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For years, no one noticed body parts disappearing from Harvard’s morgue. Then came a phone call.

A tip would blow open the doors to a dark but not-so-secret nationwide network, leading investigators into the Harvard morgue and a gruesome American market.

Hokyoung Kim for the boston globe

Content warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of the mutilation of dead bodies.

Cedric Lodge spent half his life working in a basement at Harvard Medical School. He was just 27 years old when he took up the job — managing the morgue of the storied institution — and he’d spend the next 27 in the windowless, chemical-scented space keeping company with corpses.

Over time, the role came to define Lodge’s personality. On Facebook, he posted a picture of himself dressed in a black top hat, wire-rimmed glasses, and black overcoat, as if an undertaker in a Dickens novel. At the home he shared with his wife, Denise, in Goffstown, New Hampshire, they parked two Subarus with vanity plates. One read “DKSHDWS,” in homage to the gothic-horror show from the 1960s. The other plate, the one on the pumpkin-orange car Lodge drove to Harvard, read “GRIM-R,” identifying him as the grim reaper at an institution dedicated to the science of prolonging human life.

Lodge’s primary task at Harvard was to prepare and preserve hundreds of cadavers while the country’s nascent medical minds studied and dissected them, learning anatomy and surgical techniques. When that work was done, Harvard trusted Lodge to deliver on a solemn promise to families: to lay bodies finally and respectfully to rest. After cremation, the ashes were returned to relatives or buried in a private cemetery in Tewksbury used by Harvard and other medical schools.


Over Lodge’s nearly three decades in the morgue at Harvard’s Longwood campus in Boston, thousands of medical students hurried through the halls above. During his tenure, four bespectacled, white-haired deans cycled through offices in the building next door. The seasons passed with the graduating classes, marked by the changing shades of the manicured central courtyard and the water that spilled in the warmer months from the mouth of a copper lion.

All the while, Lodge raised no eyebrows. Maybe because everything down in the basement seemed up to Harvard code. Or maybe because it was just easier for everyone to push thoughts of the morgue and its macabre manager out of their minds. Either way, no one noticed when the heavyset, silver-goateed employee stopped thinking solely of science and instead began seeing dollar signs.


“I have been looking for customers interested in purchasing some heavy body bags and other miscellaneous medical toys,” Lodge wrote in a 2013 post to an online group called DeviantArt. He needed “a little cash to plan a vacation,” he explained, adding an “LOL!” and an invitation to swing by the morgue.

Eventually, the wares for sale changed from body bags to stolen pieces of the corpses enclosed within them, prosecutors say.

Why do people want to buy human remains?
WATCH: Body parts stolen from Harvard's morgue were just the tip of the iceberg. Reporter Hanna Krueger explains how she investigated a not-so-secret market. (undefined)

By 2018, Lodge had allegedly transformed the Harvard Medical School morgue into a supply depot of human body parts, a loading dock for a grisly conveyor belt stretching from Massachusetts to Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. Some days, Lodge loaded up his Subaru with organs and skin and drove them home to New Hampshire, where court records show his wife packaged them in shipping boxes to mail to buyers, who call themselves “oddities collectors.” Other days, the collectors came to Lodge — strolling empty-handed into Harvard’s morgue, then out with the body parts they’d selected.

This grisly business went unnoticed for at least five years, until a woman in Pennsylvania phoned a local detective in the summer of 2022. She urged him to visit her husband’s basement and peer into the contents of the Home Depot buckets stored there. That tip would blow open the doors to a dark but not-so-secret nationwide network, leading investigators into the Harvard morgue and a gruesome American market.


IT IS SHOCKINGLY EASY to buy human remains in the United States. That is in part because selling body parts is legal under federal law, with rare exceptions. By contrast, human tissue and organs viable for medical transplant are closely monitored. But human bones and preserved body parts can be bought a number of legal ways.

As a result, a busy marketplace for private collectors has emerged. Brick-and-mortar stores with human skulls and skeletons for sale dot the country. The bulk of transactions, however, takes place online, including on Reddit, Instagram, and TikTok. Thousands of oddities collectors flood Facebook, gathering in open groups that sometimes carry trigger warnings.

“You will see dead animals and humans/babies so if you are upset by those things this may not be the group for you,” warn the administrators of one group with more than 52,000 members.

Spooky art and animal remains are the predominant products for sale, but body parts are often just a few clicks away. Since demand for these outstrips supply, their prices are high. A complete human skull can cost upward of $2,000, a full skeleton more than three times that. Femurs and vertebrae can sell for about $100 to $300, depending on quantity and quality.


