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thewakingself
02-05-2011, 11:13 AM
I’ve got a character who needs to bury a bunch of people* very, very deep. And she needs to do it by hand, by herself, and pretty quickly, because a) she’s Amish, and b) it’s the slow zombie apocalypse.

I'm thinking my MC needs a shovel, a ladder, and a bucket. Maybe some sort of pulley system and a wheelbarrow. She's used to farm labor, but the digging needs to wear her out pretty thoroughly.

So. Thoughts? What am I missing? How long would it take to dig at least six feet deep?** There seems to be plenty of information on IRL mass graves, but--not surprisingly--how to go about digging them and making them realistic.

Thanks! :D

* By a bunch, I mean like twenty of the recent dearly departed.

** Zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, it’d take me around a week. I’m kind of a wimp. :)

alleycat
02-05-2011, 11:32 AM
I used to think I couldn't be surprised; boy, was I wrong. Amish zombies. Well, okay.

Where is the setting? There are a lot of "dlitches" in the rural areas of many parts of the country. Could you make them Mennonites? They have tractors. Someone with a tractor could bury a lot of people that way. And no, this isn't anecdotal evidence; until a couple of years ago I owned 55 acres in the country.

dpaterso
02-05-2011, 01:16 PM
Just how strong is she?! Digging a big 6-foot-deep grave big enough to hold a "bunch" of corpses would be the end of me, I'm sure, even if the ground was soft and relatively rock-free. I've no idea how many days the effort would take. But I'd maybe think about a slanting ramp approach rather than digging straight down and needing a ladder to climb back out.

-Derek

shaldna
02-05-2011, 02:02 PM
It's gonna take an hour to two for one person to dig a six foot, standard size grave by hand - assuming they are used to the work and don't need to take a break.

The best bet is to find a ditch, or well and fill it in. Personally I would go for a well or sink hole, and dump the bodies then fill it in with stones - to keep the zombies down.

thewakingself
02-05-2011, 02:04 PM
@alleycat. LOL. I blame the February Sci-Fi SYW prompt. And/or my twisted imagination. :) It's for a short, but something longer is itching to be written.

As for the location, I'm thinking upstate rural IN. Flat and desolate. But anything farm-like would would work, really. Mennonites in TN and KY are possible, but I worried about the hills and trees and the bedrock. If you go deep enough, you'd hit it, right?

How deep did you dig with your tractor, and how? (Not trying to be deliberately obtuse, but did you need to use special instruments?) I actually really like the idea of having a tractor--sounds like I need to do more research on the different religious divisions!

thewakingself
02-05-2011, 02:08 PM
@dpaterso I'm thinking she's used to physical labor, working on the farm and all--but I'm coming up blank. She obviously can't lift what a man can, and she's all alone.

So, I could probably work in something about the grave having been started a few days earlier. By a tractor. Maybe.

And excellent point about the "slanting down" approach. You always see people in B-movies digging people out, but they make it look so easy. I've never shoveled anything bigger than horse manure, and even that was tough.

LIVIN
02-05-2011, 04:20 PM
It's gonna take an hour to two for one person to dig a six foot, standard size grave by hand - assuming they are used to the work and don't need to take a break.


I TOTALLY disagree. This estimate seems way too low to me. Most likely, you'll hit rocks or roots or something that makes the digging more difficult. You might be able to expedite the process with the use of water... or course, then you'd have to wait for it to drain.

Marlys
02-05-2011, 05:36 PM
Here's an Indiana geology site (http://www.earlham.edu/~scottna/Hydrology.htm)--from the looks of it, 6 feet wouldn't take you to bedrock almost anywhere in the state, which has anywhere from 20-150 feet of glacial till. The water table will vary, though--there's a fair amount of flood plain in the state, so maybe you shouldn't put her too close to a river.

I'd echo those who are suggesting using an existing feature. If this is zombie apocalypse time and she's in an Amish community, an abandoned farm would have not only a handy-dandy well, but also an outhouse for her to dump the corpses in. An outhouse pit could be (according to my archaeologist husband) as deep as 8-10 feet and could add some yucky fun. Dragging the corpses around, manipulating them into the hole, and filling it in with rocks, debris, and dirt would easily tire her out sufficiently.

