A ‘vampire’s’ remains were found about 30 years ago. Now DNA is giving him new life.

He had been in his grave so long that when his family dug him up to burn his heart, the organ had decomposed and was not there.

Desperate to stop him from stalking them, they took his head and limbs and rearranged them on top of his ribs in the design of a skull and crossbones. He was a “vampire,” after all, and in rural New England in the early 1800s, this was how you dealt with them.

When they were finished, they reburied him in his stone-lined grave and replaced the wooden coffin lid, on which someone had used brass tacks to form the inscription “JB 55,” for his initials and his age.

Now, 200 years or so after the death of what has become the country’s best-studied “vampire,” DNA sleuths have tracked down his probable name: John Barber.

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What fatphobia tells us about our fear of death

You can’t go two steps in London without seeing Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) controversial, ubiquitous and hypocritical ‘Obesity is a cause of cancer too’ cigarette comparison campaign. Apparently, we all have collectively forgotten this message from the last time they ran a similar campaign and were heavily criticised for it.

Rather than focusing on all of the reasons why this campaign is a horrible idea, because that has been covered at length by multiple experts in the METRO, on Medium, and on Twitter — instead, I want to highlight the reasons why these types of campaigns and everything the diet industry throws at us sometimes sticks so well — it’s our fear of death.

Obviously a charity that devotes it’s time to ending deaths by cancer is going to be motivated to… well, not talk about death in a positive way and seek to prevent it. Breaking the taboo around talking about death, being more comfortable discussing it, and actively planning for death doesn’t mean thinking cancer is a good thing.

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Inside the Eccentric World of Ethical Taxidermy Art

When looking at something like a taxidermied Janus kitten—that is, a tiny feline with two faces—one might assume that its maker had a rather dark view of animal life. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Being able to give something another life, elevating it into something beyond death—that gives me chills,” said Divya Anantharaman, one of New York’s best-known practitioners in the modern taxidermy movement and the maker of the taxidermied Janus kitten, which was a special commission for the person who cared for the animal during its short life. “[Taxidermy] is very emotional and humbling,” Anantharaman added. “The thing I think the most often is: Don’t mess it up.”

This reverence for the deceased is common among a contemporary breed of taxidermists. Far from the traditional profile of gruff men in rural areas mounting animals they hunted to display as trophies, today’s innovative taxidermists are younger and more diverse, and they tend to live in urban environments and skew heavily female. They often work with small creatures like birds and rodents rather than hulking deer or bears, and they’re pursuing their craft ethically—acquiring animals that have died naturally, and thus distancing the art of taxidermy from the pursuit of hunting. And while they’re often trained in traditional practices, many favor turning out artistic creations that depart from the way the animals looked while alive. They’re breathing new life into a centuries-old discipline, pursuing it with joy, respect, humor, and heart.

Read More – Inside the Eccentric World of Ethical Taxidermy Art – Artsy

How ‘Talking’ Corpses Were Once Used to Solve Murders

From unreliable hair analysis to mishandled DNA samples, modern forensic science has seen its share of troubles. But there’s still plenty to be thankful for in the ways courts today gather evidence of a crime: Just a few centuries ago, people were convicted of murder based on the idea that a corpse would spontaneously bleed in its killer’s presence.

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The Funeral Directors Deployed to America’s Deadliest Disasters

Last November, as wildfires ravaged the town of Paradise, California, Robert Vigil received an urgent call from the Department of Health and Human services (HHS). Local officials were racing to identify the remains of fire victims, and Vigil, who has spent 26 years as a funeral director in Yuma County, Arizona, was needed on the scene.

From the news, Vigil already knew the fires had killed dozens of people and that hundreds more were missing. Under orders from HHS, he hopped on a plane to Butte County, California, where he advised local coroners about how to deal with the influx of fatalities.

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The Great Equalizer: Barbara Ehrenreich and the ethics of dying.

There’s no surer sign that life has become too comfortable for the rich than when they try to buy immortality. The first Chinese emperor enlisted scholars in his search for the elixir of eternal life and, after none was discovered, had them buried alive, figuring that if any of them was a true alchemist, he would return from the dead to share his secrets. (None ever did, but the emperor’s penchant for drinking mercury—which he believed also had life-giving properties—probably didn’t end up helping him live a long life.)

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Why Pop Culture Links Women and Killer Plants

There’s an early scene in Annihilation, Alex Garland’s cerebral sci-fi-horror drama, where the biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) examines a cluster of kaleidoscopically mutated flowers. “They’re growing from the same branch structure, so it has to be the same species,” she mutters to her all-female squad of researchers. “You’d sure as hell call it a pathology if you saw this in a human.” The team, led by Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), is tasked with exploring the Shimmer: a sinister dome of iridescent light that has consumed the Florida coastline.

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Plants, Domesticity, and the Female Poisoner

When I saw that the new character in the Clue board game was going to be a woman botanist with an affinity for poison, I thought it sounded very, tiredly familiar. This is not to say that the addition of a woman scientist to a board game should not be considered progress—even in a game with murder as its primary motif, a woman character defined by her career rather than her marital status is preferable. But far from instigating a “feminist coup,” Dr. Orchid is only the latest in a stereotype-rich line of women botanists and poisoners from mythology, detective stories, comics, and science fiction. Modern stories, including comics, are slowly letting women scientists be geneticists, engineers, hackers–even Iron Man. But botany, especially when it can be a front for a poisoning operation, is over-ascribed to women as a profession of choice.

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The Deadly History of Women Using Perfume as Poison

There’s a myth about Marie Antoinette’s attempt to escape the guillotine I love retelling: In seeking to avoid the wrath of the Jacobin revolutionaries, the royal family escaped to the outskirts of Paris in disguise. When their coach was stopped by a mob, they were unrecognizable. They were found out, improbably, by the noble profile of the king (which perfectly matched a banknote), but also in the noble smell of the queen. After all, only royalty could afford such a sublime scent.

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