ADIPOCERE aka CORPSE WAX (Ask a Mortician)

ADIPOCERE aka CORPSE WAX (Ask a Mortician)


(gentle, melodic music) – Hello, welcome to Ask a Mortician. If you’re new here, this is a
show where you ask a mortician questions about the dead body. This week’s question is
a little more personal: “Caitlin, your skin
looks so soft and young. “What is your secret to
that supple, buttery flesh?” That’s a great question, many folks don’t know that
I’m actually 283 years old. My secret? It’s simple. My moisturizer is from
a centuries old corpse that has been immersed in a
moist, anaerobic environment favorable to the formation
of a soap like wax. The only side effect of this beauty hack is that my skin flakes off and I smell like a rank, corpsey cheese. But what’s good for the corpse
is good for the Caitlin, am I right? Corpse wax has preserved me,
and it can preserve you, too! Full disclosure, this video
is sponsored by Corpse Wax, coupon code in the description. (playful, bouncy music) In 1786, I’m just gonna keep wearing this robe, In 1786, the Holy
Innocent’s Cemetery in Paris was being closed and relocated to what would eventually
become the Paris Catacombs. As the bodies were exhumed from the wet earth of the former cemetery, workers noticed that
the children’s corpses were covered in this
grayish, waxy substance. Scientific reports about the cemetery named the substance for the first time: adipo, fat and cere or wax, adipocere. Adipocere is a yellowish, off-white, cottage-cheese like substance, that at first smells like ammonia and then mellows into
that sweet, cheesy odor. As the adipocere ages, it
hardens, preserving the body. A similar discovery was made
in 1875 in Philadelphia. Improvements to the city required bodies in a
cemetery to be exhumed and what they found were
the now famous soap mummies. Water had leaked into the caskets, and the fats in the bodies had transformed into
soapy, flaky adipocere, preserving them against decay. Is an adipocere corpse a mummy? Well sort of. The process does preserve and
deplete a corpse of moisture, much like a traditional desiccated mummy, but saponification, this creation of soap, is a transformation of the fat and tissues
of a corpse chemically, on the molecular level. The basic recipe, though
this isn’t always the case, is a warm environment, a wet environment, an environment that is
anaerobic, or devoid of oxygen, and the presence of bacterial enzymes. Perhaps the most famous of
these saponified corpses, was a headless corpse found floating in a lake
in Switzerland in 1996. Initially thought to be a dead sheep, upon closer inspection
it was in fact the torso and partially intact limbs of a human. The soft tissue of the body
was coated in a hard-as-cement, white and blue adipocere. After some investigation, it
was determined that the body, a man, had drowned in
the lake in the 1700s, his body sinking to the bottom of the lake where it was covered in sediment. In that environment, his
fats converted to adipocere. The cheeks, eye sockets,
butt, abdomen and chest are the areas most likely to be saponified due to fat content. And because women and children tend to have higher fat
deposits in their body, they are also more likely
to form adipocere than men. Though obviously, like with the guy in
the lake in Switzerland, almost anyone can be saponified under the right conditions. Good news, lucky you.
(dinging) A bog or underwater environment is a good place to form adipocere. But in the right soil conditions, with the presence of
moisture and lack of oxygen, a corpse can saponify with or
without a casket or coffin, hence those Philadelphia soap mummies. Hold on, I’m gonna pause this. I’m just starving, do you
mind if I grab a snack? Mm-mm cottage cheese. (eerie, dramatic music)
Mm. What? Sometimes a thick, black,
clay-like substance will cover adipocere. The black layer forms when
the adipocere is exposed to alternating aerobic and
anaerobic environments, so oxygen, no oxygen. So the adipocere degrades and the fatty acids spontaneously oxidize. Time wise, saponification can happen as soon as a matter of weeks. Once saponified though, a corpse can be preserved
for decades, hundreds, even thousands of years, as seen in the 5300-year-old
Otzi the Iceman, who was found in the mountains between Austria and Italy in 1991. To be clear, this isn’t only a thing that happens with these ancient bodies. Corpse wax is a problem
right now, currently. (dramatic drumming music) German cemeteries in
2008 were burying bodies in soil with a high clay content, which was producing saponified corpses. Once adipocere forms in a corpse, it can build up in the surrounding soil making it impossible for other corpses to decompose for anywhere
from 20 to 40 years. This might not sound like a big deal, but in places like Germany,
graves are often recycled and turned over every 15 to 25 years. So when a grave was opened
in order to recycle it, instead of decomposed remains, they were met with a
nearly intact soap mummy. In order to solve the problem, Germany turned to burial chambers and undertook an expensive
soil reconditioning project. And that my dears is saponification, corpse wax, grave wax, adipocere. My beauty secrets, revealed. Wait until next time when I tell you how I
keep my hair so healthy! This video was made
with generous donations from death enthusiasts just like you. (gentle, melodic music) I was joking about the coupon
code for the corpse wax, but I actually do have a deal for you. Have you ever wanted to
read either of my books, but they’re too expensive and those asshole
libraries have a wait list? Kidding, I love libraries, everyone does, that’s why it’s a joke. (playful piano music) This week, two things are
happening, that’s four things, two things are happening. One, we start with a
warm, wet environment, no that’s saponification, sorry. Number one, this week the eBook version of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,
is only $2.99, for one week. That means you can finally
spam your friends with it, like Summer Santa Claus. Send if as a gift! Or read it yourself, $2.99. You can’t afford not to
face your own mortality. Number two, if you’re more
of a physical book type, From Here To Eternity is
coming out in paperback. You can pre-order it as of today. It has a new cover and
new material at the end. You may recognize From Here To Eternity as being an iconic Jeopardy
Daily Double question. She didn’t know the answer. That’s okay, you know the answer. No, these aren’t for the UK, yet. Things take a little
longer for the UK, sorry. Okay, yum yum! This cottage cheese is really good! I should really have a snack in the middle of filming videos. I feel like there’s a pep in my step.

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