Posted in Short Stories

Robert Louis Stevenson: The Body Snatcher (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 19)

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All over the country-side, and from every degree of distance, the farm dogs accompanied their passage with tragic ululations; and it grew and grew upon his mind that some unnatural miracle had been accomplished, that some nameless change had befallen the dead body and that it was in fear of their unholy burden that the dogs were howling.

Yes, last week’s Deal Me In story was by Stephen King, but this week’s story is the real horror story. Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher” comes with all the gruesomeness and terror to make this a great Halloween story. Of course, a good horror story can be enjoyed at any time of the year and as far as they go, this one isn’t bad.


Fettes is a young medical student in charge of bringing in the cadavers for his class to dissect. His supervisor tells him to just take the bodies as they are delivered and pay for them with no questions asked. Soon, though, bodies of people he knows start to be delivered – people he just saw alive the day before. And as I’m writing this, I’m starting to chuckle but I don’t think dark comedy is the intention.

What is the intention of the story? I think it’s just to be scary. I don’t find any deeper universal meaning in it other than scary stories can be very entertaining! And something about 19th Century writing can make a story very scary.

This story is included in my copy of Robert Louis Stevenson: The Complete Shorter Fiction edited by Peter Stoneley. I read it when I selected the Six of Hearts for Week 19 of my Deal Me In short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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