Greenify13
02-05-2011, 06:09 PM
Does she live near a lake, or other deep waters? A few heavy rocks, rope, some other materials...the biggest grave...ever. It could also make an interesting scene compared to digging up a grave...but maybe that's just me? :D

jclarkdawe
02-05-2011, 06:17 PM
Starting point is you outline the area in which you want to dig. Scratch a line in the dirt so you know where you need to throw the dirt. Start in the center with digging, throwing the dirt to the outside of the line and go down about a foot. Work your way to the outside. Hopefully you'll be able to throw the dirt to the outside of your digging area and won't have to move it twice.

Once you've gone down a foot, go back to the center and start all over again. You should be able to fling the dirt outside your digging area. Remember to leave one corner clear of the removed dirt. You should be able to get down about two feet with this technique. Banks will now be about a foot and a half high.

Now it starts to get difficult. Starting at the outside, go down another level. Dirt will have to be flung more carefully and further. A long handled shovel really helps here. Work your way slowly into the center. As you go deeper, you'll have to start walking the shovelfuls in the center to the outside edge before flinging. There will also be more lift involved.

Learning curve is to discover quickly that the banks need to be thrown back further than you thought, but it will usually work out. Now when I dig holes I put the banks about six feet minimum away when I start, so that I can maintain a working surface around the hole.

This technique is good for a hole about fifteen by fifteen to about six feet deep. Depth does very depending upon the height of the shoveler. One corner is maintained as the exit/entry area, with the edges being a bit less vertical.

Wheelbarrows, buckets, and pulleys aren't used until you get into holes larger than fifteen by fifteen. Digging a ten by ten hole is going to take you quite a while. One cubic foot of dirt weighs roughly sixty pounds, if I remember correctly. A hole ten by ten by six contains roughly 36,000 pounds of dirt or roughly 1800 tons. (Maintaining a parking space for your car in Boston, MA this year has entailed removing over two tons of snow. Weight mounts up quickly.)

Rocks, clay, and roots will impact your digging as well. There's a short story by Stephen Crane, if I remember right, on digging and filling in a grave that you might want to look at.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

PeterL
02-05-2011, 07:01 PM
She will have to use a backhoe attachment on her tractor. Depending on the size of the tractor and the type of backhoe, she could dig more than ten feet deep. You didn't specify how many people will be going in. Since there won't be coffins, I would think that a hole the size of a normal grave would easily fit two people per layer. It would take maybe half an hour to dig a hole that size, but it would get slower for larger holes, because the dirt would have to be moved farther away. Was she planning to hide the hole byt replacing the sod? That takes work at the beginning.

Becky Black
02-05-2011, 07:42 PM
Looks at shovel.
Looks at can of something flammable and a book of matches.
Makes obvious choice. :D

Okay, so if you can't burn them, then yeah, I'd go for a well, sinkhole, mineshaft or something else that she can toss them in and collapse down on top of them. Digging a mass grave herself sounds like it would just take way too long and be exhausting. Just make sure to set up this hole in the ground earlier in the story and nobody can accuse you of cheating.

shaldna
02-05-2011, 08:58 PM
I TOTALLY disagree. This estimate seems way too low to me. Most likely, you'll hit rocks or roots or something that makes the digging more difficult. You might be able to expedite the process with the use of water... or course, then you'd have to wait for it to drain.

haha. says the person who has never had to dig a drainage ditch by hand.

Seriously though, considering the dimensions for one person are likely to be six by two, that's 12 square feet, by six feet deep is 72 square feet. Six feet deep is not that deep, most topsoil is two feet, and below that the earth is more tightly packed. Assuming that you don't hit a rock layer, which is unlikely at 6 feet, you should be fine. Roots are a problem only if you bury in woodland.


And assuming that it takes three or four shovel loads to shift a share foot, you are still only looking at maybe 350 shovel loads, and that shouldn't take more than 2 hours.

alleycat
02-05-2011, 10:41 PM
@alleycat. LOL. I blame the February Sci-Fi SYW prompt. And/or my twisted imagination. :) It's for a short, but something longer is itching to be written.

As for the location, I'm thinking upstate rural IN. Flat and desolate. But anything farm-like would would work, really. Mennonites in TN and KY are possible, but I worried about the hills and trees and the bedrock. If you go deep enough, you'd hit it, right?

