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jclarkdawe
03-03-2009, 07:09 AM
Now this might all be my imagination, but I seem to remember it from various movies watched many years ago.

Mechanically to secure the top of a coffin, you would only need six screws or nails -- one in each corner and one in the middle of the sides. Unless you were trying to pull a warped piece of wood into place, it is solidly sealed. It's not a weight bearing piece (the bottom would require significantly more screws or nails). And once it was in the ground, the weight of the dirt would further hold the top in place.

(Yes, I am aware that for certain religions no metal is used. Same principal applies.)

Now I suppose this equation changes somewhat someplace like New Orleans, where bodies are not buried.

But I seem to remember that coffin tops have a crapload of nails holding them down. Way more than you would logically need. I'm wondering if my memory is accurate and if so, if anyone knows why?

I know the two times I've been around caskets being opened (With good funeral homes, you confirm the identity of the dead if it's a closed casket funeral before going to the graveyard, just in case. I've had to do it twice.), the opening seemed more involved and stronger than it would be required from the mechanical point of view.

Any thoughts?

Jim Clark-Dawe

alleycat
03-03-2009, 07:24 AM
Just a pure guess . . .

I suppose they used more nail in a wooden coffin than absolutely necessary to make the coffin as water-tight as possible. It might not be logical (considering that the wood is eventually going to rot), but then there's a lot about funerals and burials that aren't completely logical. Or, it could have been that it just "seemed right" to nail the coffin around the edges every 6 inches or so; kind of a "we're packing Uncle Joe off to eternity, we might as well do it right" sort of thing.

These days they try to sell everyone a vault to make the grave even more water-tight.

IceCreamEmpress
03-03-2009, 07:48 AM
I think people fasten coffins securely to discourage grave robbery--in the past, to discourage both Burke and Hare types and those who would loot jewelry, and in the present, to discourage Ed Gein types and those who would loot jewelry.

In the Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, which is an above-ground mausoleum complex, several successful and attempted grave robberies are discussed in the tourist leaflets.

Kathie Freeman
03-03-2009, 08:45 PM
I assume you are talking about a time in the past. It seems to me that very few coffins today would be nailed at all, most using bolt-type mechanical fasteners.

DeleyanLee
03-03-2009, 09:44 PM
But I seem to remember that coffin tops have a crapload of nails holding them down. Way more than you would logically need. I'm wondering if my memory is accurate and if so, if anyone knows why?

Supersition/fear is what leaps to my mind--secure the lid of the coffin and be certain that the dead does not find their way out. This is one of the reasons that the corpse was occasionally laid on its belly in the coffin--the fear was that it would attempt to claw its way to the surface, but actually dig itself deeper into the earth because of the way it's facing.

Depends on the culture. In New Orleans, with its strong voodoo background, that could be a major reason.

scarletpeaches
03-03-2009, 09:45 PM
To stop 'em getting out. :D