Conspiracy Theory: Is Ben Franklin a Serial Killer?

Ben Franklin a serial killer??

Alayna Holets, Staff Writer

A conspiracy theory that appeared around 2013 is starting to make a subtle come back in the world of social media. Benjamin Franklin, a famous American inventor, diplomat, scientist, writer, political philosopher, along with many other things, is rumored to have been a serial killer. 

In 1998, conservationists were working on repairs in Franklin’s old house, looking to turn the house on 36 Craven Street, London, into a museum. When doing so, they discovered a basement buried underneath the garden. Since it was underground, there were no windows and only one door going in or out. 1,200 pieces of bone were found in a one meter deep and one meter wide pit. 15 bodies were found in the hidden room, six of which were determined to be the bodies of children. With the help of forensic investigations, the bones were dated back to Franklin’s time, disproving the thought that someone hid them there later. This discovery led people to believe that behind his revolutionary front he may have been wrapped up in something shady and sinister. 

The idea of one of our founding fathers being a serial killer understandably didn’t sit well with many. So researchers began to try and find another explanation for the bodies found in his basement. The most likely explanation being that it wasn’t another case of mass murder in America’s history, but an anatomy school run by a man named William Hewson—a friend and young protege of Ben Franklin’s, according to an article written by the Guardian in 2003.

While the simple explanation of anatomy practices sounds much better than murder, it was still highly frowned upon. During Franklin’s time, anatomy lessons were considered a dark and ethically ambiguous business. Anatomy was frowned on by the social standards of the time, making it hard to legally come by a steady supply of human bodies for research. It’s safe to assume that in order to get the bodies they had to go grave robbing, whether they dug them up themselves or paid professionals (known as Resurrection men) to do the dirty digging for them.

The bodies could have been smuggled from their resting place in a graveyard and brought to the wharf on one end of the street or from the gallows on the other end. 

Once he finished with the bodies, Hewson would bury the remains in the basement to avoid the risk of getting caught while trying to properly dispose of them. If caught, he would have been prosecuted for dissection and grave robbing.

We can easily assume that Ben Franklin was aware of the illegal studies, meaning that he’s still not a saint, but it’s much more comforting than to think that he was a serial killer.