendar my DVD had arrived. It was for sure some sort of strange bootleg that had been traded around the internet in the days before YouTube had taken off. It listed four half-hour clips that not only included “Grave Robbing for Morons,” but also “Cooking with Huck Botko,” “Mortuary of the Dead,” and “Exploding Varmits.”

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I had hoped that the other clips would be able to give me an idea of at least when the video was filmed and if these clips were at all connected. I was able to trace the last clip, “Exploding Varmits” to a website owned by a company called Varmit Video/Advanced Action Videos. They specialized in instructional hunting videos and “Exploding Varmits” was a tongue-in-cheek pest control instructional film sold through their website. The site closed in 2015, but you can still find Exploding Varmits Vol. 1 and 2 through Amazon and other third-party outlets.

Huck Botko from the “Cooking with Huck Botko” segment also turned out to be a real film director. He has a history of making strange films and had even directed several mainstream horror movies, including The Last Exorcism. All of these clips and more can still be found on a Vimeo account he maintains.

So far two of the films included on the compilation turned out to be fake films created by independent filmmakers. Did that mean that “Grave Robbing for Morons” could be some kids dipping their toes into the world of horror effects? Was this movie made for the internet and not quite as old as the filmmakers would lead us to believe?

Through my searches I came across posts on several message boards about the clip and many were quick to point out that Anthony was addressing the camera like it was made for a YouTube vlog. It’s odd to think that some of these pseudo-anonymous posters could have been too young to remember a time when sites like YouTube didn’t exist. As we learned in Episode 66 of Sword and Scale, people have been making video diaries long before social media existed. It’s possible that this could have been an old video that was traded among friends and then later posted to the internet, as many early viral videos had been.

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My searches for the origins of the clip “Mortuary of the Dead” also came up flat. All the video could tell us is that it was allegedly shot on August 26, 1992 and is believed to have been somewhere in South America. Is it real, or is it a prop house? Some of the artifacts displayed in the clip appear to be real, while others appear to be complete fakes. Unfortunately, we may never know why the clip was created or if a mortuary employee is showing us actual dead bodies and preserved buckets of limbs.

If there was the possibility that at least one of these “found footage” clips were real, then that still left the possibility that our friend Anthony really had robbed an old grave at some point. With nothing left to go on except for clues provided in the film, I began looking for mentions of an Anthony busted for robbing graves. This led me to the name Anthony Casamassima.

Anthony Casamassima was arrested for stealing priceless artifacts from graves for nearly 15 years. Is the clip “Grave Robbing for Morons” a clip of a young Anthony Casamassima early in his career? Not quite. Casamassima was known for stealing priceless artifacts, not bodies, and had been in his 40s at the time of his arrest — much too old to be the boy we see in the video, who is estimated to have been in his late teens or possibly early 20s.

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Next we have the clue of Houdini’s grave. As it was turn out, other people who have been looking into the mystery of “Grave Robbing for Morons” discovered that Houdini’s grave was never known to have been robbed, though did admit that it had been abandoned for years until it underwent a huge restoration project in 2014.

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After investigating these leads my search still came up empty. Where had this clip come from, what was its purpose, and was it real? These nagging questions continued to burn within me.

Hours of searching later I was able to come across another clue on where this video may have come from. A VHS copy with only “Grave Robbing for Morons” on it, credited to an independent film company calling themselves “King of the Witches.”

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Thought the video is no longer available through their store, they sell all manner of odd-ball videos, produced on VHS and doctored to look older than they actually are. Searching further into the company I discovered that one of the owners of King of the Witches is named Christopher Bouchie. Could this be the same “Bouchie” mentioned on the tape by Anthony?

I reached out to Mr. Bouchie in order to gain more insight into the clip, but neither my email through his storefront nor a quick Facebook message garnered a response. Was this what the internet had been in a frenzy over all this time? Young filmmakers creating the backbone of what would later blossom into an independent film company. It almost makes too much sense.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know who Anthony is or if the bones he collected were real or just props. I guess there are some mysteries that don’t want to be solved.