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It's a no-brainer: Debauchery in Indianapolis

The tease of fast cash draws entrepreneurialism to its purest form, or in this case—it’s stupidest!

David Charles. "Duh."
David Charles. "Duh."
The exterior of the Indiana Medical History Museum.

In a bid for the quick almighty dollar, twenty-one year old David Charles repeatedly over the course of 2013 broke into the Indiana Medical History Museum’s warehouse storage, stealing jars of human brain tissue and other various preserved material. The storage space housed thousands of containers of autopsied brain and human organs not presently displayed within the museum. The organ tissue originated from roughly 2,000 patients whose remains were autopsied from the 1890s through the 1940s.

It would appear that young Charles had discovered his niche in the world of macabre thievery. It would also appear that young Charles is not all that intelligent….

The museum, located in the near inner city westside stretch of downtown Indianapolis—3045 W. Vermont Street--is on the former grounds of Central State Hospital…also referred to as the “hospital for the insane.” During its long hey-day it served its purpose—“treating” patients with psychiatric and mental disorders—from 1848 to 1994. The medical history museum building that still remains had been a part of the pathological department during the hospital’s tenure.

There have long been rumors of ghostly activity swirling about the grounds and present dilapidated hospital campus, frequenting the few remaining buildings. Even the medical history building has had its fair share of stories. However, with the exception of the museum, the grounds and remaining buildings are off limits to the general public.

David Charles had discovered what he considered a gold mine for the taking. The site was dark, and considering its close location to the inner city, fairly remote; and apparently very easy to break into on a repeat basis. (Throughout the year Indianapolis Police officers had investigated several break-ins at the storage facility located just behind the museum) Charles was definitely a different breed of thief…specializing in the lifting of brains and tissue from long dead mental patients. And…oh the glory! The cost of the stolen canisters was valued in the neighborhood of $4,800.

Criminals, especially young and immature ones, don’t often think things through…especially when it comes to their mouths. Rocket scientist Charles was no exception, posting on his social media Facebook page on October 14, 2013:

“Yo I got a bunch of human brains in jars for sale hmu for details u know u want one for Halloween.”

The very next day he posted:

“Still have some better hurry and buy one someone had to die for u to get one.”

Most brilliant, Charles! I’m sure you were a stellar high school student. And then it gets better.

Using a middleman, Charles placed several of the jars on eBay to sell. This would ultimately become his downfall. A tipster who had paid hundreds of dollars on the online auction site brought the enterprise to an end. A San Diego, California man purchased six jars of the human brain tissue for $600. After receiving them he grew suspicious of the labels still on the containers, and then compared his jars with those on the museum’s internet website. They were a match! He contacted authorities in Indianapolis and the ball started rolling…all downhill for Charles.

The Indianapolis Police, with cooperation from Charles’s middleman, set up a sting operation with an officer portraying an interested buyer. It all transpired in the parking lot of a south Meridian Street Dairy Queen on December 16, 2013. There would be no fire grilled Brazier Burgers or crisp fries involved, only sixty jars of human tissue stolen just the day before. Charles’s business venture came to an abrupt end. He was arrested on felony theft and other charges. He is currently free on bond and awaiting his day in court. And for all appearances, seems to be enjoying his notoriety and five minutes of fame. The smile on his face will be wiped away soon enough.

Executive director of the museum, Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage, had her own opinion:

“It’s horrid anytime a museum collection is robbed. A museums mission is to hold these materials as cultural and scientific objects in the public interest. To have that disturbed…to have that broken…is extraordinarily disturbing to those of us in the museum field.”

Two questions surface about this whole affair:

David Charles repeatedly broke into the museum’s storage facility throughout 2013. Why did it continue to go on? Did anyone even notice the theft? And if they did, why weren’t steps taken to prevent it from happening again?

And of eBay…. Jars of human tissue were sold online, despite a company policy against the listing for sale of “humans, the human body, or any human parts or products.” Somebody dropped the ball there. Was there no one paying attention or monitoring the transactions? “Lucy…you got some explaining to do!”

You might also wonder about the eBay buyer’s motivation for purchasing the containers of brain tissue, it’s rather simple….

He just likes to collect odd things.

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