John White Webster

Dr George Parkman, a prominent doctor and frequent lender of money, was last seen alive on 23 November 1849, after he approached Dr John White Webster, a Harvard University professor, to collect some money owed to him. It was less than a week later that a janitor, Ephraim Littlefield, stumbled upon a set of human remains in a hidden stone vault beneath Webster’s office. Littlefield had been growing increasingly suspicious of Webster, having seen him carrying a large bundle at which point he asked the janitor to make a fire. With his knowledge of Parkman’s disappearance and the money owed to the doctor, he instantly believed the remains were those of George Parkman.

Police were called to the scene, and an excavation of the remains commenced. About 150 bones were recovered, along with a set of false teeth. In order to establish that these were in fact the remains of the missing Dr Parkman, a Harvard anatomy professor, Dr Jeffries Wyman, was called in. Wyman studied the bones in intricate detailing, noting down all relevant features he could find. At the end of his investigation he was able to conclude that the remains matched Parkman’s age, build and height. To confirm this, the missing doctor’s dentist was asked to take a look at the false teeth found at the scene, which he identified as a special mould made to fit the victim.

Webster was tried and found guilty of the murder of George Parkman. He was hanged in August 1850.