Strange Answers: Do You Sell Real Human Skulls?

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unearthed skeleton 2, originally uploaded by Boju.

As part of Dapper Cadaver’s on going quest to answer all the strange questions we receive, today I tackle a biggie. The selling of real human remains.
You might think it odd, but I get asked for human remains a couple times a day, and every couple of months someone asks if I’m interested in buying some human remains that they have, for some reason.

Here’s the short answer: No. No I don’t sell, No I don’t buy and No I can’t help anyone find anyone who does. The laws on who can legally buy and sell human remains are fairly complex, so the rule of thumb to go by is this – buying, selling, or owning human remains is illegal

That’s pretty easy. “Why is it illegal?” I’m often asked. Well, because the sources of human remains are, at some point, living humans. The vast majority of bones “on the market” don’t come from organ donors, they come from China and Indian, where even licensed sources are under frequent allegations of grave robbing and dealing in prisoner remains. The rest of the bones that are being sold are archaeological theft, contemporary grave robbing, war trophies, criminal evidence, and a mixed bag of specimens passed from hand to hand for so long the origins, legitimate or not, are long since lost. The burden of proof is on the owner – if you can prove you bought your bones from a licensed medical supply house great, if not, you’re looking at a range of allegations up to and including accessory to murder. Even the famous Gunther Von Hagens of Body Worlds fame has gotten in trouble with the law for having illegal cadavers

Other anatomy stores have gotten in trouble with the law and heavily finedfor dealing in endangered animal remains and/or human bones. At Dapper Cadaver we only sell animal skulls of common livestock like pig, sheep, and steer, and US game animals, like deer. All other animal bones, both pet and exotic, are replica. Even our exotic taxidermy is synthetic. All our human remains are replica. We divide skulls into 3 categories – Halloween or budget is the lowest quality, medical quality is anatomically correct standard quality. Museum quality is the closest you can get to legally owning a human skull. These are props that have been molded off of real human skull specimens on loan from museums. The anatomical detail and realism is amazing.

I have been a bone collector and a nature lover all my life. I urge anyone who’s interested in buying bones to buy replicas. It’s the only ethical choice. Otherwise you are supporting or encouraging a black market in endangered species, fossil and archaeological treasures, and human life.

The Last Laugh – Funny Epitaphs, Names, and Headstones

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the winner, originally uploaded by Boju.

Every Halloween you seen funny headstones spring up like mushrooms from every front lawn. Most are good for a chuckle but not very realistic, they tend to be small, thin, and cartoonish.

Last year I carved a realistic headstone based on an actual old victorian design with the inscription I’m with stupid and arrows pointing to the headstones next to it. After that I started looking into real funny headstones. I added some great photos and epitaphs to my Halloween headstone section and found a great resource in the flickr group Graves to Make You Laugh

Yesterday I found the most amazing epitaph ever. It reads –
Two things I love most
Good horses and Beautiful
Women. And when I die I hope
They tan this old hide of mine,
and make it into a ladies riding
Saddle. So I can Rest in Peace
Between the two things I love

I can just imagine being this guys son, having to visualize that every time I visit pops grave.

More real funny tombstones

“In the hundred and seventh year of her life…she had fresh teeth” 

“I’m a busy man, I don’t have time for this”

“Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake, stepped on the gas instead of the brake” 

“Lovingly known as Dr. Dick” 

“This ain’t so bad, once you get used to it” 

“She always said her feet were killing her but no one believed her.” 

“I made a lot of deals in life, but I went in the hole on this one.” 

“I knew this would happen.” 

“I B Horne” 

“King Dick” 

“Noble Butt” 

“Oops he Died” 

“Rusty Nail – He lived life to the max.” 

“Fanny Hair” 

“Fanny Reider” 

“Life’s not just one thing after another, it’s the same damn thing over and over again.” 

Strange Answers: How do I clean a skeleton?

Skeletons are so white and beautiful, but usually they come with all this carcass stuck to them. What’s a person to do? That’s why Dapper Cadaver’s Strange Answers is here.

Well, you could bury the bones and let nature do it’s thing. This works quite well actually, but it takes time. And you run the risk of detritovores and scavengers making off with the remains.

A commonly held notion is that you can boil bones clean. Let me warn you, boiling rotting carcasses is a great way to make rotting carcass soup and a terrible way to clean a skeleton. You know how chicken soup on the stove fills a house with it’s deliscious smell? Imagine that’s a dead raccoon in there. That’ll cure the common cold.

