“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”
~ Albert Einstein
Corpsing a Skeleton
“Corpsing” is the Haunters’ verb for taking a skeleton and turning it into a corpse – something with a little skin on the bones. (And while we’re handing out definitions, “Haunters” is the name given to those of us who have a fixation with Halloween – specifically with the creation of haunted houses, fiendish home decorations and costumes.)
Even though I’m not having a Halloween party this year, I’m already planning for one next year. So, with many stores displaying their Halloween goods, I’m compulsively buying decorations. This means, for example, that every time I find myself at Home Depot these last couple of months, I’ve purchased a skeleton or two. (Home Depot and Walmart have the best prices. Sadly: Spirit Halloween is almost twice the price of those stores.)
Once I got my latest skeleton home, I laid it our on a work table and surrounded it with paints, sprays, stains, plastic sheeting, plasters and all manner of chemicals.
My goal for this project was to experiment with different methods to create a ‘juicy’ corpse with many organs still in tact.
I wanted to create a simple set of organs: faux lungs, tracheal tube, intestines, liver and heart.
I used plaster cloth bandages that I purchased from Amazon to wrap some packing bubble bags as a form for the lungs. For other organs, I used roughly formed tin-foil bases. I kept the organs simple and undetailed because much of their presence is buried under layers of plastic ‘skin’.
I’d thought to use some ping pong balls for eyes, but the ones I bought were too big for this particular skeleton. Besides, this model had glowing red L.E.D. lights and the addition of eyeballs may not have obscured those lights too much.As I formed the plaster coated organs, I tested them within the chest cavity to ensure that they’d fit.
In order to give the corpse some more form, I also experimented by adding some plaster cast to the hands. In the end, that probably wasn’t required and could have been just as well executed with built up, melted plastic wrap.
The plaster cloth is great for creating sturdy structures, but the results look very much like pock-filled cloth. I mitigated this with heavy does of glue, plastic, paint and glossy paints to give a more organic material feel.
I painted the organs with a combination of fluorescent and standard paint. Throughout the project, I tried to walk a line between realistic colors and fluorescent that would at least partially glow in black-light.
Before I started to layer in the organs and skin, I gave select portions of the skeleton’s torso a red and black spray-paint job to emphasize its depth.
I covered the eye’s LED lights with electrical tape before spray painting the sockets, thinking that I’d later remove the tape. In the end, I kept the tape in place after a test revealed that the red light behind them gave an eerier glow.
Once I had a base level of bloody color on the skeleton itself, I laid down cut painters plastic tarp within the chest of the skeleton. I pulled portions of this up through the neck hole so that it would appear as remnants of tendons, sinew and veins once melted.
Organs were laid in next before they were in turned covered around with plastic.
Once all of the organs were wrapped, I melted them selectively with a heat gun.
– Note: This task (and others) were done outside in an attempt to offset inhalation of noxious vapors.
The whole project involved may layers of plastic and paint, as I felt my way to a look that satisfied me. But quickly, with even minimal layers, the organs were quickly buried under paint and melted plastic.
The paints looked best when they were fresh and wet. I used reds, blues, purples and pinks. The reds and purples looked best, but I was glad to have hints of other colors.
On my initial pass, the intestines appeared insufficiently connected to the rest of the body, so I added more layers of plastic across the torso, trying to get a cohesive look.
I love the organic holes that form when the plastic melts: creating the look of body fibers disintegrating.
It’s hard for me to muck-up the skull. I love their ‘unskinned’ look. Nonetheless, in order to obtain the look of a fresher corpse, I added plastic wrap which I melted with the heat gun.
I added a lot of melted glue to simulate layers of sinew and veins. (Again: bulk glue sticks bought from Amazon). On top of all of this, I used stain from Home Depot to paint the melted plastic ‘flesh’.
I was actually happy with this version of the corpse, but it was too similar to another one I’ve done, and I felt that much of the blue, purple veins and organ details were lost.
I also found this version too symmetrical, and at the prompting of friends, I added more layers of plastic muscles to the left arm to imply a corpse that was decomposing asymmetrically.
All of the glue and plastic had buried the teeth, making the skull look too much like a blob, so I took a Dremel to the teeth and did some creative dentistry.
I revisited the skull throughout the project, and added some more character with subsequent layers of paint and plastic. The glowing L.E.D. eyes had a surprisingly good effect as they glowed behind the layers of glue and paint. (Not shown illuminated here.)
I dribbled layers of blue and red veins and arteries across the body. I’d tried painting them on with a brush, but the texture was too rough and failed to provide the organic look that I could achieve with the less work intensive effort of pouring paint right onto the body.
The paint looked too bright and 2-D for my tastes and the body was still looking too symmetrical so I added another layer of 3-D sinews but this time rolling the plastic into long tubes before hitting them with the heat gun.
I was also not satisfied with the default flat hand pose, so I bent back select fingers and blasted them with heat and held them in place with tape while they re-hardened, giving them more of a sinister pointing look. For my next corpse, I’ll do this process before the body is covered in goo.
Still, I found the body too symmetrical and too much of the organ details were getting lost, so I ripped back the plastic skin on the right side of the torso and even went so far as to cutting a couple of ribs, bending them outwards under heat, simulating some unfortunate trauma.
The final corpse had the majority of the rot on the body’s right side.
I finished it up with high gloss clear enamel, concentrating on the goriest bits for that fresh, moist look. I think that, when actually staged for Halloween, a good touch would be the inclusion of crows, rats or bugs.