“When you’ve got a skull or skeleton or wet specimen to show off, it’s kind of like, ‘Hey, I’ve made it,’” says Kari Kay Rose, a collector based in Minnesota who dabbles exclusively in animal-bone art. “They’re big-ticket items and most oddities collectors dream [of acquiring them] at some point.”

Those transactions tend to take place via private messages. But occasionally, a newcomer will just solicit the goods outright. “Does anyone have a human heart specimen?” a member of an online group asked in 2022. She was immediately directed to a man in rural Pennsylvania.

“If [you’re] looking for human stuff like that,” she was told, “try Jeremy Lee Pauley.”

THE CALL CAME IN NEAR 5 P.M., as the detective sergeant counted down the minutes of his workday. Adam Shope was a veteran of the East Pennsboro Township Police Department, one of the highest-ranking members of the 21-officer force. But he’d drawn the short straw on June 20, 2022, and was the go-to for any drama.

Shope’s boss was on the phone with a request: Look into an odd complaint, that the resident of a home in the Enola section of the township might be selling human remains on Facebook. Shope sighed, then lumbered out of his desk chair and grabbed the keys to his cruiser.

This sleepy Pennsylvania region is famous mostly for having a railyard and for sending a couple of locals to Major League Baseball. Most arrests are for driving under the influence. Once in a while a guy refuses to pay his cab fare, or a pair of AirPods goes missing from a locker at the hospital.


The white duplex cited in the complaint sat across from a sprawling cemetery. Shope parked near the gravestones and knocked on the home’s front door.

Jeremy Lee Pauley answered. Black tattoos covered half his face, from forehead to chin. Metal spikes were embedded in the top of his bald head. One eyeball was dyed jet black. Pauley smiled, Shope recalls, to reveal two rows of sharpened, silver teeth. The detective explained he was investigating a report of possible human remains.

Come on in, Pauley said, opening the door wide and offering a tour of his home. Five human skulls peered at Shope. The detective saw at least 50 human ribs and three skeletons. Shope scribbled in his notepad: “over 7 glass jars containing human infant remains.”

Pauley seemed unruffled by the visit, the detective recalls. Proud, even. He dutifully answered questions about his collection. On his website, Pauley describes himself as a preservation specialist “of retired medical specimens” and curator of historic remains. The Enola home doubled as his Memento Mori Museum, “a place where lost histories are regained and respectfully displayed.” Shope was struck by how accommodating Pauley was. “Nice as pie,” he recalls.

Jeremy Lee Pauley.From Jeremy Lee Pauley via Facebook

Shope later called his superiors, as well as consulted federal officials. Based on the presumed old age of the specimens, they’d conclude the collection was legally obtained. “During the course of the interview,” Shope wrote in his report, “it was determined that these items were lawfully purchased from medical facilities and museums.”

After Shope’s visit, Pauley contacted one of his business partners, a tattoo artist in Minnesota named Mathew Lampi. Over the last couple of years, the two had exchanged more than $130,000 in payments, according to documents filed in court.

“Hello so what did the police say,” Lampi inquired over WhatsApp.

The detective had asked about human remains, Pauley replied, but “in the end the only thing that mattered was nothing was proven grave robbed or stolen out of a morgue.” He punctuated his message with a smiley face emoji.

But about three weeks later, Shope received another call. A woman introduced herself as Pauley’s estranged wife. She encouraged him to return to the home, making sure to visit the basement this time. Pauley hadn’t included that space in his tour. Shope secured a search warrant and drove to the house beside the graveyard once more.

Pauley wasn’t there. But his wife led Shope and other officers down into the unfinished basement. The scene, as described in court documents, was out of a house of horrors.

Human eyeballs rested in a plastic bag on the floor. An expanse of human skin, tanned like leather, was draped over the back of a chair. When they opened the lids of three orange Home Depot buckets, a shocking inventory of body parts floated within — two kidneys, lungs, a heart, a spleen, a trachea. There were two brains, a skull with hair attached, and a child-sized jawbone with the teeth still in place.

A portrait of Jesus leaned against a cardboard box, as if surveying the scene. The shipping labels on that box and others began to outline the vast extent of a grisly network.

THE CONTENTS OF THOSE BUCKETS sparked a sweeping investigation that would lead to the federal indictment of seven people across five states, and finally compel Harvard Medical School to take a hard look at Cedric Lodge, its longtime employee. The evidence collected by local police, the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service, and others is laid out in a series of allegations filed in court documents.

According to court records, one frequent customer for the body parts Lodge stole from the morgue was Joshua Taylor, a Pennsylvania man in his mid-40s. Between 2018 and 2021, Taylor made 39 online payments to an account controlled by Denise Lodge, Cedric’s wife, totaling more than $37,000. Sometimes, he typed a memo — such as $1,000 for “head number 7″ and $200 for “braiiiiiins.”

