Show Mobile Navigation

15 Ways We Handle The Dead

John Grigsby . . . Comments

Human beings, it would seem, have a fascination with death. While most of us would tend to agree that it is something best avoided, it also holds a sense of wonder for us. As the short story “The Body” by Stephen King (later made into the film Stand by Me) graphically illustrates, even as children, we are drawn by the allure of the dead. Just consider how many ways we have of saying that someone has died; Wikipedia counts at least 80, and there are doubtless dozens more.

But nowhere is our fascination with death exemplified as much as how we treat our dead. In most Western countries, death is celebrated with a (often solemn) ceremony, and the deceased is interred in a necropolis, a city of the dead (more colloquially known as a graveyard or cemetery). The burial site is often given a marker or memorial so the deceased may be remembered by future visitors to the site. Of course, funeral rites vary from place to place, but in most cases, great care and ceremony are involved.

Here I present (in no particular order) the 15 most common means of putting someone’s mortal remains to rest.



Screen shot 2010-10-30 at 3.08.07 PM.png

Aquamation is the most environment-friendly way of disposal of human bodies. The process involves the rapid disintegration of the human body into high quality fertilizers. In comparison with cremation, about 10% of the energy is used, and all of the associated pollution is avoided.

With Aquamation, an individual body is gently placed in a clean, stainless steel vessel. A combination of water flow, temperature (~90C) and alkalinity are used to accelerate the natural course of tissue hydrolysis. Typically the process takes about four hours to complete.



Screen shot 2010-10-30 at 3.09.10 PM.png

Burial is the act of interring a person or object in the ground, and is probably the simplest and most common method of disposing of a body.
Burial is generally accepted to be one of the earliest detectable forms of religious practice, and many hominid remains have been discovered interred with grave goods, or with obvious signs of ceremony. Even today, most burials are presided over by a religious figure, and in many cultures they are conducted with great reverence.

In some cultures, exactly how one is buried may make all the difference. Christian burials, for example, often demand that the body be laid flat, with arms and legs extended and aligned east-west, with the head at the western end of the grave. This is to allow them to view the coming of Christ on Judgment day. In Islam, the head is pointed toward and the face turned to Mecca. Warriors in some ancient cultures were interred upright, and an upside down position is typically symbolic of suicides, or as a punishment.

It is interesting to note that humans are not alone in their practice of burying the dead, either. Chimpanzees and elephants have been observed to cover dead family members with leaves and branches. An elephant that trampled a mother and child buried the remains under a pile of leaves.


Burial at Sea


Burial at sea is the term used for the procedure of disposing of human remains in the ocean. Many cultures have regulations to make burial at sea accessible, and it is fast becoming a popular choice. In the United States, ashes must be scattered no less than three nautical miles from the shore, and bodies given over to the sea must be buried in locations of at least 600 feet depth.

Traditionally, the service is conducted by the captain or commanding officer of the ship or aircraft. Possibilities include burial in a weighted casket, burial in an urn, being sewn into sailcloth or scattering the cremated remains. Burial at sea by aircraft is normally done only with cremated remains. It is also possible to have the ashes mixed with concrete to form an artificial reef. This gives the deceased a form of immortality by allowing their remains to contribute to an entire ecosystem.

Most major religions permit burial at sea, and some have very specific rituals concerning it. Islam and Judaism both prefer burials on land, but both have allowances for maritime burials, should the need (or desire) arise.




Entombment is the act of placing human remains in a structurally enclosed space, or burial chamber. This differs from burial in that the body is not consigned directly to the earth, but rather is kept within a specially designed sealed chamber. There are many different forms of tombs, from mausoleums (specifically built for this purpose), to elaborate (and often decorative) family crypts, to a simple cave with a sealed entrance. A mausoleum is typically an above-ground structure, but a tomb may also be an underground chamber.

Tombs may be designed for singular use, or may serve to house the remains of several generations. Individual remains within a tomb are often sealed in coffins or sarcophagi, though in some cases they are placed in interment niches. Tombs may belong to families, religious organizations or even entire cities. Catacombs, such as the famed Parisian catacombs, are a form of tomb (as well as a mass grave), and in some cases, as with the Capuchin Catacombs of Palmero, serve as macabre tourist attractions.




Dismemberment involves cutting, tearing, pulling, wrenching or otherwise removing, the limbs of some creature. It is typically committed after death, for a specific purpose, but on occasion has been the cause of death.

Until the late 19th Century, hanging, drawing and quartering was a common punishment for high treason. This involved the offender being dragged through the streets by a horse while tied to a hurdle, then being hanged by the neck until nearly dead (but certainly still alive), having the vital organs removed from the abdomen and burned in front of them (males were typically castrated at this time, as well, and their genitals also burned), then being decapitated and the body cut into four pieces. The head and pieces were then typically boiled and displayed as a warning to others. In the Netherlands and Belgium, those convicted of regicide had their arms and legs tied to horses and the abdomen sliced open.

In modern times, the most likely reasons for dismemberment are to hide the identity of the deceased, or to make the corpse more accessible for transport or fitting into tight spaces. Thus, it is typically performed postmortem. Because fingerprints, hair samples, facial modeling and toe prints can all be used to indicate identity, there are good reasons why many murderers take the extra time to do this.

Dismemberment has also been practiced in the past on the bodies of Catholic saints, as their earthly remains are considered to be holy relics.




Cremation is the process of reducing dead bodies to basic chemical compounds in the form of gases and bone fragments. This is most often performed in a crematorium, though some cultures, such as India, do practice open-air cremation. Generally, temperatures of no less than 1500oF are required to ensure complete disintegration.

After the process is complete, the dry bone fragments that remain are swept out of the retort (the chamber in which the body is immolated) and passed through a cremulator. This machine grinds the bones into a fine, sand-like powder.
In some cultures or regions, pulverization may be performed by hand. These “ashes” are then provided to the family to be kept, scattered or interred in a traditional grave.

In Japanese and Thai funeral traditions, the bones are not pulverized (unless requested by the deceased). Instead, family members sift through the remains and remove the bones with special chopsticks intended for this purpose. There is a great deal of ceremony involved in this process. The bones of the feet are picked first, with the bones of the head being placed in the urn last. This is done so that the deceased will not be upside down in the urn. The urn is then kept in a place of honor or a small shrine within the home.


