Realm of the Deceased: 40 Captivating Facts About Dead Bodies


26Jim Wilson

Jim Wilson

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

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. 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.

31William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror

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.

32. 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.

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

34. 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.

35. 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.

36Tutankhamun’s Malaria

Tutankhamun’s Malaria

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.

37. 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.

38. 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.”

39. 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.

40. 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.