gilding the lily

If you’ve got a couple of extra dead bodies hanging around (hey, what do I really know about you guys anyway?) ,  here’s a few ideas on what to do with them

When D.H. Lawrence died his lover Frieda had his ashes tipped into a concrete mixer and incorporated into her new mantlepiece.

In 1891 French surgeon Dr Varlot developed a method of preserving corpses by covering them with a thin layer or metal (in effect, he was electroplating the dead). Dr Varlot’s technique involved making the body conductive by exposing it to silver nitrate, then immersing it in a galvanic bath of copper sulphate, producing a millimeter thick coating of copper “a brilliant copper finish or exceptional strength and durability.”

image found here

In ancient Rome, where human blood was prescribed for epilepsy, epileptics hung around near the exit gates of public arenas so they could drink the blood of slain gladiators as they were dragged out.

Mosaic of the Gladiators found here

British farmers were “processing” human corpses to create raw materials long before the Nazis thought of it. On November 18, 1822 the Observer reported that the Napoleonic battlefields of Leipzig, Austerlitz and Waterloo had been “swept alike of the bones of the hero and the horse which he rode” and that hundreds of tons of bones had been shipped to Yorkshire bone-grinders to make fertilizer for farmers. After the siege of Plevna in 1877 a newspaper casually reported that “30 tons of human bones, comprising of 30,000 skeletons, have just landed at Bristol from Plevna.”

found at Married To The Sea

When the mistress of 19th century novelist Eugene Sue died, she willed him her skin, with instructions that he should bind a book with it….. He did.

I did a quick check on this mistress to be sure the story was correct. Apparently Eugene used the skin from her lily white shoulders to bind a complete set of his books. Maybe he wasn’t a very prolific writer.

Image found here

“A contributor to The Lion in 1829 revealed the instructions he had left in his will: his body was to be anatomized and the skull given to the Phrenological Society, the skin was to be tanned and used to upholster an armchair, his bones were to be crafted into knife handles and buttons and his flesh was to be used to fertilise a rose bush.

Watch carved from bone found here

Surgeon Richard Selzer muses about, but has probably not formalized, his plans for the treatment of his own remains after death “Upon the wall of some quiet library, ensconce my skull. Place oil and a wick in my brainpan. And there let me light with endless affection the pages of books for men to read.

skull light found here

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30 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d quite like to be fertilizer for a rose bush, eventually. In the meantime I need a skull lamp – but you knew that didn’t you, Nursie?

  2. Must you be dead to have that copper placed all over you? It looks like an absolutely funky get-up!

    • That’s not copper, it’s gold paint…. looks good though doesn’t it?

  3. I’m with Sabrina, your bronzed girlfriend is totally hot.

  4. This is enlightening and uplifting. The former Mrs Affer told me she was going ‘to dance on my grave.’ I hope so: I have specified that I am to be buried at sea…….

  5. I’d like them to take some DNA from me before I die. After I die, I want them to make a clone of me so I can keep coming back. It’s impossible for me to fathom ceasing to exist.

    • I’m with Scott. What would the world do without me?

      • I, for one, will miss you both!

  6. i’ve instructed my children that i’m to be cremated. ashes will be available to anyone who wants a portion – provided they display them in a paper cup, with a handwritten sign that says “daisyfae’s ash hole”…

  7. If I die before I hit 50 – the bronzing

    Otherwise commit me to ashes!

  8. I love the idea of the tiny book bound in lily white shoulder skin – or maybe she was huge!

  9. I have a feeling that the TG will just tip me over the cliff at the bottom of the garden …… that’s fine with me …….

  10. I want to be laid out on top of a little island mesa I’ve picked out in the U.S. Southwest, there to be picked clean by the Turkey Vultures. I can only dream that Condors will get involved. Ahhh… the sun, the rain the dessicating wind. What a great skeleton it will make- almost seven feet long with several gold teeth and a titanium hip. So much fun for the lucky hikers who find it! I can’t decide what to inscribe on the rock left with me. I think I want a corny old-west poem along the lines of “…here lies Lonesome Burt, got this far when his foot got hurt…”

    Sal Fubsorbed

  11. wow… making yourself into a sofa? I guess you could will it to the family member you hated the most? This is some eerie stuff!

    I plan to be cremated but have yet to settle on where I want to be placed. This might inspire me to get thinking!

  12. Every time I go to the Met I make sure to visit the mummies. The whole idea that these corpses were taken out of their crypt and are now on display is gruesome fun.

    Mrs. Wife has instructions to spread my ashed over my favorite locals; a few select neighborhoods in NYC, the New Jersey shore beach and a casino floor. But NOT the suburbs.

    • I was starting to have visions of your wife throwing your ashes at the post man and the woman in the corner shop. 😀

  13. If I live long enough for organic computing to become a reality, then I’d like my kids to put my brain in a jar and use it for extra processing power and additional memory.

    Probably beats using monkey brains! (I hope I can compete with the monkey brains). Wouldn’t that be awful if you didn’t? Your kids would say, “I’m thinking about taking Dad out of the network. He’s slowing things down and all the chimps are pissed.” Fricken humiliating!

  14. Recycling is a good thing.

    13 Characters from Rose and Prince Brendan

  15. Personally, I want to be sprinkled.

    I don’t want to be cremated, though. I want to be hurled naked and whole out of a helicopter over rush hour traffic.

  16. I will have to pass this on to Husband in case I don’t make it through this disgusting bronchitis. He can get some real tips here on what to do with me once I expire. I’m sort of partial to the guilding effect. But I see that he could also own a set of freckled books. 🙂

  17. I will now forever see Yorkshire in a different light.

  18. Fascinating post, Nursemyra. I’ll have to revist the plans for my own remains. Having my ashes fired out of a cannon just seems kind of mundane now.

  19. Dead Bodies make good garden fertilizer

  20. i suppose it would be wasteful to let a good body go to… um… waste.
    i don’t care what you do to me when i’m dead.
    just don’t use me to scare the cats.

  21. I always wanted to be run through a compost grinder and mixed into my flower beds, but suppose that would be pretty messy. So the next best thing is six feet under in a winding sheet and let the worms crawl in and out. I like the lying out on a mesa for the turkey vultures idea a lot, though. I’m afraid my puny little 5’6″ would not be so interesting for hikers, there are no metal bits. Yet.

  22. h damn i just realised it’s friday!!! Better get cracking on my ‘costume’ :p

  23. What about Soylent Green? That’s made of people.


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