William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Monday, 9, March, 2009

Obtaining the Bones

Filed under: Natural History,Science,Self mockery — williamthecoroner @ 14:52

Darren Nash, over at Tetrapod Zoology has some interesting insight into a question that has perplexed me many a time, How do you get the skeleton from a corpse? Bones are really rather neat, and you can learn a lot from them.  It has been a long while since I’ve tried it myself.  The largest animal I tried to get the skeleton from was a fox squirrel.

I rather liked his idea of the microwave.  Though, as he points out, microwaving a cadaver for an hour or so will use a lot of power, and I’m not sure I want to put my lunch in it when I’m done.  I’ve done boil-the-flesh off plan.  This was not a good idea.  You’ve got to boil the squirrel for most of the afternoon.  A boiled squirrel smells quite a lot like a boiling rat, which isn’t really all that pleasant.  Then there’s the little problem of explaining to your Grandmother why there’s a squirrel boiling merrily away in her stock pot when she comes home from work (and the secondary problem of buying a NEW stockpot when the project is done)

In my experience, putting the little corpses in wire cages and letting the flies work did wonders, and went very quickly in high summer.  As long as you could keep them well away from marauding scavengers and neighbors who might be annoyed.   I like his plastic tib with the holes technique, and the bury it in the compost technique.  Anything to keep the cadavers out of the kitchen



  1. 1. It must be asked: How do you know what a boiling rat smells like?
    2. If you use the cage method, you should at least hang them on your walls or borders to warn enemies of the fate of those who cross you.

    Comment by Meagan — Tuesday, 10, March, 2009 @ 01:01 | Reply

    • Meagan
      1. Because I’ve boiled a rat. It stinks. It really, really has an acrid smell.
      2. Yeah, the head on a pike thing is impressive, but I don’t think it would fly in the ‘burbs.

      Comment by williamthecoroner — Tuesday, 10, March, 2009 @ 09:03

  2. I design and build ME facilities and crime labs (with anthropological suites). My clients have done the bone boiling, too, but they’ve used other options as well. One option are dermestid beetles – although this process is used mostly for individual parts and more widely used for the skeletal remains of animals. The other process one of my anthropolgist clients uses is similar to bone boiling, and involves using an incubator at sustained temperatures. I would imagine this is akin to a crock pot, where you are cooking the meat at a nice, even temperature for a long period of time, the meat will fall off the bone. Also much better than using an actual crock pot, since, again, your Grandmother might not like to use that again, either.

    (I enjoy reading your blog from a standpoint of learning from someone who might utilize one of my facilities.)

    Comment by SHB — Tuesday, 10, March, 2009 @ 08:30 | Reply

  3. You know, I knew a girl who was taking a taxidermy class out in Wisconsin. It worked out really well with her major of art — she had lots of subjects for her paintings with a Georgia O’Keefe vibe. And yes, boiling her victims on the stove in the student housing made her fairly unpopular. The possum boiling did make long walks on January evenings in middle Wisconsin more popular (even if all you saw were the white walls of the pathways).

    Comment by rj — Thursday, 12, March, 2009 @ 21:32 | Reply

  4. I just read a book called “Devil in the White City” about the building of the Chicago Exposition in 1892 while a serial killer was operating a mile from the fairgrounds. One of the ways that he disposed of the bodies was to hand them off to a guy who specialized in removing the meat from the bones and recreating the skeletons and then selling them to medical schools, as at that time there were no organ donors and the like and medical students were desperate for bodies and skeletons to learn from. Ew.

    Comment by Sparrow — Thursday, 12, March, 2009 @ 22:23 | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: