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Why don't we find animal corpses and skeletons all throughout the woods?

Why don't we find animal corpses and skeletons all throughout the woods?



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Where in the forest do wild animals die? I rarely (occasionally, but rarely) come across animal bodies.

Where are the large skeletons of bears and deer?

Detectives often investigate human bodies that were dumped months earlier. They've partially decomposed, but are still mostly there. Why?


Large predators can break up the bones to get at the marrow. This disperses the skeletons. But for the most part, bones are a good source of calcium, and are eaten by rodents. You can see evidence of this when you come across the gnaw marks that rodents make on the plastic boards made from recycled milk cartons. As for the reason that human skeletons are particularly resistant to this destruction, I have only a guess. Perhaps the first stage of destruction, the dispersal by large predators, is less common because these predators have been trained to avoid humans. I would also guess that many murder victims are concealed by the murderer.


Below is an excerpt from Lesser Beasts, by Mark Essig, as recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.

Built in about 2550 bc , the Great Pyramid of Giza stands 455 feet tall and comprises some 2.3 million blocks of stone weighing about 13 billion pounds in aggregate. Archaeologists still argue over whether those stones were moved into place using levers, sledges, or oil-slicked ramps. Whatever the technical method, building the pyramids involved a feat of social engineering just as impressive as the mechanical: Egyptian authorities had to feed a workforce of thousands of people for decades at a time.

The builders of the Great Pyramid called upon the resources of the entire Nile Valley to support this effort. The royal house sent orders to the heads of villages, who in turn sent men to the Giza site, along with grain and livestock to feed them. Workers drank beer, a muddy beverage fermented from grain and consumed more for nutrition than for pleasure. They ate heavy loaves of wheat and barley, supplemented with beef, mutton, and goat. One archaeologist analyzed some 300,000 bones at the pyramid complex and found that nearly all the animals eaten were young and male. This proved that Giza was a provisioned site, with animals raised elsewhere and the juvenile males—not needed for breeding—marched to slaughter at the pyramids.

One village that provided livestock was Kom el-Hisn, located in the Nile delta about seventy-five miles downriver from the temple complex. Villagers at Kom el-Hisn raised cattle but ate very little beef: only the bones of worn-out breeding cows and sick calves have been uncovered there. Instead, the villagers ate pork: for every four cattle bones archaeologists unearthed at Kom el-Hisn, they found one hundred pig bones. It seems that the residents kept herds of pigs that foraged in the Nile delta marshes and scavenged trash on streets. Although Egypt’s rulers demanded cattle from Kom el-Hisn, along with goats and sheep from other settlements, the villagers’ pigs were spared.

The reasons for this had to do with climate and biology. Animals destined for Giza had to walk hundreds of miles through an arid landscape, feeding on grass and leaves along the way. Well suited for such a journey, cows, goats, and sheep were herded to Giza by the thousands. Pigs, however, would not have found the food or shade they needed along the way. The state couldn’t move pigs around, so it ignored them.

This pattern appeared throughout the Near East: officials developed complex food-provisioning systems that depended on the long-distance movement of cows, sheep, and goats. Pigs didn’t fit into such schemes. But despite—or perhaps because of—their lack of usefulness to bureaucrats, pigs didn’t disappear. Instead, they stuck to their original role as scavengers. People on the fringes of society with little or no access to state-supplied food embraced them as a source of meat. Priests and bureaucrats, who dined on lamb and beef, came to despise pigs. Only the poor ate pork.

For its first 4,000 years, agriculture remained a modest affair. The farmers of the Near East lived in mud-brick huts in villages ranging in size from a few dozen to a few thousand people—places like Kom el-Hisn, which did not change much from one century to the next.

The pace of change picked up about 5500 bc . That’s when people in Mesopotamia—the lands around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in present-day Syria and Iraq—developed irrigation agriculture. A thousand years after that, the plow appeared. The first true cities, with tens of thousands of residents and complex social organizations, appeared about 3500 bc . The Mesopotamians invented writing—first pictographs and later the more abstract cuneiform—and built the first monumental temples, called ziggurats, to worship their gods. Across the Red Sea, Egypt got a slightly later start but achieved more lasting success. By about 3000 bc , Egyptian rulers had unified a ribbon of land stretching for six hundred miles along the Nile. Scribes created a hieroglyphic writing system about this same time, and laborers were put to work on pyramids.

Culture depends on agriculture, and in Egypt and Mesopotamia the two flourished together. Both empires emerged from desert landscapes along rivers. No one had settled these areas earlier because there wasn’t enough rain for farming, but irrigation allowed farmers to exploit the rich soil deposited by seasonal floods. That soil produced crops in great abundance, which meant some members of society could give up agricultural work and devote themselves to making crafts (pottery, baskets, bricks, tools, weapons), building temples, keeping records, fighting battles, and serving the gods. “A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into,” George Orwell once wrote. “The other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards.” Only when farmers grew enough food to fill the bellies of bureaucrats, priests, and soldiers could these elites go about the business of creating what we call civilization.

Mesopotamia and Egypt built centralized economies and strictly controlled the distribution of grains, dairy products, and meat to the population. The city of Puzrish-Dagan, for example, served as an administrative center for Mesopotamia’s Third Dynasty of Ur, which lasted from 2112 to 2004 bc . Surviving records show that the ruling dynasty requisitioned tens of thousands of animals from outlying areas. One archaeologist tabulated the records from this economic center, tracing the flow of more than 10,000 animals that arrived from the provinces and were then distributed throughout the urban center. The temple claimed lambs and kids, and soldiers ate cattle and older sheep. The records make no mention of pigs. As in Egypt, they existed but held no interest to the state.

Villagers in both Mesopotamia and Egypt kept pigs purely on their own initiative. Throughout the Near East, pigs could be found wherever there was water. Towns near natural pig habitats—along the Jordan River, for instance—kept the most pigs because the animals could supplement urban scavenging with foraging in the woods and marshes. Towns in drier areas kept fewer pigs. Nomadic pastoralists, on the move for much of the year, kept none. Archaeologists have plotted on maps the areas that received enough rainfall to allow farming without irrigation. All villages within those areas showed evidence of pig remains. In other words, if it was biologically possible to raise pigs, people raised pigs.

There were variations within this broad pattern. At Tell Halif, a small site on the edge of the Negev desert in what is now southern Israel, the archaeological record shows dramatic swings in the reliance on pork: pigs account for more than 20 percent of animal bones in garbage heaps dating to 3000 bc . That figure plunges to less than 5 percent five hundred years later, rises again to 20 percent by 1500 bc , and finally drops once more to less than 5 percent by 1000 bc . Changes in rainfall levels cannot explain those swings. It seems that the true reason was political: periods of highest pig use correspond with times of weakest state control. Halif was located along a major trade route when the political situation was stable, the town likely became integrated within a regional economy, and a steady supply of sheep and goats flowed through. When the ruling dynasties descended into chaos—as they did rather frequently—the town had to fend for itself. That’s when the villagers turned to pigs.

Greek pig statuette, probably a votive offering. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The rise of strong states discouraged pig raising in another way as well: by changing the landscape. As populations grew, they put increased pressure on the land. Farmers felled oaks to make way for olive groves and drained marshes to plant crops. The land, often poorly managed, deteriorated from forest to cropland to pastureland to desert, with each successive stage providing less habitat for pigs. By the time desert scrub prevailed, only sheep and goats could survive. As pigs lost habitat, they likely began to raid crops in the field, threatening the food supply and thereby earning a spot on the state’s hit list.

Pigs didn’t fit into the new political and agricultural order. As time marched on, they began to disappear. At many archaeological sites, pig bones remain common up through about 2000 bc , then dwindle away. A thousand years later, few people raised pigs in any quantity.

In a few spots, however, pigs persisted. They remained important for sites like Tell Halif that were on the margins of empire, far from the urban centers. And pigs became crucial to the marginal people living within those urban centers. Careful sifting of debris from streets has turned up shed milk teeth—baby teeth—of piglets, evidence that pigs were living and breeding among the homes of the world’s first great cities. But not everyone in those cities partook in equal measures. Archaeologists tend to find pig bones in the areas of cities where the common people lived. In elite areas, they find more cattle and sheep bones.

Some of the most compelling evidence of this pattern comes from the temple complex at Giza. At the official barracks, temple laborers ate provisioned beef driven there from far-flung villages. Nearby, however, another settlement grew up. This neighborhood, haphazardly constructed, most likely housed those who provided services to temple workers and bureaucrats—grinding wheat, baking bread, brewing beer. These people were not part of the official workforce and therefore did not receive food directly from the rulers. Instead they hunted, foraged, and traded for their food, or they raised it themselves. And what they raised was pigs. Although absent from the residences of official workers, pigs are common in this self-supporting area. Pork offered these common people what we would call food security: a source of meat under their own control.

Poor people ate pork because it was the only meat they had. The elite refrained from eating it because they had access to other sources of meat. In time, though, the ruling classes began to actively avoid pork. The Greek historian Herodotus, in the fifth century bc , reported that an upper-class Egyptian man, after accidentally brushing against a pig, rushed into the Nile fully clothed to cleanse himself.

By the start of the Iron Age, about 1200 bc , elites in the Near East had begun to see pigs as polluting, a view that arose in part from the habits of urban pigs. Though cities had grown large, sanitation systems had not kept pace. Residents threw garbage into the streets or piled it in heaps outside their doors. This waste included spoiled food, dead animals, and human excrement. Information about ancient sewage disposal is scant one of the few references is found in Jewish scripture. “You shall have a stick,” Moses tells his people in Deuteronomy, “and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it, and turn back and cover up your excrement. Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, . . . therefore your camp must be holy, that he may not see anything indecent among you, and turn away from you.”

Evidence suggests that the Lord God saw quite a few indecencies among the Israelites and their neighbors. Sewer systems didn’t exist. A few elite homes and temples had pit latrines, but mostly people practiced what today is known as open defecation: they relieved themselves in fields or streets, and they didn’t bring a stick. This is where pigs enter the picture.