Space Burial


In the late years of the 20th Century, it became the vogue to be “buried in space,” that is, to have a small part of the cremated remains placed into a capsule (about the size of a tube of lipstick) and launched into space using a rocket. Since 2004, there have been about 150 space burials.

This option is not commonly chosen, as it can be quite expensive and only one company currently specializes in providing this service. In most cases, the remains are fired into Earth orbit, though some have been launched into other trajectories, including to the moon, Pluto, and deep space. Famous people who have been “buried” in space include James Doohan (“Scotty” of Star Trek fame), Gene Roddenberry (creator of the aforementioned Star Trek), Timothy Leary (American writer, psychologist, and drug campaigner), Clyde Tombaugh (American astronomer and discoverer of Pluto), Dr. Eugene Shoemaker (Astronomer and co-discoverer of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9), and Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper, Jr. (American astronaut and one of the original Mercury Seven pilots).




The Egyptians are perhaps the best-known adherents of this process (although they are far from the only ones), in which a corpse has its skin and organs preserved, by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity or lack of air. The oldest mummy found to date was a decapitated head that dates back to 6000 BC. The earliest Egyptian mummy dates back to about 3300 BC.

The Egyptian mummification process is well-known to modern science, through opportunities to study mummies from that culture, and by means of references from Egyptian and other classical accounts, as well as paintings in tombs that demonstrate the process. In short, the internal organs are removed and dried out using natron, and are then placed either in canopic jars, or else made into four packages to be reinserted into the body cavity. The brain is scrambled by means of a hook run up through the nasal cavity, then pulled out through the nose and discarded. The heart was considered to be the organ associated with intelligence and life force.

The body cavity would then be washed out with spiced palm wine and filled with dry natron gum resin and vegetable matter. It was then placed in a bath of natron and left for as long as 70 days. This would dehydrate the body and better preserve the skin. The body cavity was then excavated and refilled with permanent stuffing, and, often, the viscera packages. The abdominal incision was closed, the nostrils plugged with wax, and the body anointed with oils and gum resins. The remains would then be wrapped in layers of linen bandages, between which amulets were inserted to guard the deceased from danger and evil.

But it is also possible for a body to undergo natural mummification. The extreme cold of a glacier in the Ötztal Alps resulted in the mummification of a hunter who lived about 5,300 years ago, now known as Ötzi the Iceman. Bog bodies, who were victims of murder or ritual sacrifice, are a common find in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia Denmark.




Also known as anthropophagy, cannibalism has been recorded throughout history and continues to be practiced even today. Specifically, it is the act of humans eating other humans. If humans are specifically killed to be eaten, it is called homicidal cannibalism. If the practice is restricted to those already dead, it is called necro-cannibalism. There are two kinds of cannibalistic social behavior: endocannibalism (the act of consuming humans from the same community) and exocannibalism (eating humans from other communities).

Cannibalism may be practiced for a number of reasons. Among primitive peoples, it was often believed that consuming an individual’s flesh could grant their abilities to the cannibal. Cannibalism might also be performed simply because the cannibal enjoys the taste, as a form of insult to the dead, or to honor them.

Cannibalism has long served as a recurrent theme in myth and legend, dating back to Ancient Greece, with stories of Cronus, an elder god who was said to have devoured his children. Baba Yaga is a famous Russian cannibal, and the Brothers Grimm related the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which two young children, left in the woods to die by their parents, find a cottage made of cake and gingerbread. The building turns out to be the residence of a cannibalistic hag who enjoys the tender flesh of young children and plans to cook and eat the pair, but is slain by the cleverness of the children.




Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals who can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future. Because, in the United States, cryonics can only be legally performed on humans after they have been pronounced legally dead, procedures ideally begin within minutes of cardiac arrest and use cryoprotectants to prevent ice formation during cryopreservation. However, the idea of cryonics also includes the preservation of people after longer post-mortem delays because of the possibility that brain structures encoding memory and personality may still persist or be inferable. Whether sufficient brain information still exists for cryonics to work under some preservation conditions may be intrinsically unprovable by present knowledge. Most proponents of cryonics, therefore, see it as a speculative intervention with prospects for success that vary widely depending on circumstances.

Unfortunately, current methods are clumsy and far from perfect, and must be undertaken with the hope that a future society that can revive and cure the body might also be able to repair the damage done to cells and body structures by the freezing process. Certain chemicals can be utilized to offset the effects, but some of these are highly toxic and, unless purged from the body before revivication, the effort may be rendered pointless.




Dissolution is a tried-and-true favorite of those who really want to make certain that remains are never found: simply dissolve the body in a strong solvent, such as lye or hydrochloric acid. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

While boiling lye will definitely render a victim unrecognizable in a matter of a few hours, it doesn’t do the job completely. Bits of bone, teeth and any unnatural parts (such as pacemakers) are left behind. Even a single tooth can contain enough DNA to identify a victim and lead the police to your door. That is, if the strong smell of lye doesn’t alert them first. Such methods have been used in the United States for almost two decades, to dispose of animal carcasses. Now, it’s being considered as an alternative to burial.

The process is called alkaline hydrolysis and uses lye, 300-degree heat and 60 pounds of pressure per square inch to destroy bodies, using big stainless-steel cylinders that are similar to pressure cookers. A straining device catches things like teeth, bits of bone and the aforementioned inorganic entities. Bones and teeth are crushed to a fine powder and offered to the family in the same manner as ashes. The rest of the body turns into a viscous brown fluid with the consistency of motor oil and a strong smell of ammonia. This is simply washed down the drain.




Exposure is not typically practiced intentionally in the West today. More often, it results from an accident where someone dies in an isolated location and the body goes unnoticed for a period of time. However, there are people who dispose of bodies in this manner on a regular basis.

