"GHOST MARRIAGES" PROMPT GRAVE ROBBING AS MEN DIG UP BRIDES
BEIJING - Four men in northwest China have been sentenced to prison for the grisly crime of digging up the corpses of 10 women and selling them for "ghost marriages."
The grotesque "brides" were sold for a total of 240,000 RMB, or $38,000, according to court reports. The grave robbers were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two years and four months to two years and eight months in prison.
The bodies were sought by families of men who died as bachelors. The buyers were arranging "ghost marriages," a traditional custom in which parents find "spouses" for their unmarried, deceased children so that they can have a family in the afterlife.
The cadavers were stolen from their graves in Ya'an province beginning in the winter of 2011, according to reports. They were dug up in the middle of the night and hid in the thieves' homes where the corpses were cleaned up. Forged medical records were created in hopes of making it appear the corpses were only recently deceased and coming from reliable sources, allowing them to charge premium prices.
Ghost marriages are a 3,000 year-old custom that is especially common in rural parts of north China where young men often die in coal mining accidents. When a young man dies a bachelor, family members may consider it unnatural, and fear that the deceased's spirit may be restless.