In early January 1885 teenage prostitute Pearl Forcade was killed by a drunken man at “Mollie’s Hall” in Lincoln. When her brothers arrived at Wyuka cemetery to claim Pearl’s body, it was gone. Professors at the University of Nebraska medical school, then in Lincoln, were accused of stealing the corpse because the school had a well-known shortage of cadavers.
Although Pearl’s body mysteriously reappeared after a few days, this incident, and other similarly gruesome ones, caused the legislature to cut funding for the medical school, which closed for good in 1887. When the Omaha Medical School aligned itself with the university the state approved money to build an Omaha campus in 1909.
Nebraska State Journal, January 11, 1885 p.1
Nebraska State Journal, January 11, 1885 p.8
Author and folklorist Louise Pound created this sketch between 1889 and 1892, when she was a student at the university, and likely represents the theft of Pearl Forcade’s body. (NSHS RG0912AM)
Nebraska State Journal, November 22, 1894
Nebraska State Journal, December 1, 1894