Tibetan sky burial (known as a jahtor ) is the ritual dissection of the body, which is then laid out for the animals or the elements to dispose of. Tibet is a mountainous land where the soil is too rocky to dig graves and there is a scarcity of fuel for cremation, so sky burial arose as a logical alternative. Here’s how it works:

After being sent on their way with ceremony, the remains of the deceased are toted up to a designated location, where the body is laid out (typically naked).
Then the rogyapas (body-breakers) go to work. Flesh is stripped from bones, limbs are hacked away and the whole is ground up and sometimes mixed with tsampa (a mixture of barley flour, tea, and yak butter or milk) and offered to the vultures (which have learned to keep watch on the traditional burial site). The rogyapas do not go about their task with somber ritual, but rather they laugh, joke and chat as in any other manual labor.


Mass Grave


When expedience is an issue, as is often the case with a plague or a disaster, a mass grave may be used. A mass grave is simply a singular location in which multiple human remains are interred. Mass graves are common as a result of wars, plagues, famine and disasters, when health concerns become an issue and it would be unwise to wait for each body to be identified and given the proper rites. Mass burial is generally frowned upon because it detracts from the identity of the deceased.

Mass burial was once far more common than today, but the practice is hardly lost to modern people. Locations known to harbor mass graves include The Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Soviet Union, Chechnya, Iraq and even the United States. Hart Island is a potter’s field, a place intended for the burial of unknown or indigent people, for the city of New York. It is the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world and currently houses over 850,000 “residents,” dating as far back as the Civil War, and is still used even today.




Taxidermy is the act of mounting, or reproducing, dead animals for display (e.g. as hunting trophies) or for other sources of study. However, some people haven’t let that stop them from taking the next step to immortality and having themselves taxidermied after death. The process is rather simple, but requires a lot of skill. The animal is skinned and the innards disposed of (often without the taxidermist ever seeing any of the internal organs). The skin is tanned and then placed on a polyurethane form. Clay is used to install glass eyes. Forms and eyes are commercially available from a number of suppliers. If not, taxidermists carve or cast their own forms.

The legalities of the taxidermy of human beings escape me (I could find no specific references to them), but I would assume that the process is legal, if one makes all the proper arrangements and can find a taxidermist willing to take the job. However, the difficulties involved in such an enterprise have meant that few people have had the process done. One such individual, however, was philosopher Jeremy Bentham.

Born in Spitalfields, London, in 1748, Bentham was a prolific writer (he left manuscripts amounting to some 5,000,000 words) on the subject of law, equality between the sexes, animal rights, economics and utilitarianism. As specified in his will, Bentham’s body was dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture. Afterward, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon,” with the skeleton stuffed with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes. Originally kept by his disciple, Thomas Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London, in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college, but for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as “present but not voting.”




As perhaps the ultimate bid for immortality, plastination is a technique used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts. The water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay and even retain most properties of the original sample. The resultant plastinates can be manipulated and positioned as desired.

Plastinates are used as museum displays, as teaching tools and in anatomy studies. The process so perfectly preserves tissue, musculature and even nerve clusters that plastinates serve as invaluable references to the way our bodies (and those of other animals) work.

The process of plastination began in November, 1979, when Gunther von Hagens applied for a German patent, proposing the idea of preserving animal and vegetable tissues permanently by synthetic resin impregnation. Since then, von Hagens has applied for further U.S. patents regarding work on preserving biological tissues with polymers.

  • Babble

    When I die I want to be flushed into the ocean like a giant goldfish.

    • TEX

      you mean giant dead goldfish – it's a different image all together

  • Bob Dowling

    Are #15 (Aquamation) and #5 (Dissolution by alkaline hydrolysis) really that different? The former looks like it's legal and the latter illegal but that's about all the difference I can see.

    • kaye

      #15 seems gentler and yields man-made (pun intended) fertilizer.

      #5 is basically dissolving a body in acid.

    • Colleen Searcy

      On topic: Interesting list, first one I've bothered to read in a few days.
      Off topic: OMG BOOOOOOBBY! IT'S COLLEEN!!! Holy crap it's a small world, or more specifically, internet. xD

  • timothyjames

    I've never heard of aquamation. Who would want to buy that fertilizer? Better yet, who would want to buy food that has been grown with that fertilizer? Gross. Good idea for the environment though.

    This list got so shady in parts. "Even a single tooth can contain enough DNA to identify a victim and lead the police to your door." Sounds like you're speaking from experience here, John. Did you write this list from your cell? If so, I commend you. Great list. Never would have thought a murderer would be a published list writer.

    • timothyjames

      Well, yeah. I really wouldn't mind that. That's what I was getting at with the "good idea for the environment" comment.

    • You're a bit paranoid. This list was intelligently written compared to a few of our other recent lists and I highly doubt the author is a murderer. I believe the syntax in which it was written was intended to be a bit tongue in cheek, (which hopefully is the same for yours as well) ;)

    • whtknt

      Thank you! Caity has it right. No, I'm not a murderer (though it may frighten some of you to know that I have worked out, in exacting detail, a plan for committing the perfect (and unsolvable) murder, should the need ever arise). The list was indeed meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek, but also educational.

    • fendabenda

      I would. Why the hell not?

      • timothyjames

        It just seems like second degree cannibalism to me.

    • Mrs. Antichrist

      I would buy food grown in it. It's not like there's any difference between the cell structure of foods grown in "regular" fertilizer and fertilizer made from bodies, and chances are that a few of the atoms in the food you ate today were once part of a person's body. Y'know, the whole "circle of life" thing. Hell, given that we bury people in the ground already, we're already using bodies as fertilizer — this just speeds up the process. I'm sure that at least a few bodies have found their way into farmers' fields after being hidden there by someone who didn't want them found (the mob, etc.)

      I mean, by your logic, we're all cannibals.

  • cqsteve

    Personally I don't mind the burial at sea scenario, especially the part about forming part of an artificial reef. Since I'm one of the worlds worst fishermen, it might be fitting for the fish to continue to swim past me. Good list John….

    • whtknt

      Thank you for the kind words. The idea of being a part of a thriving community of life forms also appeals to me.

  • bluesman87

    Liked the list quiet a few i never heard of . The cannibalism pic reminds me so much of a Lovecraft story but i forget the name . I'd like to be cremated and my ashes mixed with resin and made into a guitar body or go the HS Thompson route and get blasted into the air or be recycled and made into a bikini.

