Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to Deal with the Dead





Today's post has to do with the most terrible topic of all: THE DEAD. More specifically, how do you know if someone's really dead? This may seem like a pretty simple question, but before the twentieth century, it wasn't always all that easy to tell. Back then, doctors didn't have our machines and computers. All they could do was take a person's pulse or monitor her breath. Sometimes it worked--and sometimes, horribly, it didn't.

Nobody knows how many people were buried before they were truly dead. But legends told of coffins exhumed to reveal scratches on the inside of the lid--or corpses with long, flowing beards. Eventually, people became so paranoid that they began to build "safety coffins." These were coffins that were rigged with breathing pipes or ropes attached to aboveground bells. (According to a fascinating article at vermonter.com, these bells may have inspired the phrases, "saved by the bell" and "dead ringer.")

Then there was the option chosen by Vermonter Timothy Smith, who died in 1893. He had a window installed in his underground crypt, which would allow him to look up at the world if he found himself buried alive. He even had a bell placed in his hand so he could alert passersby. Now imagine you're in the graveyard one night and you hear a bell begin to ring . . .




Not gruesome enough to merit my warning? There's another topic I'd like to address today. It's called post-mortem photography. Those who've seen the movie The Others (one of my favorites) will know what I'm talking about. Those of you who haven't . . . hold onto your socks.

A strange practice arose shortly after the first cameras were invented in the 1830s. People realized that a photograph would be the perfect way to remember a deceased loved one. Unfortunately, they weren't always able to take the pictures before the loved one died. So many had them taken afterwards. The results, as you might imagine, are unbelievably creepy. In fact, they're so creepy that I'm not going to post any on the blog. Those who are interested can look into the subject on the PBS website. But please make sure that neither you--nor your parents--will be too disturbed by what you see!

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, i had heard of the grave bells and dead things but the photos... not a pretty picture. no pun intended. btw, i'm liltomboyblue.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sry ot up to my expectations I thought you would "make kitty scared" however I already know all that stuff and more, if you want to learn about truly gross things read yuck! history

11:55 AM  
Anonymous nellie said...

I know "saved by the bell", but I don't know "dead ringer". Explanation?

12:12 PM  
Blogger Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City said...

Anonymous: Ah, such high expectations. Have you checked out the photos? I believe I said gruesome, not gross. If you want gross, try this . . . http://tinyurl.com/48d9nr

Enjoy!

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok... this might be a little weird, but... AWESOME!!!!! For some reason (I don't even know why myself) I find that amazingly interesting!!! I'll have to look at the pictures...

~Skyla

1:26 PM  
Blogger Kitty said...

THAT WAS SOO COOL!! *evil laughter* Time to add this to my weird collection of stories. *D This kinda reminds me of in Empress's Tomb when Oona go stuck in the coffin... But the toad story's strange. 40 minuets in a dog's stomach without being digested? OoO wow

1:31 PM  
Anonymous ss (ahh! a snake!) chick said...

i LOVE The Others!!! It was so confusingly awesome! I wonmder what it would be like to be digested by a snake whole. ya know? without being chewed up by the snake. hmmm... i bet it would smell HORRIBLY bad. is there anyone been eaten by a snake and has lived who would care to tell me what it was like???? ~ ^
0 0
~
didn't think so...

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the toad isn't that gross, impressive though!

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Patsee said...

I think it's depressing, not disturbing.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you heard of taking pictures of people after they've been in their grave?





MWA HA HA HA

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Slovakia said...

pretty gross, but i can't find the pictures. any key words i can use in the searches of the site???

2:53 PM  
Blogger Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City said...

Slovakia: PBS postmortem photography?

3:03 PM  
Anonymous spiffy said...

Wow! I live sort of close to his grave! Maybe I could visit if I ever head in that direction.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Invisible Turtle said...

I have to say I'm disappointed. I already knew about the safety graves (I shall be buried with a cell phone and teddy bear) and taking photos of dead people isn't the weirdest thing to do with them. The weirdest would have to be grinding them up after two thousand years and using them as medicine (or their hands as decorations, hint hint.)

9:25 PM  
Blogger Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City said...

Clearly you haven't seen the pictures. And yes, there are lots of nasty things to do with dead bodies.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Sekrit7 said...

Are you done writing the 3rd book yet? When is it coming out?

11:11 PM  
Blogger Sekrit7 said...

And by the way, EW!

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Raph said...

That's really interesting. And thankfully, not too gross for me. But gross enough to maintain interest.
Excellent post, Kirsten. ^^

2:54 AM  
Blogger Random Irregular said...

Ooo, I've read all about this when I was researching catacombs and graves. Did you know, that because there weren't enough dead bodies for doctors to 'practice' on, they(doctors) would pay people to steal fresh corpses. Many realtives would be so afraid that their loved one would end up on a dissection table, that they would install these devices you've just mentioned.
I have som many more spooky grave/death stories:)
For R.E we went to the cemetry(when learning about death). It was the coolest thing I've ever done. Gave me self reflecting time.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous rage said...

Your all wrong. Digging up your dead mother(after you murdered her) and hiding her in a fruit celler, then dressing up like her and murdering random girls, and talking to her. That is the worst thing to do with dead people. Besides eating them. *gag*

4:59 PM  
Blogger Random Irregular said...

I've just seen the pictures, and only the first one wask kind of spooky. The rest were...normal to me. Am I un/insensitive now?

5:07 AM  
Blogger Irregular Kiki said...

Yes! I have watched 'The Others'. I love it so much! I love scary movies! This was with Nicole Kidman, I remember the photos of the dead people, but I watched it when I was young so I didn't know what they were.
How can I view the pictures? (what's the website?)

12:37 AM  
Anonymous E.J.R. said...

I have never seen that movie . . .
but that is not so gross . . .
at least they did not leave them in there to die . . .

7:42 PM  

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