There are all sorts of hilarious things you could do with a corpse, if only society didn't so strongly disapprove. As great as it would be to, after the funeral, dress these life-size action figures in hilarious outfits or fire them out of a cannon, a lifetime of cultural conditioning prevents us.
Most of us, anyway. That hasn't, for instance, stopped some bodies from getting ...
Hey, did you know that if you hook a dead body up to an electrical current, you can make the limbs flop around like it's alive? And that people used to pay to watch this happen, because the 19th century was the era of not giving a shit?
In January 1803, convicted murderer George Forster became the first galvanic corpse to be publicly exhibited, "galvanism" being the stimulation of muscles by an electric current, which works on a living person but is far more hilarious on a dead one.
"OK, stop! Man, fuck science so hard!"
Before the event, there were concerns about Forster's body actually coming back to life, because this was the 19th century and people didn't know things, but as the Newgate Calendar (a record of London executions) informed its readers, his sentence was that he should "hang until he be dead," which effectively meant that should he return to life, he would be marched directly back to the gallows.
The terrified imp on the far left is the only one in the picture with an appropriate reaction.
The experiment was carried out by Giovanni Aldini, who, by the time he zapped Forster in public, had not only mastered his core technique, but developed a theatrical flair. First, he applied the electrified conducting rods to Forster's face, which caused Forster's jaw to quiver and grimace horribly. His left eye popped open. Aldini then applied the rods to Forster's torso, causing the body to jiggle and contort and even blow out a candle. What, you couldn't flex the jaw and make it talk in a funny voice? The audience had to have been disappointed by that, but way to show some restraint there.
Wait, we take that back. Because nothing could have prepared audiences for the grand finale, in which Aldini shoved a conducting rod into the cadaver's rectum, causing it to punch a fist in the air (really, this is the type of climax that no one is prepared for).
"You keep your eyes open, people. This is the world."
Aldini continued touring with his show, but only used decapitated heads, presumably because they're much easier to travel with. His experiments would ultimately inspire Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein, which may explain why the monster staggers around like it has a stick up its ass.
So, you've heard of the Shroud of Turin, right? An ancient piece of linen that was supposedly wrapped around the body of Jesus after he was crucified? Religious artifacts like that are a huge deal, of course, because proving the authenticity would go a long way toward proving that the Bible is true. So, if you wanted to try to authenticate the shroud, how would you do it? Well, first you'd need to know if the evidence imprinted on the shroud matches that of a real crucified human. And how else would you do that other than by taking some innocent corpse and crucifying it to see what it looks like?
There are probably lots of ways, actually. Still, in the 1930s, Dr. Pierre Barbet, a Parisian physician, sought to scientifically evaluate the authenticity of the shroud by nailing a dead body to some boards.
"I wanted to use a grad student, but whatever."
Specifically, Barbet wanted to determine the amount of skin tearing that would occur if a person were crucified in Destot's space -- that is, the part of the palm where the figure imprinted on the Shroud of Turin seems to have nail marks. The photos from this experiment are available here, but we're not including them for a reason.
Mostly because the pre-crucifixion massages were just flat-out creepy.
Barbet concluded that the tearing he found in his corpse-hanging did reflect that seen on the Shroud of Turin, which seemed to satisfy him enough to declare that the Shroud of Turin was a genuine religious artifact. We are curious as to whether anyone pointed out to Pierre that just because the imprint on the shroud could reasonably belong to a crucified man that there is nothing to indicate that that man was Jesus. But, we have a feeling this was all just an excuse for corpse-hanging anyway.
His experiments into the scientific validity of the crucifixion account continued, but don't worry. They didn't involve corpses:
"So, when do I get my beer money?"
We've talked before about how you can get your ashes launched into space, but that falls far short of the space burials imagined in our awkward, sci-fi obsessed childhoods. We wanted our actual body to be fired out of a spaceship, either inexplicably turning into a comet and slingshoting around a planet like Spock in Star Trek II, or just kind of back-flipping through space with all the majesty of a Charmin-shrouded turd like John Hurt in Alien.
Well, in 2007, NASA finally gave civilians the chance to have their remains launched into space.
"This research is key to the future of astronecrophilia."
Or, more precisely, they took three random cadavers that had been entrusted to the Ohio State University Medical Center for medical research and fired those festering meat sacks into orbit to test the new Orion spaceship, which they hope will send astronauts to the moon in 2020.
The bodies are used to measure all sorts of ways space impacts the human body, like radiation exposure. So obviously the primary goal is to make sure space radiation doesn't reanimated corpses into zombies, and if so, to find a way to re-kill them. But they can also use them to measure the impact of various stages of launch and space travel on human physiology without killing a dude.
"When you're done with that, dig up six or so and just start whacking them with hammers."
Sure, NASA also uses mathematical modeling and data from high-speed crash tests, but neither of these methods is as precise as using an actual human body. At only $40,000, it's also fairly cost effective (keep in mind that we're talking about spaceships and astrophysics, not reasonable prices for a luxury sedan).
And ultimately, there's no better way to honor people selfless enough to donate their bodies to science than to fire them into an endless black void to test stress fractures on their dead bones and see if they get melted by the sun.
Leave it to rocket scientists to figure out the perfect murder.