    • timothyjames

      bluesman, you're a badass. A listverse cornerstone.

      • bluesman87

        Thanks -was so tempted to log in under different usernames and thumbs up the shit outta that comment lol!!

      • bluesman87

        oh and dont worry i mailed the cheque like i promised .

    • bluesman87

      Im at work
      waiting for planes to land and vessels to dock
      I dont like work
      So i come here to alleviate my boredom so the day can go faster.
      The best bluesmen in the last 30 years were white.
      At night
      and on the weekend
      I party
      harder than you EVER will my little boy i guarantee you.
      I dont want to be black.
      The biggest party you ever had was warm beer mixed with sprite in a paper cup at a family BBQ while you stare at your overweight zit faced teenage cousins tits.
      You think you are a bad ass but you are nothing .
      I promise you. You are a little shit .

    • whtknt

      Thank you. Your idea seems pretty interesting. Never thought about having a my ashes made into something. Could be entertaining.

    • Akula

      Your thinking of "The Picture in the House", its one of my all time favorite Lovecraft stories.

    • cambered

      Ha… I love the bikini idea, but what if Roseanne Barr happened into the surf store where you hung on the rack..? Hell of a way to spend the afterlife.

  • Elizabeth

    Is it just me or do the aquamation guys look WAAY too happy to be getting rid of a body?

    • kaye

      I guess people grieve in different ways? :p

    • myjob

      maybe this was his dream job!

    • fendabenda

      Maybe it's their mother-in-law?

    • MCBarkingSpoon

      Hehe I noticed that too. Seriously I think he's not really using it at that moment.
      I think he's demonstrating it for the cameras and someones making off color comments on the process.

  • Geronimo1618

    There is this Parsi community also in India who practice a similar 'exposure' way of disposing of the dead. They leave the dead body on specially constructed towers called dokhmas (also known as 'Towers of Silence') to be fed to the vultures.


    Superb list. Great research and very well written.

    • amandasmith
      I guess the parsi community will soon have to find another vulture infested place!

    • Double O'Seven

      Actually Geronimo, this practice is not just by 'a' parsi community,but all of the parsis…
      I stay in Mumbai and there are two towers of silence there,perched on a hilltop amidst lush thick greenary…a large amount of trees cover up the burial sites..cuz the parsis fiercely defend privacy from all those surrounding skyrises while on practice…
      Only parsi men are allowed inside the premises to dispose of the dead body.. The body is kept,for the vultures to feed,on a concrete or clay platform surrounding a dry well with the platform slighty sloped towards it.. The remains get washed away into the well during rains…
      Unfortunately this practice is being threatened due to drastic decrease in the vulture population due to which many parsis take to burying nowadays…

  • Dan

    Did anyone else notice the spello on the space capsule thing? I would be gutted if my relative was shot into space, only to find the engraver didn't know his "too" from his "to".

    • Lifeschool

      Yeah, I saw that too. Perhaps it's because aliens can't read beyond the 3rd grade??

    • Hopefully the person who carved it simply transcribed it correctly from what the family member wrote to have put on there.. and the family member was the one who spelled it wrong!

    • TEX

      SAW IT

    • Gav

      They may have spelled "to" correctly and typographically erred on "moon"… Or maybe his vision HAD gone to Soon.. as in Soon Valley in Pakistan. Who are WE to assume it's an error?

  • KabirBhai

    Great List…
    U da Man John Grigsby…
    Though the topic made me realize that my wanting a better mobile every week is futile…
    Will i carry it to the other world???
    But sure my relatives will fight over them. That is enough for my satisfaction…

    But i really do not care what happens to my body after my death…
    I will be having lunch with God, asking her the key to understand women…

    • Geronimo1618

      So you believe GOD should be referred to as a 'she'? varies from faith to faith.

      • whtknt

        True, which makes KabirBhai's viewpoint no more or less valid than yours.

    • Lifeschool

      @ Kabir – I applaud your insight :) – materialism is futile – like the list points out, Cronus (Time) will devour all his children and leave naught but faded dreams in their wake. Sad, but true. It seems the less I have, the more content I am – because there is less baggage to carry around with me. Like the old joke says: I was born broke, I died broke, but in the meantime I remember…

    • whtknt

      Thank you for the compliment, and for what it is worth, I also see the Goddess as being female (though I also believe that she has a consort, the God). Like you, I'm not too concerned over what happens to my remains. As I have often told my wife (who usually regards me with a horrified expression), "Take out anything useful and give it to someone who needs it, then toss the rest in a ditch." After all, I'm not going to be needing it. Hell, when I feel that my time has come, I may just wrap myself in Canadian bacon and go for a swim off the coast of South Africa.

    • fairtwiggy

      Good luck there i'm a woman and I don't even understand myself sometimes.

  • loapaja

    Gave me the chills I have to say!

  • Emily B

    Personally, I want a viking funeral. I don't care how much it costs or what I have to do to get it, but I am being sent out to sea on a burning ship, damn it.

    • bluesman87

      viking funeral -THAT would be boss.

    • whtknt

      Indeed it would. ::sigh:: Sadly, you have to have special permissions and be able to prove your lineage beyond any doubt (and they still may not grant you the permission to do it).

      • Vik

        Who are these *they* people that feel the need to grant permission?

    • BudHA

      i've been saying that for years. i love it

  • Will Trame

    I too have never heard of aquamation. In a manner, this is a very informative yet disturbing list. Perhaps it should have been posted yesterday with the 10 more terrifying places on earth as it would have fitted perfectly with the Halloween motif.

    In an offhand case, I have heard of one individual, who was a problem drinker to say the least, who was put into the ground standing up (sans coffin) with his head facing west because that was where his favorite tavern was. This example is unverified, of course.

    • Today's All Saints' Day. Yesterday we feared the dead, and today we honor them.

  • br0ck

    i hope my generation will not die

    • Geronimo1618

      Hi brock, I'm waiting for someone to post a howlarious reply to you so that I can laugh my lungs out for the rest of the day. Plz tell 'em to do it fast 'coz I have to go out and the wait is unbearable.