Pigs eat shit. In many villages around the world today, pigs linger around peoples’ usual defecation spots awaiting a meal. Some English pigs in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had the same habit. In China, archaeologists discovered a terra cotta sculpture, dating to about 200 ad, showing a pig in a sty, with a round, roofed building just above it. The structure was originally identified as a grain silo for storing pig feed, but the model in fact depicted a combination pigsty-outhouse: people sat on an elevated perch and made deposits to the hungry pig below. The practice was widespread—the same Chinese character designates both “pigsty” and “outhouse”—and has survived into the present on Korea’s Cheju Island. In the 1960s more than 90 percent of farmers on the island used a pigsty-privy in their subsistence-farming regimen, and they insisted the arrangement produced the sweetest pork in the world.

The pigsty-privy apparently did not exist in the ancient Near East, but pigs discovered this food source on their own. Tapeworm eggs have been found in fossilized pig feces from ancient Egypt. Since these eggs are produced only by adult tapeworms living in human guts, it appears that human feces formed part of Egyptian pigs’ rations. In Aristophanes’ play Peace, dating to the fifth century bc , a character notes that a “pig or a dog will . . . pounce upon our excrement.”

This particular dining habit did not improve the pig’s reputation. Just as troubling was the pig’s taste for carrion, including human corpses when available. Eating human flesh and eating excrement are nearly universal human taboos, and eating animals that eat those substances carried a transitive taint. “The pig is impure,” a Babylonian text asserted, because it “makes the streets stink . . . [and] besmirches the houses.” An Assyrian text from the 670s bc contains these curses: “May dogs and swine eat your flesh,” and “May dogs and swine drag your corpses to and fro on the squares of Ashur.”

Dogs and pigs had first domesticated themselves by scavenging human waste, but now that role made them pariahs. Filthy animals offended the gods and therefore were excluded from holy places. The people of the Near East practiced many different religions, but all agreed that the key sacrificial animals were sheep, goats, and cattle and that pigs were unclean. In Mesopotamia and Egypt, pigs never appear in religious art. The Harris Papyrus, which describes religious offerings made by King Ramses III, includes a detailed list of every desirable item to be found in Egypt and the lands it had conquered, including plants, fruits, spices, minerals, and meat. Pork does not appear on the list. “The pig is not fit for a temple,” a Babylonian text reads, because it is “an offense to all the gods.” A Hittite text declares, “Neither pig nor dog is ever to cross the threshold” of a temple. If anyone served the gods from a dish contaminated by pigs or dogs, “to that one will the gods give excrement and urine to eat and drink.”

From the tomb of Ramses II, depicting how Horus would judge souls in the afterlife, reincarnating the bad ones as pigs. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Many people, for many different reasons, rejected pork in the ancient Near East. Largely arid, it was a land of sheep, goats, and cattle. Nomads didn’t keep pigs because they couldn’t herd them through the desert. Villages in very dry areas didn’t keep pigs because the animals needed a reliable source of water. Priests, rulers, and bureaucrats didn’t eat pork because they had access to sheep and goats from the state-focused central distributing system and considered pigs filthy. Pigs remained important in only one place: nonelite areas of cities, where they ate waste and served as a subsistence food supply for people living on the margins.

This was the situation in the Near East around 1200 bc , when a tribe of people known as the Israelites settled in Canaan, west of the Jordan River in Palestine. Like most of their neighbors, the Israelites rejected pork. Unlike those neighbors, the Israelites came to consider pork avoidance a central element of their identity.

Scriptural dietary rules grew more significant with time. When the laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy were set down, few people in the Near East were eating pork. Archaeologists find no pig bones at all, or just a scattered few, in settlements from this period. Then, starting in about 300 bc , pig bones begin to appear in great profusion. The Greeks had arrived—and pigs would soon enjoy a renaissance after some nine hundred years of persecution.

Greek rule spelled major changes for the Israelites. The Greek king Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian Empire in 333 bc and taken over all the lands Persia had controlled, including Palestine. Whereas the Persians had worked through local rulers and allowed local peoples to live as they wished, the Greeks forcefully imposed Hellenistic culture on their subjects. In 167 bc the ruler Antiochus IV, a successor to Alexander, invaded Jerusalem and tried to stamp out Judaism, a story recorded in the Books of the Maccabees. The first book relates how Antiochus demanded “that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs.” Many Jews acquiesced and “sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath.” Worst of all, Antiochus ordered the Jews “to defile the sanctuary, . . . to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised.”

In the Second Book of the Maccabees, the invaders force pork into the mouth of Eleazer, an elderly Jewish scribe, but he spits it out. His tormenters, old friends who have gone over to the enemy’s side, bring him aside and quietly tell him they will secretly replace the pork with kosher meat so that he can obey God’s law while pretending to obey Antiochus. Again Eleazer refuses: “Many of the young should suppose that Eleazer in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion,” he says. “For the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me.” His purpose, he explains, is to leave “a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.” So he goes to the rack and is beaten to death over a mouthful of pork.

In the next chapter of the Second Book of the Maccabees, the pork-related punishments continue. A mother and her seven sons are arrested and told they must eat swine’s flesh, but they too refuse. On the king’s orders, a guard cuts out the tongue of one of the brothers, scalps him, and chops off his hands and feet. Then a large pan is heated over a fire, and the king orders his guards to take the brother, “still breathing, and to fry him in the pan,” which they do. After he is dead, they kill another brother in the same way, and then another, until all seven brothers are dead, at which point Antiochus orders the mother slain as well.

Although these episodes occurred hundreds of years after the laws of Leviticus were laid down, they comprise only the second recorded instance of pork eating among the Jews. The first occurs in the book of Isaiah, when God expresses his fury at a few people who have eaten “swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things.” They have done so in secret, hidden away in gardens and graveyards, and their sin is known only to God. It is a matter between the Lord and his people, and God promises to destroy the offenders.

In Maccabees, the situation is public. Infuriated by the Jews’ desire to remain a separate people, Antiochus has outlawed the most visible symbol of their difference: their refusal to share a table with their neighbors. Here eating pork is not simply a matter of ritual purity, of remaining holy in order to keep the temple pure. It has become, instead, the key to cultural identity. The Books of the Maccabees provided a model of what it meant to be Jewish: even in the face of death, a Jew must refuse pork in order to remain true to his people.

Pork eating hadn’t carried much significance as a marker of Jewish identity before the Greek conquest of Persia because most others in the region didn’t eat pork either. Since the Israelites’ return from exile in Egypt, abstaining from pork simply had been one way that they remained pure in order to preserve their relationship with God. Now, however, it also became a way that they drew boundaries between themselves and those they lived among. Indeed, when pork-eating Greeks ruled over the Jews, refusing pork became a key element of what it meant to be Jewish. You are what you eat, the saying goes, but the Jews were what they didn’t eat.

The Jews rebelled against Antiochus and in 142 bc won control of Palestine and reconsecrated the Temple, an event commemorated in the celebration of Chanukah. Their independence lasted less than a century: in 63 bc the Romans conquered Jerusalem, and the Jews once more fell under the rule of pork eaters. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans responded to Jewish pork avoidance not with violence but with puzzlement and feeble jokes. Juvenal, the Roman satirist of the first century ad , noted that in Palestine “a long-established clemency suffers pigs to attain old age” because Jews “do not differentiate between human and pigs’ flesh.” It was said that Caesar Augustus, after hearing that King Herod of Judea had executed one of his own children, joked that he would “rather be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son.”

There was a reason Jewish dining habits attracted attention: Romans loved pork with a passion matched by few people before or since. They developed the most sophisticated farming and breeding techniques that the world had ever seen and created elaborate—occasionally obscene—recipes to prepare pork for their lavish feasts. Such ostentatious pork consumption would only reinforce the divisions between Jews and Romans, and it would eventually establish pork as the meat of choice in the religion the Romans would help disseminate throughout Europe: Christianity.

An enormous pig, belly up, is wheeled into a banquet room in one scene of Federico Fellini’s Satyricon. Trimalchio, the host, accuses the cook of roasting the animal without first gutting it and orders him whipped as punishment. The guests call for mercy, so Trimalchio demands, “Gut it here, now,” whereupon the cook swings an enormous sword and slashes the pig’s belly. The guests recoil in horror, but the steaming mass that pours forth is not the pig’s viscera but cooked meat. “Thrushes, fatted hens, bird gizzards!” one character calls out. “Sausage ropes, tender plucked doves, snails, livers, ham, offal!” The dispute with the cook has been all in fun. The guests applaud, then grab hunks of meat and begin to gorge themselves.

Fellini’s film, released in 1969, stays true to its source material, a work by Petronius written not long after the death of Christ. In depicting Roman dining, Petronius satirized but did not exaggerate: there was no need to embellish the extravagant reality. The dish portrayed in the film, a medley of meats hidden within a whole hog, was known as porcus Troianus, or “Trojan pig,” a nod to another great act of concealment. Petronius also describes a whole roast pig served with hunks of meat carved into the shape of piglets and placed along its belly, “as if at suck, to show it was a sow we had before us.” Another feast featured what appeared to be a goose and a variety of fish, all carved from pork. “I declare my cook made it every bit out of a pig,” the host exclaims. “Give the word, he’ll make you a fish of the paunch, a wood-pigeon of the lard, a turtle-dove of the forehand, and a hen of the hind leg!” Why he should do so is left unexplained.

In cuisine, culture, and mythology, Romans delighted in concealment and disguise, metamorphosis and transformation, and in this they could hardly have been more different from the Jews. The Roman Empire formed a vast, cosmopolitan civilization that embraced and absorbed dozens of cultures. Few identities—whether of meats or of people—remained fixed. Trimalchio, in Satyricon, is a former slave who has won his freedom and then attained great wealth. A man calling himself a Roman citizen might have been born in northern Europe, Africa, or Asia Minor. Jews, by contrast, were dedicated to marrying among themselves, defending their small homeland, and preserving their ancient ways.

The differences between Romans and Jews extended to food. One people defined itself by rejecting pork, the other by embracing it. One called the pig abominable, the other miraculous. One saw the pig as a carrier of pollution, the other as a sign of abundance. Between them, Jews and Romans set the terms that would define the pig throughout the history of the West.

Pigs were the most common sacrificial animal in both Greece and Rome. They didn’t pollute—they purified. In Greek mythology, after Jason and Medea kill Medea’s brother, the enchantress Circe captures a piglet from “a sow whose dugs yet swelled from the fruit of the womb,” slits its neck, and sprinkles its blood over the hands of the killers to remove the stain of murder. Similarly, a painted vase shows Apollo holding a sacrificed piglet, still dripping blood, over the head of Orestes, who has killed his mother. Priests killed a suckling pig to honor the gods before every public gathering in Athens. Romans killed pigs to seal public agreements, such as contracts and treaties, and to mark important private occasions, such as births and weddings.

