Happy Halloween everyone! We have a morbid fascination with corpses that is only socially acceptable on this one day of the year, so we couldn’t pass up this opportunity to tell you all about our favorite creepy corpse facts. A warning for the squeamish: grow a pair.
If you can believe it, not everyone is as comfortable with dead bodies as we are. It was especially tough to obtain fresh cadavers in 1800s to study for scientific and entirely moral purposes. Common thugs known as the Ressurectionists specialized in obtaining bodies for these anatomists, sometimes only a few hours after they were buried. It was not, in fact, very hard to steal a body, and some students of anatomy would pay tuition in corpses rather than cash. Definitely beats a student loan. The snatchers would wrench open the top of the coffin, throw in a rope ‘round the neck or arms of the body, and pull it out. The whole process was done in an hour or so. In response to these crimes, people buried themselves underneath mortsafes. These are literally cages that were put overtop of their coffins to prevent weirdos from stealing their bodies. However, in between epidemics of plaque and small pox, it could be tough for a grave-robbing hustler to find a steady stream of bodies to sell. Like any good criminal, the men would expand their brand by simply killing people and selling their bodies to anatomy labs. We won’t go into details, but if you’re looking for a pleasant read on this topic, the Wikipedia page on the Burke and Hare case will do the trick.
The story of the art of head transplantation begins in France shortly after the invention of the guillotine, and with many a Frenchmen’s desire to reanimate the severed heads of prisoners sentenced to death. The experiments these guys tried were insane, from injections with oxygenated blood to attaching the human heads to animals. The heads kept rolling for another hundred years, for in Soviet Russia in the 1950’s scientist Vladimir Demikhov successfully transplanted the heads of twenty puppies onto full-grown dogs. The dogs survived to eat, bark, and lick their own ass for between 2 and 6 days. In case you don’t believe us, there are photos published in his book Experimental Transplantation of Vital Organs. We haven’t included them because it’s possible you’re eating right now, or have eaten in the past, or might eat in the future. If you think this is something the would only happen in Soviet Russia, we would direct your attention to the July 1971 edition of Surgery in which an American scientist by the name of Dr. White performed a whole head transplant on a monkey.
Who knew skeletons had to worry about tooth stains? Pink teeth is a well-documented phenomenon that occurs when someone is strangled/asphyxiated / hung to death. This trauma often causes the blood vessels in the pulp cavity of the teeth rupture, leaving the teeth with a cheerful bubblegum pink tint. Google the photos while in a lecture hall if you’re looking to really gross out everyone in the six rows behind you, but be warned: you’ll never look at a kid with post-popsicle teeth without retching again.
Honore Fragonard was a sketchy French anatomt professor in the 1700s. He had a passion pickling corpses. Via a yet-to-be-understood method, he perserved hundreds of bodies and made elaborate, gruesome art pieces from the remains. Obtaining bodies from execution grounds or fresh graves, he would dissect and reassemble them, often in bizarre and (unsurprisingly) macabre poses. He didn’t stop at humans, either. For instance, some of his better-known pieces include a man with the the jaw of a donkey, some adorable dancing monkeys, and what can only be interpreted as an army of fetal humans astride fetal sheep surrounding a man riding a horse. It’s this dedication to his kitschy and old-timy Body Worlds exhibit that eventually got him fired from his job as a professor, because clearly he was batshit. Go figure.
Crash Test Dead Mummies
As a university student its easy to feel like you aren’t contributing anything to society, and this is probably true considering that there are cadavers that have more important day jobs than you. In most crash test videos we see well crafted state of the art dummies recording impacts, but have you ever considered how scientists know how must force a human chest can compress before your heart explodes? As testing on live humans would be considering unethical (at least according to some people) scientists use corpses. They strap these cadavers into the drivers seat to determine important things that ultimately keep you safe. They ask important questions like if an idiot in a 4×4 drives himself into a pole at 120km/hr, will his cranium shatter immediately, or will he survive for a few minutes to contemplate his own stupidity? Cadavers have also been used to test the effectiveness of land mind shoes that protect your feet from being blown off in the event you step on one. Scientists had initially used live goats for this purpose, but the shoes kept falling off their hooves and detonating the land mines.