      • Geronimo1618

        I'm not being sarcastic, half the fun in LV nowadays is reading Brock's post and the subsequent replies.

      • TEX

        no comment

        • Geronimo1618

          I'll keep my mouth shut from tomorrow, even brocky didn't reply today :(

    • fairtwiggy

      your generation is intellectually retarded. Lets hope they do.

  • Jesper

    "It is also possible to have the ashes mixed with concrete to form an artificial reef. "

    I wanna be encased in concrete to initiate the first "human-shaped" artificial reef. With a small hole in the bottom to allow fish to eat my insides.. no point in letting it go to waste. But with so many cool burial options it's hard to choose. Cryonics also sounds good. Anyone up for a mass burial? I plan to kick the bucket around 2080-ish. I'll make a facebook event or something.

    With that many options I'm surprised anyone go with the traditional types.

    Btw.. what's "Scandinavia Denmark"?? :-P

  • In Latvia we tend to say that "one put down the spoon" – is this used anywhere else?

    • Jesper

      Funny.. in denmark we say (literally translated) that someone has "put down the clogs". Now that I think about it… it really doesn't make much sense at all.

      • Lore

        In Spain we say that the person is "looking at the Daisies upside down". I find it very funny.0

        • TEX

          Mexifornia en que murió

    • psychosurfer

      In Mexico we use "he hanged out his snickers" (?!?)

      • baabaaer

        In Malaysia, it's not so funny. We simply say, 'left the world'.

    • tripsyman

      In the UK you 'pop your clogs'

    • fendabenda

      "threw the spoon to the corner" in Finland. Not just put the spoon down but threw it away yeah.. :)

  • Stefan

    "15 most common means of putting someone’s mortal remains to rest… This option is not commonly chosen."

    Which one is it?

    And also, im sure there must have been SOMETHING else people have done to a dead body more than 150 times in human history as highlighted in the Space Burial entry.

    Other than that, awesome list. Really unique :)

    • They are not mutually exclusive! Common has multiple meanings.

      • Stefan

        thinking + internet = never works well

    • whtknt

      Thank you for the compliment. As for the wording… ::shrug:: it sounded good when I wrote it.

  • HelloMyNameIS

    i want to be cremated and for my ashes to be smoked in a joint, like in How High

    • Joe Mamma

      LOL!! love that movie xD but werent the ashes poured in the plant? or are you talking about when they made a joint outta Ben Franklin's finger?

    • Is that all mamma?

      Now go warm me up some Porkchops-O-Chunky!

  • Lifeschool

    Hey there. What a great list! I got more chills reading this than the ghost stories we had yesterday. Very interesting and well written (there were a couple of words missing but so what?). This whole list seems wierd and quirky. The spelling error on the space capsule, the guys smiling in #15, one of the vultures looks like his head is missing after being hit by the guy with the hammer, the plastic man with huge Spock ears, the childrens coffins in #14 – strange – very surreal.

    I was just thinking about making a will the other day. How many of us actually do that; I mean; before we get old ad frail? Not many I bet. But looking around the flat I noticed quite quickly that there isn't anything in here worth a damn to anyone, the the most valuable gadget is a sony camcorder worth only about £80. Big deal. I wonder what happens when someone is part of a huge internet social group – like this – and dies. Nobody would think to tell the group of course. Some of the old regulars on here may have gotton bored, or just passed away?

    This all seems like I'm talking around the subject, because I am. I have faith that there wll be something 'out there' when this material body is over. I have to believe that; otherwise what is the point of life? Someone famour once said: 'There is no point or meaning to life, except what point or meaning you place upon it.' Someone else said: 'Life is pointless and meaningless, but is is also meaningless that it is meaningless'. Really optimistic words I'm sure.

    As for the list items, well, #15 looks kind of interesting if it's legit, and I wouldn't mind having that. Otherwise I guess #10 will do fine. I don't want to take up room in the ground when someone could use that land for better purposes. What use is a rotten cadaver? The Dissolution item made me cringe – not because this sounds like a bad way to go, but the bit about the toxic 'motor oil-like' sludge being pumped into the drain – i.e. the river system – to choke the river and sea life to death. Yeah, sounds real eco friendly to me. I have a hard time putting anything down the sink because I know where it ends up.

    Gosh, this has turned into a real melancholy post today. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit lighter on the old cranium.

    • Moonbeam

      The ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is … 42.

      • Vera Lynn

        prime factors of 2x3x7

    • whtknt

      I have a will, actually (I'm 40-something). I've had it since I was in my early twenties as the military mandated that I keep one on file.

  • Geronimo1618

    I'm pretty much sure that dying would be like waking up from a long, bad dream.

    A poet/writer said something like that..I can't remember who.

  • loooloo

    i just want to be happy when i die

    • fendabenda

      I wants to be happy while I live…

  • bansey

    When I die I want to be packed in a joint and used to get high.

    • loooloo

      people will get sick

      • bluesman87

        no but they wont get high either . Id rather be turned into fertilizer then used as nutrition for a hydro system .

  • Skata

    Makes me wish we had HTML here. I have heardof one extraordinary case where a Japanese Kamikaze pilot was buried at sea with full honors. As I understand the story the Marine Honor Guard stayed mad at the ship's captain for the rest of their days for him ordering them to perform that duty. USS Missouri, 1944.

    • lolol

      Your name means shit in greek if you didnt know dude

    • Moonbeam

      Don't Kamikaze piolets fly their planes into ships and die on impact? What's left to bury at sea?

  • mom424

    Great list this morning. Haven't given any thought to my disposal – my only wish is that no one spends a fortune on it. Go have a party, put a down payment on a house, just don't spend 10 grand on a casket. Cardboard is fine for me.

    Surprised there was no mention of self-mummification. Holy men (or certifiable men) who ate resins and other not so yummy things to preserve themselves after death. That's commitment for you.

    • whtknt

      Thanks! Yeah, I overlooked a few (such as the self-immolation of Thích Qu?ng ??c in 1963, and many other who have since followed his example), but I also felt that those didn't really qualify, since the list was primarily about how we handle the dead, not how we die.

  • tripsyman

    Made me remember a Bob Monkhouse quote that went:

    "I want to die like my father, peacefully in his sleep, not screaming and terrified, like his passengers."

