On the day Christ was born, he died: how a Bulgarian and a Pole stole Charlie Chaplin and buried him in a cornfield

Charlie Chaplin is one of the most famous actors of all time. He has gone down in film history as one of the first comedians to achieve worldwide fame.

Generally, the scenes Charlie Chaplin played were based on situation comedy, but there were a few instances where comedy went further, masking tragedy.

Perhaps the best example of this is the film The Great Dictator, a bittersweet parody of World War II in which Chaplin played a dictator who looked pretty much like Adolf Hitler. You can see and hear the famous speech from this film in the attached clip at the bottom of this article.

Charlie Chaplin in the film The Kid
Charlie Chaplin in the film The Kid

Charlie Chaplin, the door-opener for today’s comedians

Without fail, Charlie Chaplin’s genius lives on in the performance style of many of today’s comedians. He set certain standards when it comes to situation comedy and arguably invented the unlucky character who gets into trouble on a regular basis.

Throughout his career, Sir Charles Spencer Jr. enriched world cinema with films such as The Kid (1921), A Woman of Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), as well as The Great Dictator (1940), the first film to break out of the silent category that he directed.

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He wrote screenplays, directed, produced, edited, composed music for most of his films, and often played the character of the Tramp, a sort of alter ego of his own.

He was a perfectionist, and you can see that even today if you watch his work. At a time when film technology was still in its infancy, he was able to craft extraordinary films.

He was born in 1889 in Britain and died on the first day of Christmas in 1977 in Switzerland at the age of 88.

CharlieChaplin young and old
Charlie Chaplin in his youth and the last year of his life

Charlie Chaplin’s death as a black comedy

As mentioned earlier, Charlie Chaplin closed his eyes for good on the first day of Christmas. Ironically, a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ would also be the day the comedy genius died, aged 88.

But what followed immediately after his death was like something out of one of his comedies, as we’ll tell you in the following.

Charlie Chaplin in the film City Lights
Charlie Chaplin in the film City Lights

The great artist didn’t have much peace even after his death. He was buried on 27 December, and two months later, his grave was desecrated and his body stolen by a Polish-Bulgarian, complete with coffin.

In their desire to get suddenly rich, the two demanded a ransom of 600,000 Swiss francs, only to later change their minds and make a “discount”, demanding only 100,000 Swiss francs.

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Obviously, the police searched for the two for 10 weeks, but without any success. The Interpol also got involved, alerted by the actor’s son, Eugene Chaplin.

Authorities staged a sting, with a policeman disguising himself as Chaplin’s chauffeur, who was to meet the thieves to give them the money in exchange for the coffin.

The operation was unsuccessful, since a postman alerted the police, accusing an unknown man of being in Charlie Chaplin’s car.

Later, however, Bulgarian Gancio Ganev and Polish Roman Wardas, both mechanics by trade, were caught.

Asked where the coffin containing Chaplin’s body was, the two said they had forgotten where they had buried it, as enough time had passed since they had stolen it.

They remembered, however, that it was in a cornfield, the body having been buried when the crop was still small. In the meantime, flooding and the rise of the planets caused the “geography” of the field to change a bit.

In the first instance, the owner of the cornfield was disturbed by the event and the fact that the authorities had ransacked his entire field.

Eventually, he came to terms with it and chose to profit from the incident. He installed a plaque at the site of that field that reads “Here rested Charlie Chaplin. For a while”.

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