The vanity license plate on Cedric Lodge’s car.Jeffrey Hastings

At some point, records show, another buyer emerged: Katrina Maclean, the fortysomething operator of a store called Kat’s Creepy Creations, located inside a former leather mill in Peabody, Massachusetts. Maclean had been active in Salem’s thriving oddities scene since 2018, selling porcelain dolls she painted and dressed in nightmarish ways — “creations that shock the mind & shake the soul,” as she wrote online.

By 2020, Maclean had started to incorporate human remains into her art. In February of that year, she posted a picture on Instagram of a doll holding a skull. “This doll has been sold and yes that is a real human skull,” she wrote. “If you’re in the market for human bones hit me up!”

Some months later, according to court records, Maclean was agreeing to pay Cedric Lodge $600 for two dissected faces.

Prosecutors allege Lodge invited both Maclean and Taylor to visit the morgue at Harvard, so they could look over cadavers and decide what to purchase. Sometimes they left that day with body parts; other times, Lodge brought them home for his wife to send by mail.

Katrina Maclean sells witch hats during a Haunted Happenings celebration in Salem on October 4, 2014.John Blanding/Globe Staff

Once in possession of their purchases, Maclean and Taylor would often strike deals with Jeremy Lee Pauley. Court records show Pauley sent Maclean $8,800 over time, and Taylor more than $40,000.

In the summer of 2021, Maclean asked Pauley to tan a piece of human skin into leather, according to court records. When he mailed back the finished product, they agreed she’d send more skin in lieu of payment. So Maclean sent a message to Lodge, asking if he had more available, for “the dude I sent the chest piece to tan.” Lodge agreed to see what he could find in the morgue.

Maclean eventually did ship more skin to Pauley, though soon appeared to get nervous it had been intercepted by authorities. “[W]anted to make sure it got to you,” she messaged, “and I don’t expect agents at my door.”

Pauley appeared less worried, perhaps because of his experience in the body parts business. He did not respond to multiple inquiries from the Globe, but a friend of his suggested he was frequently contacted by sellers. “He regularly makes large, bulk purchases from collectors, so for him, it wasn’t unusual to be contacted about a medical collection that’s being retired,” says fellow oddities seller Kymberlee Schopper.

Another stranger contacted Pauley online with an offer in the fall of 2021, around the same time Taylor and Maclean were selling him body parts. Candace Chapman Scott was an employee of a trade mortuary in Arkansas, she explained. It embalmed and cremated cadavers for the University of Arkansas medical school, funeral homes, and other clients.

“I follow your page and work and LOVE it,” Scott began. “Just out of curiosity, would you know anyone in the market for a fully in tact [sic], embalmed brain?”

Pauley, himself, was very interested. He taught her how to package body parts for mailing.

Hokyoung Kim for the boston globe

Over the next year or so the two corresponded frequently, with Scott writing Pauley after new cadavers arrived at the mortuary, prosecutors say. One day in December, she listed the parts she had for sale: “2 brains, one with skullcap, 3 hearts one cut, 2 fake boobies, one large belly button piece of skin, one arm, one huge piece of skin, and one lung.” In all, Pauley would buy more than 50 body parts from her.

With so many packages being shipped across the country, they sometimes ran into logistical problems. At one point, Scott complained that her local Walmart and dollar store had run out of ice packs. She and Pauley also periodically griped about problems with the US mail.

“[P]ost offices said they’ve been super behind lately,” she responded to one of his inquiries. She’d mailed the package priority, but admitted she couldn’t remember exactly on what day: “Monday? Tuesday? Hell I don’t know they all run together and I lost the damn receipt.”

THE LETTERS TO NEXT OF KIN from Harvard Medical School arrived in June 2023. Families of people who had donated their bodies to science found a message about the alleged body parts sales signed by two Harvard deans. They wrote they were “profoundly saddened to report the indictment and arrest of Cedric Lodge, a former HMS employee, for the unlawful interstate transport of stolen human remains.” The deans admitted there were many instances where the school could not rule out the possibility that their loved one’s remains may have been sold.

Harvard will likely never be able to give families definitive answers. Tracing stolen body parts back to donors can be an insurmountable challenge for investigators — DNA evidence is destroyed by the processes of embalming and cremation. Meanwhile, private collectors rarely know information about where their specimens come from, or may not volunteer it if they do.

Harvard Medical School in the Longwood section of Boston. Hattanas Kumchai/Moment Editorial/Getty Images

But in at least one instance, investigators seem to have linked remains directly to a victim. They lay out the order of events in court documents.

