Can You Tattoo a Corpse? And Four Other Fascinating Facts About Death


Photo Courtesy of Order of the Good Death

Are you guys watching Caitlin Doughty’s "Ask a Mortician"? You should be. Not too long ago, I tweeted about how it’s my new favorite thing ever and my mom immediately texted me and wanted to know if we needed to talk. After I explained that Caitlin is more Mary Roach and less cryptkeeper, the intervention was called off. Actually, my mom is now an Ask a Mortician fan, too.

Here are just a few things I've learned from Caitlin:

1. Rigor mortis kicks in after a few hours. It’s what happens when the muscles in your body stiffen up after death; it’s also a heavy metal band from the ‘80s. It lasts 36-72 hours, similar to the length of time the band was popular. (Just kidding, Rigor Mortis fans. They’ve performed as recently as the 2008 Ozzfest.)

2. Bodies do not randomly sit upright during cremation.

3. You can’t be declared dead of natural causes.

4. You can tattoo a body after it dies, but it’s a little more challenging because of putrefaction, and it will obviously never heal.

5. A body releases all kinds of gases after it’s no longer living, so if a corpse is placed into one of those super sealed caskets, the gases can build up and eventually pop the top right off of the casket. A powerful blow can even dislodge the door of a mausoleum.

Here’s the first episode of Ask a Mortician. It’s well worth your 5 minutes.