Tattoo artist charged in Harvard morgue scandal spoke about ‘collecting skulls’ years ago

An unearthed magazine article from 2008 hints at Mathew Lampi’s alleged Interest in collecting skulls

Andrea Blanco,Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 20 June 2023 23:57 BST
Harvard Medical School donated body parts stolen, sold by former morgue manager

One of the defendants at the centre of the Harvard University morgue scandal boasted about his “skull collection” in a resurfaced article published more than 15 years ago.

Tattoo artist Mathew Lampi, 52, is among five people charged with stealing and selling human remains donated to Harvard Medical School for research. Prosecutors revealed in shocking court filings last week that a morgue manager, his wife, a mortician, a creepy doll collector and Mr Lampi were part of a multi-state ring that exchanged and sold “heads, brains, skin and bones.”

The scheme, which is part of a larger black market, is alleged to have gone on from 2018 to 2022.

Mr Lampi, who owned a now-closed tattoo shop in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, is accused of exchanging over $100,000 in online payments with a supplier from Pennsylvania, who obtained the body parts from a morgue worker supposed to cremate the remains. According to the complaint, Mr Lampi allegedly purchased genitals, hearts, swaths of skin, skulls and the body of a stillborn baby boy, among other body parts.

But a resurfaced magazine article from 2008 hints at Mr Lampi’s alleged particular interest in collecting skulls. The article published in the February issue of Skin Deep and unearthed by The Pioneer Press delves into Mr Lampi’s “ fascination with the human form and what lies under the skin” and the “twisted and macabre [inspiration] from the dark recesses of his mind.”

“My mind never relaxes. I am always in a constant state of flux. When I am not tattooing or designing, I collect items. My collection consists of several tantric Kampala’s, human skulls, a mortician’s make-up kit (previously used of course) and a customer’s toe,” Mr Lampi is quoted saying.

Mr Lampi also said at the time that he became “bored with the traditional style of tattooing,” noting that his style was a mix between realism and illustration.

Pennsylvania police were tipped off last summer about the packages sent to Mr Lampi. He then reportedly asked his contact, 41-year-old Jeremy Pauley, what law enforcement was onto.

“ ... in the end the only thing that mattered was nothing was proved grave robbed or stolen out of a morgue,” Mr Pauley reportedly texted Mr Lampi, according to court documents obtained by the Pioneer Press.

Mr Lampi has not entered a plea in his case.

Mr Lampi, Harvard Medical School Morgue manager Cedric Lodge, 55, and his wife Denise, 63, were arrested on 14 June along with Katrina Maclean, 44, of Salem, Massachusetts – who owns a store in nearby Peabody called Kat’s Creepy Creations that specialises in “creepy dolls, oddities” and “bone art” – and Joshua Taylor, 46, of West Lawn, Pennsylvania.

Mr Pauley and Candace Chapman Scott of Little Rock, Arkansas, were previously indicted for buying and selling stolen body parts intended for cremation and pleaded not guilty. They face up to 15 years in prison on charges of conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen goods.

The Independent has reached out to all the defendants’ attorneys for comment.

Ms Maclean is accused of selling remains stolen by Mr Lodge to other buyers in multiple states, including to Mr Pauley, to whom she allegedly shipped a package of human skin in 2021 having “engaged his services to tan the skin to create leather”, after which he sent it back to her, according to The New York Times.

According to the federal indictment, Mr Lodge would spirit the dissected body parts away from the HMS morgue and store them at his home in Goffstown, New Hampshire. Mr Lodge, who was hired by Harvard in 1995, allegedly allowed potential buyers into the morgue to choose which body parts they wanted.

He and his wife would then sell them as part of a national network of traffickers trading in human remains, conducting transactions on Facebook and PayPal and making use of the US Postal Service.

“Some crimes defy understanding,” United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam said in a statement. “The theft and trafficking of human remains strikes at the very essence of what makes us human. It is particularly egregious that so many of the victims here volunteered to allow their remains to be used to educate medical professionals and advance the interests of science and healing.”

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