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Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain
Transcript of Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain
by Jessica Mitford
11 September 1917 – 22 July 1996
Born in Gloucestershire, England
Journalist and activist
The American Way of Death
Kind and Unusual Punishment
Embalming - A Brief Lesson
The Principles and Practices of Embalming
, comments […]: "there is some question regarding the legality of much that is done within the preparation room.""
Presented by Mink Ratcliff
“The drama begins to unfold with the arrival of the corpse at the mortuary. Alas, poor Yorick! How surprised he would be to see how his counterpart of today is whisked off to a funeral parlor and is in short order sprayed, sliced, pierced, pickled, trussed, trimmed, creamed, waxed, painted, rogued, and neatly dressed- transformed from a common corpse into a beautiful memory picture."
"[…] and is in short order sprayed, sliced, pierced, pickled, trussed, trimmed, creamed, waxed, painted, rogued, […]"
Beautiful Memory Picture
"Transformed from a common corpse into a
"Speaking of fears entertained in early days of premature burial, he points out, "One of the effects of embalming by chemical injection, however, has been to dispel fears of live burial."
"The body is first laid out in the undertaker's morgue- or rather, Mr. Jones is reposing in the preparation room- to be readied to bid the world farewell. The preparation room in any of the better funeral establishments has the tiled and sterile look of a surgery, and indeed the embalmer-restorative artist who does his chores there is beginning to adopt the term "dermasurgeon" (appropriately corrupted by some mortician-writers as "demi-surgeon") to describe his calling."
-derma, Greek, "skin"
surgery: "a broad category of invasive medical treatment that involves the cutting of a body"
demi: "partially; in an inferior degree."
demi-surgeon: half surgeon, not fully qualified
A Mortician's Grocery List:
B and G Product Company's Lyf Lyk tint
Suntone (out of Special Cosmetic tint)
Vari-Pose Head Rest
"The next step is to have at Mr. Jones with a thing called a trocar. This is a long, hollow needle attached to a tube. It is jabbed into the abdomen, poked around the entrails and chest cavity, the contents of which are pumped out and replaced with "cavity fluid.""
contrast of uncomfortable words and humor
How true; once the blood is removed, the chances of live burial are indeed remote.
An Outsider's Inside Look
over 90% of American funerals were open casket
A custom unique to Canada and America
"[…] it shook me rigid to get there and find the casket open and poor old Oscar lying there in his brown tweed suit, wearing a suntan makeup and the wrong shade of lipstick. If I had not been extremely fond of the old boy, I have a horrible feeling that I might have giggled. Then and there I decided that I could never face another American funeral- even dead."
The Art of
Positioning a Body
in a Casket
Lie as high as possible in the casket
Not high enough to let the lid hit the deceased person's nose
"Placing the body too low "creates the impression that the body is in a box""
Jessica Mitford died at the age of 78.
Her funeral cost $533.31.
She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered at sea.
Dryly named funeral machines and accessories
Highlights consumerism in funeral business
death itself has been removed from funerals
Upset victory over death