5 Bodies That Refused to Rot

You live, you die, you rot. At least, most of us do. However, there have been people throughout history whose bodies have stubbornly refused to decompose as expected. These "incorruptible" corpses are often the remains of people said to be saints or revered figures. Are these bodies miracles, scientific curiosities, or fakes? Keep in mind that modern embalming techniques only date back to the American Civil War and therefore were not available prior to the 1860s.

1. Saint Betina Zita

Saint Zita was revered during her life essentially for being a very nice lady whom everyone really liked. A sort of cult grew up around her after her death in the year 1272. More than 300 years later, her body was exhumed and found not to have decayed. 

Don't believe it? Go see for yourself: Her body (which dried out and became essentially mummified since being exhumed) is still on public display at the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Italy. Her face isn't exactly perfect after drying out, but you've got to admit that the old girl looks pretty good for someone over seven hundred years old.

2. Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov

Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov was a Buddist lama who hailed from Russia. In 1927, while still very much alive, Itigilov asked his fellow lamas to begin funeral rites for him. Sitting in the lotus position, he died during meditation. In his will, he asked specifically to be buried exactly as he had died. Curiously, he also asked that his body be exhumed after a few years.

As of 2002, Itigilov's body was described as "in the condition of someone who had died 36 hours ago." Since that time, its appearance has been changed by the salt it was packed in, which has to make you wonder whether the lama was so incorruptible after all.

3. 'La Doncella'

Roughly 500 years ago, a 15-year-old Incan girl was led up the steep sides of a mountain in Argentina. A sharp blow to the head killed her, and she was left seated with her clothes and ceremonial objects as a religious sacrifice. The cool temperatures and dry, low-oxygen air of the Andes preserved her body for centuries until it was discovered in 1999. We don't know what her real name is, but her modern nickname is "La Doncella," which means "The Maiden."

4. Lady Xin Zhui 

Lady Xin Zhui was the wife of a minor Chinese nobleman during the Han dynasty. She lived an extravagant lifestyle for the time and place, eating a lot of meat and generally sitting around not needing to work. Luxury eventually caught up with her when she died, morbidly obese, of a heart attack in the year 163 BCE.

When her body was discovered in 1971, her skin was still soft and her limbs could still flex at the joints. Lady Zhui is no Snow White, but the preservation after over 2000 years is still uncanny. It is unclear what caused her body to remain in this state. There are no signs of either embalming or sainthood.

5. Saint Catherine Laboure

Saint Catherine Laboure reported her first visitation by an apparition of the Virgin Mary in France in 1830. Her tales quickly spread throughout France and then around the world as thousands of Catholics began wearing medallions commemorating her visions. According to her story, she placed her hands on the lap of Mary as the Virgin spoke to her in an empty chapel. 

She was buried after her death in 1876, and remained so until 1933, when her body was exhumed as part of her official beatification. An examination concluded that "the body is in perfect state of preservation, and its joints are still supple." Today you can visit her body in Paris and see Catherine Laboure just as she was in life—with one exception: The praying hands that you see are fake. The real ones were severed and are stored separately, in memory of the lap they supposedly rested on.

6 Tasty Facts About Scrapple

Kate Hopkins, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Kate Hopkins, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Love it or hate it, scrapple is a way of life—especially if you grew up in Pennsylvania or another Mid-Atlantic state like New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or Virginia. And this (typically) pork-filled pudding isn’t going anywhere. While its popularity in America dates back more than 150 years, the dish itself is believed to have originated in pre-Roman times. In celebration of National Scrapple Day, here’s everything you ever—or never—wanted to know about the dish.

1. Scrapple is typically made of pig parts. Lots and lots of pig parts.

Though every scrapple manufacturer has its own particular recipe, it all boils down to the same basic process—literally: boiling up a bunch of pig scraps (yes, the parts you don’t want to know are in there) to create a stock which is then mixed with cornmeal, flour, and a handful of spices to create a slurry. Once the consistency is right, chopped pig parts are added in and the mixture is turned into a loaf and baked.

As the dish has gained popularity, chefs have put their own unique spins on it, adding in different meats and spices to play with the flavor. New York City’s Ivan Ramen even cooked it up waffle-style.

2. People were eating scrapple long before it made its way to America.

People often think that the word scrapple derives from scraps, and it’s easy to understand why. But it’s actually an Americanized derivation of panhaskröppel, a German word meaning "slice of rabbit." Much like its modern-day counterpart, skröppel—which dates back to pre-Roman times—was a dish that was designed to make use of every part of its protein (in this case, a rabbit). It was brought to America in the 17th and 18th centuries by German colonists who settled in the Philadelphia area.

In 1863, the first mass-produced version of scrapple arrived via Habbersett, which is still making the product today. They haven’t tweaked the recipe much in the past 150-plus years, though they do offer a beef version as well.

3. If your scrapple is gray, you're a-ok.

A dull gray isn’t normally the most appetizing color you’d want in a meat product, but that’s the color a proper piece of scrapple should be. (It is typically pork bits, after all.)