    • Vera Lynn

      Oh that's funny. I had heard that before, but I had forgotten all about it!

  • jeffthemaori

    As long as I don't die while on the toilet!!

    • whtknt

      You'd be in good company: King Wenceslaus III of Bohemia (murdered), George II of Great Britain (aortic dissection), Lenny Bruce (heroin overdose), and Elvis Presley (heart attack).

  • astraya

    15 ways we handle the dead

    Bonus item


    • Stefan

      and always a favourite

      • pdbrack

        lol great pun with that "handle the dead"

    • whtknt

      don't remember if I touched on that subject or not in the original submission (the list has been edited in several places).

  • Waterboarder

    So, people were hung, drawn and quartered for treason? Then why can`t we do that to Obama?

  • kaye

    I would opt to be entombed or cremated. I know, not very original. :p

    We have a tradition in my country where we stay overnight in the family tomb/grave from Halloween eve to All Souls Day. That's why some of the tombs here are quite fancy. I remember one that was featured on a tv show cause the tomb was pretty much a two-story house, complete with an entertainment set, airconditioner, couches, beds, a shower, and other comforts that are more for the living than the dead.

    • circlefan

      you a filipino?

  • Armadillotron

    What about embalment? Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung all got embalmed. Why DO Communists get embalmed? But Pol Pot, that Cambodian madman, was burnt on a pile of rubbish, and car tyres. Wouldn`t that be better for Communists?

    • whtknt

      I considered it, but decided that it was really more of a preparation for some of the other items. In the end, I decided against including it as an item unto itself.

  • oouchan

    I wouldn't mind when I go to be used at the Body Farm. (Like I would care at that point, but it would be kinda neat)
    I would like however to give my mom a viking funeral……only chance I will get to shoot flaming arrows at her.

    Cool list!

    • whtknt


  • Woyzeck

    Woyzeck has a special way of handling the dead. It's called necrophilia.

    • astraya

      Woyzeck has a special way of not reading recent comments before posting his own.

      • Woyzeck

        Astraya has a special way of not SHUTTING THE FUCK UP.

        Hahaha I'm just yanking your pubes, we cool brah.

  • charlimara

    awesome list
    thank you for the nice read

    • whtknt

      You're welcome, and thank you!

  • oculus18

    great list.

    As for me, I prefer cremation. I don't fancy the idea of worms happily chewing me to oblivion.

    and taxidermy? for human corpses? that's way too freaky.

  • matthewscremation

    Aquamation (as it is called in this article) will soon be a reality, at least here in Florida with the upcoming installation of America's first BIO Cremation unit at the Anderson-McQueen funeral home. The Orlando Sentinel covered the story this weekend.

    You'll notice the BIO Cremation unit to be installed is much different from the picture – no "tipping" of the unit is required.

    McQueen plans to price the service the same as for a traditional flame cremation.

  • CaSara W

    My first comment ever on your site though I’ve been reading it forever.

    Taxidermy is a weird one for humans, I agree Oculus. The number one is amazing though because I’ve seen them. The “Human Body Exhibit” came to a city I live by about 3 years ago when plastination became pretty widely known of and was on the news constantly. It was the craziest and most amazing thing I’ve seen. I definitely suggest checking it out if they are still doing it.

    • Moonbeam

      I saw the exhibit too when it was in my city. What I found unsettling about it was the fact that all the babies and children were girls. Plus, I wondered what mother or father would agree to allow their child to be plasticized and put on display in museums? All the bodies were from China and there were reports in the press that they were the bodies of executed prisoners. The display was controversial for many reasons but partly because it wasn't clear if the deceased had given permission for their bodies to be used in this manor.

      • whtknt

        I have seen it as well, as it was friggin' awes… ehr… it was scientifically interesting in a morbid fashion. Sounds like you saw it in the same place I did, Moonbeam, as I heard the same information.

    • oculus18

      Plastination would be much more preferable compared to taxidermy since it would pretty much be a display on human anatomy, hence, I could approach the idea in a scientific way. But taxidermy and it's display of the dead corpse like how it was when still alive, that is just freaky, and scary.

  • Piggy

    Read "Frozen" by Larry Johnson (Larry's true story about working at Alcor). Alcor, the prominent cryonics facility, is run by hack 'n slash amateurs who break the law, murder, and threaten those who reveal their darkest secrets.

  • I want to be cremated and turned into diamonds for my kids. And when my dad dies, I'm having him turned into coffee mugs!

  • Clive

    Put me in a baggie, zip-lock fresh!

  • Tron

    Owwww..fantastic list John. And I demand to know where are Randall, Damien Karras, Jajdude and some other old commenters. Randall said in 2007 his books will be out in a couple of years. he even gave Segues a manuscript. It's been 3 years and he hasn't updated us.

    Bucslim also apperas once in a blue moon. And when they all appear, Woyzeck vanishes. When Woyzeck appears, they vanish. I want all of them here! My vocab was improving!

    • mom424

      I miss them too. Hopefully Randall is actually writing that book and that's why he's not here. And I too keep an eye out for Bucslim's far too infrequent comments. Maybe Damien and Jajude will see this and let us know they're still kickin'…..
      Segue is only temporarily mia – she's tending to family and will return..hopefully not too much longer now.

      • oliveralbq

        @mom424: "Segue is only temporarily mia – she's tending to family and will return..hopefully not too much longer now. "

        —–unfortunately a touch longer than expected due to a couple set backs. her hubby is doing better now, but it's still not a clear path.

        she did want me to say hey, and thanks for the thoughts and concerns.

    • whtknt

      Thank you!

  • TEX

    Why are the people smiling in #15 – Aquamation –

    It's people. Soylent Green is made out of people…eeeEEEKKK!!!

    • blogball

      Why are the people smiling in #15 – Aquamation –

      TEX, that would be a good picture for one of those make your own caption things.

      How about the guy in the light shirt and jeans saying: “My wife drove me crazy for 10 years and now it’s my turn at the wheel”

  • TeamBanana

    I dont want to be buried because im afraid that i was mistakenly pronounced dead only to wake up inside my coffin to die screeming in the dark.
    This thought keeps me up at night sometimes.

