Grim Reaper Cartoons and Exploding Caskets

Aug 19, 2014 | 0 comments

Stories on exploding caskets and cartoons in The New Yorker magazine – many of which involve the Grim Reaper – recently ran in two national news outlets.

Grim Reaper cartoonCBS 60 Minutes story So you want to see your cartoon in The New Yorker? goes behind the scenes at the venerable magazine to explore how the editors select the cartoons they run. Here’s a snippet from the end of the piece, about death and humor:

We end — as everything does — with the Grim Reaper. He’s turned up in the New Yorker countless times over the years.

David Sipress: OK. So we have Death…

In this recent David Sipress cartoon, the Reaper’s latest acquisition is saying: “Thank goodness you’re here – I can’t accomplish anything unless I have a deadline.”

Bob Mankoff: Honestly, if it wasn’t for death. I don’t think there’d be any humor.

Bob Mankoff believes humor is really our way of coping with anxiety. Anxiety about death, about work, relationships, the state of the world, the state of your health. So here’s a prescription from the cartoon doctor.

Bob Mankoff: Illness and death, primary sources of anxiety. One way of dealing with anxiety –

Morley Safer: Is to laugh at it.

Bob Mankoff: Grim Reaper’s gonna get the last laugh. Until then, it’s our turn.

Watch the full story from the CBS website:

And in the Washington Post, Josh Slocum, the executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, spilled the beans on exploding caskets. He writes:

Putting dead people in buildings was never smart engineering. Mausoleum burial began as the prerogative of the powerful, providing the perception of a dignified end to a life of esteem. The majesty of the Taj Mahal and the wonder of the Egyptian pyramids carried the idea into the 20th Century. Now heavily marketed to ordinary Americans as the cleaner and classier alternative to six feet under, community mausoleums – with their rows of concrete vaults — appeal to grieving relatives grossed out at the thought of bugs, water and worms mingling with their loved ones’ remains.

But dead bodies have a tendency to rot, and when they do so above ground, the consequences are – to put it nicely — unpleasant. Separating the living from the dead with nothing more than a thin concrete wall was destined to fail and the funeral industry is making money off  public ignorance. Funeral homes push pricey caskets for above-ground burials that ultimately exacerbate mausoleums’ inherent flaw.

You’ve never heard of exploding casket syndrome (ask your mortician if it’s right for you), but funeral directors and cemetery operators have. They sell so-called “protective” or “sealer” caskets at a premium worth hundreds of dollars each, with the promise that they’ll keep out air and moisture that — they would have you believe — cause bodies to rapidly deteriorate. Like Tupperware for the dead, they “lock in the freshness!” with a rubber gasket.

But, in reality, you can’t protect a corpse from itself. While you’re insulating grandma from the outside air, she could be stewing in her own fluids, turning into a slurry from the work of anaerobic bacteria. When the weather turns warm, in some cases, that sealed casket becomes a pressure cooker and bursts from accumulated gases and fluids of the decomposing body. The next time relatives visit grandma, they could find her rotting remains oozing from her tomb in the form of a nauseating thick fluid.

Read the rest of the story!

Something to think about while you’re making funeral plans.


A Good Goodbye