4. Scrapple can be topped with all kinds of goodies.

Though there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy a delicious piece of scrapple at any time of day, it’s considered a breakfast meat. As such, it’s often served with (or over) eggs but can be topped with all sorts of condiments; while some people stick with ketchup or jelly, others go wild with applesauce, mustard, maple syrup, and honey to make the most of the sweet-and-salty flavor combo. There’s also nothing wrong with being a scrapple purist and eating it as is.

5. Dogfish Head made a scrapple beer.

The master brewers at Delaware’s Dogfish Head have never been afraid to get experimental with their flavors. In 2014, they created a Beer for Breakfast Stout that was brewed with Rapa pork scrapple. A representative for the scrapple brand called the collaboration a "unique proposition." Indeed.

6. Delaware holds an annual scrapple festival each October.

Speaking of Delaware: It’s also home to the country’s oldest—and largest—annual scrapple festival. Originating in 1992, the Apple Scrapple Festival in Bridgeville, Delaware is a yearly celebration of all things pig parts, which includes events like a ladies skillet toss and a scrapple chunkin’ contest. More than 25,000 attendees make the trek annually.

11 Honorable Ways You Can Help Veterans

BasSlabbers/iStock via Getty Images
BasSlabbers/iStock via Getty Images

This Veterans Day, make a difference in the lives of former military members. Just thanking a veteran can go a long way, but an act of kindness means even more. Here are 11 ways you can show vets that you appreciate the sacrifices they made.

1. Pick up the tab for a veteran's coffee or meal.

elderly man at a parade with a sign thanking veterans
Wingedwolf/iStock via Getty Images

The next time you see a veteran in a restaurant or standing in line for coffee, pick up the tab. You can do so anonymously if you would prefer, but even a quick "thank you for your service" would mean a lot to the veteran. You don't have to limit yourself to dinner or a latte—you could pay for a tank of gas, a prescription, or a cart of groceries.

2. Drive a veteran to a doctor's appointment.

military man in wheelchair talking to doctor
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Many veterans, especially those who are infirm or disabled, have trouble making it to their doctor appointments. If you have a driver’s license, you can volunteer for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DAV) Transportation Network, a service provided by all 170 VA medical facilities. To help, contact the hospital service coordinator [PDF] at your local VA Hospital.

3. Train a service dog to help veterans.

military man hugging a dog
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Service dogs aid veterans with mobile disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder, helping them rediscover physical and emotional independence. It takes approximately two years and $33,000 to properly train one service dog, so donations and training volunteers are critical. Even if you aren't equipped to train a dog, some organizations need "weekend puppy raisers," which help service dogs learn how to socialize, play, and interact with different types of people.

There are several organizations that provide this service for veterans, including Patriot PAWS and Puppy Jake.

4. Replace one light bulb in your home with a green one.

A green light bulb
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The Greenlight a Vet project is a simple way to remind yourself and others about the sacrifices veterans have made for our country, and to show your appreciation to them. Simply purchase a green bulb and place it somewhere in your home—a porch lamp is ideal since it's most visible to others. Over 9 million people across the nation have logged their green lights into the project's nationwide map so far.

5. Help sponsor an honor flight to veterans memorials.

A group of veterans visit the Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C.
RomanBabakin/iStock via Getty Images

Many of the veterans who fought for our freedoms have never seen the national memorials honoring their efforts—and their fallen friends. Honor Flights helps send veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to Washington D.C. to see their monuments. You can help sponsor one of those flights.

6. Write a letter to thank a veteran.

Veterans Day parade
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Operation Gratitude is an organization that coordinates care packages, gifts, and letters of thanks to veterans. You can work through them to send your appreciation to a vet, or volunteer to help assemble care packages. And, if you still have candy kicking around from Halloween, Operation Gratitude also mails sweets to deployed troops.

7. Volunteer at a VA hospital.

a veteran saluting the American flag
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Whatever your talents are, they'll certainly be utilized at a Veterans Administration Hospital. From working directly with patients to helping with recreational programs or even just providing companionship, your local VA Hospital would be thrilled to have a few hours of your time.

8. Get involved with a Veterans Assistance Program.

veteran marching in a military parade
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There are veterans in your community that could use help—but how do you find them? Contact a local veterans assistance program, such as the one offered by DAV. They'll be able to put you in touch with local vets who need help doing chores like yard work, housework, grocery shopping, or running errands.

9. Help veterans with job training.

military men meeting in an office setting
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Adjusting to civilian life after military service isn't always smooth sailing. Hire Heroes helps vets with interview skills, resumes, and training so they can find a post-military career. They even partner with various employers to host a job board. Through Hire Heroes, you can help veterans with mock interviews, career counseling, job searches, workshops, and more.

10. Help build a house for a veteran.

Volunteers help build a house
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Building Homes for Heroes builds or modifies homes to suit the needs of veterans injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. The houses are given mortgage-free to veterans and their families. You can volunteer your painting, carpentry, plumbing, wiring, and other skilled services—or you can just donate to the cause.

11. Volunteer for an "Operation Reveille" event for homeless veterans.

military dog tag that says
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The VA continually hosts Operation Reveille, a series of one- to three-day events that give much-needed supplies and services to homeless veterans. Vets can receive everything from food and clothing to health screenings, housing solutions, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling. They take place at various places across the nation all year long, so contact the representative in your state about when and how you can volunteer.

This story first ran in 2017.

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