How deep did you dig with your tractor, and how? (Not trying to be deliberately obtuse, but did you need to use special instruments?) I actually really like the idea of having a tractor--sounds like I need to do more research on the different religious divisions!
It depends. There was places in Tennessee and Kentucky were the rock is right below the surface, and other places where it's several feet down.

What I meant was there are often ditches and gullies and dry stream beds (sometimes called "spring creeks") in rural areas; either naturally formed, or by water runoff over a long period of time. In the old days, people used them as a dump; almost every farmer had one somewhere on his place. This was back before there was trash pickup, dumpsters, and landfills. Someone could put several bodies in one and fill it up with loose dirt and top it with stones. It might wash away over a long period of time, but by then it wouldn't matter.

But maybe an even better idea is to have her find a sink hole or abandoned well. They are fairly common in many parts of the country.

There is a large Mennonite community in Guthrie, KY, which is almost right at the TN/KY state line. There is an Amish community somewhere in TN, but can't remember where at the moment.

thewakingself
02-06-2011, 12:35 AM
Wow, there's a ton of great information here.

I'd worried about it being realistic for her to do all the digging in the amount of time she has. Looks like I might need to do some more research on whether or not the character can use a tractor and a backhoe. Then again, I'd never even considered using ponds, sinkholes, or gullies. Or a well (or an outhouse, omg, how gross and how very awesome). Simple, yet effective for the disposal of all your closest infected friends and relatives. :D

Thanks so much, you all! *sprinkles reps through thread*

alleycat
02-06-2011, 12:57 AM
An outhouse wouldn't work for a "bunch of people" unless it was an outhouse built for the Jolly Green Giant. ;-)

Farms often have old wells and cisterns no longer used. If you happen to like that idea, I can tell you more.

PeterL
02-06-2011, 01:10 AM
Wow, there's a ton of great information here.

I'd worried about it being realistic for her to do all the digging in the amount of time she has. Looks like I might need to do some more research on whether or not the character can use a tractor and a backhoe. Then again, I'd never even considered using ponds, sinkholes, or gullies. Or a well (or an outhouse, omg, how gross and how very awesome). Simple, yet effective for the disposal of all your closest infected friends and relatives. :D


An outhouse wouldn't work, but an abandoned cesspool or septic tank would be excellent.

There is also the matter of how many bodies are being disposed of. Amass burial of three is very different from a mass burial of fifty.

cornetto
02-06-2011, 01:41 AM
I vote for abandoned well, cistern or sink hole. A sink hole would be handy because it can be written to be any size you need. Sink holes are also often attatched to caves, which give your zombies the opportunity of eventual escape (if you want them to escape) or to live on as cave zombies to be used in another story.

Chase
02-06-2011, 01:50 AM
As suggested by others, on the farm in the 1940s and '50s, we burnt refuse down to as much ash as possible, then emptied the 55-gallon burn barrels into old washes we wanted to fill. If animal carcasses went in, Granddad poured in Diesel to light up. Lime also was sprinkled on top to hasten decomposition. Wheelbarrows of fill dirt and rocks from the fields went on top. One of my chores was to manage this small-scale landfill operation.

thewakingself
02-06-2011, 04:06 AM
An outhouse wouldn't work for a "bunch of people" unless it was an outhouse built for the Jolly Green Giant. ;-)

:ROFL:Excellent point, heh.


Farms often have old wells and cisterns no longer used. If you happen to like that idea, I can tell you more.

I did a brief search and it looks like either of those, or what PeterL suggested, might work. But I kinda want her to do more than plop the bodies in, then swing a lid shut. And she needs to worry it might fail. (Let's just say things don't end well.)


There is also the matter of how many bodies are being disposed of. Amass burial of three is very different from a mass burial of fifty.

I should've clarified that straight away, sorry! Around twenty or so.

Cornetto, the cave thing's pretty brilliant because there are a ton of zombies shuffling around already, and they need somewhere to go during the day. It would be horrifying to realize you're living atop a huge nest of your undead friends and family. :)

Chase, thanks! The lime detail is perfect.

