Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Get Rid of a Body

What's the fun in being an author if your Internet search history doesn't put you at the top of a few criminal suspect lists? Because research is one of the most fun parts of the writing craft I wrote an article about how to dispose of unwanted bodies for Yahoo! Voices (back when they still existed), but unfortunately Yahoo! decided the content didn't really fit with their guidelines. That said, their loss is your gain! If you've got a couple of unwanted characters bloodying up your story, here are some creative ways to get rid of what's left of them!

This article is now officially off moratorium.

How to Get Rid of a Body

Facts and Fictions About Body Disposal

We've all seen that movie. Maybe it's one of those films where everyone's having a good time, but something goes wrong and somebody ends up dead. Rather than coming clean and talking to the police, everyone agrees to cover up the dead body they think they have on their hands. Or maybe you're more a fan of those movies where someone who was wronged decides it's time to get his or her hands dirty. Your lead starts hacking up the chain of command, leaving a bloody trail through every scene.

Don't you ever wonder why these characters don't get caught? With all of the CSI techs with their crime labs full of colored liquids, and detectives with their hunches and gut instincts shouldn't someone be able to catch these killers?
Yes... unless your slashers and stalkers have been disposing of bodies off-camera. If that's the case then they're probably using some of these popular methods that are relatively common place in the real world.

Assuming they aren't eating the evidence, but as What Does Cannibalism Do To Your Body? points out that method has its own slew of problems for you to deal with.
Would I Lye To You?
Sodium hydroxide is a chemical solution you're probably familiar with, particularly if you're a fan of Fight Club. If you've seen the film then you've seen the horrible, caustic burns that lye can cause to skin in less than a minute. It's the ability to melt flesh right off the bone that makes lye the choice of discerning assassins and murderers the world over, but particularly among cartels who like to make bodies just up and vanish. According to this article, hitmen tend to make a strong lye solution, heat it to 300 degrees, and then dump in the body. In less than a day it will be liquefied and ready to be dumped out into the nearest sewer grate. Variations of this procedure are used in medical labs and universities where cadavers that have served their purpose need to be done away with quickly, and cleanly.
The other thing that makes lye such a great option for body disposal is that it's easy to get. Enough lye to dissolve a body can be bought for a $20 bill with change to spare from any farm or soap supply store. Powerful acids can eat up a body, bones and all in less than an hour, but these same acids can be used to build bombs. So if you start buying acid you're going to get on a lot of radars very quickly.
A More Chipper Method
If you've seen Fargo then you've seen the iconic image of the chipper shredder with a fan of blood sprayed out over the snow. While this grisly image is a pop culture snap shot, it's also an accurate image of the best way to reduce evidence to little more than chunky suet. A dead body is hard to move, hard to hide, and hard to do much of anything with if it still looks like a person. Reduced to meat mulch, preferably spat out onto a dirty blue tarp like a plastic burrito, there's a world of possibilities.
You've heard the rumor that pigs will eat anything, including dead people? Well that's true, more or less. Problem is that pigs don't usually just eat a dead body; if it's chopped up, shredded, and put in a pail though they'll gobble away till their fat little hearts are content. A serial killer accused of having 20 victims did this very thing. Other options include dumping your victim-slurry down into the sewer, or tossing the remains into a river where it will be blown out to sea and eaten by fish. As long as the machine is cleaned thoroughly with strong bleach that will destroy any blood, and all the bits of bone, meat and gristle are wiped away, there's no one to say what happened to that missing person.
Bury Them Deep
The classic image of someone burying victims in the dirt floor of the basement, or out in the garden patch is one of the more common methods people use to get rid of bodies. This has happened a staggering number of times in real life as well, but the problem is that buried bodies are some of the easiest to find. Even if you chop them up, or mulch them, it takes time for the earth to erase the evidence. However, according to unethical life hacks it's quite possible to mask the scene of the crime with relative ease.
Say you've dug a nice, deep, 6-foot hole like you're supposed to. Throw the body in and bury it under a few feet of dirt. Then throw in the corpse of a dead dog or deer. Fill in the hole the rest of the way. In the event that the police do come and they do get a scent from a given area, they'll find the decomposing animal and will be more likely not to dig any further. Your secret is safe, and the earth is left to keep on churning away at one more victim.
"Oregon Farmer Eaten by Pigs" by JuJu Kim at Time
"Alkaline Hydrolosis- Dissolving Bodies With Lye" by Anne Marie Helmenstein at About

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  1. Perfect timing. Part-way through writing a crime series where a body is buried, will tweak that for sure. Thanks, Neal.

  2. Yep. Cheers. Disgusting but useful

  3. I was hoping that someone would address lime, which I used in a story and later discovered was not as effective as is commonly thought. I should have used lye!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Interesting blog, Neal, thanks for the link to it from FWG.

  6. Interesting point about burying an animal over the human corpse. Bonus points for running it over first: Then if they ask you just shrug and say "ran it over, didn't feel right just leaving it to rot so I gave it a proper burial"