A youth preparing a pig’s head after the sacrifice. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Although the pig served as an all-purpose sacrificial animal, it carried a more specific meaning as a symbol of fertility. Demeter, Greek goddess of wheat, was honored with pig sacrifices. With her daughter Persephone—who was condemned to spend a third of each year in Hades—Demeter symbolized the circle of life, of death in winter followed by rebirth in spring. At Thesmophoria, the most widespread festival in ancient Greece, priestesses cast piglets into a pit and later retrieved their rotting carcasses and placed them on the altar of Demeter. The rotted pork was then scattered in the fields to ensure a good harvest. In Greece young pigs were known by the terms khoiros and delphax, both of which also could refer to women’s genitalia, and the Latin porcus carried the same dual meaning. Aristophanes makes some horrifying puns on this double meaning in his play Acharnians, where a starving man disguises his two daughters as pigs and sells them in the market. The scholar Varro noted that Romans “call that part which in girls is the mark of their sex porcus” to indicate that they were “mature enough for marriage.”

The use of pigs as fertility symbols traces back to the region’s first farming communities. Just north of Greece in the Balkans, archaeologists have found early Neolithic statues of pigs studded with grains of wheat and barley. Like a seed germinating in the soil, a sow giving birth to many piglets demonstrated the bounty of nature. Sacrificing pigs honored the gods and ensured that the fields, and the people themselves, would enjoy abundant fertility.

Most people in the ancient world ate vegetarian diets heavy on grains and beans. This was the cheapest way to feed large populations. Rome was different. Although meat was expensive, Rome was rich, and a sizable class of people had enough money to eat it regularly.

Romans ate beef, lamb, and goat, but they preferred pork. Hippocrates, the Greek physician, proclaimed pork the best of all meats, and his Roman successors agreed. There were more Latin words for pork than for any other meat, and the trade became highly specialized: there were distinct terms for sellers of live pigs (suarii), fresh pork (porcinarius), dried pork (confectorarius), and ham (pernarius). According to the Edict of Diocletian, issued in 301 ad , sow’s udder, sow’s womb, and liver of fig-fattened swine commanded the highest prices of any meat, costing twice as much as lamb. Beef sausages sold for just half the price of pork. After the Punic Wars, the percentage of pig bones in Carthage doubled, just as it had in Jerusalem under Roman occupation: Romans kept eating pork even in arid climates such as North Africa and Palestine, where pigs were more difficult to raise.

The richest source on Roman cuisine, a recipe book known as De re coquinaria, or On Cooking, confirms this love of swine. Pork dishes far outnumber those made with other meats. The section called “Quadrupeds” contains four recipes for beef and veal, eleven for lamb, and seventeen for suckling pig. Other sections of the book offer recipes for adult sows and boars and nearly all of their parts, including brain, skin, womb, udder, liver, stomach, kidneys, and lungs. Archeology confirms that Romans carved up pigs more carefully and thoroughly than they did other creatures: pig skulls found in Roman dumps contain far more butchery scars than the skulls of sheep and cows, evidence that butchers excised the tongues, cheeks, and brains of pigs but not those of other beasts.

More than half of the dishes in On Cooking are relatively modest—barley soup with onion and ham bone, for example—and within the means of much of the urban population, but others demanded greater resources. Apicius is credited with inventing the technique of overfeeding a sow with figs in order to enlarge the liver, much as geese were stuffed with grain to create foie gras. In Apicius’s recipe, the fig-fattened pig liver is marinated in liquamen—a fermented fish sauce central to Roman cuisine—wrapped in caul fat, and grilled. The recipe for pig paunch starts with this salutary advice: “Carefully empty out a pig’s stomach.” The cook is then instructed to fill the stomach with a mixture of pork, “three brains that have had their sinews removed,” raw eggs, pine nuts, peppercorns, anise, ginger, rue, and other seasonings. Finally, the stomach is tied at both ends—“leaving a little space so that it does not burst during cooking”—boiled, smoked, boiled some more, and then served.

Some of the more elaborate dishes in On Cooking fall under the heading ofellae, which literally means a morsel of food. In one recipe, a skin-on pork belly is scored on the meat side, marinated for days in a blend of liquamen, pepper, cumin, and other spices, and then roasted. The chunks of meat would then be pulled from the skin, sauced, and served, forming bite-sized pieces that a diner could eat by hand while reclining, the preferred posture for Roman feasts. Another of the luxury dishes involves boiling a ham, removing the skin, scoring the flesh, and coating it with honey, a preparation that would not be out of place at Christmas dinner today.

Romans had a taste for blended milk, blood, and flesh that could make even a Gentile shudder. The Roman poet Martial had this to say about a roasted udder of lactating sow: “You would hardly imagine you were eating cooked sows’ teats, so abundantly do they flow and swell with living milk.” (Elsewhere, after a meal, Martial suffers the glutton’s regret and remarks upon “the unsightly skin of an excavated sow’s udder.”) This preference veered into the bizarrely cruel. Some cooks, Plutarch claimed, stomped and kicked the udders of live pregnant sows and thereby “blended together blood and milk and gore,” which was said to make the dish all the more delicious. The womb of this poor sow was eaten as well, with the dish called vulva eiectitia, or “miscarried womb.”

Seneca, the Stoic philosopher and statesman, decried such dishes as “monstrosities of luxury,” and he was far from the only critic. Roman rulers passed sumptuary laws limiting the amount that could be spent on meals and forbidding the consumption of items including testicles and cheeks. But the wealthy flouted such rules because the social hierarchy couldn’t function without feasts: feasting provided the only way to learn who had grown richer and who had lost money, who was in the emperor’s favor and who had been cast out. To curtail extravagance was to deny the very reason to feast.

From the book from Lesser Beasts, by Mark Essig, published by Basic Books.


Whippoorwill

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Whippoorwill, (Caprimulgus vociferus), nocturnal bird of North America belonging to the family Caprimulgidae (see caprimulgiform) and closely resembling the related common nightjar of Europe. It is named for its vigorous deliberate call (first and third syllables accented), which it may repeat 400 times without stopping. It lives in woods near open country, where it hawks for insects around dusk and dawn by day it sleeps on the forest floor or perches lengthwise on a branch. About 24 cm (9 1 /2 inches) long, it has mottled brownish plumage with, in the male, a white collar and white tail corners the female’s tail is plain and her collar is buffy.

The whippoorwill breeds from southeastern Canada throughout the eastern United States and from the southwestern United States throughout Mexico, wintering as far south as Costa Rica. In the middle of its range it is often confused with the chuck-will’s-widow and the poorwill.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


ELI5: Where do wild animals go when they die?

How come I never see dead animals, like deer or boars lying in the woods, or a dead pigeon or squirrel lying on the street? Where do elderly animals go when they know their death is imminent and how is it that wherever that place is isn't already overcrowded with previously dead carcasses?

ELI5: The bodies of dead animals are often consumed by predators, scavengers and microorganisms, leaving nothing behind.

In the wild, food is one of the most precious resources you can find, a living organisms is a roaming island full of nutrients. Animals are always looking for something to consume, to get the valuable nutrients they need to keep living.

When an animal dies, two things happen:

(a) their body is decomposed by microorganisms like bacteria and fungi

(b) scavengers find the body and consume it

It's actually rare for a corpse to make it without being consumed to the bones. And even the bones are sometimes decomposed or consumed by other animals, leaving nothing after the animal dies.

Microorganisms are already present in the body of any animal, since they can be passed from parent to offspring and there are lots of spores floating in the environment. Here's a timelapse of a rabbit decaying (in lab conditions), here's a mouse, and here's a dolphin. You can notice how quickly they decompose and they're left unrecognizable.

Scavengers and predators are often looking for prey and corpses to consume, if they glance at an animal that seems to be close to dying, is a lone corpse or a gathering of animals eating a corpse, they will go there and eat it. An example comes from the episode "Mountains" from Planet Earth II.

Bonus: This is one of the reasons why fossil record is incomplete. For an organism to become a fossil, three requirements have to be met:

Its body has to be preservable (hard tissues like shells or bones, instead of soft tissues like muscles or the heart).

Its body has to reach a place where the conditions for fossilization are favourable (like muddy places or water beds).

The body has to make it as untouched as possible, which is hard because organisms almost always consume dead bodies, leaving nothing behind.


How to rot down dead bodies: the Tet Zoo body farm

Like some most virtually all hopefully all people interested in animals, I have a dark, guilty secret: I covet and collect dead bodies. In fact I'm of the opinion that if you're interested in animals and are not interested in dead bodies, there's something wrong with you. How can you not be interested in - nay, fascinated by - anatomy, variation and functional morphology, and how are you going to learn about this if not by looking at, and manipulating, dead bodies and their constituent parts? Few of us have ready access to museum collections, and building up a collection of specimens yourself is easy (assuming, that is, that you have at least some interaction with the natural world).

While dissection and soft-tissue manipulation has its uses, we mostly want to get the corpses we obtain down to their bare bones preferably in the cleanest, quickest, easiest way possible. In my efforts to do this, I've tried most techniques I can think of: burial in soil, burial in compost heaps, arthropods, live yoghurt, chemicals, mechanical maceration, sun-drying, softening in water, boiling, microwaving. Some techniques work, some fail. The area is hindered by the fact that, while there is some good literature on the processes of decomposition (Weigelt 1989, Machel 1996, Carter et al. 2007), there isn't really anything like a 'how-to guide' should you need to carry it out in a controlled manner. Or, if there is, I'm not aware of it. Thanks to two of my closest colleagues I've recently been discussing the topic of controlled decomposition quite a lot. Here are my various thoughts and recollections, some of which you might find interesting or useful. If you're squeamish: err, hell-o-o, why are you here?

Soaking, boiling and microwaving

First of all, let's look at some lesser-known techniques, and at their effectiveness. On a few occasions I've soaked carcasses in water: if enough time goes by, all the soft tissues fall away, and clean bones are the result. However, this can be a very disgusting and pungent technique, you are generally constrained to small dead things, and algae can stain or even ruin the bones entirely. It works best on specimens that have relatively little soft tissue attached. The hedgehog jaws and newt and frog skeletons you see here were all prepared in this manner.