I'm definitely now leaning toward some sort of gully or sinkhole that she'd need to fill. Even if I go with an unused / broken well or cistern-like thing, maybe it opens into a cave, and that's how they get out to eat their daily quota of brains. Thanks again, you all!!

Marlys
02-06-2011, 05:11 AM
An outhouse wouldn't work for a "bunch of people" unless it was an outhouse built for the Jolly Green Giant. ;-)

Guessing you haven't seen many? Like I said, they can be 8-10 feet deep, and my husband has dug privies as big as 8X8 square. Family-style outhouses can have several holes of different sizes in a row, with a long trench underneath--only a couple feet wide, but several feet long. Not all are that large, but if you're imagining something the diameter of a toilet, you're not thinking big enough. 3-4 feet on a side and 4-6 feet deep would take care of a number of bodies.

ETA: Maybe not 20, though--didn't realize it was that many! I'd vote for the sinkhole option, then.

frimble3
02-06-2011, 07:19 AM
If it's the Zombie Apocolypse, and she's the only person left in the area, how about a neighbouring house? One with a full-height basement, or a root-cellar. There's your depth - 8-9 feet. Haul the bodies in, collapse the (presumably wood-frame building) on top with the tractor, set it on fire. Even if, in your scenario, fire won't damage zombies, (which seems unlikely) it'll provide a preliminary layer of ash, charcoal and rubble. Break out the tractor again, and shove dirt and rocks on top.
Although the caves sound like a good way to have a zombie break-out.

thothguard51
02-06-2011, 07:56 AM
Iíve got a character who needs to bury a bunch of people very, very deep. And she needs to do it by hand, by herself, and pretty quickly, because a) sheís Amish, and b) itís the slow zombie apocalypse.

I'm thinking my MC needs a shovel, a ladder, and a bucket. Maybe some sort of pulley system and a wheelbarrow. She's used to farm labor, but the digging needs to wear her out pretty thoroughly.

So. Thoughts? What am I missing? How long would it take to dig at least six feet deep?* There seems to be plenty of information on IRL mass graves, but--not surprisingly--how to go about digging them and making them realistic.

Thanks! :D

*Zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, itíd take me around a week. Iím kind of a wimp. :)


DHS just contacted me and asked what I know about this member and a possible mass grave.

I told them its a zombie thing.

They told me zombies have rights too and a mass grave without permits is illegal...

Your character does have the proper permits, right?

thewakingself
02-06-2011, 10:54 AM
ETA: Maybe not 20, though--didn't realize it was that many! I'd vote for the sinkhole option, then.

I just fixed my original post. Very sorry about not being clear enough!

Honestly, when you mentioned the outhouse, the first thing that came to mind (DON'T CLICK IF YOU HAVE TRIGGERS) was this, but bigger.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIrehaK5Jks)
It would've been the perfect olfactory nightmare for an unflappable character, but maybe the sinkhole would be better in terms of space. Either way, I should probably use something my character's familiar with, even in passing.

Frimble3: Yet another thing I'd never considered. There are a couple pesky younger sisters and neighbors to dispatch before this mass grave deal...

Throthgard51: Hey, now. DHS should probably take a closer look at the people helping me out here. This is AW's Experts and Interviewees section, after all. I mean, seriously, I've received nothing but a thread chock full of devious answers. *gives everyone here the hairy eyeball*

;)

Yeah, this world's way past law. These zombies are stinky, infectious creatures who would like nothing more than to eat your face. Once they taste human flesh, they're essentially immortal. Good point, though. :)

Becky Black
02-06-2011, 11:25 AM
Throthgard51: Hey, now. DHS should probably take a closer look at the people helping me out here. This is AW's Experts and Interviewees section, after all. I mean, seriously, I've received nothing but a thread chock full of devious answers. *gives everyone here the hairy eyeball*

;)



Aside from actual terrorists writers must have THE most suspicious interent search histories. We're always asking stuff like "How could I take over a nuclear power station?" or "What's the best way to dispose of a body with no trace?" :D

LIVIN
02-07-2011, 02:11 AM
haha. says the person who has never had to dig a drainage ditch by hand.


Really? Actually, I've been paid to dig such ditches, previously. I hit rock within two feet of depth.

