Surely you’ve signed your organ donor card on your driver’s licence by now, although the Hitchcock preview above might have you re-thinking that little check mark. There’s an interesting option I never considered since I didn’t know it existed until recently: The Ecological Research Facility, warmly referred to as The Body Farm, located in East Tennessee. No, silly, it’s not a place where they grow cadavers although that certainly has potential for a short story. Its purpose is to study various stages of decay and the effect of animals eating bodies. By definition, ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment.
The Body Farm boasts 3 acres, and the scattered remains of 50 corpses per day for training purposes. Sometimes there are oddball reasons for studying these processes.
One family refused to believe that their loved one, a middle-aged woman named Leona Patterson, was their family member so the Facility exhumed Leona and went through two crucial steps to make a firm identification:
- facial reconstruction
- video superimposition of the skull over a photograph of Leona’s face
However, neither of these procedures results in a 100% match and the Facility was very fortunate when Trace Genetics produced a patch of Leona’s scalp and hair. The final result was that there was greater than a 99.8% chance that the dead woman’s sample “came from the same maternal lineage.” My question: why would the Patterson family refuse to believe their loved one was a permanent part of ecology in terms of pushing up daisies? Poor Leona. Such nice hair, too.
A book entitled Beyond the Body Farm is available if you’re interested in reading up on this remarkable forensic technique. The Body Farm is the oldest such establishment in North America and undoubtedly a very original idea. Dr. William wanted to be more knowledgeable when speaking to cops about corpses (notice how similar the spelling is between the two) and thus he came up with the idea for the Farm.
The first flies arrive to dine within 1/2 hour. They enter through orifices and lay eggs. Here and there a body is covered by a black tarp. Maggots, it would seem, are quite picky and dislike sunlight. In order to entice them to feed, pitch black coverage is necessary. Ha-ha. Tricked you, you maggots. When the maggots reach 15 mm, they have been feeding for about a week. Gorgeous. Why is this gruesome information helpful to forensic science? It is a clear indicator of how long a body has been disposed of in the soil or in the open air, narrowing the estimated time of death. This can be crucial evidence in a homicide case.
Speaking of maggots, have a look at a video of a natural undiscovered death. (6:21).Since it’s a natural death it is “natural” (pun) to puzzle over the huge stain on the mattress. It looks like blood but it isn’t. The body has begun to leak its fluids, since the heart is no longer pumping and the latter has nowhere to go except out. Yeah, gross. This is a professional clean-up crew in action. In the event that you wake up dead, or discover a corpse in your house, it is advisable for you to use these services, unless you are not adverse to maggots and lingering odors. In all seriousness, there are families that have attempted to sell their houses but the odor of death remains in carpeting or walls. The family has become quite accustomed to the smell and are blissfully unaware of it. Of course, the family has the gall(bladder) to wonder why they aren’t receiving any offers for their perfectly presentable home. Gives new meaning to the term “haunted house.”