By Lisa A. Flowers for Graveyard Shift
Though it’s no secret that dead bodies were once used in bizarre early medicine practices, not many know that there are quite a few modern products made out of corpses out there, as well. As it turns out, the dead are still an active part of various industries that go way beyond the mortuary world and the “posthumous fame” phenomenon.
Take, for instance, eau de death, the innovative perfume that’s said to be partially distilled from corpse emissions. Or other corpse products like “occult jam,” made by London company Bompas & Parr, which is rumored to contain the delectable flavor of the hair of the late Princess Diana. Contemporary medical science has proven that products made out of dead bodies have healing properties. Like cadaver skin, which can be (and frequently is) used to treat burns and ulcers in the form of skin grafts.
We’ve hardly pried the lid off the coffin of commercial, medical, and artistic services the dead can apparently provide. Read on to discover more about contemporary corpse products you might wish you never knew about, when all’s said and done.
Human Leather For Those With Refined Tastes
Forget your elegant buckskin or patent leather. UK company Humanleather.com is one up on both of the above. As the organization’s official website rather snootily puts it, “Just like animal leather products produced from lesser animals, our raw human skin is transformed into the finest grade leather by using a traditional tanning process. However, human leather is the finest grain leather that is obtainable. It is free from defects and has the smallest grain size, which makes it the smoothest, softest leather on earth.”
The company obtains their materials from “People who have bequeathed their skins to us prior to their deaths.” Moreover, they hasten to assure buyers that the process is completely legal, not to mention ultra-discriminating (“we’ve had to turn away some potential donors, as we can accept only the highest quality human skin.”). Whose skin is anyone’s guess, as they can’t legally disclose who donated their hide to the cause. (It’s safe to assume that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Leatherface isn’t an authorized supplier, though).
Perfume Made From Chemicals Emitted By Corpses
Shows like The Walking Dead introduced us to myriad creative ways of warding off the deceased (smearing corpse-guts on oneself to mask one’s scent, for example). But Eau de Death cologne represents a far more revolutionary approach than that. This intriguing concept comes to us from chemist Raychelle Burks of Doane College in Nebraska.
According to Burks, “If we’re really trying to mimic a corpse, we have got to get the smell down to perfection. Nobody wants to be the guinea pig that spritzes on the death cologne and realizes it doesn’t’ quite work.”
As Burk explains, “putrescine and cadaverine are the main ingredients, which are emitted early on in the decaying process. Both organic chemical compound are produced by the breakdown of amino acids in living and dead organisms and are toxic in large doses. They are largely responsible for the foul odor of putrefying flesh, but also contribute to bad breath, and can be found in semen. Methanethiol, which smells like rotten eggs, is also added to the ‘perfume’ to create its offensive bouquet.”
Just call it six degrees (read: six feet) of separation between corpses, semen, and bad breath.
Cosmetics Made From The Corpses Of Executed Chinese Prisoners
As it turns out, the fountain of youth may actually spring from the dead. According to the Guardian, a Chinese company is developing cosmetic products … made from the corpses of deceased/executed prisoners … to market in Europe. In other words, your next collagen treatment, facial filler, or lip-pumping injection just might be composed of corpse-fat.
Though this news has incited a predictable outcry, the firm’s agents insist that only “some” of the company’s products have been exported to the UK, and that the whole thing is nothing to “make such a big fuss about,” anyway. After all, beauty is pain, as the old saying goes, so perhaps dead body ingredients are just par for the corpse.
Jam Made From Princess Diana’s Hair
London-based company Bompas and Parr might be “globally recognized as the leading expert in multi-sensory experience design,” as their website states, but they’re also apparently pioneers in the imaginative use of corpse-hair. In 2010, the company manufactured something called “Occult Jam,” which supposedly contained a few strands of the late Princess Diana’s hair.
No, the tresses didn’t come off the Princess’s corpse. Co-founder Sam Bompas claims to have acquired them on e-Bay. Nevertheless, as CNN puts it, “what started out as art itself has become a product with a lot of major retailers.”
Cadaver Skin As A Treatment For Burns And Ulcers
A dead person doesn’t need their skin anymore, so why not donate it to those who do? That’s the logic that bioengineers at the University of Manchester are employing, anyway. And interestingly, they’ve found that skin taken from cadavers is actually more effective at healing wounds than living tissue is. Corpse-flesh (once it’s been de-contaminated by antibiotics, that is) is also specifically beneficial as a remedy for burns and ulcers.
