6 Creepy Places Where Dead Bodies Just Lie Out in the Open
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 ...
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
Bones on the Beach (Not the Good Kind)
Let's say you're enjoying a relaxing walk on the beach when you feel a hard surface under your naked feet: It's a human bone. Then you look a little farther and see another one. And another one. And another one. It's not just one person -- there's a whole skeleton orgy under your feet. That's a totally viable scenario at El Conchalito beach in Baja California Sur, Mexico, where lots of skeletons await just barely buried, wishing for an unsuspecting tourist to trip and give them a big kiss on the bone.
Residents of the area first complained about boner-killing human remains on their beach back in 1981, and the authorities probably figured they were just cartel killings or something mundane like that. Archeologists, however, revealed that centuries ago the beach was used by ancient nomads who buried their deceased around the whole bay area -- and because that just wasn't crazy enough for a pre-colonial Mexican society, they later dug up the bodies so they could paint them red and buried them again, just for fun times.
And that, you see, is why some of the human remains found there are red. Nope, this is not a conspiracy to hide the existence of ancient inhuman beasts, no sir.
So yeah, it's not uncommon for some beach walker to spot a Captain America enemy staring at them from the ground, especially at the end of the hurricane season. Over 50 ritual burial sites have been found on the beach, which somehow still attracts bathers.
This isn't the only beach littered with skeletons waiting to unearth themselves like in a Zelda game, though: There's also Namibia's Skeleton Coast in Africa. If you're wondering why a country would willingly give one of their tourist spots a name like that, consider the fact that it used to be known as "The Sands of Hell." Both names are apt, if you ask us.
This "beach" is more like a huge desert awkwardly placed next to the sea by a mad Sim City-playing deity. Once again, it's pretty easy to bump into a skull in the sand, most belonging to ancient sailors looking for diamonds who, after finding enough stones to return to lead rich lives, died of thirst upon getting lost in the vastness of the shores. But at least they remained cheerful: " I am proceeding to a river 60 miles north, and should anyone find this and follow me, God will help him," said one note found in the sand ... next to a corpse.
The Roopkund Skeleton Party Lake
The mountains aren't the only thing worth visiting in the Himalayas. Take Roopkund glacial lake, which during the winter looks like the perfect place to go skating hand in hand with your loved one:
When it thaws, however ... well, that's when things get interesting (in a horror movie sort of way). When the ice melts, the entire area surrounding the lake reveals itself to be absolutely filthy with discarded bones, like Colonel Sanders once chose this spot to throw himself the most kickass lakeside picnic in history. Also, the good colonel is a cannibal in this description, we guess, because these bones are of the human variety.
Skeleton Lake, as it's sometimes called, was first discovered in 1942 when a forest guard stumbled across hundreds and hundreds of skeletons floating in and surrounding this tiny tarn. Presumably that poor, unsuspecting forest guard was required to immediately radio in his discovery due to the fact that he had caused the lake to rise to flood levels with his pee.
Initial speculation was that the remains belonged to Japanese soldiers who, during World War II, wandered into the area and found out that the Allies weren't the only things that could be inhospitable. Later investigations concluded that the bodies were instead those of "General Zorawar Singh of Kashmir and his men, who are said to have lost their way and perished in the high Himalayas on their return journey after the Battle of Tibet in 1841." But that was also wrong -- because the bodies were much older than that.
You see, local folklore told of King Jasdhawal of Kanauj, who, back in the medieval days, threw an epic celebration in these mountains. The local deity, Latu, wasn't about to put up with that bullshit, so it thoroughly pooped on this party by raining death down on the king and his entourage from the heavens.
But that can't be true, right? Well, in 2004, scientists from National Geographic decided to get to the bottom of this lake, so to speak, and what they discovered was that there was more truth to the folklore than previously believed. The bones did in fact date all the way back to the year 850, and forensic studies of some of the more than 600 skulls located in the area revealed that they had all died from sharp blows from above -- a sudden storm of freakishly large hail.
The moral of the story? Don't party within earshot of Himalayan deities -- they're big fans of their beauty sleep, apparently.
The Frozen Corpses of Everest
Every year, hundreds of people pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of getting to climb Mount Everest -- but what the Nepalese tourism board doesn't exactly like to advertise is that around 240 climbers have died trying to make the summit, and most of them are still up there. In fact, there is a section of the mountain called Rainbow Valley where dozens of bodies are visible due to their brightly colored climbing jackets.
You see, the climbing part isn't really that hard (it's like being on a Stairmaster for a really long time), but it's the altitude that usually gets you. Once you get past the 26,000-foot mark, you enter the death zone (starring Christopher Walken) -- there's so little oxygen at that altitude that the human body can't survive. So, basically, if you stay there for too long, you start slowly turning into Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. Some people just tip over from exhaustion and stay in that position forever.
This is why you listen when your mother tells you to put on a hat.
And yes, many of these bodies are on the route that climbers usually take. One such body is that of British climber David Sharp, who didn't bring enough oxygen, got tired, and sat down to rest in a small cave near the peak that was already inhabited by another dead climber known as Green Boots.
Later, a group of other climbers passed by and saw Sharp sitting there with half of his body frozen ... and that's when he mumbled his name and they realized he was still alive. He was even filmed when a documentary crew walked past, but there was nothing they could do for him -- in the death zone, people can barely walk, let alone carry a body. And that's why Nepal doesn't just go up there and remove the bodies: Many who tried have ended up joining them.
But hey, at least those people end up serving as reference markers for other climbers, like poor Francys Arsentiev here:
Yosomono writes about the dark side of Tokyo at Gaijinass.com. If you like places teeming with death, wait till you get a load of Jason's Facebook page. Menezes was declared dead in his hometown, but his Twitter page lives on.
And make sure you film your friends' dead bodies for our pocket film contest. Check out the contest details and submit here.
Related Reading: Dead bodies are surprisingly capable. One even won an Olympic event. And guess what! You can have your own corpse turned into bullets. Hey, it beats being crucified for science. Or does it?