In February 2022, a mother in Arkansas gave birth to a stillborn boy she named Lux. When his body was sent to the mortuary for cremation, Scott took notice.

She immediately wrote to Pauley to see if he’d be interested in the remains. She was asking $300, she wrote on Facebook Messenger, because “he’s not in great shape.”

Pauley agreed to the sale and, after receiving the body in the mail, turned to Mathew Lampi in Minnesota and worked out a deal: Pauley would mail him Lux’s body as well as $1,550. In return, Lampi would send Pauley five human skulls.

As for Lux’s mother in Arkansas, she received ashes purporting to be of Lux — mortuary records said as much. But she was given instead what investigators called remains “of unknown origin.”

THE WAVE OF FEDERAL INDICTMENTS broadened a divide in the oddities community: Those who wanted to know more about where human remains came from, and those who preferred not to.

Michelle Cozzaglio found herself in the first camp. She and her husband cofounded the Oddities & Curiosities Expo, one of the major traveling oddities markets in the country.

‘The Pauley indictment highlighted how thin the line was between the obscure and bizarre, and — in one vendor’s words — the “shady as hell.”’

Up until 2022, they allowed vendors to sell human specimens. But with the indictments came a reckoning, she explains, that forced her to confront a thorny ethical question: How do I know that these bones don’t belong to one of the cadavers stolen from the Harvard morgue? She couldn’t know, she decided. No one really could.

The success of Cozzaglio’s expo speaks to the size of the oddities community in America. The first event took place seven years ago in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, VFW hall and involved just 30 vendors selling a mix of morbid art, moss-filled shadow boxes, taxidermy, and bones. It’s now a huge traveling exhibition, slated to make stops in 31 cities across America this year. Last year, it visited Australia for a month.

An expo in Louisville, Kentucky, this February sold more than 18,000 tickets. It took place in the city’s expo center, sandwiched between halls hosting a high school wrestling tournament and a home and garden show. People waltzed about in Renaissance garb, and displayed holstered pistols, spiked leather collars, and fur headdresses. Some pushed strollers with toddlers. Others pulled wagons bearing objects such as a jar with a preserved Chihuahua.

“We accept all payment methods: PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, Cash, Card and Body Parts!” read a sign at one seller offering ballpoint pens filled with octopus tentacles ($3-$8) and tuberculosis human tissue from a 1950s sanatorium ($35).

There was an overall air of fascination, even joy at the expo. People described taking pride in their work. But many also acknowledged that the Pauley indictment highlighted how thin the line was between the obscure and bizarre, and — in one vendor’s words — the “shady as hell.”

Jars of wet specimens at a vendor’s booth during the Oddities & Curiosities Expo on February 4 in Louisville, Kentucky.Jon Cherry/for the Boston Globe

Maclean used to run an oddities market in Salem, and on a podcast once described how it was a turning point in her evolution as an artist. “Doing the oddities market, I started to have access to all this other [expletive] that I didn’t know I could [have] access to, like bones and stuff,” she said. “So I kind of branched out and started making skull plaques and, you know, just creepy, cool stuff.”

Maclean recorded that interview in 2021, the year court documents say she connected with Cedric Lodge at Harvard Medical School.

THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY for Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, has been practicing law for 34 years. Yet when Pauley’s case landed on his desk, he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. “Very few things completely surprise me anymore, but this was out there,” Sean McCormack says. “My first thought was that all this stuff has to be illegal. But then we started digging and discovered there is a very legal aspect to this world.”

To understand what is legal, it’s simpler to start with what is not. First, it’s illegal to own or sell the remains of Indigenous persons, except by descendants and ancestral tribes. Second, it’s illegal to own or sell human organs and tissue viable for medical transplant. The latter is governed by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, a constantly evolving piece of legislation meant to regulate anatomical donation.

Sheldon Kurtz, a University of Iowa law professor, coauthored the latest version of the legislation in 2006, and at the time was unaware of oddities collectors. “This is so far afield from anything we even considered when writing this bill,” says Kurtz, who led the drafting committee. “When we talked about research, we were talking about medical research, not personal collections. It wasn’t even a conversation we ever had. It is shocking to consider that we should have.”

Ultimately, there is more regulation surrounding the handling of dead birds here than there is for dead humans.

Most states have laws that should theoretically prevent the sale of human remains, yet experts say enforcement is rare, in part because the language is confusing and vague. But oddities collectors seem to avoid doing business in the three states where it is clearly illegal: Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee. Getting Louisiana’s ban on the books took a scandal collectors call “Boneghazi,” wherein a self-proclaimed witch robbed a New Orleans cemetery and boasted about it online.