As head researcher Ardeshir Bayat explains, the living body is akin to “an empty shell of a house without furniture that is easier to populate then building a house from scratch. In the same way, decellularized dermis provides a scaffold that the body can try to populate with its own cells.”
Finally, a way to break out of the holding-cell of death.
Cured Meat Made From The Skin Of Celebrities
It’s been said that Hollywood is a meat market that chews up ingenues and spits them out. But macabre start-up BiteLabs is taking said cynicism to a whole new level. In 2014, the organization attempted (unsuccessfully) to convince certain celebrities to donate tissue samples that the company could process into “specialty meats.” (No, it doesn’t involve said movie stars being dead, but meat itself is dead. So close enough, yes?).
The website delineates the process: “Isolating muscle stem cells, we grow celebrity meat in our proprietary bioreactors. In the tradition of Italian cured meats, we dry, age, and spice our product into fine charcuterie.”
Though company spokespeople insist that this is not a hoax, they obviously have wicked senses of humor. Of their proposed James Franco salami, for example, they say: “[It] must be smoky, sexy, and smooth … sharp Tellicherry peppercorns and caramelized onions provide Franco’s underlying flavors, complemented by a charming hint of lavender. The Franco salami’s taste will be arrogant, distinctive, and completely undeniable.”
Human Gelatin For A Yum Batch Of J-E-L-L-O-M-G
Gelatin, it turns out, is a hugely popular ingredient in the culinary world … a fact that doesn’t sit well with those who disapprove of animal products. But a few researchers at Beijing University’s College of Life Science and Technology have a controversial idea that might, if not satisfy, at least confuse vegans around the world. According to Engadget, they are pioneering a Soylent Green-type method for revolutionizing gelatin production. The plan? To take “human genes [and insert them] into a strain of yeast [producing] gelatin with controllable features.”
The word “features” definitely conjures up disturbing images of eyes or noses solidified in Cherry Jell-O. Another purpose of the new method is to “reduce the risk of diseases like Mad Cow, which may be present in the bones and cartilage that gelatin is made of.” Who knew?
Diamonds Made From A Loved One’s Human Cremains
The idea of diamonds made from the cremains of loved ones is actually rather lovely and poetic, when you think about it. (Or infinitely more soothing than the vision of an embalmed corpse slowly rotting underground, anyway). And the Chicago-area based LifeGem is only one of the companies offering this innovative service. According to their website,
“From just 8 ounces (200 grams) of cremated remains, we can extract enough carbon to make multiple diamonds…typically all the diamonds that a family wants. We store any unused carbon free for the family after their order is completed. This is great protection in case their LifeGem diamonds are ever lost or stolen.”
A novel idea, and one with many variations. The Arlington, Vermont, based company Cremation Solutions also offers crystals that resemble “peridot, citrine, aquamarine, onyx, jade and chocolate diamonds.”
The Human Skin Art Of Andrew Krasnow
He may not be as creative as Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, but US artist Andrew Krasnow is nonetheless making a splash with his human skin art and sculptures, which he’s been crafting for 20 years. In 2009, Krasnow had his first exhibit in London’s GV Art Gallery. According to the artist, all of his skins are gleaned from bodies that have been donated to medical science; and his work – far from being mere shock art – is intended to be “a commentary on human cruelty.”
The Human Body Parts Family Photo Albums Of Linda Jones
In a way, using bits and pieces of actual bodies in photo albums makes perfect sense. After all, people do routinely save their children’s baby teeth and paste locks of hair into scrapbooks. That’s the logic Vermont-based artist Linda Jones applies to her abstract art pieces. An exhibit at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery reportedly included “x-rays, stitches from real surgical procedures [and] even human teeth, hair, and flesh preserved in formaldehyde.”
However, the work is not intended to be Frankenstein-grotesque but, rather, deeply personal. Jones claims that said medical waste is “from procedures treating her and her family,” and adds that “injuries and sickness are major events that affect people in profound ways.” All of which is true enough.
Headdresses Made From The Hair Of The Dead
In China, corpse-hair isn’t just a novelty, it’s tradition. Rumor has it that the Miao people from the village of Suojia in Liupanshui City in the Guizhou province regularly don wigs fashioned from the hair of the dead. As the Daily Mail explains it, “every wig is passed down from mother to daughter, and includes not just yarn and twine but also the hair from a line of female ancestors, which the owners of the headdresses claim go back hundreds of years.”
Said hair is apparently routinely harvested from combing and brushing. Though, since it technically comes from a person who was alive at the time they donated it, calling it “corpse hair” might be a bit of a stretch. Though, if we’re getting even more technical, isn’t all hair “dead”?