Edinburgh Local

Experts teach tour guides the real story of Burke and Hare

They are among the world’s most notorious serial killers but the details of their story are often mis-told…

Burke and Hare tour
Tour guides learn the real story behind Burke and Hare

Now, experts from the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum are to share fresh insights into the Burke and Hare case with local tour guides. Guides from city company ‘Viajar por Escocia’ will turn tourist as they are guided around key landmarks linked to the gruesome tale by Janet Philp. Janet Philp is an author and staff member at the University’s Deanery of Biomedical Sciences.

Philp has recently published a book based on four years of research into the case, uncovering fresh evidence to authenticate details from the grisly saga. In the 19th century, there was a chronic shortage of bodies for anatomy classes at the medical school. This gave rise to a new industry in the city: grave-robbing.

Burke and Hare took the practice a step further. The despicable duo murdered 16 people, selling their bodies to Dr Robert Knox for the teaching of anatomy. Hare escaped justice by turning on his partner and fled the city. His demise remains a mystery.

Burke was hanged in the Grassmarket. His corpse was publicly dissected and his skeleton was donated to the University’s Anatomical Museum for display where it hangs to this day. 

Tour guides sometimes perpetuate the myth that Burke and Hare were body snatchers when the reality is much more gruesome. We’re delighted to have this opportunity to set the record straight and help Viajar por Escocia ’ guides tell the real story from this dark point in Edinburgh’s history.

Janet Philp, University’s Deanery of Biomedical Sciences


It's been a great experience to learn the real story of Burke and Hare, especially from such a unique and informed perspective  as Janets. Viajar por Escocia agrees that it is really important to learn  the actual facts so we share the real story with our clients.

Staff member at Viajar por Escocia

More information

To find out more,please contact Janel Philp: J.Philp@ed.ac.uk