I adore Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, funeral director, natural burial and DYI body preparation and funeral proponent, founder of the Order of the Good Death, and YouTuber at Ask a Mortician. She takes on interesting, and at times difficult, topics about death and corpses and funerals and whatnot, and dispels myth while simultaneously making the truth fascinating. I recommend her highly, and will be occasionally sharing her videos on this blog. In this video, she takes on the myth and reality behind Rosalia Lombardo, a two year old who died in the 1920s and was embalmed so well that nearly a century later, she still looks as if she might wake up any moment. Caitlin lays some myths about the exquisitely preserved corpse to rest, and casts light on the secrets behind her embalming.
“Following its closure, the building’s contents were left intact for years afterward, the tables remaining set with full place settings and the lunch counter fully stocked with coffeemakers and cooking utensils. The restaurant’s sudden closure gave rise to speculation and the subsequent urban legend that the owners, who lived in an apartment above the restaurant, were murdered at the hands of organized crime.”
“The Tanganyika laughter epidemic of 1962 was an outbreak of mass hysteria – or mass psychogenic illness (MPI) – rumored to have occurred in or near the village of Kashasha on the western coast of Lake Victoria in the modern nation of Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika) near the border of Uganda.”
This song hits a couple sweet spots for me. First, if you haven’t heard of Puddles and his Pity Party, you’ve got to check him out. He does heartrending covers of melancholy songs in full clown makeup (and manages to not be creepy, which is a big plus). He’s been on this season of America’s Got Talent, which is fantastic because as many people as possible need to know about this awesome act. Puddles aside, this is a Bowie cover, and I love me some Bowie. There has been an explosion of tributes after his death last year, and this is one of my favorites. Enjoy!
“Some historians estimate that up to 250,000 men, women, and children—from which at least 600 every year were provided by the Kempeitai—were subjected to experimentation conducted by Unit 731 at the camp based in Pingfang alone.”
Well, that escalated quickly. This video does nothing by halves. It gets in there, elbows deep into the horror that is…actor Shia LeBeouf. Watch it, it will make sense.
(Well, no. No it won’t. But you should watch it anyway.)
“Mary Toft (née Denyer; c. 1701–1763), also spelled Tofts, was an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.”
“Mellified man, or human mummy confection, was a legendary medicinal substance created by steeping a human cadaver in honey. The concoction is mentioned only in Chinese medical sources, most significantly the Bencao Gangmu of the 16th-century Chinese medical doctor and pharmacologist Li Shizhen. Relying on a second-hand account, Li reports a story that some elderly men in Arabia, nearing the end of their lives, would submit themselves to a process of mummification in honey to create a healing confection.
“This process differed from a simple body donation because of the aspect of self-sacrifice; the mellification process would ideally start before death. The donor would stop eating any food other than honey, going as far as to bathe in the substance. Shortly, his feces (and even his sweat, according to legend) would consist of honey. When this diet finally proved fatal, the donor’s body would be placed in a stone coffin filled with honey.
“After a century or so, the contents would have turned into a sort of confection reputedly capable of healing broken limbs and other ailments. This confection would then be sold in street markets as a hard to find item with a hefty price.”
This short film, much like the short story it is based on (“The Open Window” by Saki), is an elegant example of the power of storytelling. What is a quite ordinary afternoon with quite ordinary occurrences is made eerie, even terrifying, by the narrative framework. A story well told changes our perceptions and allows us to see the wonderful or the horrifying within the world around us, even if the story is pure fiction. The actors do an especially fantastic job, particularly Michael Sheen as the poor Mr. Nuttel. The story he tells in every quivering word and wide eyed stare makes us feel acutely poor Mr. Nuttel’s nervousness and eventual shock. It’s an amazing bit of filmmaking.
“The Toynbee tiles (also called Toynbee plaques) are messages of unknown origin found embedded in asphalt of streets in about two dozen major cities in the United States and four South American cities. Since the 1980s, several hundred tiles have been discovered. They are generally about the size of an American license plate (roughly 30 cm by 15 cm), but sometimes considerably larger. They contain some variation of the following inscription:
IN MOViE `2001
ON PLANET JUPITER”