Hey, why spend Halloween giggling your way through a haunted house full of plastic skeletons and fake corpses when you can go find the real thing? After all, around the world you'll find all sorts of places where you can stumble across a massive field full of half-buried or half-sunken bodies, their lifeless skulls staring up at you from the realm of the dead. So why not go pick up a real-life curse from ...
#6. The Smoked Corpses of Papua New Guinea
Have you ever been at someone's house, noticed that they had their grandpa's ashes on display in the living room, and thought that was a little too morbid? Then stop reading. Don't look at the following photo. Seriously, don't.
Mangiwau, Getty Images
Dude, what the hell is wrong with you?
That's how the Kuku-Kuku people of Aseki in Papua New Guinea remember their grandpas -- when they're feeling nostalgic over a lost relative, they simply look up at the smoked corpses watching over their village from their comfy wooden gallery and say, "Oh, wait, there he is. Hey, Gramps!"
"You're, uh, looking well."
And yes, we said "smoked corpses." As in they hold the dead body over a fire, then wait until the smoke sucks out the moisture and adds some antibacterial magic that imbues it with the yummy flavor of mesquite. But they're not still doing this today, right? They totally are! When a tribe member kicks the bucket, sometimes their relatives go for Christian burials, and sometimes they just throw the bodies over the fire for smoking. To quicken the process, the relatives repeatedly stab the body to milk out its fluids, and they draw out the soft, easily decomposable organs through an anal spigot.
Dwayne Tauschke, Vice.com
The corpse's face was completely stoic until they got to the butt part.
Some of these smoked bodies are put away in caves, but others (presumably the prettier ones) find themselves perched way out in the open. The Kuku-Kuku use the very bamboo frame that supported the body while it hung roasting over the flames to carry it to the cliff top. Then the frame goes on supporting the mummified body as it gazes upon the village below. And the best part? You can absolutely run into this morbid spectacle while visiting the region -- check out this otherwise unremarkable tourist video that turns interesting three and a half minutes in, as they come across the smoked corpses:
After that, the body stays up there, at least until the relatives decide to bring it back down to take part in some village celebration or like a grandson's 10th birthday party or something. At least we hope that's all they take the corpses down for, because besides preserving their dead, the Kuku-Kuku reportedly engage in cannibalism. And yet the anal spigot still sounds like the worst part.
#5. Mexico's Refreshing Mayan Sacrificial Pools
One reason the Chichen Itza site of Yucatan, Mexico, is popular with tourists is the abundance of cenotes -- basically, nature's swimming pools. Some are small and cloudy, like in a community gym, but others are as big and majestic as Olympic pools. One of these, Cenote Sagrado, appears to be a happy destination for the whole family:
Carnival_Freak, via Trip Advisor
Who says leaves and vines don't improve a pool? Well, other than our homeowners association.
And if you listen to people who've been there, it's exactly what they seem to think it is -- a helluva place for taking a dip with the kids, thanks to its clear blue, mineral-rich water. Nope, nothing sinister here. That is, until you dive down, look around, and come across this guy chilling at the bottom:
The Savvy Scot
Oh, and he's not alone. Far from it.
It turns out that you can find the remains of hundreds of people in these cenotes, so you can thank dem bones for all those minerals on your skin. You might be thinking that the safety conditions in this place leave a lot to be desired, but don't worry, they didn't exactly slip and fall: Most bodies were placed here intentionally, having been killed centuries ago by the Mayans in human rituals in the name of Chaak, the rain god. We're pretty sure that if you pee in this water, Chaak shows up and cuts your dick off.
Uli Kunz, via Spiegel.de
See, there's the petrified dong of a victim right there.
The Mayans believed that killing in Chaak's name ensured plentiful rains and a bountiful harvest. Usually, they would kill a victim and then drop the body into the cenote, sometimes cutting the heart out from the man's chest first, presumably out of pure force of habit. Other times, they'd chuck the victim in alive and watch him flail about in the water. Most would drown, but if one didn't and managed to return safely, he'd be considered a new divine courier and would spend the rest of his life in glory.
"If you're swimming in the doom pool, I dropped my keys in there a week ago ..."
And as for that paradisiacal "clear blue" tone in the water? That's partly because the Mayans would paint their victims, both dead and alive, with a pigment that we now call Maya blue, a mysterious, vivid dye that lasts for centuries without fading and that scientists studied for years without determining how it was made. In fact, so much pigment entered Cenote Sagrado that the bottom of the cenote now contains a layer of blue sludge -- a 14-foot-thick layer of makeup from the sacrificed dead.
Hope you didn't swallow the water!
#4. The Hanging Cliff Coffins of Asia
The landscape of the Yibin District of Sichuan Province in southern China is undeniably jaw-dropping -- for instance, check out this magnificent cliff:
View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images
If you're not going "Damn, that's one sweet-ass cliff" right now, you have no soul.
Pretty, right? But wait, what are those black things attached to the cliff? Are those announcement boards? In a way, yeah. The most morbid announcement boards in history. Take a closer look:
The announcement is just "everyone dies," over and over.
Those are real coffins with real corpses inside on the side of the cliff, and we have the Bo people of southwestern China to blame for this equal parts baffling and nightmarish vision. The Bo were lost to the annals of time when they got themselves steamrolled by the Ming Dynasty, and as a result much of their history is unknown. Today they're mainly remembered for their unexplained ability to place heavy coffins constructed from solid logs of hardwood hundreds of feet high on vertical cliffs in an era when humans were just beginning to figure out how to effectively explode each other. Why did they do it? The only people who know are on those cliffs.
On the plus side, if you're killed by one of these falling on you, there's a coffin right there.
While there were once tens of thousands of these coffins, today only a few hundred remain -- meaning that, yes, thousands upon thousands of them have tumbled from the cliffs over time. And China isn't the only place you might find yourself strolling through a horrifyingly literal version of "It's Raining Men," because the people of Sagada in the Philippines practice the same ritual to this day.
Greg Goodman, Adventuresofagoodman.com
"Let's throw some chairs up there, too. Sumbad might want a place to kick back."
Continuing a tradition spanning over two millennia, when an elderly Sagadan is about to kick off, he gets down to the task of carving himself a receptacle for his earthly remains. Once the inevitable day arrives, he hops inside (probably not of his own accord) and his family takes the newly filled coffin to the cliffs so that their dearly departed may join his ancestors there. Sometimes the coffins are hung in much the same fashion as the ancient Bo ritual; other times they stack them up inside the entrance of caves like li'l Eddie Gein's Lincoln Logs:
Jojo Nicdao, Salon.com
"Look, Mom, it's a fort!"
And because the area is unregulated and tourists are assholes, over the years quite a few people have decided to yoink a fibula or three as souvenirs. If circumstances ever find you there, we'd recommend keeping your distance. You know, to show some damn respect, and also because you never know when someone might be watching.
Always. The answer is always.