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The_Ink_Goddess
01-02-2014, 10:37 PM
Hey, everybody!

So, yes: girl gets murdered by her sixteen-year-old sister in 1964. Girl's sister walls her up in the house and leaves her mummified body in the wall. Everybody thinks she disappeared in the woods. Does the rotting process smell? Is there a way to make it not smell?

buz
01-02-2014, 10:49 PM
Hey, everybody!

So, yes: girl gets murdered by her sixteen-year-old sister in 1964. Girl's sister walls her up in the house and leaves her mummified body in the wall. Everybody thinks she disappeared in the woods. Does the rotting process smell? Is there a way to make it not smell?

Can you clarify on the "mummified" bit...is it properly mummified? As in...not rotting...? ;)

ironmikezero
01-02-2014, 10:55 PM
Smell? ..uh, yes... Prevent the smell? ...not really, unless the deceased is sealed in some air-tight containment - think heavy duty plastic (like a body bag)... Plastic has been around commercially since the '40s, so it'll work for your story.

Buffysquirrel
01-02-2014, 10:55 PM
Once in my workplace a cat got into the basement and died. After a while, the process of decomposition made the cat's body burst open.

Did it smell?

It stank.

It pervaded the entire building. Everyone noticed it. Many people felt sick. The smell was vile. I can still conjure it up although I'd rather not....

There are ways to reduce the smell. Wrapping the body in plastic is an obvious one. Protecting the products of decomposition from exposure to the air means the smell can't be transmitted. Being inside the wall should offer limited protection as well. But you also have to consider flies.

Siri Kirpal
01-02-2014, 10:58 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

We once found a mummified mouse in a closet. It did not smell. But this was in San Diego. You won't get away with it in any moist environment. In a dry climate, maybe.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

cornflake
01-02-2014, 11:40 PM
Hey, everybody!

So, yes: girl gets murdered by her sixteen-year-old sister in 1964. Girl's sister walls her up in the house and leaves her mummified body in the wall. Everybody thinks she disappeared in the woods. Does the rotting process smell? Is there a way to make it not smell?

Like buz, I'm confused about the 'mummified' comment.

If you just mean leaves her dead body in the wall, it will smell like you wouldn't believe, and it's a smell that you cannot mistake for anything else, will permeate everything, and will linger for ages.

You may also have the problem of bodily fluids seeping through the wall and being visible.

If you do mean she was actually mummified in some way, that's different.

wendymarlowe
01-02-2014, 11:46 PM
A mummified body actually smells very little - it essentially turns into jerky. To do that, though, you need a VERY dry environment and a lot of luck to keep the mold/fungus/bugs away. Kitty litter is a particularly effective anti-smell and anti-moisture agent, although it would take an awful lot and I don't know if it was around back then. Mummification would also happen a lot faster if she was able to drain the blood and fluids from the body first, although that would leave telltale evidence in the drain somewhere.

Maryn
01-02-2014, 11:49 PM
It's also worth noting that where this story is set affects this enormously. I grew up in southern Arizona, where the dryness of the air and the heat can act as desiccating systems, rendering a corpse a dried leathery mass with no more smell than an aging leather coat. Usually this requires air circulation.

But in the absence of such conditions, you'll either need the dead person to be extremely well wrapped, enough that it contains both odors and liquids, or have the body be walled where there's always a consistent bad smell of a similar nature. Got an amateur taxidermist?

Maryn, agreeing the dead-thing smell is distinctive

Hoplite
01-02-2014, 11:50 PM
I'm not sure about this, but perhaps the stench could be avoided if the wall in question was aesthetic and had no openings such as ventilation, outlets, or any way for vapors to escape. It'd require some pretty good sealing at all connections.

shakeysix
01-02-2014, 11:56 PM
We had a very small cat die under our house. Noticeable stench? Oh yeah. You might read that garbage bags were invented in 1950 but as a kid born in 1950 I do not remember seeing them until late in my teens. Every Sunday evening my dad lined our garbage cans with the Sunday paper. Waxed paper or newspaper was used for almost everything in the kitchen.

Now there were big, heavy zipper bags for clothing. They hung from a hanger and could hold several wool suits, sweaters and coats over the summer months. No polyester then so we packed the clothes in with something called mothballs. A big garment bag and a box of mothballs might do the trick for you--s6

PS--just remembered a joke from my childhood: How do you find moth balls? You have to pull his tiny, little legs apart.

cornflake
01-03-2014, 12:12 AM
I'm not sure about this, but perhaps the stench could be avoided if the wall in question was aesthetic and had no openings such as ventilation, outlets, or any way for vapors to escape. It'd require some pretty good sealing at all connections.

