The framing of a few? Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Shakespeare's "stolen" skull

Believed to have been stolen 200 years ago, radar has revealed an “an odd disturbance at the head end”

William Shakespeare, Skull, Head, Stratford-upon-Avon, Missing

David Tennant plays the title role in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' in a 2009 production [Pixabay]

In what is being called “an odd disturbance at the head end,” it appears that the skull of William Shakespeare, arguably the most famous playwright in history, may well be missing from his place of rest – the strongest indication yet that someone might have made off with his head more than 200 years ago.

Rumours that the bard’s burial place was burglarised has long persisted, but the actual grave itself in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, has never been opened for investigation – for two reasons: firstly, out of respect to England’s most well-known writer, and secondly, the grave is marked with a rhyming curse on his tombstone: “Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, to dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, and cursed be he that moves my bones.”

The grave of William Shakespeare, along with the so-called curse, believed to have been penned by him, carved into the tombstone [Wiki Commons]

Finally, in 2014, after centuries of speculation, a research team from Staffordshire University scanned Shakespeare’s grave using ground-penetrating radar, with the project leader Kevin Colls left scratching his head.

“We’re reasonably confident that there’s a good chance that William’s skull is no longer there,” Colls told the New York Times.

The only suspect in the case as it stands comes from a story written in 1879 called How Shakespeare’s skull was stolen, published in the pulp periodical Argosy and pointing the finger at a certain “Warwickshire man” circa 1794.

The article alleges that Frank Chambers, a local doctor described as “a wild, rather dashing young fellow; not bad looking,” dug into Shakespeare’s grave, taking the skull from within. The Argosy piece implies Chambers never returned it, but offers very little on the mystery that now presents itself – if Shakespeare’s skull was indeed stolen, where is it now?

What has been confirmed is that a skull in a nearby village – long rumoured to be the bard’s – is most certainly not; research into its origins revealed that it belonged to a woman. But with the local Stratford church expressing no interest into exhuming Shakespeare’s remains, we may never know for sure the fate of his head.

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