Raychelle Burks explains how chemists would get rid of a body

I always thought the idea of getting rid of a body by dumping it in an acid bath was impractical and inefficient — it would take such a long time to break down, and would require so much in the way of chemicals. Raychelle Burks does the test, dropping chunks of pork in beakers of hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide, and my suspicions were confirmed. This is a bad way to do it. It’s also really gross.

You really need to get a biologist’s expertise for this job. My first thought was dermestid beetles — clean it down to bare bones, then mount the skeleton and store it in plain sight in the anatomy lab. You don’t have any beetles? There’s always Lord Dunsany’s solution.

But for simple practicality, just find a crematorium.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    For another possible solution, see Fried Green Tomatoes or Eating Raoul.
    This makes more sense for a biologist than a chemist though, because biologists tend to be better cooks.

  2. says

    Wouldn’t saponification in potassium hydroxide be more more effective? Soak for > 42 hours, then wash the resultant liquid soap down the drain . . .

  3. weylguy says

    I always thoughtt hydrofluoric acid was the best um … solution … but maybe it’s just as impractical as HCl or NaOH. As for the beetles, you still have all that bug poo to discard.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Either caustic or acid will tear down the non-bony material of a body into its constituents. The problem is with the calcium hydroxyphosphate that makes up the mineral moiety of bones/teeth, even with cremation, until the cremains are ground to dust, after which there is no forensic evidence to tie the remains to a person. The defleshed bones can probably be dissolved in acids that have soluble calcium salts, like hydrochloric, nitric, or perchloric acids. It is a multistep process in any case.

  5. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I always liked burning the body in a metal barrel for a few days, to get down to just bones, and then destroy the bones via some other method, or dispose of them in the ocean. This plan is basically a crematorium, with the benefit of not actually needing access to a crematorium. Of course, you need to find a place where there won’t be suspicion of having a fire going for a few days. I assume rural private property would work well.

  6. keithb says

    Does this take down your estimation of “Every Heart a Doorway” a notch or two?

    In “The Thin Man” they used quicklime, but the murderer was not in a particular hurry and he *wanted* a decomposed body to be found.

  7. says

    ” then mount the skeleton and store it in plain sight in the anatomy lab.”
    I saw that in an episode of “Elementary”. Someone killed a doctor in the basement of a hospital, and then cleaned and mounted her skeleton. I can’t remember how Sherlock knew it was her body though. Or what the killer did with all the “meat”.

  8. Raucous Indignation says

    What sort of chemist is she? She only using chemicals. You need to add time and heat and pressure to the sodium hydroxide. Use enough and you’ll have nothing but a sterile solution of liquid waste that’s safe to go down the drain once it’s neutralized and any metal foreign bodies. Like fillings and surgical staple and such.

  9. Raucous Indignation says

    There’s a chapter on this method in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. A cracking good read that I raucously recommend.

  10. cartomancer says

    Someone email these suggestions to the White House – they’ve had that Steve Bannon thing out on display for months now, and it’s just as rancid as it was when the murderer dumped it there.

  11. Larry says

    or Yellowstone’s hot springs

    That won’t work! You’ll have the park rangers on your ass like nobody’s business. You do not want to mess with them!

  12. robertmatthews says

    Grind it up, feed it to pigs, slaughter pigs, feed them to people. Problem solved.

  13. microraptor says

    Alligators. Even if the remains are discovered, the efficiency of the alligator’s digestive system ought to insure that there’s no remaining forensic evidence regarding the cause of death.

  14. Igneous Rick says

    It’s not chemist, but it is arguably old-school physician: meat pies.

  15. magistramarla says

    A guy who graduated in my high school class went to work for one of the local petroleum refineries. He died when he slipped and fell into a vat of chemicals. I heard that the family didn’t have much left to bury after his remains were recovered from the vat.

  16. handsomemrtoad says

    Here’s the best way to get rid of the body: ask the opiate-loving space-aliens to make it disappear.

  17. Akira MacKenzie says

    The new edition of the Cthulhu Mythos/conspiracy RPG, Delta Green has a whole section of rules on the various ways you can get rid of an entire inconvenient body. (Yes, it is a situation that does come up during a campaign.) Acid is one of the methods mentioned and the authors make sure to point out it’s not as easy as it sounds. First you’ve got to find a sufficient quantity of acid. That usually leaves a paper trial. Then you’ve immerse the body without getting the crap on you. Then you’ve got to dispose of the slurry that’s left over which poses problems. It’s just a mess.

    Being a Lovecraftian RPG, It’s probably better for your party to get on friendly terms with the local Ghoul community and deliver troublesome corpses to them. They know just how to dispose of them.

  18. blf says

    Reanimation. Wave a pea at the corpse, and the cadaver will suddenly be an ex-cadaver, lurching away screaming. This is, admittedly, quite dangerous, and the reanimated will probably start chasing you as well. This also tends to attract attention, which is a near-perfect disguise when you are trying to hide.

    (The above is a synopsis of Volumes II, IX, XXII–CLXXX, and most of the Appendices, of the mildly deranged penguin’s Short List of Things to Do Whilst Eating Cheese, available in all good bookshops.)

  19. rietpluim says

    I admit it is not very efficient but seeing the body slowly dissolve is a reward in itself.

  20. DLC says

    Well, really, just go down to your local tool rental facility and rent a wood chipper and a steam cleaner. You’ll need the steam cleaner to clean the wood chipper once it’s done it’s work. Make a good job of it, and get it back to the rental place after feeding it a few branches. (See Richard Crafts, airline pilot and spouse murderer ) (see also the movie Fargo)

  21. multitool says

    I am surprised no one has mentioned composting. It will do the bones too.

    According to The Big Book of Death, the best urban body disposal is to simply dismember the offending corpse in the bath, bag the parts, and throw them in a dumpster. People won’t even look at you.

  22. anonymous3 says

    Water is the universal solvent. Pressurize and heat it until it becomes a supercritical fluid and it only get moreso. Anything that can dissolve in water normally will dissolve in minutes in a SCW reactor. That means any metal that forms veins can be dissolved. At its supercritical point, water stops acting like a purely polar solvent so even lipids dissolve. Add a bit of oxygen to the reaction and suddenly you can convert everything to simple molecules.

    An SCW will dissolve everything. Bones, hair, clothes, the plastic you wrapped the body in, medical implants, most metals including gold fillings, everything gets converted into H2O, CO2, N2, and assorted salts that precipitate out. The hardest part of building one is finding materials than can simply stand up to one. Most are lined with a titanium-tantalum alloy and coated in Teflon.

    The damn things are even used is disposal of chemical weapons.