Grave Torpedo

Bit of an odd title I know but that is what it is. I found this patent while searching for something else and thought it interesting enough to post here. I know it is not strictly ammunition, well it is of sorts.

Seems like back in the days of body snatchers, these things were placed on the chest of the dead person being buried to deter the robbers, sorry it is a low resolution picture. Not sure what would have happened a few years down the road… could have got messy!


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Torpedo (Torpedoe) was the initial name for underwater ammunition used against ships.

This included a whole row of ordnance which later got it’s own propper designations while “torpedo” remained for what we understand today to be a self propelled explosive charge moving toward the target (today usually homing/guided).

Howell is a well known designer of the later torpedos and looking at the date of the patent this is in the very early days of the whole.

Here the full patent:


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Really interesting! Like, EOD, mentioned, Howell, was a early pioneer in underwater torpedo development. I had no idea he invented something like this. Thank you both for sharing this information. So fascinating!


The father of the torpedo as we kow it today was Robert Whitehead.
With many other players around and after him.

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Thanks for the additional information, very interesting.

PBS episode with images of the grave torpedo (skip to minute 37:19).

Another “grave torpedo” patent by Howell:

USRE9719.pdf (244.1 KB)

Ad from 1880:

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Thanks for sharing Eightbore, Alex and Fede. It’s both fascinating and strange at the same time. It appears that Thomas Howell was a bit prolific in the field of grave torpedoes. But there were also others:

I’m thinking about adding one to my last will and testament… :-)