Beetles are the best way to clean a corpse. The beetle in particular is called the Dermestid officially, but goes by many other names like the hide beetle, the carpet beetle, the larder beetle, and the flesh-eating beetle, because of what they eat – everything except glass, steel, and bone. Throw a buffalo sized head in to a container with a thousand or more dermestids, and they’ll leave nothing but the bones in a matter of weeks. Not overnight, but still the fastest game around. Dermestids are handy because they can crawl into eye sockets and nasal passages and get all the meat, and brains, from those hard to reach nooks and crannies.

Dermestids eat cartilage too, which is why you never see a real museum skeleton with the nose bones, ear bones, or it’s chest plate in tact. All of those parts are cartilege. Usually the sternum and center ribs are replaced with synthetics for display purpose. It’s also why you’ve never seen a shark skeleton, despite seeing shark jaws at every corner cabana.

If you want to start cleaning bones you’re going to need thousands of these little buggers. Many taxidermy shops sell guides to raising and using them, and many sell the bugs themselves. Just don’t let them get away. Eating everything is what dermestids do best. Just like the flesh eating beetles in The Mummy movie.

Strange Answers: "What are the bones of a fetal skeleton?"

skelefriends 1

This one was harder than I thought. A fetal skeleton should have all the same bones as an adult skeleton, right?

Well no, actually, and it depends. It depends on when you check. A human fetus has no bones at all until the 7th week. Two bones come in during the 7th week. The femur, which is not surprising as it’s the largest, hardest single bone in the adult body. The second bone is the clavicle, also known as the collar bone, an oddly shaped little bone that holds up the neck. It’s small, but think of how important it’s job is.

The rest of the bones develop from the 8th to 15th week (2nd to 4th month). So by the 5th month a fetal skeleton is complete. Well almost complete. As we all know the teeth come in after birth, as does the knee cap (patella) which grows in between the 3rd and 6th year. That’s why baby legs have such a smooth taper from thigh to ankle – no knobby knee in the middle.

The last bone that the fetus grows is the hyoid bone, also known as the lingual bone or voice box. It’s the only bone in the human body not rooted against another bone, and it’s the one that makes articulate speech possible. In animals the hyoid bone is simply another part of the neck, not the floating wonder it is in humans. In fetal development the hyoid bone doesn’t grow until the 36th week, the 9th month. Then a baby is ready to be born.

A complete chart of fetal bones and their developments is available here

Strange Answers: What's Wrong With Henry

Henry 29

Of all the causes of death I’ve recreated over the years none raises more questions than the case of poor Harry (Henry) Eastlack.

I created the Henry skeleton for a set based on the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, where the real Harry Eastlack resides. Harry was born normal except for a big toe only slightly too large and irregular.

At age ten the muscle and flesh around his bones began turning to bone, a process called “Ossification” and sometimes poetically referred to as flesh turning to stone. Ossification is a normal process for growing and healing bones, but in Harry’s case it was running amok. The disease Harry had was named Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva. The first symptom was bony nodules on his neck and shoulders, which when removed, triggered the growth of large nodules. Shortly after the onset of Ossification, Harry was unable to move any part of his body except his lips.

Harry died 43 years later of pneumonia and willed his unique body to the Mutter Museum. Here’s the real Harry’s skeleton

Strange Questions: Do you have a Possum Penis?

Raccoon baculum

Everyday the phone rings and I hear: “This is going to sound like a strange question, but…”

I answer the question, which may range from advice on making bloody explosions to medieval torture equipment to making the best fake spider webs to what happens to what part of the body after death or why you shouldn’t sell black market human remains, you know, morbid industry tech support.

I recently decided I should start publishing these question and answer sessions. And feel free to email me with more questions, my email is .

So todays question: “Do you have a possum’s penis replica?”

Why would anyone want one, you might ask, well there’s an old American tradition that raccoon and opossum penis bones – called Baculum, should be worn around the neck for good luck. The tradition can still be found in some parts of the south, amongst carnies, and certain trucker traditions. It was referenced in the book “The Heart is Deceitful above all things”

A replica Baculum was wanted because this was for a production and the actors were a bit squeamish over handling something like that. Well, it turns out the anchovy shaped Opossum baculum replica eluded me, but I found a good scientific supply house the carries an amazing array of baculum, from ferrets to foxes to bears and seals, and yes, even the lucky raccoon. Dapper Cadaver can now special order bacula of nearly any North Amercan mammal for $10-$40 each.

The longest baculum in North America belongs to te Walrus, measuring an average of 2 ft, with the record being at nearly 5 ft. Think about that for a second, and shudder. Walrus baculum, called Oosiks by the inuit, are of great ceremonial importance.