Boiling works well, but only when much of the soft tissue has already been removed. I once used it on a frog corpse and all I ended up with was a hot frog corpse. The major disadvantage is that most of us can only do boiling indoors: I'm not fond of filling my house with the stench of boiling cadavers, nor are most people I know. Stig Walsh once introduced me to the wonders of microwaving. Unsurprisingly, heating corpses to high temperatures causes skin, flesh and other tissues to come cleanly away from bones. I say that this is unsurprising because we use this technique whenever we cook carcasses for consumption. Anyway, Stig and I once microwaved a dead cat and the results were outstanding. On the down side, it took a long time (about an hour) and hence used a lot of power, plus it created a god-awful stink. If it was my microwave, I'm not sure I'd want to use it afterwards to cook food with.

Ants, woodlice and other arthropods: your friends

Arthropods are your friends. Ants are outstanding at defleshing and cleaning the skeletons of small animals, and everyone who's ever used the internet will know this well thanks to that video where ants deflesh a gecko skeleton. Of course, the constraint here is that you need ready access to a healthy ant colony. I've never had that, and so have never used ants. Isopods - woodlice - also work well if things go to plan. An outside colony of several hundred woodlice, discovered living under rotting wood, were used to deflesh a starling corpse. Within a week they'd done a brilliant job, and a relatively clean skeleton was the result. High encouraged, I started a captive colony and got them to work on a partially defleshed (and fully eviscerated) sparrowhawk corpse. However, I've learnt that maintaining woodlice colonies indoors is difficult: they dry out quite easily and require high humidity [hamster skeleton below prepared using 'corpse-in-a-box' technique: see below].

Dermestid beetles are also used by some people, and in fact some museums have large desmestid colonies used specifically for defleshing carcasses. Back when I kept pet lizards, I used to keep a dermestid colony, but I never had enough of the insects to use them in carcass processing (they're relatively expensive) and I reckon you must have a healthy colony of several hundreds for things to work. Furthermore, I found that they chewed on the bones, leaving noticeable damage. The solution to this might be to remove the material as soon as it's defleshed. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has experience in using dermestids, as I've heard good things.

The corpse-in-a-box technique

Flies (more specifically, their larvae) and burying beetles are also good, and particularly so because they rapidly find a carcass once it's available (sometimes within minutes, literally). A while ago it occurred to me that - so long as flies and burying beetles can get in and out of a box containing a carcass - then, that should get the dirty work done. So I put a corpse (a slow-worm) in a small plastic tub, broke some small holes in the top, and left it alone for a few months. The results were excellent. The insects got in, ate all the soft tissues, pupated, and left, leaving behind only bare bones and their empty pupal cases. The pupal cases were stuck to the sides of the tub and not to the bones. The bones were disarticulated and slightly discoloured, but that's all fine.

And on that note, do not go thinking that this method results in an articulated, ready-for-display skeleton: that just doesn't happen, and I should note at this point that I don't want my skeletons to be articulated, posed-as-if-standing show-pieces. No, I want disarticulated bones that can be handled individually. This is, of course, because I want the bones for comparative reasons and research. If you do want the bones to be assembled back into a skeleton, you have quite a task on your hands. My friend Trudie and I once assembled the better part of a Common boa skeleton from cleaned, disarticulated bones, and it took months (although we did only a few minutes here and there). If you do keep the bones in their disarticulated state, as I do, it pays to label them (with a fine marker pen) once they're identified, particularly the vertebrae.

Anyway, the 'corpse-in-a-box' technique is now my favourite method. For mammals and birds the technique is pretty messy as, even after all the soft tissue is gone, you're left with a lot of feathers and/or fur in the box. You therefore have to do a lot of rinsing, carefully discarding and draining away the water containing the dead feathers and/or fur. Because the skeleton becomes disarticulated by this process, various of the bones get entangled in the unwanted material, so you have to gently feel around in the mess, disentangling the bones and taking care not to throw them away. If you are squeamish or don't like the thought of manipulating dead feathers and/or fur, this is not for you. It is not pretty or pleasant. Some of you will remember the dead mole I obtained in June 2008. Moles actually break down very quickly (I'm not sure why, perhaps because their lifestyle means that their carcasses are covered in a rich assortment of destructive bacteria), and by September 2008, the job was done. As you can see from the adjacent photos, I had to rinse out a lot of dead fur (the black patches on the grass), but the results were worth it.

Once flies and/or beetles have gotten into the box, they need to be protected: if they die, your decomposition project is at an end. So, the box needs to be sheltered from the rain and from extreme heat. I made the mistake of leaving a corpse box exposed to the sky. Heavy rain flooded the box and drowned all the maggots that were happily eating the squirrel corpse inside (you can see all the dead maggots piled up near the wall). The results were pretty grotesque. Soaking in rainwater has softened the tissues: note that bare bone is visible on the squirrel's hindlimb.

Because the boxes I use for this technique are generally disposable containers like ice-cream boxes, I'm limited to small animals (which is ok, read on). The largest animals I've processed in this way have been such things as squirrels, kestrels and polecats (incidentally, all of my corpses come to me as roadkill, or as natural deaths). For larger animals - anything, say, bigger than a squirrel or pigeon - boxes and arthropods won't work, at least not before the stench of decomposition becomes a problem. Burial is your only sensible option.

Put them under the dirt

In my (dare I say it, extensive) experience, burial is weird in that the remains of carcasses are sometimes completely absent when you try and dig them up months later. Sometimes this is because you lose the exact spot, sometimes it's because a scavenger got their first (here in Britain this is typically a fox), but sometimes it's because decomposition has been so rapid, and so thorough, that the whole carcass has been broken down, bones and all. Or, at least, this is what I hypothesise anyway. I've lost hedgehogs, rodents, passerines and frogs in the soil, as well as various fish. Of course, all of these animals have relatively small, delicate bones, so their loss isn't perhaps so surprising. In order to circumvent this problem, I took to burying carcasses in boxes: the carcass was placed in a lidless box, and the whole thing was then filled in with sediment and buried 10-20 cm down. I tried this with two Lesser spotted dogfish (found discarded on the beach at Portsmouth, oh how I love fishermen), thinking that I'd get a few jaw bones out of it at least. But when I exhumed the boxes. nothing.

Anyway, when all goes to plan, burial works well, though it does require a long time (a year or more for a mid-sized animal). The bones may be soil-stained but they're generally in good shape and in need of only minor degreasing (this involves a day or two of soaking in water with detergent).

Beverley Halstead once wrote of a case where a dead dog was buried in an active compost heap, and had completely rotted down to its skeleton within something like a day (I think this case is discussed by Weigelt (1989), but I can't be bothered to go check). Inspired, I have on occasion put carcasses into my compost bin, and the results have been encouraging. So far, all I've done is throw dead mice and rats into the compost, and then noted over time the speed of decomposition (we compost all biodegradable kitchen waste, as should you). The problem, however, is that - even if the corpse was placed in a box - you'd have to sort the bones out from the substrate, and that sounds like a lot of trouble.

So, there you have it. I'm very happy with the 'corpse-in-a-box technique' and would recommend it to others who need to rot carcasses down. I'm interested in hearing other successes and failures as goes controlled decomposition, so please do chip in. There's one last thing to discuss: unless you have access to lots of land, where do you do your decomposing? My garden is just about big enough for me to hide away boxes and let nature take its course, without anyone noticing. But when larger carcasses have been involved, I've had to be inventive. I'll stop there, but let's just say that universities rarely keep a close eye on their more unkempt areas.

Carter, D. O., Yellowlees, D. & Tibbett, M. 2007. Cadaver decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Naturwissenschaften 94, 12-24.

Machel, H. G. 1996. Roadkill as teaching aids in historical geology and paleontology. Journal of Geoscience Education 44, 270-276.

Weigelt, J. 1989. Recent Vertebrate Carcasses and Their Paleobiological Implications. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.


25 body horror movies that make our bones hurt

When it comes to some of the most gruesome and downright terrifying movies out there, body horror has to be one of the hardest to swallow. Rife with gore, mutations, torture, and fates worse than death, the genre is not for the faint of heart.

But if you're looking for some of the best out there on the market, we've got 25 heart-stopping movies perfect for a night of exploring the best of the best. Just in time for Halloween, check out this menagerie of morbidity, all stemming from the horrible ways the human body can be abused. It's going to be pretty wicked, so don't say we didn't warn you.

Kevin Smith’s bizarre horror flick Tusk is billed as a black comedy as well, but there’s nothing funny about being kidnapped by a bizarre retired seaman and forced to become a gruesome walrus. After a young podcast host meets with one Howard Howe, who’s offering a room for free, he soon finds out Howe’s intentions are less than admirable. What ensues is a terrifying tale of a man who’s forced to become a walrus, on the inside and out, mutilated beyond recognition and sewn inside a walrus costume made of human skin. Wallace may not have been the best guy, but he certainly didn’t deserve this.

Leave it to the son of the king of body horror to come up with this dystopian tale of Sad March, an employee of the Lucas Clinic. The organization collects pathogens and viruses from celebrities and people of interest who are sick so that the public can then purchase the ability to be injected with said germs. For some reason fans find this a way to feel “closer” to their favorite celebrities. As sick as this sounds, things get even sicker when a celebrity meat market and Syd's injections of a seemingly terminally ill patient begins. Prepare for some serious body and medical horror as the feature wears on, proving the Cronenberg apple doesn’t fall from the tree — it was directed by David's son, Brandon.

Though we've become somewhat accustomed to its unique brand of horror by now, The Human Centipede: First Sequence is still a chilling film by all accounts. After a mad doctor decides to kidnap two women who head to his home while on vacation, dosing them with Rohypnol, he soon adds them to his "collection" of specimens. For what purpose? To create a human "centipede," of course, where human mouths are sewn to others' anuses, meaning yes, excrement is meant to pass through each "link" in the chain. Severed ligaments, humiliating modifications, and other horrific medical torture scenes make for one of the most depraved moments in body horror of all time. And there are two other movies beyond this one, if you're still ready for more.