Anyway... as someone who has lived in a location where my primary method of going to the bathroom was using an outhouse... based on outhouses I've used... 20 bodies could fit into 2-3 of the bigger outhouses I've experienced.

KQ800
02-11-2011, 02:05 AM
Someone with a tractor could bury a lot of people that way. And no, this isn't anecdotal evidence; until a couple of years ago I owned 55 acres in the country.

This passage ought to get an award for "Most suspicious statement ever."

jaksen
02-11-2011, 02:18 AM
omg bury them?

I can see her standing there, shovel in hand, realizing what an impossible task it is.

Then she burns them.

thewakingself
02-11-2011, 03:29 AM
omg bury them?

I can see her standing there, shovel in hand, realizing what an impossible task it is.

Then she burns them.

:D

Initially, I was kinda approaching that from two angles. They may be totally illogical, though.

1) From the research I've done so far, I haven't seen much about Amish cremation. Maybe I'm not digging deep enough (*rimshot*), but it seems like the Ordnung might restrict it somewhat--or at least look sideways at it. I think it's up to the local community to set what specific rules they follow, so I'm not sure if cremation or the like might equal eternal damnation.

2) My zombie lore. It's a little different from your typical bite-n-turn (they rise after a certain amount of time), and the couple dozen people she's burying are infected. It's using a little handwavium, I admit, but I was thinking the last thing she needs is infected ashes and smoke flying all over the place.

I don't know? Ugh. *glares at little 3000 word short that's turning into a logistical nightmare*

jaksen
02-11-2011, 03:51 AM
If she knows they are zombies, if she knows they will 'come back,' then she must burn them. Any other decision is sort of dopey imo. She'd put a scarf over her mouth and get upwind of the burn. She's probably seen this done before when brush is being burned and land being cleared. (I'm not Amish, but I've seen this done in rural New England.)

However, if she hasn't a clue (about their potential zombie-ness or how they can just unbury themselves and start crawling/staggering about), and is simply trying to provide as good a burial as she can, under extreme circumstances, AND she knows her religion more or less forbids cremation, then yes, she'd try to bury them. In that instance, many of the suggestions on this thread seem possible and plausible.

thewakingself
02-11-2011, 06:04 AM
But-but... if she burns them, I wouldn't have a story.

Totally joking! :D You have a very fair point, and it's something I've tried really hard to logic around in order to suspend disbelief. Which almost never bodes well for a story.

You're right that she'd be TSTL if she buried them without extraordinary reasons. Your second scenario's more along the lines of what I was thinking--but while she's not 100% logical (and she's not a reliable narrator), she does know some will try to crawl out. However, she's pretty sure she's doomed no matter what happens (and she so is).

I'm not very good at writing shorts yet, so this may end up being an exercise I either trunk forever or set aside until I can fix and make into something longer. SYW will probably confirm what I'm leaning toward.

I should probably stop rambling now. Thanks so much for helping me brainstorm. :)

jaksen
02-11-2011, 08:00 PM
This could still be a workable story, and realistic (in the zombie world of realism, that is.)

Have her miss a few. Or she burns them here and there. They're too widespread for her to drag all to one huge bonfire. (Original name: bonefire, btw.)

So she burns some in a cornfield, a few more in the old pasture, and then realizes...

She missed a few and where the heck are they?

thewakingself
02-12-2011, 01:48 AM
Hm, I like it. It'll take a pretty extensive rewrite, but it'll probably end up a stronger story.

Now I just need to figure out how long it would take twenty bodies to completely immolate... and the best kind of accelerant to use. :D

frimble3
02-12-2011, 11:06 AM
Call your local Agriculture Department, or a vetrinarian, or indeed, an old farmer, and ask how they would burn a herd of pigs with hoof-and-mouth, in the 'olden days'.
Or something else contagious.
'Olden days' so nobody suggests a nice truck to the disposal plant, instead of the home-made possibilities, 'contagious' so they know you want complete disposal, and 'pigs' so you don't get the funny looks you'd get with 'zombies'. :)

GregS
02-12-2011, 04:24 PM
So, first, as a devotee of all things zombie (and, thus, a potential reader) I beg you not to use the shovel method. It's completely unrealistic. Just moving the bodies would exhaust most people. Especially if they're larger than your MC.