All the great apes except humans have a baculum. The zoologist Richard Dawkins speculated in 2006, that the loss of the bone in humans, is probably a result of sexual selection by females looking for signs of good health in prospective mates. The reliance of the human penis solely on hydraulic means to achieve a rigid state makes it particularly vulnerable to blood pressure variation. Poor erectile function betrays not only physical states such as diabetes and neurological disorders but mental states such as stress and depression.

One Foot in the Grave

From the Associated Press

Woman slips and falls partway into grave

MONMOUTH, Ore. She’s O-K now, but for a while an Oregon woman had one foot in the grave. Literally.
Over the weekend, 81-year-old Clara Connelly was visiting the cemetery where her husband is buried, when she slipped on soggy ground.

One of her legs sank knee-deep into a fresh grave site. She was unable to free herself for almost an hour.

Connelly’s head was near a stone marking the resting place of her sister and brother-in-law. She said she laid her head on the stone and prayed, and eventually managed to pull her leg free.

She told the Salem Statesman Journal that people are always joking about having one foot in the grave — but in her words, “I actually experienced it.”

Nudes at Von Hagens Body Worlds, and human organ donation

It seems you can’t fill a room with corpses and naked women these days without causing a controversy. I’m speaking of course of Gunther Von Hagens, shown here holding a slice of child next to a stripper wearing nothing but a thong, stage blood and a mardi gras mask in front of a dead horseman on a dead horse clutching his own brain in one and and his steeds brain in the other.

His exhibit of plastinized people is currently on tour- sans strippers I’m affraid, that’s only in Europe. The rest of the bodies are cadavers donated to science that Von Hagens treats with a process he invented for turning flesh into plastic. Full posable, a plastic body never rots and needs no special chamber to protect it. In body worlds you share a room with the standing dead, posed in a manner that’s either artistic or grotesque, depending on you. Either way, the sculptural and surreal poses help distract from the fact that you’re sharing a room with cadavers. Imagine how unsettling it would be if they were all just laid out on slabs.

On the last night Body Worlds was in LA it was open 48 hours straight, so you could walk the halls at midnight. Flashlight tours would have been an obvious attraction, but sadly were not given. I’m guessing because the exhibit is already walking a fine line between science and unadulterated ghoulishness, and that would have put it over the edge. Still, Von Hagens did kick off the European tour with ten female strippers, two male body builders, and a transvestite, AND he held a public autopsy in Brittain despite laws forbidding such a thing, so the man clearly has a sense of ghoulish style and showmanship could make Rob Zombie curl up in the corner and cry, and a tenuous grasp on the kind of legitimacy that Hannibal Lector can only drool and or make hissy sounds at. But that’s about it for controversy in the states. All I ever read here was, “is this respectful of the dead?” and “does it realy have scientific merit and educational value, or is it just a horror show?” and so on.

On the BBC they at least brought up the issue of what effect will this exhibit have on our precious organ donor program. Will people be so offended that they’ll not put that pink dot on they’re drivers liscense? I’d consider myself lucky to wind up in Von Hegan’s clutches. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a full support of the program, but the less everyone knows about the donor program the better. Everyone puts that dot on their liscense thinking their marrow will go to a kid dying of cancer, or they’re heart will save a life, and yes, that’s the first round draft pick of you guts goes. I know, I’ve talked with an organ broker whose job is to locate fresh organs, with the proper blood type and get them, despite legal hurtles, transportations laws, and not leastly objectionable family, to where they’re needed most, before the recipient dies or the organ goes bad. That’s a high stress job. But that’s just round one. Truth be told, more of your skin will wind up as penis extensions and boob jobs than covering burn victims. The book “Stiff” by Mary Roach starts in a lab filled with severed heads in baking pans awaiting facelifts. It’s not a work of fiction, it’s “The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” and it’s halfway between “The American Way of Death” and “101 uses for a dead body” with enough quirky gallows humor to help you through the rough stuff. Because even the scientifically legitimate, life-saving stuff is just as bad. Like the cadaver ranches where bodies are subjected to every possibility of what a body can go through so forensics invesitgators will have something to compare their field research against. Makes the skin crawl.

So if you ask me, the volunteers who get to spend eternity contemplating their next chess move or playing basketball in Von Hegans exhibit got the good end of the corpse pole. Providing they are in fact volunteers. While the debate down here was whether it’s right to display any corpse in a museum (or should that be non-ethnic corpse? I mean King Tut’s on display right now as well as countless Indian bones– but that’s another issue) the debate elsewhere in the world was should a person whose artistic/scientiffic medium is dead people know where his cadavers are coming from so he knows they are volunteers and not, say, executed political prisoners? Von Hagens can’t say for certain.