The gray areas between what’s legal and what isn’t, what’s ethical and what’s not, characterize the trade of body parts in America. Ultimately, there is more regulation surrounding the handling of dead birds here than there is for dead humans. Just collecting a feather of one of some 1,100 birds is off-limits, but owning any number of human skulls is not.

Last July, federal agents raided the Kentucky home of James Nott, a bearded, reclusive 40-year-old. They suspected it might be another node in the nationwide network exposed by the investigation into Lodge, Pauley, and the others.

Nott and Pauley had talked business through Facebook, prosecutors say, where Nott went by “William Burke,” the name of an Irish serial killer from the 1800s who sold his victims’ corpses to a school of human anatomy. When Nott opened his door, the agents asked if anyone else was home. “Only my dead friends,” he replied.

As agents searched Nott’s home, they saw human skulls decorating the furniture. They counted some 40 skulls, spinal columns, femurs, and hip bones. One skull was wrapped in a colorful headscarf. Another lay on the mattress where Nott slept, as if in a tableau plucked from William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily.” Agents also discovered a medical bag, labeled property of Harvard Medical School.

Nott was not arrested for anything related to the skulls and skeletons. As a felon, convicted in 2011 for “possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of marijuana,” he had been banned from owning guns. And among his bones, investigators also found an AK-47. He pleaded guilty in November to a gun possession charge.

Hokyoung Kim for the boston globe

HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL fired Cedric Lodge on May, 6, 2023, marking an end to his 27 years as morgue manager.

The families of the donors whose bodies were potentially victimized by the scheme have filed an array of civil lawsuits against him, as well as Harvard. In February, however, a Suffolk County Superior Court judge sided with the school, ruling that it was not legally responsible for the alleged conduct of its former employee. The families’ lawyers have promised an appeal.

A Harvard spokesperson declined an interview request, citing ongoing litigation. She said Lodge’s “abhorrent” alleged actions “violated the reverence that Harvard, our anatomical donors, and their loved ones expect and deserve. We reaffirm our deep sorrow for the uncertainty and distress that families face as the criminal proceedings continue.”

Harvard also declined to provide a tour of the morgue as it is today, after an internal review called for the installation of security cameras and additional measures. “For security reasons,” the spokesperson explained, “the anatomy lab and the morgue are only open on a need-to-access basis (trainees and teachers, personnel, certain researchers) and are off limit for anyone else.”

The criminal cases remain ongoing in federal court. As of press time, three of the defendants — Jeremy Lee Pauley, Denise Lodge, and Mathew Lampi — had pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and were awaiting sentencing. The rest — Cedric Lodge, Katrina Maclean, Candace Chapman Scott, and Joshua Taylor — maintain their innocence and await trials.

Each is charged with interstate transport of stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Scott, the Arkansas mortuary worker, faces additional charges of mail and wire fraud. In Pennsylvania, Pauley faced state charges, including abuse of a corpse, and was sentenced in March to two years of probation.

Everyone charged has declined to speak to the media about the operation, both individually and through their lawyers. But Pauley is prominent and active on Facebook. Some in the oddities community have shunned him, but others have appeared to grow more loyal.

A photo of candles Jeremy Lee Pauley posted on Facebook, saying he made them from human tallow.from jeremey Lee Pauley via Facebook

“You are highlighting Pauley because his appearance makes for a good ‘boogyman’ thumbnail,” wrote one ally, in response to an inquiry from the Globe. “If he had any major role in this case, he would be in prison; and he is not.” (He faces up to 15 years in prison in the federal case.)

The specter of Pauley’s sentencing apparently hasn’t slowed his sales operations online, either. “It’s almost like he’s just poking the bear because he can,” says Kari Kay Rose, the Minnesota collector who left all online groups where Pauley is still a member. “Because he knows, as things stand, there’s little that can be done to him.”

In April 2023, long after Detective Shope entered Pauley’s basement and kicked off this sprawling investigation, Pauley posted a listing on his site for more than two dozen candles. He said he made them from human tallow.

“Worked until the sun came up and then all afternoon, but finally done!” he wrote.

The candles were selling quickly, he noted, and his inventory would be gone within days. A second batch soon sold out, too.

Neither Detective Shope nor District Attorney Sean McCormack was aware that he was back to selling. They weren’t surprised, but seemed resigned to the fact that the lack of effective legislation meant there wasn’t much they could do about it.

Still, Shope had to wonder. Where the hell does a person get human tallow?

Hanna Krueger can be reached at hanna.krueger@globe.com. Follow her @hannaskrueger.