Dawn is a young woman who’s also a proponent for abstinence. Teeth follows how her life changes drastically when she realizes she’s home for the mythical “vagina dentate,” or a vagina that bites back. After a guy she’s interested in attempts to rape her, a set of chompers down there ends up biting down hard enough to sever his penis. It only gets rougher from there, as others sexually assault Dawn and she realizes her vagina dentate is a means of protection for her against those who would try to harm her sexually. There are some particularly terrifying sequences here that will absolutely shock you, especially if you happen to have male reproductive organs.

This bizarre tale may not seem like an excellent source for body horror, but it features several examples of body horror that will stick with you long after viewing. It first follows a Hungarian military orderly who engages in sexual relations with pigs, a speed-eater who has a son named Lajoska, and then Lajoska's wretched existence at the end of the movie. His father is a grotesque mass of fat who cannot leave his chair, and the family’s pet cats eventually devour him. That’s nothing compared to Lajoska himself, however, who ends up removing his own internal organs and having a machine decapitate him so he can become a statue. It’s grisly. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

This classic example of body horror begins with a man known as the "Metal Fetishist" shoving a metal rod into a cut on his leg. You know things are going to get crazy from there. He's hit by a car driven by a regular salaryman and his girlfriend, who ends up finding that metal is growing from his very insides. After dumping the body of the Metal Fetishist, thinking he and his girlfriend are going to get away scot-free, there’s a chilling series of events that lead both men to become gnarled, hideous masses of scrap metal. Imagine metal and flesh meeting as one and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this cult hit.

This David Cronenberg remake of the 1957 Vincent Price film is the quintessential body film, recounting the tale of one Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) who ends up as a hybrid fly/human creature after one of his science experiments goes awry. Brundle, while working on "telepods" that allow for instant teleportation from one pod to another, is accidentally merged with a fly at the molecular level. His fingernails fall off, his appearance changes drastically, and in the end he no longer resembles anything even remotely human. If you’re new to the genre, this is one film that fanatics will likely always point you to first.

Re-Animator tells the story of Herbert West, a character based on the H.P. Lovecraft love of the same name, who invents a serum that can bring dead bodies back to life. Starting with his dead professor Dr. Hans Gruber and moving on to dead cats and other human subjects, the serum seems to work, but only brings the bodies back to life in a zombie-like state. The reanimating agent ends up wreaking more havoc than positive progression, including a man shoving a severed head into a woman’s crotch and lobotomized victims who can no longer control themselves. Some of its more extreme sequences are the pinnacle of body horror, and if you give it a look you’ll see for yourself.

Another Cronenberg classic, Videodrome follows a man named Max Renn who works at a TV station broadcasting what amounts to software porn and violence. He happens upon a shockingly violent broadcast one day that culminates in the murder of anonymous victims, and decides it’s the future for his station. It’s called Videodrome, and it turns out to be much more than a collection of violent programming. Renn bites off more than he can chew when he begins experiencing hallucinations, such as his torso transforming into a slot that can play video cassettes, and even a weapon forged from his own body. Just imagine having to deal with all that.

The legendary Alien is considered one of the greatest science fiction flicks of all time, but it also has one of the most familiar elements of body horror ever. Aside from the threat of the xenomorphs (the titular “alien” creatures), the focus of the movie, there’s also the facehuggers, the second stage in their life cycle. Facehuggers leap onto the faces of the crew and essentially "impregnate" them with aliens, which then burst forth from their stomachs. It's a grisly sight to be sure, and one you've probably seen parodied throughout several movies and TV shows. It's a gruesome, invasive and ultimately humiliating end for a person, and sets the stage for the other unsettling ways Alien as a franchise has approached body horror in its myriad fashions.

David Lynch’s surrealist body horror film is as disturbing as it is indecipherable, but features a copious amount of gruesome imagery surrounding the 'child' in the film. It’s the offspring of protagonist Henry Spencer and girlfriend Mary X, two bizarre individuals who have somehow spawned a limbless monstrosity that’s swaddled in thick, bandage-like material. It looks vaguely like a baby alien calf or some sort of reptile, and it’s nothing of this world. When Henry discovers what lies beneath the bandages, the movie takes a spine-tingling detour into the world of mutilation and disgusting visuals. Between that and seeing the baby's face everywhere, you'll be wishing you hadn’t seen this hellspawn of a 'child.'

This trippy bit of sci-fi follows a plot surrounding exactly what the title implies: a man who finds himself melting. After astronaut Colonel Steve West is exposed to a radiation blast on a flight to Saturn, he survives, but just barely. The flesh on his body is simply melting away, with his body having become radioactive. The solution? Consuming other human flesh, of course! There’s nothing sophisticated about the horrific bodily mutilation seen in the movie, but straightforward ooey, gooey, melting flesh that’s just not right. You won’t soon forget West's gnarly face after watching this flick.

Another Lovecraftian story, From Beyond finds scientists messing about with the pineal gland via a device known as the Resonator. One consequence of doing so finds them seeing monsters from other dimensions. One scientist is taken into the other world and comes back as a monster that can change its shape and begins to prey on the other scientists at the lab. Severe deformities, mutations, and other elements of body horror ensure From Beyond remains in your brain days after you watch it, especially when you see the 'taken' scientist assume his new form.

Dead Ringers follows a pair of identical twin gynecologists who work at a clinic that treats various different fertility problems. Both twins tend to seduce the women who come to work at their practice, and as such are pretty unsavory individuals. Things go awry when one twin, Beverly, begins having delusions of "mutant women" with bizarre genitalia, commissioning special instruments to work on them with. What follows is an uncomfortable mixture of medical torture and bizarre interactions between doctor and patient that may scar you for life, especially if you frequent the gynecologist.

John Carpenter's famous sci-fi tale of a parasitic lifeforms that imitates other organisms is one of the greats, and if you haven't seen it you should absolutely remedy that. It has several instances of some pretty gnarly transformations between humans and animals alike as dog heads split apart, humans are incinerated after transforming into bizarre beings, and more. If a human corpse with two faces sounds like something that might pique your interest, The Thing should be the next body horror flick you watch.

Martyrs is a movie all about what the title implies: creating "martyrs," or individuals tortured until they can no longer stand the pain, glimpsing into the afterlife for a brief moment. Women are kidnapped for these insidious purposes, and a good portion of the movie is spent demonstrating the kind of torture they must go through before they can 'see' the afterlife. One woman ends up with a metallic headset shielding her vision stapled to her head. Another, by the movie's end, is flayed entirely. It's all in a bid to see what happens when humans transcend, but unfortunately there isn't anything of a happy ending for anyone.

The Skin I Live In is the story of a brilliant plastic surgeon, Robert Ledgard, that has created an artificial skin that is resistant to damage like burns and insect bites. Unfortunately, he also happens to be very, very insane. Without spoiling the whole film, one of the lead characters is forced to be someone they're not and live in a body that isn't the gender they feel they should be. This film doesn't rely on special effects to make its body horror known, just the simple suggestion of being trapped in a body in which we don't feel like we belong.

Based on Clive Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser involves pleasure-seeker Frank discovering a puzzle box that when solved opens the door to another dimension. In Frank's mother's house, he opens the portal, and the demonic Cenobites rip him to pieces with chains. Even in pieces, though, Frank lives. When his brother Larry and his family move into the old house, a drop of blood in the room in which Frank was ripped apart begins the process of his resurrection. Slowly, as he obtains more blood, we see his organs and skin begin to return. The Cenobites themselves are sadomasochists that have flayed and mutilated themselves in the pursuit of "pleasure," and this film is just the beginning of a series that is filled with hellish and fascinating creatures.

Cabin Fever is a comedy of errors, but with a flesh-eating virus. A group of college students -- Burt, Jeff, Marcy, Paul, and Karen -- go on a vacation to a cabin in the woods for spring break. Unfortunately for them, a deadly infection has taken hold of a hermit that lives in the same forest. After Burt accidentally shoots the man, he shows up at their cabin, and through a series of events, they're exposed to the illness. What follows is bloody vomiting, skin sluffing off, and the worst communication between a group of people I have ever seen. Not to be missed is the scene where Marcy takes a bath and while shaving her legs, she starts to peel her skin off as well.

This heady movie involves an immensely popular subject: video games. In the world of eXistenZ, game consoles are biologically-engineered constructs called game pods. Players have bio-sports embedded in their spines that link to UmbyCords to allow them to play the game. The conflict here is between the companies that make these games and a group of individuals calling themselves "realists" that believe the bending of reality by these game designers is unnatural and must be stopped. The movie follows game designer Allegra Geller as she goes on the run from the realists on the eve of releasing her latest game, eXistenZ. Not only does the movie have the body horror inherent in biotechnological devices (like an organic firearm that shoots teeth), but it also has a bit of an Inception vibe as Allegra goes further into virtual reality in an attempt to escape her assassins.

Mary Mason desperately wants to be a surgeon, but medical school is expensive. After an interview at a strip club, the owner asks her to perform illegal surgery to save a man's life. The denizens of the club take notice and Mary is introduced to the world of extreme body modification. What ensues is a soap opera of bizarre surgeries, with Mary eventually leaving medical school to become an unlicensed surgeon full-time. Whether it's a woman who wants her nipples and labia removed to become a human doll, or twins who want their left arms exchanged and horns implanted in their heads, Mary is willing to do any surgery if you've got the cash. American Mary is a look at the extreme body modification community through the lens of a horror movie, and one of the reasons it's so frightening is because that somewhere out there this is likely someone's reality.

David Cronenberg's Scanners isn't as full throttle as The Brood and The Fly, but its version of telepathy is the kind of violent tool that you always imagined Betazeds would really use if Star Trek: The Next Generation wasn't so family-friendly. The titular scanners are very powerful psychics with the abilities of telekinesis, mind-control, and telepathy. A private security firm, ConSec, attempts to demonstrate with one of their scanners in a reveal on-stage. However, when they call on a volunteer, they end up being a more powerful scanner. The result is one of the most iconic head explosions in movie history when the ConSec scanner is overpowered by the volunteer. The volunteer runs from the ConSec facility and the plot develops into an enthralling ride concerning genetic experimentation and the evolution of man. Some great makeup effects and a fun mystery make this horror classic a must-see.

In near future Tokyo, a scientist called Key Man creates a virus that causes humans to mutate into monstrosities called Engineers. If an Engineer is injured, genetic mutations that sprout out of the wound can be used as weapons and are pretty disgusting. Ruka is assisting the Tokyo police in tracking down Engineers, and the film follows her trip to find who killed her father. It's a typical Japanese plot with a very atypical visual style and execution. Tokyo Gore Police is body horror taken to the extreme and characters like Alligator Crotch Girl, Man with Brain on the Outside of his Head and Eyestalks, and Snail Stripper — I'm not sure if they have real names — are a delight to the eyes. That is, as long as you love gross aberrations.