    • TEX

      Not to worry – the embalming process is sure to kill you first.

    • undaunted warrior 1

      That has happened before where coffins have been moved for re burial or some other reason, the scratch marks on the coffins lid bears testimony to that.

    • undaunted warrior 1

      Just thought of something, ask your undertaker to rig up a pulley with some rope tied to a bell above ground level, should you wake up all you do is yank the rope a couple of times and Im sure someone will come a digging.

      • whtknt

        It's been done. There was even a U.S. patent issued for it.

    • whtknt

      Yes, live burial has happened (and was much more common in the past), but as has been noted, I don't think that you will survive the embalming process. And even if you aren't embalmed, screaming will just use up your air faster. You'll be dead in about 30 minutes (or 15 if you scream really loudly). :)

  • Jael

    When I die, I just want my ashes cast in metal then made into a AK-47. That way, when the zombie apocalypse arises, I can still kick some undead zombie ass even when I'm already dead.

    • fendabenda

      But what if you turn into a zombie yourself before they make you into an AK-47?

  • TEX

    Hey – entombment is the only way to go in Madagascar.

    The deceased get to party hearty periodically in a tradition called Famadihana. In honor of their ancestors (and in fear of them also) they pull out the dead, put on fresh wrappings – drink and dance with them all night long to traditional and the latest western pop tunes.

  • Someone, Somewhere

    It should read:

    “Locations known to harbor mass graves include The Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Soviet Union, Chechnya, Iraq and the United States.”

    instead of

    “Locations known to harbor mass graves include The Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Soviet Union, Chechnya, Iraq and even the United States.”

  • deeeziner

    I recently found out that there is a plastination lab here in Tucson. Can't recall if it is a med center or the U of A, but the process looked interesting enough that I entertained thoughts of working there.

    Personally, I still would like my ashes to be dropped around Disneyland.

    Aw come on…isn't it the happiest place on Earth!

  • Tomorrow is the day of the death here in Mexico, so probably this list was intentional for that purpose (:
    Amazing, as always. I truly admire your work.

  • gigo70

    I'm going for the black bag and dumped in a skip method. Removes the need for costly funeral plans and will hopefully deny June Whitfield and Michael Parkinson future employment.

  • Geronimo1618

    O wow you're the casino man, aren't you! I thought you would write only on Casinos (the stories are very interesting btw :)), but this is some real awesome info. Never knew that cannibalism and dismembering were 'dead handling' stuff, let alone the scientific ones esp. Aquamation and a couple of others.

    The lists have been too good of late, hope it remains this way!

    • whtknt

      Yep, that's me. Glad you enjoyed this one, it was a lot of fun to research and write. I have another interesting idea in the works, but we'll see…

  • The exhibit called Bodies, which features plastinated corpses, shows up here in my area from time to time. I've never gone, because I'm not peaceful with the thought that the bodies once belonged to prisoners executed in China. There's no proof, but I wouldn't put it past the Chicoms.

  • I plan to be buried, with a headstone. This because some descendant of mine may share my passion for family history, and will appreciate an honest-to-god memorial to visit.

    • whtknt

      Fair enough. As a genealogist myself, I must agree that tracing the family history is much easier if accurate records are kept and there are memorials marking locations.

  • Marian

    All things considered, I would opt for cremation. Just my luck, if I were buried or entombed some archeologist would come along in 4,000 years, dig me up, and display me in a museum. Little kids would laugh at me and say, "Look at the size of her FEET!"

    I dunno, but I would be pissed if I had spent all that money to have a relative shot into space, and they misspelled the epitaph.

    • whtknt

      Exactly my concern with cryogenics. It costs a LOT of money to have your entire body frozen and cared for with the distant hope that there will one day be a cure for whatever killed you (and a method of bringing you back to life). That's money that my family or relatives or even the poor starving orphans could use.

  • Joboo

    I will never understand the practice of spending thousands of dollars on fancy caskets, headstones and burial plots for dead people. Trust me, they aren't impressed. That "aquamation" technique sounds interesting though … hadn't heard of that. I wouldn't mind be fed to vultures either. Better ending up as bird poop than a waste of space in a cemetery.

    • circlefan

      true, so true

  • Moonbeam

    I don't claim to speak for "Someone. Somewhere" but my thought on this is that when you include the word "even" the implication is that the US is somehow above those other counties; as if the US doesn't have it's own history of shameful acts. Don't get me wrong, I'm from the US and we have a lot in our history we can respect and should take pride in, but we're no different than other countries when it comes to acts that are horrible. Take a look at how the various native peoples were treated. Think of the Trail of Tears, or slavery for example.

    • whtknt

      I agree (I'm also American), and I did not intend that to be the point. I was trying to get across that while mass graves are common (dare we say, expected?) in certain countries, the United States is not one of them. I was surprised to learn the truth about Hart Island in my research. I never knew.

      • Moonbeam

        I get what you're saying. To tell you the truth I didn't even pick up on the phrase untill Someone, Somewhere mentioned it.

  • Jesalala

    This list makes me think of the book “Stiff” by Mary Roach. It discusses the different paths a cadaver can take. V. interesting

    • fendabenda

      Great book. I also recommend her "Spook", "Bonk" and "Packing for Mars". Fascinating stuff, absolusitively! :D

  • jr10

    turning the carbon ash from cremation into diamonds. that's the way to go.

  • Peppercurls

    Thank you! This list was very well-written. I appreciate how thoughtfully unbiased the entries were, considering the subject matter…well, maybe a little endorsement lean on plastination…but yeah, very informative and keen. :D

    • whtknt

      Thank you! And you are welcome.

  • Megan

    The cannibalism one is not only ethnocentric ("primitive" people?), but a bit misinformed. Cannibalism has not happened nearly as much as people suspect throughout history, and though pacific islanders from Melanesia and tribal South American groups have been credited with practicing cannibalism, the cases have been very far and very few between. While I suppose it earns a spot on this list, as the people eaten are no doubt dead, I'm sure there are other practices and rituals that would have been better suited, and more illuminating, than cannibalism.

