PDA

View Full Version : Corpse preservation/decomposition



efreysson
03-19-2018, 09:28 PM
I'm writing a fantasy setting inspired by Victorian London, and for story reasons I want to include a cultural tradition that corpses are only buried on the full moon. But this is before refrigeration and I think I may have grossly underestimated the rate of decomposition. My original plan was to have bodies kept in a chilly underground vault, either in wooden coffins or stone sarcophagi, but I don't know if that would do for a near-month.

The story reason for me wanting to do this is that a character gets turned into a vampire, but my setting's vamps only rise for the first time under the full moon. And that's a lot harder to do under six feet of dirt.

Any thoughts?

Alessandra Kelley
03-19-2018, 09:33 PM
Were there not icehouses?

frimble3
03-19-2018, 10:16 PM
.
The story reason for me wanting to do this is that a character gets turned into a vampire, but my setting's vamps only rise for the first time under the full moon. And that's a lot harder to do under six feet of dirt.

Any thoughts?
Well, why would there be a tradition of leaving the dead around for a month? Decomposition is a always happening. If vampires are known in your world, people would want their loved ones interred ASAP, with a stake through their hearts and garlic in their mouths. For it to be a tradition to leave the dead alone for a month, pretty much everybody would have to have a reason for doing it. And space. That's a lot of cold-rooms for the population of Victorian London.

I don't think it would be much harder to rise from under 6 feet of earth, especially if your vampires have the increased strength of some types of vampires. Whatever influence the moon's rays have could certainly reach underground. And let's not forget the 'super-human' strength some humans can tap into in an emergency, lifting cars of loved ones, etc. I could believe that waking up undead could trigger that.

Also, if burials are 'on' the full moon, and he has to sense the full moon to rise, well, it would be tragic if some busy gravedigger jumped the gun.

What sort of person is your vampire-to-be? If he's rich, and died suddenly, they might keep him 'on ice', so to speak, until his fancy tomb, or big elaborate funeral, was ready.
Or, move the death to nearer the full moon?

Enlightened
03-19-2018, 10:23 PM
You don't have to follow this, but this is something to do to work around your restrictions.... Bury only at night (forget about full moon). When the vampire emerges for the first time (from his grave), have him use mind control to get someone to come to the site and dig him up. That can be his first victim and feeding. The dug hole is a perfect dump site for the body. You can show humor in the vampire through whistling the "whistle while you work" song as he reburies the grave. Once the vampire is ID'd, people can dig up his grave and discover the victim.

MaeZe
03-19-2018, 10:57 PM
Mausoleum could solve the problem of being under dirt. This style would work:

Chicago: Beecher's century-old mausoleum (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-12-16/suburbs/ct-met-endangered-mausoleum-20131216_1_marble-preservationists-national-landmark)

Ecudor Mausoleum (http://www.sandiespsychicstones.com/TVI/traveler/GuayaquilCemetery2.jpg)

blackcat777
03-20-2018, 02:14 AM
Decomposition progresses very rapidly. I have some fun, fact-pact sources I'll share for your reference (I had a similar issue with my WIP), but:

WARNING IN ADVANCE IF YOU THINK THIS SUBJECT MATTER IS GROSS

.

.

.

.

.


Algor mortis is when the body begins to cool. Within the first hour, the body will lose two degrees in temperature. Then, every hour afterward, it will lose one more degree of temperature until it is the temperature of the environment it is in.


Rigor mortis is the stage most people are familiar with, if they know their CSI. It is when a dead person becomes stiff. It begins after three hours of death, reaching full stiffness after 12 hours. Then, three days after death, the body becomes soft again as it slowly decomposes. This can be a bad thing when it comes to processing meat, so the animal’s carcass is injected with an “alternating current” to prevent this from happening, thus preserving the quality of the meat.


Livor mortis is the next stage, when the blood begins to pool to the lowest part of the body. Since the body no longer combats gravity by pushing the blood around, the blood just resorts to falling down to the lowest level. This is not a pretty sight, as one can see here.

Livor mortis happens within six to twelve hours. The pattern of lividity can help medical professionals know the initial position of the body when the person died, and if the body had been moved around afterward (differing pooling of blood patterns).


Decomposition is the next stage — even more unsettling to look at than the prior stage. I have seen this stage first hand. The smell is unforgettable.

Then, bloat—or putrefaction occurs, marked by the production of vapors. The body’s cells are rupturing and breaking apart. The intestines push out and fall prey to distension. You will note a greenish color in the skin because of the sulfhaemoglobin forming in the blood. The skin breaks apart often and the insides purge out. Insect activity begins to take shape.


A fresh decomposition is called autolysis. It is the formation of liquids. That doesn’t even happen until the dead body is four days old.

