Why Was Benjamin Franklins Basement Filled With Skeletons
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October 2, 2013: A house in London where Benjamin Franklin lived for two decades was being renovated in 1998 to turn into a museum, and contractors were shocked to discover 1,200 bone fragments from at least 15 people entombed in a pit in the basement, dating to roughly the time when Franklin lived there.

The most likely (or at least the least suspicious) explanation was that Franklin's friend Dr William Hewson was running a semi-secret anatomy school in the basement.


1. Original Article was in Smithsonian Magazine in 2013

Game and Story Use

  • While the anatomy class is the likely explanation in reality, in gaming there's plenty of interesting (sinister) interpretations. Benjamin Franklin and/or William Hewson could be serial killers, vampires, necromancers, etc. Whatever makes for a good plotline or shocking twist in your alternate history, time-travel, or 18th Century urban fantasy game. Franklin as BBEG is likely to take the PCs by surprise.
    • Necromancy is an interesting idea - it would depend on the age of the actual fragments (as opposed to the interment) - but the idea of Franklin (with his reputation as an esoteric scholar) importing the ancient dead to grill them about details of the past is certainly interesting.
    • Some level of human sacrifice might be a potential as well … perhaps Franklin needed to use sources that would not accept other forms of payment.
    • …and for those that have read The Case of Charles Dexter Ward … well, that implies a certain degree of reciprocity…
  • Anatomy lessons weren't completely above-board in those days, either. So the "innocent" explanation still has some potential for grave-robbing and other skullduggery.
    • Or, if Franklin is the PC's Patron or Mentor, those bones could be where the PCs hide the bodies of evil-doers that needed doing-in. You know how PCs do.
    • For a wainscot fantasy campaign, Franklin practiced chirurgy in that basement, and the pit is full of the leftovers from transplants, grafts and amputations.
  • A campaign cribbing from National Treasure but with a darker take could have this building where Franklin stashed the sealed evil in a can that he could contain, but not destroy.
  • Initial reading of the article implied that the bones fragments were inside the walls - that would bespeak either a really careless building contractor or some kind of ward magic using the bones as a matrix (perhaps to bind ghosts of the deceased as a barrier to spiritual intrusion?).
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