For my next body, I may try a dusty, ancient partially mummified corpse for one body or perhaps a burned body. Alternately, I may build up more of the face and body with plaster cloth before corpsing the body.
The funny thing is, there is an aspect of this that isn’t easy for me. Ever since I was a kid, I kept my toys fairly pristine. – For example, I was never one to put stickers on something I owned. Even now, I like the look of the untarnished original skeletons. But clearly, I’ve not left this compulsion hold me back.
As I gleefully work on these projects, I’m left to wonder why I get some fiendish enjoyment from creating Halloween spooks. But truly, one of my ideas for fun in distressing and gorifying the pile of prop bones and skeletons that I have piled in my house in the hopes that I can scare the bejeezus out of someone.
“This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough.”
~ Mary Hunter Austin
Halloween candy spotted in a store.
“So what? – it’s September 28th! ‘Tis the season!“, you say.
The photo was taken on July 31st. (I kid you not.)
On second thought, maybe it was just very late candy from last year…
“I think some of the funniest and most artistic people I know are the ones who had a hard time at school. They often have humility and artistry. So, as much as I feel bad for kids who have to go through a rough childhood, I believe that if they can turn it around, it’s going to make them better people later on.”
~ Drew Barrymore
“The crucial test of ethical values is whether they apply to strangers, and those afar, not just in our midst.”
~ Bernard Crick, Essays on Citizenship, 2000
In 2014 Apple announced that it would stop supporting its professional photo management software ‘Aperture‘. Since then, I’ve been in the slow (and painful) process of migrating my photos to Adobe’s Lightroom. As such, today, I finally got around to importing a batch of old photos from October 2005 and came across this picture.
In 2005, I’d taken this photo of my, then new iPod (3rd Gen, I believe) and all of the CDs I’d ripped to it. It was a marvel.
Completing the circle of obsolescence, today, Apple announced the discontinuation of the iPod. And like the loss of Aperture, I find this regrettable since I’m partial to creating highly tailored, custom playlists as opposed to streaming mixes formulated by some unknown DJ or cold calculation.
Dear iPod, your click-wheel may be lost, but it’s not forgotten. Play on!
“Broken by it, I, too, may be; bow to it I never will. The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
“The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.”
~ George Orwell
Shopping at a local Sears Outlet, my eye was caught by a comfy looking pillow.
Looking closer, I see that the manufacturer was kind enough to provide an illustrated guide on how to use the pillow.
Looking closer yet, I noticed the girl with the E.T. Arms.
(PS. * Yes: I know, the pillow is supposed to be just that fluffy…Still, it’s disturbing.)
“Belief can be manipulated. Only knowledge is dangerous.”
~ Frank Herbert
I spotted this on a Facebook “wall” and found it nauseating. It made me angry. The post is exploitative and cynical on such a scale that it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t purposefully, carefully, engineered to be as misanthropic as possible.
I did a little searching to see if I could uncover the story behind this particular image. – So many posts like this are old and / or have aren’t even remotely accurate (in terms of what is actually depicted or their source).
I didn’t happen across the backstory (it appears to be a new meme). But I did come across this excellent article.
The essay makes several points:
When it comes to posts like this, one share does NOT equal one prayer. One like does NOT mean you think the baby with a physical disability or difference is “still cute.” One comment does NOT mean the sick child or abused puppy “will be saved.”
Here’s what you’re actually doing when you type Amen or share the photo on your wall:
- You’re exploiting what is most likely a stolen image of a child whose family has no idea it is being used.
- You’re making the owners of the page that posted it or the twisted people who stole the photo and created the post a whole lot of money.
Don’t get me wrong: I think there is value in sharing articles and raising awareness on issues. But the vast majority of these memes are bogus (and/or painfully out of date.) Even if this case of Bella with brain cancer is real, sharing it isn’t akin to raising awareness of a cause that gets little attention. “News flash: Cancer = Bad”.
And in what alternate world is a child with a brain tumor not receiving prayers? (The efficacy of prayer aside.) “Sorry kid. You know how it is. A brain tumor is a sign that god has marked you for damnation. I just can’t be seen praying for you. It wouldn’t go over well with the big guy.” Come on people! Do you really think a kid with cancer had to mock-up a graphic for facebook to get somebody to pray for them?! YOU ARE BEING PLAYED FOR FREE ADVERTISEMENT!
I’m confident that those who click, “Like” or share are people of goodwill, but besides the dubious source and quality of these memes, there is something of a cynical escape clause in every click.
It’s easy to hit the little thumb icon and feel good about oneself, but if you want to help a cause, REALLY help – consider a donation of your time and your money. – Don’t “Like” don’t share – you’re just chumming the waters for the cynical sharks of fake news and lining the pockets of the unscrupulous.
Care to help somebody suffering from cancer? Want to share something? Start here.
“Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect…”
~ Jonathan Swift
“A good deal of tyranny goes by the name of protection.”
~ Crystal Eastman
For lovers of Pittsburgh and / or lovers of adventure sports, I highly recommend giving a recent Fitness Lab Pittsburgh podcast a listen. And hats off to the ECP president Ron Edwards on a great interview that really provides perspective to those who might not have the experience but want to learn more about mountaineering and climbing.
Ron Edwards has a long history with the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh (ECP); he has served as the club’s President since 2015. He is also an instructor in the ECP’s Mountaineering School, Rock Climbing School, and Backpacking School.