Slither was the directorial debut for James Gunn — yes, Guardian's of the Galaxy James Gunn. It had heavy hitters like Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, and Elizabeth Banks, but was a box office stinker. Fortunately, time has been kind, and Slither has become a cult classic. The movie plays out like an updated 1950s B-movie. A meteorite carrying a sentient parasite crashes into small-town South Carolina, which infects a local car salesman, Grant. As the parasite takes hold, Grant starts to change physically, and eventually he infects a lonely woman who becomes a bloated ball of flesh, filled to the brim with his slug-like offspring. Eventually, almost the whole town is absorbed into Grant, who at this point is a pulsating mound of flesh and partially recognizable bodies that have formed a hive mind. The aberration of the human body in Slither is mind-blowing, and it gives a much-needed update to a classic sci-fi trope.


  • The Get Rid of Cablecampaign from DirecTV. See what happens when you make bad decisions &mdash namely, choosing the Other Guys subpar cable services. For example:
  • In an old Bert And I sketch, a notoriously smelly and unclean man becomes enough of a nuisance that he's brought before a judge to explain himself. The man asks the judge how he can be considered unclean - after all, he washes maybe once a year, while some people are apparently dirty enough that they have to wash every day.
  • Bill Cosby has a famous routine about him being rudely awakened by his wife, and his daughter asking him if she can have cake for breakfast. He decides it must be healthy because it has eggs, wheat, and milk in it, and says yes. His wife then comes down, sees what the kids are eating, "has a conniption", and then sends him back to the bedroom. which is where he wanted to be in the first place.
  • Mitch Hedberg would frequently use this to great comedic effect. One anecdote he told revolves around him trying to buy bread from Subway, who refused to sell him a plain loaf but gave it to him for free when he said he wanted it to feed some ducks. Conclusion: Ducks eat for free at Subway.
  • This is the entire basis of the existence of the Johnny Turbo comics, and the "plot" follows suit. Buy the Turbo Duo game system, because FEKA is composed of evil robots!
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Everything Doctor Doom does make sense if you believe as he does that everything wrong with his life is Reed Richards' fault.
    • Utilized in one issue where a Skrull who is secretly Hank Pym steals the FantastiCar and disappears, after calling out the coordinates for sector 1-C, and to scan for Ferric Oxide. According to the Thing, ferric oxide means rust, 1-C means Yan-C, which means Yancey Street, and together they mean the abandoned auto junkyard off of Yancey Street. This is then lampshaded by Hank Pym revealing that he was hanging out on them the entire time, and if they had gone to a local pizza place, he would have been there .
    • Zoom (Hunter Zolomon) is this once you actually think about what he's saying. He's a guy who has gone through an extraordinary amount of tragedy throughout his life, and when his back is broken and Wally West (the then-current Flash) refuses to use time-travel to fix Hunter's spine, Hunter accidentally turns himself into Zoom, a speedster much faster than Wally. He resolves to use his powers to make Wally experience tragedy, believing it will motivate Wally into becoming a better hero. see the flaw there? If Hunter's logic was as foolproof as he believed it to be. he himself would be a great hero! But he's not. It seems like Hunter's just looking for an excuse to beat up on Wally for not fixing his spine, though later events show that he's really just that insane, as a side-effect of his powers.
    • Eobard Thawne blames Barry Allen for every bad thing in his life which makes no damn sense whatsoever. It doesn't help that Eobard is an egotistical, sadistic sociopath whom abused his Time Travel powers to change Barry's past by killing his mom and framing his dad for it. Post-Crisis, his hatred of Barry makes a little more sense given that the Thawnes had been Feuding Families with the Allens ever since Barry's twin Malcolm was switched at birth with a Thawne that a drunk doctor killed, but not only does this not seem to factor into Eobard's motivations post-Post-Crisis, but even Malcolm's grudge against Barry was Misplaced Retribution at its finest.
    • the Lost Light crew encounters the exact double of their ship, except with the entire crew dead. Initially, they think they encountered future versions of themselves, and were horrified, so Rodimus decided to prevent this fate. by cutting his arm off. That's because his dead self has two arms, and if he will have only one, then dead him will not be the same as living him. And to make sure he'll stay a different person from him, he instructed his crew to not repair his arm.
    • And then there's Whirl. At one point he acknowledges that he was specifically ordered not to engage, which he is going to interpret as a veiled order to engage because not engaging just feels wrong, like fighting in the wrong direction.
    • None of the Scavengers are exactly genius logicians. Spinister, at least, is The Mentally Disturbed, so it's not surprising when his arguments are questionably rational Crankcase, who at one point insists that since he came up with the name for their Nerf wars, he holds the copyright and so anyone who says it owes him money, has no excuse.
    • Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes loves this type of logic.
      • When he's doing a report on bats, he classifies them as bugs because they fly, they're ugly, and they're hairy. He also says he'll get an A on his paper because he's using a "professional" clear plastic binder.
      • Calvin also protests going to school because if ignorance is bliss, then his education is a violation of his right to the pursuit of happiness. He puts on a patriotic, American Revolution-esque shtick, and when his teacher chases him as he tries to leave the classroom, he yells "Monarchists!"
      • For example, when Albert is on trial for allegedly eating Pup-Dog, Seminole Sam produces a fish skeleton as evidence, arguing that Pup-Dog was so fond of water he was "jus' like a fish." Porkypine refutes him by pointing out that it's a catfish skeleton.
      • Often, the characters would attempt to outwit each other, each using their own Insane Troll Logic. The results were. frequently astonishing.
      • Related to the above is his rationale for hating Romani in particular, which boils down to "the way they act makes normal people more inclined to sexuality and other immoralities, so they all have to be killed." Ironically, his lust for a Roma woman is what drives the plot. He even professes this in the second half of "Hellfire", where if he can't have Esmeralda, he'll kill her. And anyone who stands in his way will be disposed of.
      • In Silent Hill, Rose knows where to go by finding vague items she always turns out to be right, but it gets odd when she MUST go to the hotel because she found a piece of a sign in some dead guy's mouth. It makes sense, however, since the town seems to follow dream/nightmare logic rather than that of Real Life.
      • In Animal House, in order to deflect attention from the (accurate) charge that they supplied their underage pledges with alcoholic beverages and date-raped their female guests at a toga party, Eric Stratton uses this. By claiming it's unfair to railroad the entire Delta fraternity because of the actions of a few bad apples. After all, one might as well scapegoat institutions of higher learning in general for allowing such organizations to exist at all -- and, by extension, one might also condemn the United States of America for mismanaging its national educational system. And how dare you! That's unpatriotic!
      • In The 'Burbs, Art suspects the new neighbors are a family of serial killers his "investigation" involves slipping a note that says "I know what you've done" under their door and running away, simply to let them know someone is onto them.
      • The eponymous characters are arrested and forced to eat "cockmeat sandwich". When Kumar asks the guard (whose dick he and Harold have to suck) if the guard is gay, he responds, "There ain't nothing gay about getting your dick sucked you're the gay ones for sucking my dick! In fact, it creeps me out being around you fags." The group escapes before they have to put this to the test.
      • George Bush similarly justifies his smoking in this manner.
      • Somehow, Sam Diamond links a girl walking off with his money in 1940 Paris with the German invasion of France that by chance occurred two hours later. Of course, it's played for laughs. It's also a Shout-Out to Casablanca, another film Humphrey Bogart is famous for.
      • The ending becomes this when you realize that each and every explanation offered by these so-called "great detectives" &mdash as well as the one the mastermind gives them in his Motive Rant, which they end up accepting as the truth &mdash relies on all of them accepting that the maid they saw was actually a mannequin. The actual truth, of course, revealed after they all leave, is that the mastermind is the maid, utilizing Latex Perfection to disguise herself.
      • For instance, a stock joke for the trio would be having the Stooges sentenced to death (often for a Felony Misdemeanor) and give them the choice of beheading or being burnt at the stake. One of the boys (more often than not Curley) would opt for burning at the stake. His reasoning? "A hot stake's better'n a cold chop".
      • Another would see one of the Stooges, when ordering food, ask for rotten eggs and burnt toast. When asked why, the answer would be "I've got a tapewoim and that's good enough for 'im".
      • Much of the plot of ''A Plumbing We Will Go" is built on this, to the point where the Stooges' surreal logic begins to affect the house they're inadvertently destroying (as an example, the Stooges need to get pipe to try and stop a leak. They take a pipe conduit for electrical cables, that somehow routes water to all the electrical devices in the house, including a television set!)
      • A game magazine once held a contest for the best logical argument based entirely on illogical steps. The winner was proof that there was, in fact, "life after death":
      • Haruhi Suzumiya:
        • Haruhi Suzumiya does this at times. Then again, she is something of a Cloudcuckoolander, but it's most likely that she doesn't mean it seriously. The prologue of the 4th novel had this nice dialogue:
        • Even better, the entire 'mining for gold' thing is linked with their usual career of thievery by Isaac claiming that they're stealing from the Earth itself.
        • One of their heists involved stealing the front door of a museum, so that nobody could get in.
          • Of course, since the police had to close the museum to investigate the theft, Isaac and Miria technically succeeded.
          • Kururi and Mairu ideas on "twin-ness" are baffling. Thanks to their big brother, Izaya.
          • Kida has moments, too, as he can conclude any remark by ". so, let's go pick up chicks!"
          • Shizuo also applies in episode three. After being hit in the head by a goon, he says this:
          • The explanation of L-space: Books contain knowledge. Knowledge is power. Power is energy. Energy = matter. Matter equals mass. Mass distorts spacetime. Therefore, a well-stocked library or bookstore invariably becomes a labyrinthine lattice of literature connected to every other book that could ever exist, as anyone who’s ever gotten lost in a bookstore knows.
          • Then there's Cribbins at the end of Making Money. He intended to out Moist von Lipwig as archswindler Albert Spangler as a scam to get money out of him. But Moist outed himself before Cribbins got the chance. So Cribbins concludes that Moist, having kiboshed his scam, now owes him five thousand dollars.
          • The Auditors of Discworld reason that any sentient personality exists for a finite period, which is negligible in comparison to the infinity of Time. Therefore, they instantly cease to exist if they make the fatal mistake of identifying themselves as "I". The book Lampshades the Insane Troll Logic of this, but the erring Auditors themselves vanish too quickly to ever catch on.
          • One auditor who has accidentally-on-purpose become human engages in some intentional Insane Troll Logic to trap the aforesaid Auditors, such as putting up a sign that says "Do Not Feed the Elephant" next to an empty cage, a sign with an arrow pointing left but having the word RIGHT on it, and a sign that simply says Duck! with neither a waterfowl present nor a reason to lower one's head.
          • Some of the less sophisticated members of the Watch (i.e. Colon and Nobby) have this approach to confessions. If someone confesses to a crime then you believe them, even if it is impossible for them to have committed said crime. The people you don't believe are the ones who won't confess. Only guilty people are trustworthy.
          • The eponymous guide proves that there is no life in the universe by first informing that the universe is of infinite size and that there is a finite number of inhabited worlds in the universe. Since any finite number divided by infinity is so small "as makes no odds", then clearly any life in the galaxy must be the product of a deranged mind. And that anybody you encounter is therefore just a figment of your imagination.
