Monday, July 12, 2010

What Jeanne Adams Taught Me About Dead Body Disposal

"Don't take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive." Elbert Hubbard

Over the weekend, the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America ( invited author Jeanne Adams to speak. I had the awesome opportunity to attend this "lively" and enthusiastic presentation of Drowned Dames, Mauled Men, and Crispy Critters: A Body Disposal Primer for Writers. Ms. Adams ( became a writer after working in the funeral business for several years. Now she's the author of thrilling suspense and magical romance. Look for her latest, Deadly Little Secrets, to hit the shelves September 1st!

I learned quite a few things that I'll be applying to my writing. One of my books involves a shooting, a coroner, a mortuary and a funeral. So this workshop was rather timely for me, and Ms. Adams was eager to answer any and all questions!

Here are a few tidbits of interest I learned:

  • Coffin vs. Casket -- There is a difference! A coffin is an eight sided "Dracula Box." Caskets came into vogue around the 1930's. That's when the coffin evolved into a furniture grade item (case--casket).
  • Best ways of natural body disposal include sharks, alligators and crocodiles.
  • Donating your body to a Research Facility -- This is harder than you think! The facility has to want your body. If you're about 97, chances are you're not wanted. A thirty year old has a better chance.
  • Full postmortem vs. limited autopsy -- Full postmortem involves the removal of the brain and all internal organs. Limited autopsy only involves the removal of one organ.
  • Embalming -- Head has to be elevated (to rest on pillow later in casket) arms have to be elevated into position (such as crossed on chest). Once the embalming fluid is in, the corpse won't move.
  • Open Casket vs. Closed-- Some families do want an open casket, even when the deceased has been disfigured (i.e. gunshot wound), and the reconstruction doesn't look that great. If the funeral home deems the appearance too inappropriate, they won't allow it, but will instead refer the family to a different funeral home.
  • Cremated Remains -- In the "biz" known as "cremains."
  • Scattering of Ashes -- Illegal at sea.

Hope you've found these little bits of body disposal trivia informative. What I've shared barely scratches the surface of Ms. Adams presentation. So if you ever have the chance to go, don't miss out! Be sure to click on her website link above!

Any thoughts of your own on body disposal?

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1 comment:

Newt Livesay said...

Interesting. I was raised up in a family that had numerous uncles, and cousins who were morticians. Besides being a writer, I dwell in numerous endeavors that bring me into close contacts with some rather morbid individuals. A couple of my close friends are pathologist who work with the dead daily. As a side note they told me that right now they are getting an average of 12 people per day in the system due to drug overdoses, murders, etc. Now is that scary? Anyway, the disposition of human remains is a very interesting concept that i feel would be a great synopsis for a novel. While living in California I had a storage unit rented. In the same complex the police one day found over 35 embalmed bodies all stacked neatly inside. It all traced back to a funeral home in L. A. & the Georgetown massacre. I transgress, anyway I enjoyed the article, and wish I could have set in.