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The rise of bizarre ‘extreme embalming’ trend where dead bodies are arranged in lifelike poses so they can attend their own funerals

By Michael Klugey
The rise of bizarre ‘extreme embalming’ trend where dead bodies are arranged in lifelike poses so they can attend their own funerals
The rise of bizarre ‘extreme embalming’ trend where dead bodies are arranged in lifelike poses so they can attend their own funerals

For the people who wouldn't be seen dead in a boring old coffin, the only way to go out in style is to get pumped full of embalming fluid and posed up like a waxwork at your own funeral. 

MIRIAM Birkbank is sat at a dining room table with a can of her favourite beer and a pack of cigs... but the 53-year-old isn't enjoying a relaxing evening at home after a long day's work.

In fact, she's dead - and her rigid body has been dressed up, contorted into position and put on display at the request of her family.

This is extreme embalming - where bodies are preserved by injecting them with a chemical fluid which makes them totally rigid - before being displayed in bizarre real-life positions.

Corpses are forced into position by having their feet nailed to the floor, poles erected behind their necks - and even their limbs prised apart.

The demand for it is growing, with more and more people paying around £2,000 to have their loved one brought back to life for 2-3 days before the funeral takes place.

For Miriam - a renowned party lover - the option of a dull, closed-casket send-off was just never an option.

Instead, her corpse was arranged upright at a table, with a stiff drink, an ash-tray and a pack of menthol fags in front of her.

Ahead of her funeral, the 53-year-old's family also painted her nails in black and gold, the colours of her beloved New Orleans Saints football team.

"It’s like she’s not dead," her sister Sherline said. "It’s not like a funeral home. It’s like she’s just in the room with us.”



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Last year, 18-year-old Renard Matthews - a shooting victim, also from New Orleans - was put on display, slouching in his usual chair, an Xbox controller in his hands and an open bag of Doritos on the table beside him.

The city's Charbonnet Labat Glapion Funeral Home,- where Renard is - has been setting up "death scenes" since 2012, when the corpse of jazz musician Lionel Batiste was kitted out in his snappiest suit and displayed leaning against a lamppost, cane in hand.

Lionel supposedly didn't like the idea of people looking down on him in his coffin, and the macabre arrangement also let his family snap a final, admittedly slightly awkward, picture with him while he was still looking his best.

"It is what he would have wanted”

In another snap from the funeral home's spine-tingling back catalogue, socialite Mickey Easterling can be seen enjoying one last party, with a pink boa draped around her neck and a glass of champagne in her hand.

Meanwhile, Marin Funeral Home in Puerto Rico has also made a name for itself with its unconventional funeral arrangements, which have included embalming murdered boxer Christopher Rivera Amaro and posing him up like he's about to start his final fight.

Even stranger was the positioning of dead cab driver Victor Perez Cardona in his old car, and the funeral of Renato Garcia - a Green Lantern fan who was dressed up as the superhero at his wake.

"It is what he would have wanted,” said sister Milagros Garcia at the time.

Other requests have included positioning a dead petrolhead in the seat of his beloved motorbike, hunched over the handlebars and perfectly balanced as if he's on the road again.

Meanwhile, one poker enthusiast was propped up at a table with a mountain of chips in front of him and a handful of cards, so his loved ones could play a memorial game around him at the wake.

Barmy embalming

There are obviously some major logistical difficulties with dressing up corpses and forcing them into these party poses.

For one, a special type of embalming fluid is needed to keep the body stiffer than usual and prevent any awkward slumps in the middle of the ceremony.

It also takes an estimated four times longer to prepare a body for a death scene than it does for a regular funeral, with corpses often needing to be forced into position and then somehow fixed there.

Jazz singer Lionel Batiste needed to be strapped to a lamppost to keep from falling over at his standing funeral, and his shoes had to be nailed to the floor in case anyone bumped into him.

Typically, it costs around £500 to embalm a body, but in these cases the average price is likely to be in excess of £2,000.

Embalmed bodies last longer before decomposing, but these posed displays are only designed to be put on show for a day or so - the same amount of time you'd keep someone in an open casket.

Puerta Rican embalmer Felix Cruz arranged the poker-themed death scene where it looked like the deceased was playing one final game.

Speaking on Channel 5's Extreme Embalmers documentary, he said: “I injected different parts of the body with different formulas of embalming fluid.

“For the hand I injected formaldehyde, put the fingers apart and inserted the cards.

"I used a pipe to maintain the head and neck in position, inside the body.”

Famous faces
Plenty of famous people have also been given a more understated variant of the death pose treatment, including deceased world leaders who are "laid in state" - preserved and displayed in open caskets so their adoring public can see them.

The Russians in particular are keen on this, with former USSR leaders Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin among the nation's best-known figures to be given this morbid send-off.

South African national treasure Nelson Mandela was also laid in state for three days after his death in 2013, and assassinated President Abraham Lincoln was given the same treatment in 1865.

A few celebs have also opted to be dressed up in their finest clobber and shown off in death, including singer James Brown and actor Bruce Lee, whose open casket attracted 25,000 fans when it was put on display in Hong Kong.