Decay is marked by the breaking down of the body. Bacteria, fungi, and protozoa begin to move in, as insect and possibly animal activity begins to become more rampant. The darker the color of the body, the longer the person has been dead. Also evident are blisters or skin slippage.


Skeletonization or diagenesis is the final stage. The moisture in the body is lost. The bones are visually evident. Two years is typical in moderate temperature, whereas in hot climates like Africa, skeletonization may occur as quickly as in two weeks.

Temperature is the leading factor in the rate of decomposition; moisture only to a lesser degree. If a body is submerged under water or dirt, the body will decompose at a slower rate. Injuries also play an important role, as breaking of the skin invites insects and/or animals to hasten the process of decay.


Bones, in the first year of death begin to bleach and moss or algae may grow on them. After a decade, big cracks will form. According to this source, roots from nearby vegetation may grow into the bone mass, significant rodent gnawing will be present and the appearance of annual leaf falls may be evident.

More info on the four stages of decomposition - no pictures (http://www.aftermath.com/content/human-decomposition)

**WARNING** - This is the source quoted above, but **WARNING** for pictures (http://www.cvltnation.com/fucking-gross-stages-human-decomposition/)

Roxxsmom
03-20-2018, 02:43 AM
If you have a strong stomach (seriously, don't click these links if you are squeamish about dead bodies), check out the information (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/znw5y3/learning-to-read-corpses-at-the-texas-state-body-farm-1117) about the (http://fac.utk.edu/) various (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2235692/Inside-body-farm-corpses-left-outside-decompose-forensic-researchers-study.html) body (http://www.jeffersonbass.com/tour-the-body-farm.html) farms (https://science.howstuffworks.com/body-farm3.htm). There are videos too, and I think some of the facilities have live cams. This is a project where donated human (much superior to using pigs (https://www.sciencealert.com/pigs-may-not-be-the-most-amazing-forensic-tool-after-all-finds-body-farm-researchers)) corpses are allowed to decompose under varying conditions. This gives forensic scientists and police data they can use to assess how long ago a body may have died.

AwP_writer
03-20-2018, 06:01 AM
If being buried under 6' of dirt was a problem for a new vampire, then people wouldn't have bothered staking corpses suspected to be vampiric in the grave before burying it.

tnfalpha
03-20-2018, 02:01 PM
Here is some more grossness: salt. They'll be super pruney is all.

I feel like you could also just use embalming? But like embellish the science around it to suit your needs.

stephenf
03-20-2018, 10:14 PM
You could buy ice in Victorian London and have it delivered by cart. Put your body in a bath and fill it with ice. The winters back then were often very cold and lasted for months. It has been described as the little ice age and it was not unusual for ice fairs to be held on the frozen Thames. If you have an actual date, have a look at the weather at the time.

efreysson
03-21-2018, 02:03 AM
Mausoleum could solve the problem of being under dirt. This style would work:

Chicago: Beecher's century-old mausoleum (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-12-16/suburbs/ct-met-endangered-mausoleum-20131216_1_marble-preservationists-national-landmark)

Ecudor Mausoleum (http://www.sandiespsychicstones.com/TVI/traveler/GuayaquilCemetery2.jpg)

Yeah, I've thought about going with mausoleums. Any ideas of how well one preserves a body?


Well, why would there be a tradition of leaving the dead around for a month? Decomposition is a always happening. If vampires are known in your world, people would want their loved ones interred ASAP, with a stake through their hearts and garlic in their mouths. For it to be a tradition to leave the dead alone for a month, pretty much everybody would have to have a reason for doing it. And space. That's a lot of cold-rooms for the population of Victorian London.


Yeah. The more I think about it the more I feel I'm going to have to redesign this thing. Stuff like...


You could buy ice in Victorian London and have it delivered by cart. Put your body in a bath and fill it with ice. The winters back then were often very cold and lasted for months. It has been described as the little ice age and it was not unusual for ice fairs to be held on the frozen Thames. If you have an actual date, have a look at the weather at the time.


Here is some more grossness: salt. They'll be super pruney is all.

I feel like you could also just use embalming? But like embellish the science around it to suit your needs.

... just isn't practical on a large scale.

On the bright side I do like describing iconic imagery, and an undead clawing their way out of the ground certainly fits that.

Alessandra Kelley
03-21-2018, 03:40 AM
Yeah, I've thought about going with mausoleums. Any ideas of how well one preserves a body?



Yeah. The more I think about it the more I feel I'm going to have to redesign this thing. Stuff like...





... just isn't practical on a large scale.

On the bright side I do like describing iconic imagery, and an undead clawing their way out of the ground certainly fits that.

Please, “fingering”. :tongue

Quentin Nokov
03-29-2018, 05:47 PM
Check out Ask a Mortician on Youtube and review some of her Iconic Corpse videos. She discusses how certain corpses went under long and "secret" preservations. It might be helpful for your subject at hand.