Sorry for the late entry today–the internet wasn't working when I got up this morning.
One of my favorite new things to do is to type random keywords into the online version of The Illustrated Police News and see what insanity my search can turn up. The below picture and story are from Saturday, June 27, 1874, Issue 541:
"A "skeleton in the closet" is not generally considered a pleasant thing to have, but a recent occurrence in Greensburg, America, shows that it may sometimes answer a good purpose. We learn from the Philadelphia Medical Times that a burglar broke into a physician's office in that town, and opening a closet (while his companion with a dark lantern was in another part of the room), got his hand between the jaws of a skeleton which being adjusted with a coil spring and kept open with a thread, closed suddenly on the intruding hand by the breaking of the thread. Startled at being thus seized, he uttered a faint shriek, and when his companion turned the lantern towards him, and he beheld himself in the grim and ghastly jaws of Death himself, he became so overpowered by fear that he fainted, and fell insensible to the floor, pulling the skeleton down upon him, and making so much noise that his companion fled immediately. The doctor, alarmed at the noise and confusion, hastened into the room and secured the terror-stricken burglar; still held by the skeleton".