Salisbury, N.C. is Home to Hoke Wayne Honbarger Perhaps the Most Famous Grave Robber in American History! He’s ALIVE!

Posted on October 31, 2016

Steve Mensing, Editor

♦ Today is Halloween and no better time exists to bring up the subject of grave robbery. Since ancient times a special breed of men make a modest living at digging up graves for the purpose of “body snatching”, stealing valuable personal effects and jewelry, pillaging historic artifacts often for large sums of money, and in rare instances having sexual relations with corpses (necrophilia). Most folks take a very dim view of grave robbing. Scenes of grave robbing occur in classic horror movies such as Frankenstein (a criminal brain is ripped off at a grave yard) and in “The Body Snatcher”, starring Boris Karloff, corpses galore get stolen.

I recall two teenage miscreants who skulked the streets of G-town where I grew up. Hutch and “Shag” were in and out of “juvies” since they were 13–Hutch was kicked out of my Junior High for stabbing a kid in the head with a penknife. These guys were trouble–a must to avoid. Later they started showing up in adult prisons for stealing rubber floor mats out of cars.

One afternoon I was walking down Morris Street on my way home from school when I heard Hutch and Shag calling me. “Yo–check this out!”

The pair were straining to carry a large anodized bucket down the street. “Steve–you gotta see this!” said Hutch. “We’ll cut you a deal.”

I really didn’t want to cross over.

“You’ve never seen nothin like this!” called Hutch. “Come on.”

I walked over with great reluctance.

From just a few yards away I could smell formaldehyde. They pulled the lid off. The bucket was filled with human skulls some with rotting flesh still clinging to them.

“We sell em’ up at the LaSalle College dorms for 25 bucks a skull. They love em’.”

“Where did you get them?”

“Up the Jew cemetery in Mt. Airy. They bury their kind with Jewels and watches.”

“Gotta run.”

The images of the bucket filled with skulls stayed with me. Those images get rekindled when I see various newspaper accounts of Salisbury’s convicted grave robber Hoke Wayne Honbarger, now 74 years old and living on McCombs Farm Drive in Salisbury. The first articles about his prodigious grave robbing exploits first appeared in early January 1989. Charles Dunn, then the Director of the N.C. Bureau of Investigation and Lonnie Revels, Chairman of the State Commission of Indian Affairs were examining artifacts and skeletons confiscated from a grave robbery network. Soon after Hoke Wayne Honbarger, of Salisbury, N.C., was taken into custody and charged with selling Native American Skulls dug up from American Indian burial grounds. 40 crates filled with human skeletons dug up from sacred Indian burial plots in central and western North Carolina.

According to newspaper accounts Honbarger and his accomplice were shocked by the raids and angered at being compared to grave robbers. For years people were looting Native American sites because the Indians buried kin with pottery, ceremonial necklaces, rings, and carved stone pipes among other valued artifacts.

Hoke Wayne Honbarger’s Previous Record:

Happy Halloween!

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