    • whtknt

      I can see your point, Megan, but cannibalism is, to many people, such a graphic and abhorrent thought that I felt that it deserved a place on the list. As for how often it has occurred, I submit that it happens more than people suspect. Some anthropologists believe that it was quite common among prehistoric "protohumans." It is mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 6:25–30) and was reported during the Middle Ages. And let us not forget the fad that sprang up in Europe in the mid-14th century (and lasted until well into the 19th century); mummy confections, in which Egyptian mummies were ground up and added to candies and other treats.

      Several Native American tribes were said to practice cannibalism, and evidence has been found for a few instances. The M?ori of New Zealand were known man-eaters, having killed and devoured 66 passengers and crew of the ship the Boyd in 1809. Many Pacific islands were home to cannibals, with one particular tribal chieftain of Fiji claiming to have consumed no fewer than 872 individuals.

      And not all instances of cannibalism are mired in the murky past, either. At least two instances during World War II, cannibalism was reported among starving troops in Leningrad and Stalingrad. Cannibalism was also know at Russian prison camps, where prisoners were underfed and starving. There are many credible accounts of cannibalism by Japanese troops on their own dead, fallen enemies, and American prisoners. I has been proved to have occurred in many areas hit hard by drought and famine through the years.

      Who can forget the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, in which the survivors reluctantly consumed the deceased in order to stay alive? The crew of the sunken vessel Essex in 1820 resorted to cannibalism when supplies ran out. Several survivors of the Donner-Reed Party, stranded in the Sierra Nevada in 1846 claim to have practiced cannibalism.

      Serial killers (including Albert Fish and Jeffrey Dahmer) have admitted to cannibalism, and in recent years, a rash of reports indicate that the practice is alive and well around the world. It may not be common, but it certainly isn't unknown.

  • Again with the sky burial; I thought it was enough to feature it twice in your book.

  • Turn me into a diamond or create me and keep me on the mantle, i dont want to be put in the ground.
    Number 1 just fascinates me completely, i watched him do the live autopsy on channel 4 a while ago…….brilliant. Fantabulous list btw!

    • dont create me…….CREMATE me! My word, i have lost the ability to type!

  • When I die I want to be creamated but I want them to throw in nice fluffy buds of alaskin thunderfuck in there so I kud burn the right way :)

  • kennypo65

    Dig a hole in the ground, put me in it, and plant a tree on top of me. The tree will use my corpse as fertlizer and grow for centuries. No headstone, just a beautiful tree to mark my final resting place. Or just put me in a trash bag and leave me on the curb. I'll be dead, and won't give a damn by then.

  • astraya

    There was a story in my part of New South Wales (Australia) that a pioneer land-owner wanted to be buried upright at the top of a hill overlooking his property. The night after his burial, some locals (?maybe disaffected employees) dug up the coffin and reinserted it upside down.
    I don't know if that's true.

    • fendabenda

      Might be true… but why did they do that (if they did)? Did they think he would come back as a vampire?

  • yano

    human beings are such creative a lot

  • ericlincoln

    Great list!

    I think when I go, i'd either like sea burial (due to a living fear of the sea, like the idea of going there when I die) or cremated, and my ashes go into a giant firework for my family to let off somewhere beautiful.

  • Moonbeam

    So what were you laughing at when they took your picture?

  • fendabenda

    About #7: Cannibalism is not the same thing as anthropophagy. Cannibals consume the flesh of their own species, whatever that may be. Anthropophagi are specifically man-eaters, either human or animal. If a tiger eats a man, it isn't a cannibal but it is an anthropophague. If a tiger eats another tiger, it is a cannibal but not a man-eater. Only a human being can be both at the same time.

  • ames801

    Cool list.
    My friend would like to have me stuffed and enclosed in a glass case when I die. His theory is I will be his life size Barbie and he can dress and pose me according to the occasion. I'm, oddly, ok with this.

    • fendabenda

      Are you sure you won't end up as a sex toy? :D

      • ames801

        No chance…I don't have what he wants ;)

  • Another cool list

  • Oh my!

    I find it oddly amusing and disturbing how the men in picture 15 are smiling while someone's corpse is being dissolved in a turbo spin cycle machine. Then again, when I think about it, I'd smile too.


  • Zee

    Great List! But it fails to mention The Tower Of Silence used by Zoroastrians to dispose their dead..

  • MmmHmm

    lol … what happened to listverse?

    • MmmHmm

      When did all this change in look and feel happen? I dont know why.. but i like the old look. But its just me!

      • circlefan

        .you are not alone. i like the old look too, a simple list. but change is constant

  • viamagtoto

    I've been amused with plastination ever since I saw it on History Channel. Thought I'd never get to see an exhibit of it, but thank goodness an exhibit called Myths of the Human Body has finally arrived in our country and is on going until April! Plastination is just genius.

  • circlefan

    do we have a list of handling births?
    we celebrate death, so let's see what these creative homo sapiens sapiens have in the other end.

  • What about being made into a firework?! Talk about going out with a bang…. ::ba-dum-ch::

  • They don't place you in a diamond. They pressurize your ashes to create diamonds and gemstones. I plan on having it done when I go.

  • Mrs. Antichrist

    I saw plastinate displays at the Body Worlds exhibit. Some people might get a bit freaked out by it, but I found the whole thing very fascinating. I strongly recommend that those who are okay with this kind of stuff attend one of the exhibitions if you get a chance — it's a very unique, memorable experience, and highly educational.

  • Yel

    there is also the LifeGem Memorial Diamonds

  • emily

    i don't even have testes and 11 made me cringe!

  • Icalasari

    By the time I die, I hope that either brains can be downloaded into computer, a cure for old age is found, or that cryogenics is advanced enough that it is reasonable to try

  • Bullamakanka

    “Grandad got burnt the other day.”
    “Oh, no! How bad?”
    “Well, they don’t eff around at the crematorium.”

  • Robin

    real nice how the people in the Aquamation picture r smiling… i didnt kno disolving some human remains cud b done in such a fun, environment-friendly way:/

  • Hannah

    I took a death class at my university and we covered endo/exo cannibalism and the tribes that partake in that practice. Their reasoning was actually understandable. Just sayin’, so no one goes around criticizing them for it.