Turns out killing your pregnant wife won’t necessarily prevent her from having the baby. In rare instances, the decomposing body of a pregnant woman can “give birth” to the fetus. As the gases build in the abdomen their pressure may expel the fetus through the birth canal. Imagine your surprise when you receive a letter for child support from beyond the grave! Deadbeat dads beware!
Human cannibalism for medicinal ailments goes back centuries. For instance, a noted cure for diabetes was drinking a cup full of urine from a public latrine. There was a catch though, the patient had to be tricked into drinking the urine. We wonder why? Speaking of tricks and treats, why not a try real, and authentic Halloween treat? Our favorite Halloween-time snack comes from the Middle East and a tasty treat you won’t find at your local grocery store: human mummy confection. We love to bake so we thought we would include how you can make your own human mummy confection. For a month you will only bathe and eat honey. After this period you will, apparently, shit pure honey. Soon after this, you’ll die, but this is where the real fun begins. Your “friends” will put you in a coffin filled with honey where you will decompose for roughly 100 years. Finally, willing consumers can buy cupfuls of your remains to drink! Rumor has it this candied confection will cure all ills!
Holy shit! You buried Grandma alive! You’re back in the cemetery a few weeks post-funeral to reclaim your inheritance (her wedding ring; the diamond just looked so…pawnable) and as soon as you crack open the casket you find Grandma’s mouth is wide open. She definitely looks like she was screaming when they put her 6 feet under, and you might have been drunk at the funeral, but you swear you would have remembered that happening. Now you feel sort of bad about waiting so long to steal her bling, maybe if you’d come back sooner you could’ve saved her! But fear not, in reality this is a normal decomposition process that has been scaring the shit out of grave robbers like yourself for centuries. Grandma hasn’t been screaming so much as had an all-natural, post-mortem facelift. As a body decomposes the skin tightens, which can pull back the jaw and give the appearance of a corpse frozen in a “death scream”. Fortunately, this means nothing more than that Grandma is rotting as expected and was probably good and dead when you buried her. That should give you the peace of mind you need to rebury the sweet old broad and head on down to the pawn shop.
If you’re as sick of Edward Cullen as we are, we have some tips for you all for preventing vampires from rising from their graves as per some good old European traditions. These practices were prevalent throughout the Western world, and are still common in some small villages in Eastern Europe where superstition surrounding burial still prevails due to a lack of understanding of human decomposition (and wifi to google stuff). There are many reasons a recently deceased person would be accused of vampirism, and as the body was usually dug back up to check if they were a vampire, normal decomposition processes, which can mimic the appearance of a person still being somewhat alive, usually threw the townsfolk into a tizzy. Here are some of our favorite ways to prevent the dead from rising, should you ever happen to find yourself in such a pinch:
1. Cut off the body’s head and place it at their feet. There are few problems that decapitation can’t solve.
2. Brick in mouth: this method usually consisted of cramming a brick or large rock into to oral cavity of the deceased. Supposedly, this prevented the corpse from eating its way out of the grave at night to terrorize and/or seduce the children.
3. Rearranging their bones: this seems fairly logical. It would be hard to put yourself back together to haunt the town with a foot where your hand should be.
4. Iron spikes: Sometimes if your crazy village mates were convinced you were going to return as the undead, they would shove railroad spikes or similar implements through your corpse as a means of preventing reanimation. Surely it would be tough to rise from the grave if you were nailed to it.
5. Poppy seeds: The most obscure and laughable method comes to use from Romania. Corpses accused of vampirism in this country were sometimes subjected to having a handful of poppy seeds thrown at their feet. Oh, the indecency! Apparently the logic behind this scheme was that vampires were simultaneously fascinated and terrible with math, and would be occupied all night counting the poppy seeds. This left them no time to haul their asses out of the grave for some proper peasant-stalking.
Sydney and Julia are cousins who share many things, but mostly morbid sense of humour and two expensive, useless degrees.