50 Weird Facts about Dead Bodies

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26Defining Death

Doctors still have no concrete idea how to define death. Science has observed “beating heart corpses” that can urinate; their bodies rumble, their wounds heal; they can blush and sweat, and can even have babies. Yet, clinically, they are dead. One method to determine death has won a Nobel Prize.


27. As of 2018, most of the early cryonics companies that froze dead bodies for future revival had gone out of business, and their stored corpses have been thawed and disposed of.


28. In the 1880s, coffins were equipped with a “cemetery gun” to kill grave robbers. The gun would be set up in front of the grave with 3 tripwires attached to it. If someone triggered a tripwire the gun would turn and fire in the direction or whatever tripwire was pulled, killing the person.


29. Abraham Lincoln’s corpse was sent on a two-week funeral tour across America, shown openly to thousands. In the course of the trip, the body visibly decomposed, bloated, and darkened. In New York City alone, the body was seen by over 150,000 and exposed to the air for 23 hours straight.


30. North Korean “Ghost Ships” often wash up on Japanese shores full of corpses. They are often always fisherman trying to fulfill government-mandated unattainable quotas of fish to catch. They risk staying out long and straying too far from shore on their boats with unreliable engines. When the engine dies at sea far from help, everyone starves and the boat drifts toward Japan because of currents/wind.


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31Apocalypse Now

The production of Apocalypse Now had actual dead bodies on set, from someone who supplied bodies to medical schools for autopsies. It turned out he was a grave robber.


32. In 2010, during a heatwave Siberian bears began to dig up cemeteries and eat human corpses.


33. “Jim Wilson” is the American Airlines code for coffin or cadaver shipments.


34. Charles Byrne (aka “The Irish Giant”) fearing grave robbers would steal and dissect his body after his death, requested in 1783 that his coffin be weighed down and buried at the bottom of the sea. Before burial, his corpse was stolen, dissected and his skeleton is still on display to this day.


35. In 2011, it was discovered by police that the 26 life-sized “dolls” that Russian academic Anatoly Moskvin kept in his apartment each contained a child’s corpse. He had dug them up, planning to resurrect them through magic, and built the dolls to give them a body for their resurrection.


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36Tri-State Crematory Scandal

In 2002, a scandal involving the Tri-State Crematory in Georgia garnered national attention. It was revealed that its owner would just dump the corpses all over his ranch instead of cremating them. Investigators found over 300 decomposing bodies on his property.


37. The Cadaver Synod was the posthumous trial of Pope Formosus. His corpse was dug up and found guilty, and his papacy voided. His corpse was then thrown in the River Tiber but became a source of miracles. His trial was then overturned and he was reburied, but a later pope upheld the conviction.


38. William the Conqueror’s body exploded at his funeral. He had died due to an intestinal infection from his horse rearing and throwing him against his saddle pommel. At his funeral, as his too large body was being forced into a too-small coffin, his abdomen burst. Mourners ran to escape the stench.


39. The skeleton found by Tuco in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” inside the wrong coffin at Sad Hill cemetery, was a real human skeleton. A deceased Spanish actress wrote in her will she wanted to act even after her death.


40. In the 1880s and 1890s, a camel roamed the Arizona desert for a decade with a corpse strapped to its back.


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41Carl Tanzler

A man in Florida man named Carl Tanzler dug up the body of the “love of his life” Elena “Helen” Milagro de Hoyos, essentially taxidermied her, and then lived with her corpse in his home for 7 years.


42. The World’s oldest mummies are not from Egypt. They are from the Chincorro people of the Atacama Desert, present-day Chile and these mummies date back to 5000 B.C., nearly 2000 years before the Egyptians. These mummies are now turning into gelatinous black slime due to bacterial growth associated with increasing humidity.


43. The oldest genetic proof of malaria was found in King Tutankhamun’s body. He had more than one strain of malaria, indicating that he had multiple infections throughout his life. The strains belonged to the most virulent and deadly form of the disease.


44. In the early 20th century, doctors had a biased understanding of human anatomy because of only having access to the cadavers of poor people. In anatomy classes, they were used to the enlarged adrenal glands (which were actually caused by stress from poverty) and thought this was the normal size.


45. Anatomist Antonio Valsalva sometimes tasted the fluids of cadavers he performed autopsies on. One of his notes reads, “Gangrenous pus does not taste good...leaving the tongue-tingling unpleasantly for the better part of the day.”


46Galveston Hurricane Deaths

After the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, there were too many bodies to bury, so the corpses were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly thereafter the bodies began to wash back onshore and survivors constructed funeral pyres to burn the corpses. The fires burned day and night for weeks.


47. The University of Tennessee’s Anthropological Research Facility (“The Body Farm”) covers 2.5 acres surrounded by a barbed-wire fence and is used to study body decomposition as well as aid in a criminal investigation.


48. Dogs would often dig up bodies and tombs in ancient Egypt, which was a problem because the dead and their belongings were sacred. So, the Egyptians gave the god Anubis a canine head and made him “protector of the dead.”


49. In 1846, explorer John Torrington perished during an expedition to find the Northwest Passage. When his corpse was exhumed 138 years later, it was almost perfectly preserved - eyes wide open, clothing intact, and limbs so flexible that moving him felt like moving someone unconscious rather than dead.


50. There is an area on Mount Everest called “Rainbow Valley”, named for the multicolored down jackets and climbing gear attached to the numerous corpses littered along the hillside.

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