Graveyard Shift

Human Corpses Are Being Used To Make Modern Products And People Are Actually Buying This Stuff 

Lisa A. Flowers
Updated January 2, 2019 384.5k views 11 items

It may seem shocking, but throughout history, humans have been using their deceased in unconventional ways. Though it's no secret that bodies were once used in bizarre early medical practices, not many know that there are quite a few modern products as well. Contemporary medical science has proven that body parts can have healing properties - like cadaver skin, which can be (and frequently is) used to treat burns and ulcers in the form of skin grafts. But as it turns out, the departed are still an active part of non-medical industries that go way beyond the mortuary world and the "posthumous fame" phenomenon.

Take, for instance, Eau de Death, the innovative perfume that's said to be partially distilled from corpse emissions. Or other macabre products like "Occult Jam," made by London company Bompas & Parr, which is an edible rumored to contain the flavor of the hair of the late Princess Diana. We've hardly pried the lid off the coffin of commercial, medical, and artistic services the dearly departed can apparently provide. Read on to discover more about contemporary products you might wish you never knew about.

Human Leather For Those With 'Refined Tastes'
Human Leather For Those ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Human Corpses Are Being Used To Make Modern Products And People Are Actually Buying This Stuff
Photo:  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)/New Line Cinema/Fair Use

Forget your elegant buckskin or patent leather. Former UK company Human Leather is one up on both of the above. The company claimed to obtain their materials from "[p]eople who have bequeathed their skins to us prior to their [passing]." As the organization's prior Human Leather website put it:

Just like animal leather products produced from lesser animals, our raw human skin is transformed into the finest grade leather by using a traditional tanning process. However, human leather is the finest grain leather that is obtainable. It is free from defects and has the smallest grain size, which makes it the smoothest, softest leather on earth.

Moreover, they hastened to assure buyers that the process is completely legal, not to mention ultra-discriminating: "[W]e have had to turn away some potential donors, as we can accept only the highest quality human skin." Whose skin is anyone's guess, as they can't legally disclose donors.

Perfume Made From Chemicals Emitted By Cadavers
Perfume Made From Chemic... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Human Corpses Are Being Used To Make Modern Products And People Are Actually Buying This Stuff
Photo:  American Chemical Society/via The Independent/Fair Use

Shows like The Walking Dead introduced us to myriad creative ways of warding off the un-dead (smearing guts on oneself to mask one's scent, for example). But Eau de Death cologne represents a far more revolutionary approach than that. This intriguing concept comes to us from chemist Raychelle Burks of Doane College in Nebraska. According to Burks in the Daily Mail

If we're really trying to mimic a corpse, we have got to get the smell down to perfection. Nobody wants to be the guinea pig that spritzes on the death cologne and realizes it doesn't quite work.

Dr. Burk further explains the chemical composition of how the perfume comes together:

Putrescine and cadaverine are the main ingredients, which are emitted early on in the decaying process. Both organic chemical compound are produced by the breakdown of amino acids in living and dead organisms and are toxic in large doses. They are largely responsible for the foul odor of putrefying flesh, but also contribute to bad breath, and can be found in semen. Methanethiol, which smells like rotten eggs, is also added to the 'perfume' to create its offensive bouquet.


Cosmetics Made From The Remains Of Executed Chinese Prisoners
Cosmetics Made From The ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Human Corpses Are Being Used To Make Modern Products And People Are Actually Buying This Stuff
Photo:  Night Of The Demons (2009)/Entertainment One/Fair Use

As it turns out, the fountain of youth may actually spring from the departed. According to the Guardian, a Chinese company is developing cosmetic products made from the remains of prisoners - who have passed from natural causes or via execution - to market in Europe. In other words, your next collagen treatment, facial filler, or lip-pumping injection just might be composed of these prisoners' fat.

Though this news has incited a predictable outcry, the firm's agents insist that only "some" of the company's products have been exported to the UK and that the whole thing is nothing to "make such a big fuss about."

Jam Made From Princess Diana's Hair
Jam Made From Princess D... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Human Corpses Are Being Used To Make Modern Products And People Are Actually Buying This Stuff
Photo: Beth Evans and Ann Charlott Ommedal/Bompas And Parr/Fair Use

London-based company Bompas & Parr might be "globally recognized as the leading expert in multi-sensory experience design," as its website states, but it is a pioneer in the imaginative use of the departed's hair. In 2010, Bompas & Parr manufactured something called "Occult Jam," which supposedly contained a few strands of the late Princess Diana's hair.

No, the tresses didn't come off the Princess's remains. Co-founder Sam Bompas claims to have acquired them on e-Bay. Nevertheless, as CNN puts it: "What has started out as art itself has become a product with a lot of major retailers."