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Nights of the Laughing Dead
The Victorians wanted to preserve the memories of deceased loved ones with photographs like how we modern folk try to preserve corpses. Apparently, “the practice fell out of fashion as photos became more commonplace with the arrival of the snapshot” during the brink of the 20th century, probably due to the the limited shelf-life of the lifeless body being posed like a mannequin on display. Remembering your loved ones lounging in a chair or cradle might be more comforting than remembering them face-planted or loll-eyed and bloating on the floor. But very few people nowadays look upon their loved one’s corpses and think, “Now this is something that I totally want haunting my dreams forever.”
Pictures say thousands of words. Yet of the thousands spoken from Victorian memorial pictures, I can only understand so many when those words come from corpses with eyes painted onto their lids to give them a living likeness, people holding dead children in their arms like freshly-hunted deer, and corpses posed among the living in arrangements that are identical to the classic portraits of families with warm blood and beating hearts. Since alabaster complexions were so de rigueur back then, they wanted to take advantage of the pallor mortis kicking in.
Sure, we can sit here and poke fun at those wacky Victorian times. We can laugh and shudder at how the people of the past thought it was cool to pose corpses like mannequin. We now have reason to question the living status of every person in the majority of Victorian photographs we’ve ever seen. Or we can gawk at corpses that actually pose themselves.
Risus Sardonicus (otherwise known as a rictor grin) is “a highly characteristic, abnormal, sustained spasm of the facial muscles that appears to produce grinning.” It is a corpse’s way of saying, “Cheese!” Regardless of whether or not the living are armed with cameras, it’s eerie to us to stare death in the face and see a cheshire-like grin. In pre-Roman times, risus sardonicus-inducing plant was a popular method of euthanasia. Homer invented the word “sardonic.” The Greek poet did so “after learning that the Punic people who settled Sardinia gave condemned men or elderly people the grimace-inducing potion.” Hemlock water-dropwart is the name of the plant that is also known as Sardinian water celery.
That’s not the only cause of risus sardonicus. It’s also caused by strychnine poisoning and tetanus.
Smile for no camera.
#Real #DeadCanLaugh #TheLaughingDead #RisusSardonicus #PallorMortis #DeadPeople #Victorian
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