          • It also said that the Babel Fish proves there is no God. After all, it is so staggeringly improbable that such a thing would have been created by chance that it proves there is a creator. However, God has said that He refuses to provide proof of His own existence as with proof there is no need for faith, therefore by proving His existence, He simultaneously proves that He does not exist "and disappears in a Puff of Logic". The man who proves this goes on to prove that black is white. In the TV version, it is explained that combining all colors together in the form of paint equals black while combining all colors in the form of light (from colored bulbs) equals white. Fittingly, the man gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing/crosswalk.
          • Legal precedent was established when the Guide was sued by the families of hitchhikers who had taken the entry on the planet Traal literally. (It said "The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal often makes a very good meal for visiting tourists" rather than "The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal often makes a very good meal of visiting tourists") The Guide's lawyers summoned a poet to testify under oath that beauty was truth and truth beauty, and therefore blamed life for failing to be either beautiful or true. The judges concurred, and in a moving statement, held life itself in contempt of court and duly confiscated it from all present before retiring for a pleasant evening's ultra-golf.
          • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Zaphod justifies stealing a spaceship thusly: "Property is theft, right? Therefore, theft is property, therefore this ship is ours."
          • In And Another Thing., the same people who use the Babel Fish to prove that God doesn't exist use the silver-tongued devil, an even more useful creature, to prove that Satan does. There's Lampshade Hanging about how little sense that makes.
          • Hawkfrost wants to kill Firestar because he couldn't save Tigerstar from Scourge's claws. Ignoring the fact that no one could do anything out of shock, and Scourge was too fast for anyone to stop him.
          • Played for laughs in Bramblestar's Storm, when the apprentices bunk in with the warriors temporarily. Dewpaw says that they must be warriors now since they were in the warriors' den now.
          • Episode five of Mystery Show revolves around the question of Jake Gyllenhaal's exact height, a question prompted by a very divided internet comment thread. In said thread, one commenter notes that Jake must be six-foot-three because he was (allegedly) supposed to play the Joker, who is six-foot-three. Others point out that that doesn't make sense because they can't confirm that the Joker is six-foot-three. Starlee suggests (probably jokingly) that the discrepancy might be why Jake didn't get the part.
          • Sick Sad World:
            • One episode talks about a man who said aliens were threatening him. This guy later got arrested for child porn and claimed not only did aliens plant it, they also erased a hard drive of his, which police suspected had some incriminating evidence. The hosts point out it doesn't make sense that they would destroy evidence if they wanted him to get in trouble.
            • The same episode has a guy claiming aliens wanted him to be sentenced to death so they could save him at the last minute and prove their existence. Mari and Jasmine point out if the aliens were that powerful, they could easily find another way to prove they are real.
            • Samoa Joe walked out on Crimson during a tag team match in TNA because Crimson was on an undefeated streak and Joe never needed help during his undefeated streak.
            • John "Bradshaw" Layfield's rants on supporting the heels have this, one example saying that Daniel Bryan had the nerve to reject the The Wyatt Family even though they kidnapped him to force him to join. He also says that The Authority's abuse of power was "helping" wrestlers and "best for business".
            • Michael Cole was doing this after Layfield's departure to wrestle again and before Layfield's return to the announce table from 2010-2012. His demented justifications for the behavior of many heels, especially former General Manager John Laurinaitis, legitimately angered many fans, as well as other members of the commentary team.
            • Sami Callihan deserves a shot at Dragon Gate USA's Open The Freedom Gate Champion Johnny Gargano because Gargano and Callihan are both part of the EVOLVE roster, which was just featured in a video game in which Callihan's usage by players exceeds Gargano's by 2%! Proof that the people are turning on Gargano, proof that Callihan is better than him!
            • In one of his comedic introductions for his and The Miz's web show The Dirt Sheet, John Morrison declared that he doesn't like Canada, because he doesn't like maple syrup. And he doesn't like maple syrup because it reminds him of Canada.
            • One skit on the Rita Moreno episode of The Muppet Show had Kermit, Piggy, Rita (portraying "Tiffany Gonzales"), and Brewster (a mostly forgotten Muppet) in a panel discussion:
            • The Goon Show based a huge portion of its humor around this kind of logic. One of the best-known examples is the exchange between Eccles and Bluebottle that is usually referred to by its first line, "What time is it, Eccles?" In this example, Eccles explains in a perfectly logical sequence of total nonsense that he knows what time it is because he has the time written on a piece of paper in his pocket.
            • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue uses a lot of this logic, either taking it seriously (of course Mornington Crescent is a real, rational game with a long and detailed history) or as one-off gags and quick silliness.
            • In Big Finish Doctor Who, an Eldritch Abomination named Zagreus possesses the Doctor. The TARDIS manages to lock him up inside her. Zagreus tells her that he's dead now, so she'd better let him out. When the TARDIS pointedly remarks that dead people generally don't talk, Zagreus tries to convince her that she's mad for talking back to a dead person, so she'd better let him out.
            • In the BBC audio drama Hornets' Nest, the hornet queen throws every moment of doubt Mike Yates has ever had of the Doctor at him in order to break his trust, heedless of the fact that they're contradictory. So in one breath, she criticises the Doctor for abandoning Earth, then she suggests that he's not really a time and space traveller at all and Mike's been conned, and then she asks Mike if he's not jealous of his Time Lord powers.
            • For example, he's willing to donate all of his organs except his eyes. He doesn't want to donate his eyes because he's afraid of becoming a blind ghost. Even though he is convinced that blind people will get eyes in the afterlife.
            • Another example: Karl believes that snakes and spiders like hiding under rocks. The Earth is essentially a giant rock, with Australia underneath. That's why there's so many snakes and spiders in Australia.
            • Karl thought the dodo went extinct because it tasted terrible and no-one wanted to eat it.
            • Mr. Lamb asks his landlady Mrs. Bradby to charge less rent for the benefit of both of them. When Mildred questions how it brings help to her, Lamb says that in weeks he can't pay she loses less money.
            • According to Sir Gregory, it is said that one person in four is mentally unstable. Therefore if you're on the bus and the nearest three people look sane, it must be you.
            • The radio version also mentions that Marvin, the Paranoid Robot, who, due to copious amounts of time travel, ended up several times older than the universe itself, at long last finally broke down. and was promptly put back together again because his owners, i.e., Zaphod and the gang, were &mdash due to time travel &mdash alive at the time he broke, which of course went against the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation's lifetime warranty.
            • In Dungeons & Dragons, slaadi have weird ways of thinking. They are outsiders from the realm of chaos, are Always Chaotic Neutral (or Chaotic Evil in 4th edition), and who have a mechanically-enforced Our Monsters Are Weird creature-generation system. They also look like giant anthropomorphic frogs. And this is ignoring the very big potential for Player CharacterChaotic Stupid tendency.
            • In Paranoia, playing along with The Computer's Insane Troll Logic is a major survival skill and plot instigator.
            • This is part of the appeal of Warhammer 40,000's Orks. Imperial scholars theorize that somewhere in the distant past a Mekboy built two superficially identical vehicles, one of which was painted red. Due to an immeasurable internal difference, the red vehicle went faster, so the Orks decided it was due to the color scheme, a belief they've stuck with ever since. Since the Orks are unconsciously, latently psychic, this means that any vehicle painted red goes faster because they expect it to. note It is entirely possible that Ork Mecs simply paint red those vehicles that are actually faster. Paint is not that expensive to not paint every vehicle in your army in desired color if it makes any difference.
              • Orks on military strategy: "Here's da plan: win. If we lose, it's because ya didn't follow da plan."
              • Orks on friendly fire: "If ya misses it, it's obviously one o' ours. If ya hits it, den it must be one o' theirs."
              • Orks on victory and defeat: "Orkses is never beaten in battle. If we win we win, if we die we die fightin' so it don't count as beat. If we runs for it we don't die neither, so we can always come back for anuvver go, see!"
                • Even better: "Orks is made for fightin' an' winnin'. So if dey lose, den dey weren't really Orks!"
                • This is the basis of how the Theatre of the Absurd works. Eugène Ionesco was particularly good at this.
                • In Anyone Can Whistle, the patients from a local insane asylum infiltrate a line of pilgrims waiting to see a "miracle" set up by the mayoress and her cronies. To keep from being exposed, they call on the asylum's doctor, who sends his recently arrived assistant, J. Bowden Hapgood. Hapgood promises to separate the sane from the insane using "the principles of logic," and has an entire 13-minute musical sequence that is full of this kind of "logic".
                • Any Dane or Norwegian who didn't sleep their way through school knows this classic example from Ludvig Holberg's 18th century comedy Erasmus Montanus: Erasmus, having returned to his home village after getting an education at the Copenhagen university, demonstrates the power of logical thinking to his mother by stating that since rocks can't fly and his mother can't fly, she must be a rock. The mother is so gullible that she begins to think she is a rock, but Erasmus "saves" her by pointing out that rocks can't talk, but she can, so she's not a rock after all. Due to this play, the concept of insane troll logic is called Erasmus-Montanus logic in Denmark.
                • In Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio orders his servants not to let his wife, Kate, eat or sleep. Kate begs their servant Grumio to give her food. Grumio pretends to use this so that he can follow Petruchio's orders.
                  • First he offers to get Kate some calf's foot. When she agrees he rescinds the offer, saying that calf's foot would make her bad-tempered.
                  • Then he offers her tripe but takes that offer back for the same reason.
                  • The real kicker is the beef and mustard. When he offers this to Kate, she agrees. Then he says no because the mustard is too hot. She says she'll have the beef without the mustard, then. He says no, the beef goes with the mustard. She says she's willing to eat one or the other or both or anything else. So Grumio comes up with the perfect solution: mustard without the beef!
                  • Ace Attorney:
                    • Phoenix Wright is fond of objecting first and thinking later and of grasping at straws and coming up with imaginative guesses, but he's usually too honest and reasonable to use actual troll logic. However, in one situation where he's desperate to keep the trial going as long as possible until the police complete the next phase of their investigation, we get this exchange:
                    • In Fruit Michiru's reasons on how some of her actions reinforce her tsundere nature can often come off as this.
                    • Also in Fruit Michiru's reasons as to why and how she consumes vitamin C are as varied as they are misinformed, it doesn't make her smarter, and it's not that much easier for the body to absorb it in liquid form.
                    • Fruit: Sachi takes off her maid uniform and wraps it around the head of her brush. Why? Because it connects with the floor on a larger surface. besides she just accidentally fell, so her clothes were wet anyway.
                    • In The Labyrinth of Grisaia Michiru's reasons for going to a winter date. Winter is rather romantic, right? She certainly believes so. Is she looking cute in her coat? The protagonist admits as much. Is it a problem that they are in the middle of the late-summer heat of early September and otherwise in the hottest days of the year? Not in the slightest. Winter date it is then. Granted there is a simple reason why she wants that, but the way she tries to justify it is as ludicrous as it gets.

