The Body Farm
Just seeing the words “body farm” makes me picture gruesome images of bodies planted in a row, heads just bursting through the surface waiting to be plucked up. Yes I know..gross…can’t help it though as that image might not be as farfetched as you might think. There are real body farms throughout the United States, five to be exact. Let’s see if there’s one located near you! The largest body farm is located at Texas University; there is one at Sam Houston University, University of Tennessee, Western Carolina University, and lastly the California University located in Pennsylvania.
Body farms are not only used to study crimes that have already taken place but also give insight in the research side of forensic investigations. When a body is studied at the farm, certain conditions may be used and a log of what happens and when to the body are made such as:
· Peeling of skin or bloating
· Appearance of certain bugs
· Appearance of certain bacteria
· Smell emitted from the body
· How long decomposition takes
While some may think it gruesome or disrespectful to the dead to be used in such a way, it is all academic. Body farms are not full of the dead draped all over in a macabre fashion, these locations are used for the scientific study of decomposition. It allows the scientific community to better understand what happens when the body begins to decompose and under what conditions. Bodies are not placed around the area all willy nilly they are placed very carefully into what environment needs to be studied whether it is in a pond or sitting behind the wheel of a car or in the trunk. It is not only beneficial to the scientific community though as it enables the members of law enforcement to also better understand the deaths they may investigate. The studying of the dead allows an investigator to re-create a circumstance under which a death has occurred and may offer vital information that may not have otherwise been known.
The body farm was the idea of a man named William Bass at the University of Tennessee who is a forensic anthropologist. Dr. Bass arrived at the University of Tennessee in 1971 and by the 1980’s the body farm was underway. Most all of the bodies used on the body farm come from donations, whether by the individual in their will of by their family members, for those worried about disposal, all bodies are given a proper burial when their study is over.