I don't know what a residential, interior wall would be made of that'd prevent ventilation or seepage. Plaster is denser and harder than gypsum but it won't contain the smell, and blood will seep through, though that'll depend on the thickness and etc. of the wall.

jclarkdawe
01-03-2014, 01:10 AM
Reality is that a double body bag will not stop odor from a very ripe body. But not that many people know it. Take a couple of plastic tarps and then use Hefty bags to finish the job. Still will probably get some leakage of air, and some smell, but it will be at the level of a small dead animal in your wall.

Understand that decomposition and the associated smell is a bell curve, with a steeper rising slope to the worse state, and then a decline.

Understand that most interior walls are made with 2 x 4 construction, and don't have enough room for a body, having only a 3.5 inch gap between the sheet rock. You're looking at something in the 6 inch plus range to fit a human body, unless it is a very young child. This would normally mean moving an entire wall into a room.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

melindamusil
01-03-2014, 01:20 AM
I remember within the past few years, the body of a woman was discovered in the home of her mentally-ill son. Neighbors hadn't smelled (or suspected) anything. Coroner said her body was placed in front of an air conditioning unit and was mummified.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/02/justice/new-york-body-false-wall/
In this story the body was hidden for 28 years behind a false wall in a basement. Body had been wrapped in heavy duty plastic and then sealed in a plastic bin. Investigators suspect that, plus the false wall, was enough to mask the scent of decomposition.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/23/man-found-dead-8-years-suicide-france_n_4151183.html
This is a recent one of a guy whose mummified body was found 8 years after he'd committed suicide. No comment on how the scent was concealed.

Other thoughts:
-It might help if the body/false wall is in a not-highly-trafficked part of the house.
-Regardless of the smell (or absence of smell, if it's well-concealed), your murderess could be paranoid about putting nice-smelling things in that corner (like air fresheners, although in the sixties it might be flowers or potpourri) so that no one will suspect a scent.

ETA: I realize this might depend a lot on your story/setting, but if the story is set in/near an apartment or another shared area, people might tend to blame the smell on the neighbors.

ETA ETA:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/1035089/posts
This is a story about a guy who somehow got himself wedged into the wall of a nightclub. Neighbors noticed the smell but blamed it on spilled beer and stale cigarette smoke. (I'm having way too much fun looking up stories about dead bodies!)

Russell Secord
01-03-2014, 04:05 AM
Even a dead mouse can make your whole house stink, not just as a faint suspicion of an odor but as an almost physical presence.

Dead spaces between walls are specifically designed to let moisture drain. Otherwise you get mold, rot, discoloration, and other damage. Odors would escape from those spaces as well.

It might work if there's an air current, preferably warm and dry, running between the walls to carry away the smell and mummify the body. Maybe there's a furnace in the basement, and it's a hard winter.

Another possibility is that the house has an addition, so that there's an exterior wall with another wall built next to it. There could be some venting to the outside or to the attic to carry away the smell. The sister might have dumped the body from the attic down the crack between the old structure and the new.

melindamusil
01-03-2014, 04:42 AM
Hey, everybody!

So, yes: girl gets murdered by her sixteen-year-old sister in 1964. Girl's sister walls her up in the house and leaves her mummified body in the wall. Everybody thinks she disappeared in the woods. Does the rotting process smell? Is there a way to make it not smell?

I just realized the question that I think we've all overlooked: do you WANT it to smell? Is the body discovered relatively soon after the murder, or is the body left undiscovered until 50 years later when the new homeowners remodel?

MDSchafer
01-03-2014, 05:30 AM
If there was a massive amount of salt maybe. John Paul Jones had his body preserved inside an led coffin covered in alcohol.

DeadCities
01-03-2014, 11:44 AM
Vacuum-Seal that MoFo' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeoLNewvrDA

Fruitbat
01-03-2014, 12:19 PM
Something died behind my living room wall, probably a mouse. I heard it scratching behind the wall the day before. The smell was horrible for several days, nobody wanted to be anywhere near that room. The pest control people said they they didn't bother with that because they can't tell where it is so they'd have to tear out walls and ceiling and it just wasn't worth it. A couple of flies got into the house and swarmed around that area. After a few days the smell went away. Ew, I didn't want to remember that. :p

Buffysquirrel
01-03-2014, 05:32 PM
I took my bedroom apart trying to find the mouse the cat had brought in and got bored with. Ugh, the smell.

ClareGreen
01-03-2014, 08:24 PM
It's one of those smells that a) you can't ignore, and b) once you've worked out what's causing it, you know exactly what it is every single time you encounter it. It still reaches in, grabs the back of my throat and pulls even if I've already been working near it for a week.

That said, if there's no air circulation and no goo escaping to where there is, there's very little to no smell. Lifting that tent bag was not a plan, lo those many years ago...

WeaselFire
01-03-2014, 08:54 PM
Lime will help to dry the body, but you really aren't going to get around the smell. There's all kinds of data about bodies and what happens, you need to pick the data that fits the needs of your plot.