The man is a showman, an artist, a scientist, and a ghoul. I think he know’s exactly what he’s doing. And we’re encouraging him. I mean I’m encouraging him. The exhibit is absolutely fascinating and impacts you in weird unexpected ways. Go face down the skeleton at the heart of the lotus. You’ll be better off for it, and ask yourself, is it right?

And now, because it hasn’t been reprinted in english, the Von Hagens exhibit that featured topless “live anatomy models” as Von Hagens called them (although to truely be live anatomy models he should have featured old people, young people, fat people and thin people, and not just whatever strippers wanted to work the museum circuit) with my crudely translated from german english text.

1. With a Casting the Plastinator Gunther of Hagens selected 20 “anatomy Models”. They should mediate to the visitors from 1 to 10 June 2004 in its disputed exhibition “body worlds” nearly naked and with a venezianischen mask anonymizated from Hagens idea of “alive anatomy”. However the office for order Frankfurt forbade this plan. (Foto:ddp)

3. With the exhibition in Frankfurt Hagens prepared heart, lung, liver and kidney publicly. It wants to correct one of “horror and Fantasie” coined/shaped conception of anatomy, was called it from its Institut to the reason. (photo: strip packing)

4. So the consciousness of the visitors for a healthier life can be strengthened. (photo: strip packing)

5. Impressionen of the Casting… (photo: strip packing)

14. Professor Gunther von Hagens invented 1977 the Plastination, a method for the permanent and realistic preservation of anatomical preparations. Its exhibition “body worlds” gave world-wide exactly the same much fame to it such as criticism. (photo: strip packing)

15. Critics do not see scientific value in his work. In addition they accuse to it, the dead ones not would respect. From Hagens however its exhibition sees itself anatomy teachings for laymen as “corpse-noble” and calls. (photo: strip packing)


Best Christmas Toys of 2005

When I think back onto all the times I was injured as a child, all the pogoballs that sent me head over heels over fences, all the skateboards that sent me out of control into traffic, all the games we invented like “Smeer” and “Combat Basketball” and “Knockdown Tag”, and just in general all the times something gushed blood, sprayed acid, caught fire, electrocuted me, or exploded, my heart fills with joy. Those were not only good times, those were the best times. And look at me, I grew up to be succesfully employed in the blood and tombstone business. Whats more, I pity any child who makes it to adolescence without running away from a game crying, bruised or bleeding. My mom always told me “Alls fun until someone looses an eye” but then Uncle Jack would take out his glass eye and drop it into her tea, she’d scream, we’d laugh, and the fun didn’t stop just because someone got impaled by a metal spike in the eye when he was a boy.
With that in mind, and with help from “World Against Toys Causing Harm” (WATCH) I bring you the Best Christmas Toys of 2005.



I enjoyed toys like these about equally when I was a kid, so I’m not sure which to rank higher. Neighter seem very deadly, but I’m going to have to give favor to the sling shot, because according to WATCH “at least 13 states proscribe the use, possession and/or sale of such dangerous weaponry.” That puts it on equal ground with a switchblade, yet I somehow can’t picture Bart Simpson or Dennis the Mennace with a switchblade and still being loveable.


“shoot “arrows” over thirty feet with “3 power settings”! Despite the “soft tips” on the ammunition, the arrows are catapulted by the crossbow at high velocity, and users are cautioned not to “aim at eyes or face” ” However, children are not given any instruction what so ever whether they should light the foam tips on fire a’la Rambo and lay siege to their school.


Now here’s a toy that wants you to get hurt. The game s simple, two players armed with remote control tanks play a game of laser tag. The catch is, whenever a tank gets hit, it’s RC controller sends out a painful electrical charge into the hands of the player who got served.


Basically by “Energy Beam Blaster” they mean assault riffle loaded with silly string. I am so down with getting one of these just based on that. But wait, it gets better, “Do not leave in direct sunlight or store in hot vehicle”, since doing so can “cause can to burst violently.” Awesome! As a young pyrochemist I know I would have done everything in my power to try and get these things to explode including cooking them in the microwave and strapping m-80s to them, and playing a game of fizzball (which is basically baseball, except you use a can of soda instead of a ball, these days I use beer, just as foamy explody and shrapnelly, but not so sticky)


If fun and concushions had a form, it would be these boots. Just look at them. I love this quote from WATCH “The manufacturer’s safety instructions include the unrealistic directive to “always remain in control of your motions”” That’s frickin sweet.