My children will be heartbroken

I have just learned that there is no legal way to leave my skull to my children.

Even if you exploit fuzzy legal arguments in your quest to get your hands on Dad’s skull, you’re still going to run into a big problem: There is currently no way in the United States to skeletonize human remains for private ownership. For the most part, skeletonization happens only when a body is donated to scientific research. Even this isn’t explicitly legal; authorities just tend to look the other way for museums and universities. But under no circumstances can you just skeletonize your dad and display his head among the decorative gourds in the Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Well, you know, if you just do nothing at all, it will eventually be defleshed. You’ll just have to live with a rotting head for a while.

It’s just as well. I only have one skull, and three children, and I wouldn’t want to inspire the kind of vicious familial in-fighting that would occur as each desperately tried to seize the goods.


  1. wzrd1 says

    That that was even a question that required an answer to is something that I find deeply disturbing.
    Not that I give a tinkerer’s damn about what happens to my body once I’m through with it. Although, recycling sounds like a good idea, it seems that there are laws against even that.
    To protect us and all that, or something.

  2. OptimalCynic says


    ahem. Sorry. Came over a bit wingnut there for a minute.

  3. blf says

    With all the crucified cracker fans, evilution enemies, and richard carriers after you, there would be no trouble at all in defleshing your skeleton, quite possibility with you still alive to appreciate the experience.

  4. Artor says

    I plan to arrange my death in a room full of dermestid beetles. By the time my corpse is found, it should be nothing but shiny, white bones.

  5. kaleberg says

    So how come people are always saying so and so has her father’s eyes and the like? I’ll bet some of your descendants will have your skull or one pretty close to it.

  6. PaulBC says

    You could found a religion and be preserved in a reliquary. Surely that ought to be enough to sidestep any applicable laws in the US.

  7. tomh says

    I’ll be taking advantage of this.

    Washington Becomes First State to Allow ‘Human Composting’ as a Burial Method

    Washington has become the first state to legalize “natural organic reduction,” an accelerated decomposition method that transforms remains into soil, reports Gene Johnson for Associated Press . Also known as “human composting” or “recomposition,” the process takes between four to seven weeks and produces roughly a cubic yard of compost. Governor Jay Inslee officially signed the bill Tuesday and the law will go into effect May 1, 2020. Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith previously described the measure as a “thoughtful effort to soften our footprint.”

  8. says

    Del Close, the great Second City actor, writer, improvisationist, and teacher, mentor to Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and many others, wanted his skull left to the Goodman Theatre so that it could be used in productions of Hamlet. He even extracted a promise that it would be done, no matter what. Alas, the law didn’t allow it and he was cremated, skull and all. The Goodman uses a skull that is sometimes referred to as his, but everyone knows that it isn’t.
    The final joke of a great comic.

  9. PaulBC says

    You could hedge your bets by getting an MRI and having a model of your skull 3D-printed. I’m surprised it’s not already a product. Why wait till you’re dead to find out what your skull looks like as a candleholder?

  10. says

    If you really want to, you need a large ant colony and about maybe two or three months of warm weather. I’d advise not doing this near your house. I’ve seen this with animal remains before so it should work. I’ve never seen anyone try it on a human, and ANYONE WHO SAYS DIFFERENT IS A DAMN LIAR… Ahem. Excuse me.

  11. robro says

    “Green burial” is kind of a thing in California…you know, aging hippies wanting natural burials without toxic chemicals that might kill them or adversely affect the marijuana and shrooms. However, I don’t know if there’s an option to recover skulls. Maybe if the burial was out in the country away from all those nanny state regulators checking in.

    But I can second what Ray Ceeya #11 suggests. We have a place in the gold country foothills off the grid and the paved roads. A neighbor left his donkey’s body on a corner of our property and when I discovered the site, the donkey was nothing but bones. It couldn’t have been there for more than a few months. It included an excellent skull and some leg bones, which we have in our garage.

  12. laurencocilova says

    One way around this is to donate your remains to a place like the Body Farm at UT. After they are done with you, my understanding is that family can request the remains returned to them -generally for cremation or burial but perhaps in your case for display?

  13. methuseus says

    I was thinking this could be a bit of easy legislation to allow it. But then people try to prevent others from having medical procedures performed on their own bodies, so the relative harmlessness of allowing defleshing of a skeleton and individual ownership would probably not be allowed to pass due to fundies and others being “appalled” at the thought.

  14. says

    If you are a follower of Caitin Doughty of Ask a Mortician fame on YouTube (and if you don’t know of her you oughta’ – she is funny, full of fun, and morbid, facts, tells a hell of a story and almost single handedly debunks most of what we know about death and dying due to the false information perpetuated by the massive stranglehold of the US funeral industry). That said according to the laws in most states your family can keep your body. All you need is an official death certificate. And if you own land you can get a permit to bury folks on your property. So, I guess what in am saying is – buy some land, get buried, happily rot away and then dig up your skull and no one is the wiser.

  15. Snidely W says

    Kathi Rick offers the most workable/practical solution.
    The open-air solutions, like the Body Farm, offer the potential wrinkle that critters will pick up parts and wander off with them. And if the bones aren’t carried off they can be gnawed on by everything from small rodents to foxes and coyotes which might ruin the aesthetic of a nice clean specimen.
    In warm weather masses of maggots will clean a skeleton very well, very fast. After the maggots are done then the vertebrates will find things palatable and move in. You might need something like a hardware cloth enclosure to keep all the bits in one place.

  16. johnlee says

    Sorry about this, but I’ve just had a horrible vision of Donald Trump embalmed in some ghastly museum. His soul has gone to hell and he’s arguing with Stalin and Ghengis Khan as to who had the biggest funeral.

  17. mountainbob says

    So, just have a friend toss your skull onto the nearly flat roof of a building (don’t want it to roll off). Won’t take long for the larger varmints, the arthropods, various bacteria, and Mother Nature herself, to strip it bare and sanitize it. You could have an arm and a leg tossed up there as well so there’d be at least three things for the kids to hanker to own.