Jeff

iLion
01-04-2014, 12:52 AM
And note this...
IF the smell becomes as bad as it commonly does (i.e., nothing hindering the normal decay process, etc.), then it can even become virtually impossible to remove that odor from the immediate surroundings. As noted by others here, it is definite and awful.

I worked as embalmer a few yrs in the 70s, and witnessed more than one otherwise good car dragged to the junk yard, because the smell was too tenacious after several weeks in hot sun. There may be newer ways to clean now, but my point is that the odor can be unbelievably intense and will saturate walls and furniture to its ruin.

In the end, though, WeaselFire has a great point about finding the data that fits your purposes. You can probably construct essentially any scenario concerning smell and decay as long as you can base it on science and fact, because there are many conditions that can alter the normal decay process and it is likely available info online.

kaitie
01-04-2014, 12:53 AM
I think you'd do better concreting her in somewhere if you want to hide her, or have her actually hidden in the woods or somewhere. A grave deep enough would keep her pretty hidden from animals. Or she could drop her down a well. People might think the girl had fallen in, so you'd even have a plausible deniability issue for the murder.

I think hiding her in a wall would be far too risky. There's so much chance of something going wrong and her smelling. And if I had a missing kid and suddenly my house smelled like something dead, you can bet I'd be ripping apart walls to find out why.

And honestly, it doesn't seem like the most realistic choice for a girl that age. Plastering a wall is a really tough chore. Drywall is actually pretty heavy, and it would be really tough for her to hold in place and nail by herself. Then you have the issue of most people not being able to float and tape a wall professionally, meaning that if she was trying to hide the new wall it would be really difficult. It would almost certainly look unprofessional and obvious. And really, the work that goes into that sort of thing is extensive enough that I'd doubt a 16 year old with no experience could manage it on her own. Even I'd have a tough time building a wall on my own, and I have proper tools and tons of experience.

Trebor1415
01-04-2014, 12:55 AM
There are plenty of real world examples of bodies being left or even hidden in houses and not found for some times.

Yes, in most normal circumstances, a body will decay and will smell, quite badly.

However, there are circumstances that can mitigate the smell. As has been pointed out, a hot, dry, environment can dry out (essentially mummify) the body, which will reduce the odor.

There are also things a person hiding a body in a wall can do to reduce the odor.

Do some Googling and you'll find real life examples.

Dandroid
01-04-2014, 01:51 AM
Went to a house where the occupant hadn't been seen for three days....could smell them as I walked up the drive...

jaksen
01-04-2014, 02:30 AM
I currently have a dead mouse or squirrel either in my bedroom closet or in the wall behind the closet and yikes, it's terrific. I go in and spray every few hours and it being winter, and the temperature about five degrees (Fahrenheit), throwing open all the windows is not an option.

(I am slowly going through all the stuff in the closet, looking inside shoes, behind stacks of books, etc. It is AWFUL.)

ironmikezero
01-04-2014, 02:42 AM
Jaksen, get a dog to help you find the culprit... no kidding, they can pinpoint the source quickly.

The_Ink_Goddess
01-04-2014, 05:14 AM
thanks, guys! I don't want it to smell, and it's an old house - standard dark, creepy, old house in the middle of nowhere - so it probably just makes more sense for her to bury it in the woods. Because it's a family saga, and the disappearance (murder) hangs over them for 40 years, and they make a big deal out of not finding the body, so I couldn't resist the idea of it being in the house all along. But probably not, thanks for the reality check!

jclarkdawe
01-04-2014, 05:21 AM
With a lot of old houses, they have a dirt floor in the basement. Bury her there.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

NeuroGlide
01-04-2014, 06:36 AM
Hey, everybody!

So, yes: girl gets murdered by her sixteen-year-old sister in 1964. Girl's sister walls her up in the house and leaves her mummified body in the wall. Everybody thinks she disappeared in the woods. Does the rotting process smell? Is there a way to make it not smell?

Yea, like everyone is saying, only was to avoid serious stench is by dessication. Hard to imanage a sixteen year old doing that by intent. If you really want it in the house, have her disappear at the start of winter. Sister tosses her in the old coal chute which is right behind the (then) new oil heater. The basement itself is musty and old so it's got a decompty kinda smell, the cold keeps down her smell to tolerable levels, the winter air is dry, and the oil heater bakes her body dry. When spring rolls around, she's dry enough not to stand out, except when water seeps in after a heavy rain.

Trebor1415
01-04-2014, 07:44 AM
With a lot of old houses, they have a dirt floor in the basement. Bury her there.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe


Good thought. My Grandpa's farmhouse was built in 1906. The basement had a dirt floor, which was later upgrade to concrete, but there was still a dirt crawlspace in the basement. Perfect place for a body.