Primary vote would be for any of the existing hole ideas.

Second vote would be for horse-drawn shovel (which would definitely be in the village).

If you're looking for an alternative...can Amish use explosives?

Also, as a reminder, it's way easier to bury parts than whole people.

jaksen
02-12-2011, 06:58 PM
@ thewaking self:

She would be as clueless as you are when doing all this. (No insult intended.)

She would use what she knows, and has seen in her own experience, to do this task. She'd probably drag a few bodies together as best she could. Say a prayer over them, then shake a gasoline can over the bodies, light and walk away, staying upwind. How long it takes is not important here. (But if she's seen burns before of anything, she knows enough to keep the pile in an area surrounded by dirt, not hay, grass or old cornstalks.)

She moves on and does the same chore in another field or pasture, wherever.

Then she goes to do the last two-three bodies and omg, where's Mum? I covered her with a blanket and saved her for last, and little Joey and Farmer Travis? I left them here and now...except for an old boot and Mum's bonnet...

Where are they?

Sorry, getting too much involved in your story. :D

thewakingself
02-13-2011, 01:56 AM
frimble--great idea. I don't want to get the whole: "You want to do what to what?!" :)

And GregS, I think you're right. The more I've thought about it, the more unrealistic I've realized it would be. Then Jim mentioned how much earth she'd have to move... yeah.

I'm not sure about the Amish and explosives, but I'm definitely filing it away for a future use (like the real zombie apocalypse ;)). Maybe I should've titled the thread "Best Methods of Zombie Disposal."

jaksen, none taken whatsoever. :D This is why I love AW--you people keep my characters (and me) from doing something so obviously silly.

Those details and ideas are great. I need to have a pretty hard think about my plot now, but this idea's turned up some truly bizarre possibilities. Like sati (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_%28practice%29)? Yikes.

Thanks again, you all!

jclarkdawe
02-13-2011, 02:34 AM
One thing you might want to think about for your plot is the learning curve you're going through. Start her out with the lofty idea of digging a pit, then start finding out how hard that is. So she ditches that idea for an old cellar hole, but then find out how hard it is to drag bodies. And I don't know how fast zombies decompose, but you could have her pull an arm off (A little bit of decomposition in a human can result in separation and no, I did not find this out from personal experience. But I do know a fire fighter this happened to.). And then when she goes to bury them in the cellar hole, she discovers she has no dirt to throw on it.

And so on and so forth.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

jaksen
02-13-2011, 03:46 AM
I so want to read this when it's done.

:D

frimble3
02-14-2011, 04:35 AM
Aha! Not sati itself, but a funeral pyre! If there is equipment being used, move the farm to one on the edge of the forest, and, after arranging the bodies in a shallow pit, have the MC use a Bobcat or similar small front end loader to dump the winter wood supply (maye they sell cordwood and have a lot stacked up) over the bodies. Then light'er up.

jaksen
02-14-2011, 06:03 AM
Aha! Not sati itself, but a funeral pyre! If there is equipment being used, move the farm to one on the edge of the forest, and, after arranging the bodies in a shallow pit, have the MC use a Bobcat or similar small front end loader to dump the winter wood supply (maye they sell cordwood and have a lot stacked up) over the bodies. Then light'er up.


Love it!

I so so so so want to read this story. :D

debirlfan
02-14-2011, 09:27 AM
Just kicking in my 02 worth...

When everyone around you turns into the walking, rotting, brain eating dead, it's a pretty safe assumption that your god (whichever one you believe in) has forsaken you. I can definitely picture Amish girl abandoning her teachings and finding any available sort of machinery she can to help her deal with the hordes.

Of course, having Amish girl who's never so much as driven a car attempt to operate a backhoe may lead to all sorts of other problems.

BTW - you are keeping in mind that she would presumably have no concept of the term zombies, or even of such a creature, right? I don't think the Amish watch a lot of horror movies.

frimble3
02-14-2011, 11:26 AM
When everyone around you turns into the walking, rotting, brain eating dead, it's a pretty safe assumption that your god (whichever one you believe in) has forsaken you. I can definitely picture Amish girl abandoning her teachings.
And what is probably the largest wood-frame building in the area? That's right, she drags the bodies into the basement and burns the church around them!