                    • All of Red Mage's plans run on this very logic. When stranded on an island, Thief quite accurately states that Red Mage's plan to get off the island would likely involve blowing up the island with them on it with the justification that they're no longer on the island anymore. While Red Mage's actual plan was much less dangerous, it did involve massive amounts of Evilutionary Biology for the Chocobos and a willingness to exploit his Mime ability beyond its actual usefulness.
                    • This quote of Red Mage's sums it up quite well.


                    DO NOT CLEAN BONES WITH BLEACH. It damages the surface of the bone. Use hydrogen peroxide instead.

                    However you cleaned your bones, rinse them thoroughly. I then leave them outside to dry in the air for a few days. After that, I put them on a tray covered in newspaper, and let them dry near a heater. DO NOT PUT THEM ON A HEATER OR A RADIATOR OR ANYTHING HOT BECAUSE THEY WILL CRACK. Leave the bones out for two or three days, even after they seem dry enough.

                    If there is any dirt left, I use a toothbrush to take it off. It should come off easily.

                    Wet bones often look dirty but don't panic ! Look how these badger bones came out the water brown, but they dried grey ! Nothing was done to them between these two pictures, they just dried:


                    6 Answers 6

                    The answer is yes, Animate object would work on a corpse. The exact effect would depend on the size of the corpse.

                    While there are specific defined terms in D&D 5e there are also a equal number of that rely on what the word means in English.

                    Object - a material thing that can be seen and touched.

                    Creature - an animal or person.

                    However there is a caveat. In various effects, powers, and abilities. The D&D 5e rules are consistent in referring to creatures as things that are living or animate. Objects as inanimate things like tables, chairs, rocks, books, feathers, etc. It not spelled out but it is consistent.

                    The things to remember is that D&D 5e rules are not to function as a wargame. They do not define the boundaries of what is possible during a campaign. The setting is what defines that. Instead they are a tool to aid the referee in adjudicating the action. For example the description of humans don't spell out every detail that could come up. The mechanics about humans are those that the authors feel that are useful or come up often. The important of which is the effect being human on character creation. The author expect referee to use what they know about humans to adjudicate anything that the rules don't cover because it is implied that humans in a D&D setting are just like people in real life only living in that world.

                    One implication of this is that animate objects doesn't change any other physical property of the object other than to animate with the stats provided. If you were to say animate a block of salt, possible considering what salt miners carved out of their mines, and it was to walk into water, then it is reasonable to rule that it would be affected adversely as salt dissolves in water. Perhaps by treating water as a acid attack on the animated object.

                    So a corpse animated as a object would still be a corpse and subject to decay, smelling bad, etc. It would not gain the benefits of being undead although at first glance it would be hard pressed for a character to tell the difference. One area where I can see the difference being important is trying to animate a skeleton. It is reasonable to assume that the various create undead spells joins the bones together to form a complete animated skeleton. While a long dead skeleton is merely a pile of separate objects of bone.

                    For stuff that has no real world analogue, elves, magic, etc. The authors expect the referee to fall back on their knowledge of the fantasy genre. Because the implied assumption that D&D is being used to depict a fantasy setting. Which is why they included a list of inspirational works in Appendix E on page 312.

                    In fantasy it is tradition for some spells to work on anything, a lightning bolt doesn't care if its target is a person, animal, or a piece of furniture. Some spells to only work on people, for example charming or enchanting a princess. And other spells to work only on objects, like the animated furniture from Fantasia.


                    It depends on what universe you are in.

                    In most cases, the answer is the rather unsatisfying "it's magic." Whatever mystic force re-animates the body of the zombie also halts the decomposition process, the same as it does for other undead like vampires.

                    In some universes (I believe the Dresden books are like this), nothing stops them from decomposing. The zombies continue to deteriorate even as they are reanimated, until they become almost useless. Of course, a sufficiently strong magic user could bind the bones together in the absence of flesh, or even provide a magical substitute given only, say, the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

                    As far as The Walking Dead universe, to date I don't believe either the show nor the comic have revealed what exactly makes a human become a zombie, other than the fact that any cause of death results in a zombie. However, according to the Walking Dead wiki:

                    Despite still moving, zombies still decompose as regular corpses.

                    It also lists specific cases where a zombie was too decomposed to stand/act/attack a human, speculating that eventually the zombies will all rot away and effectively end the infection (and human life).

                    I was giving this some thought earlier today after watching the end of Season 2.

                    Forensic anthropologists will tell you that the human body decomposes in roughly one week when exposed to air or water. Temperature and humidity affect this timeframe: hot/wet will accelerate decomposition, whereas cold/dry will delay the process.

                    As most people are aware. Georgia (and most of the Southeastern USA) gets extremely hot and humid throughout the summer months. A human body in that environment would decompose in under a week. Most of the zombies in the show should have rotted away long before the end of Season 2 (as winter is approaching).

                    We have to assume that the "zombie virus" somehow prevents decomposition (or drastically reduces its speed). Decomposition results from little critters (primarily micro-organisms) digesting the organic material. They cannot do this to living things, because we have immune systems which thwart those creatures before they start.

                    It's conceivable that the zombie virus itself behaves like a rudimentary immune system -- whereby by some chemical or biological process it prevents the body from decomposing entirely.

                    At the end of the day. it's science fiction and we have to suspend our disbelief if we're gonna enjoy the show :P

                    Robert Kirkman has stated unequivocally in the letters column of The Walking Dead comic that he has no intention of defining the cause of the outbreak. He's also stated that he's mostly following the George Romero-style zombie rules. Since we do not know how it started, and never will, all answers to this question will be speculation. There is no way of knowing exactly what's going on inside the zombies or why they are animate. Plus, the rotting flesh would not necessarily attract flies and beetles, etc. The virus/plague/whatchamajig may deter those things. Zombies are not typical decaying matter. There's something "wrong."

                    Perhaps the microorganism causing a zombie's reanimation is not a virus but a fungus. Fungi can get energy from decaying matter, and many of them are also bactericide, vermicide, etcetera. So, maybe a zombie is just a fungus that uses a human corpse as a vehicle to move around and extend its DNA in a faster way. It somehow stimulates the hunger in the zombie's brain in order to get itself a source of decaying meat from which to extract energy. So, if the zombie does eat, the fungus feeds on the content of his/her stomach if the zombie does not, then the fungus has to feed on the zombie's rotting body itself. While, scavengers like insects, other fungi and bacteria are repelled by the z-fungus.

                    They don't stop decomposing. In The Walking Dead, unlike the book World War Z, zombies steadily decompose, albeit rather slowly. In the book World War Z, the process still takes place, but usually at a far slower rate (the exception being the rare cases in which the zombie is in an extremely humid, hot environment, like a jungle in this scenario, the zombie will decompose very quickly).

                    Getting back to TWD, the fact that the zombies decompose is particularly noticeable in the cases of zombies who have spent some time in the water. Their bodies become bloated and water logged, and their tissue becomes quite fragile:

                    The production team has also explicitly stated that as the seasons progress, they have tried to make the zombies appear more and more decomposed and emaciated. I have to admit that, in my opinion, they have been extremely inconsistent in this regard, but they claim to have taken it into consideration, and tried to reflect the fact that time is passing and the zombies are becoming increasingly decrepit.

                    In the "Letter Hacks" column in issue 121 of the comics, Robert Kirkman shed some light on this issue, but not much:

                    It was most apparent in season 2, in which you really can see how skinny most of the zombies are. The casting director specifically selected people who were extraordinarily thin, and if I recall correctly, they had a lot of success in hiring marathon runners for exactly this reason.

                    Robert Kirkman has also said that as time goes by, the zombies lose much of their mobility, speed, and strength, as well as their already-meager amount of intelligence. This is actually how he explained the fact that in season one, and only season one (in fact, only the first two episodes of that season), zombies do things that seem to be beyond their capabilities - they almost run in some scenes, they use rocks to break windows, Morgan's zombie wife tries to turn a doorknob, and one little girl zombie stops to pick up her teddy bear. According to Kirkman, all of this is explained by the fact that the zombies are much more intact and undecayed, relative to the zombies of later seasons.

                    From a Reddit Ask Me Anything with Robert Kirkman:

                    Q: ". In the beginning of the show we saw walkers do things like using a rock to help bash the doors in or turning a door knob, is there a reason we've stopped seeing them do that?"

                    A: "Older zombies are less together and capable or doing things like that. Fresher zombies, which there were more of in season one, are able to do more than older, more rotted zombies."


                    Watch the video: Ο Κόσμος Των Ζώων - Τα Πουλιά (August 2022).