Category Archives: Embalming

Your caring undertaker knows best

Thursday, 16 February 2012


From the current price list of a ‘family owned’ UK funeral director: 


“As the natural processes of decomposition begins immediately after death, any clients wishing to visit their deceased relative or friend in the Private Chapel of Rest must agree to the necessary preservation treatment being provided”.




Thursday, 9 February 2012




Where beauty softens your grief

Friday, 27 January 2012


A great favourite, this, here at the GFG Batesville Tower. Older readers will experience deja vu; newer ones are in for a treat.

Click the bottom right of the screen to bring it up full size. 

Tyrant chic

Friday, 13 January 2012


In the aftermath of Kim Jong-il’s funeral in North Korea, we learn that those of his subjects who didn’t cry hard enough or convincingly enough, together with those who did not attend official mourning events, are being rounded up and herded into labour camps. Sentences start at six months. More in the Daily Mail here

Meanwhile, the dead dictator is, we hear, to be disembowelled and embalmed for the lasting enjoyment of his people. It is rumoured that the work will be carried out by the Russian corpse-preservation team which looks after Lenin. 

In order to keep him in mid-season form, Lenin, whose afterlife now numbers 87 years, has to have a month-long restorative formaldehyde bath every eighteen months. While being gazed at by his adoring public a little pump in his chest cavity maintains the correct humidity in his insides. 




Woe betide any dead dictator who doesn’t get the Russians in to do it. The Chinese did it their way for Chairman Mao and, working from text books, cocked it up. They pumped in so much formaldehyde ‘n’ stuff that Mao swelled up most remarkably and embalming fluid was seen to seep through his pores. 

A worse fate awaited Klement Gottwald, president of Czechoslovakia, who died in 1953. They didn’t get the experts in for him, either. First his legs rotted and had to be replaced with prostheses. By 1962 the whole of him was in a dreadful state, so they cremated him.  

Moral of the story: don’t try this at home. 

If you can bear to look, there’s a picture of Lenin having a bath below. If you can’t, look away now. 


The priestly calling of embalming

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Embalmer Glenn Bergeron holds a booklet of the names of those he has worked on at the Thibodaux Funeral Home in Thibodaux, La.


Say what you like about embalming, a lot of the people who do it feel like this about it.

Bergeron had been in seminary four years when he lost his calling, drawn more to the prospect of marriage and having a family. He was 32, an aspiring poet and essayist as versed in the music of Mississippi John Hurt as in the writings of St. Augustine.

After visiting an embalming room, he had found in death a way to stay close to God. The room’s tiled space seemed to him no less sacred than a church. The embalmers, dressed in aprons, sleeves rolled up, attended to corpses laid out on tables that looked like altars. Their work reminded him of the preparation of the Eucharist during Mass, something profound and holy.

Entire article in the Los Angeles Times here

The Living Dead

Monday, 14 November 2011

Enterprising US undertaker Cecil Gilmore is set to offer an enhanced embalming service. He wants to go beyond the casketed look and display his dead doing what they always did — very much in the spirit of the Puerto Rican embalmer who, in July 2010, displayed a miraculously embalmed David Morales Colon on his motorbike (above). 

If a father or husband was an avid fisherman, pose him in his waders and favorite shirt, his cap festooned with lures, holding his lucky fishing rod.

If mother is most remembered for relaxing while watching TV, pose her on a bed with the remote in her hands.

Or, if the deceased was known for his love of motorcycles, pose him in his jeans, vest, bandana – even sunglasses – on his bike of choice.

“The idea is to make people look like they are living, or just sleeping,” Gilmore said. [Source]

This may strike you as being exactly what taxidermists do with stuffed animals. Alternatively, you may think it is the way to go. 

Here at the GFG we preserve our notorious stance of ambivalence in all things. 

More marvellous embalming from the Marin Funeral Home here:


Has TV gone too far this time?

Monday, 24 October 2011


Posted by Vale


That’s the headline on a Mail online story about tonight’s Channel 4 documentary about mummification.

In it a Devon taxi driver – Alan Bills – is mummified following, as closely as possible, ancient Egyptian practices. Alan died in January after suffering from lung cancer and wanted to take part in the experiment in part at least because of his grandchildren. He said

“Perhaps this would give them an insight into what their granddad was like, I don’t know.

“They’ll most probably tell somebody at school that my granddad’s a pharaoh. That’s my legacy I suppose.”

There’s a good preview on the BBC website. The show isn’t simply prurient interest or sensationalism either. Scientists are hoping to study the mummification and the effect on the decomposition of the body as part of research into alternatives to formaldehyde.

The Mail’s, always keen to find fresh sticks to beat Channel 4 and the BBC with, states:

“The broadcaster looks set to find itself at the centre of another taste row after agreeing to air the macabre documentary”.

But will it? Is death or the treatment of dead bodies such a taboo subject for broadcasters these days? Or is it only violence that justifies publicity. The Mail – with its article and photographs of Gadhafi’s corpse seems to think so.
The documentary’s on at 9.00 tonight if you are interested.

Quote of the week

Friday, 21 October 2011


‘I won’t be Tutankhamun, I’ll be Tutanalan… the grandkids will be able to tell their friends their grandad’s a mummy.’

Alan Billis, whose body has been successfully mummified using ancient Egyptian techniques. 

Mellified man and the wonder of Wikipedia

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Posted by Vale


Wikipedia – that glorious monument to collaboration and, sometimes, hearsay – has some marvellously strange pages.

One of my favourites is the Mellified man. This is claimed to be an ancient process of preserving bodies through use of honey.Li, a Chinese pharmacologist reports that,

“some elderly men in Arabia, nearing the end of their lives, would submit themselves to a process of mummification in honey to create a healing confection. This process differed from a simple body donation because of the aspect of self-sacrifice; the mellification process would ideally start before death. The donor would stop eating any food other than honey, going as far as to bathe in the substance. Shortly, his feces (and even his sweat, according to legend) would consist of honey. When this diet finally proved fatal, the donor’s body would be placed in a stone coffin filled with honey. After a century or so, the contents would have turned into a sort of confection reputedly capable of healing broken limbs and other ailments. This confection would then be carefully sold in street markets as a hard to find item with a hefty price.”

Who knows, in this age of innovation in the disposal of dead bodies, (and a cash strapped NHS) it might catch on again.

It’s clear though, from other articles, that we have become a good deal less imaginative about death and dying. There’s another page that simply lists unusual deaths.

It’s worth a look for the sheer variety of deaths listed. There’s more roasting than you might imagine including being roasted alive in brazen bulls. A disturbing image, I would have thought, for stock marketeers in these troubled times. Then there’s the politician Draco who, in 620 BC, was smothered to death by gifts of cloaks showered upon him by appreciative citizens. There’s got to be a metaphor there for the risks all politicians face if they of accept too many gifts.

My favourite though is the Stoic philosopher, Chryssipus, who died of laughter after giving his donkey wine then seeing it attempt to eat figs.

They really knew how to live – and die – in those days.

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