There can be few experiences more disturbing than to visit the resting place of a loved one, and then find the corpse blasted all over the walls and the container in pieces. This is not a movie plot or Michael Jackson video – caskets do occasionally explode, and Josh Slocum, executive director of the US-based Funeral Consumers Alliance, explains how.
Metro: You must be joking – how can this happen?
Slocum: Think about when you put leftover food in sealed container in a warm environment. In the US, caskets are sold with rubber seals that are effectively Tupperware for the dead. The idea is to ‘protect’ the corpse, which is strange as the worse thing possible has already happened. Anyway, you get a build-up of decomposition gas that does not vent, and the top is blown off.
How powerful is the blast?
Well it’s more of a pop than a bang, but you’re left with a horrible slurry. It’s disgusting.
Can you put the unfortunate back together again?
All you can do is clean up the goo and replace the casket. In some cases the body is completely liquefied so you can’t re-bury. Mausoleums should not allow sealed caskets, and crypts should be designed to allow drainage.
How common is this and where does it happen?
There is no data but every few years a high profile case comes up and it’s more common in warm climates.
Shouldn’t we be past this? I thought all industries were super high-tech now?
We should but the industry is unscrupulous. Undertakers still say they need to embalm bodies to protect us from disease, which is poppycock. The lesson is to return to a rational, sensible attitude to death – in the 18th century it would be a wooden coffin in the earth which was just fine.
Please tell me that’s the freakiest thing that happens with caskets?
Outside of human interference, it is. Although a cemetery was flooded once and all the corpses washed up in a tree.