Chinchorro Mummies Turning Into ‘Black Ooze’

Climate change is putting the Chinchorro mummies of ancient Chile at risk of rapid decomposition that will turn them into a black ooze.
The Chinchorro mummies of ancient Chile are at risk of rapid decomposition

The world’s oldest mummies, made by the Chinchorro people as early as 7,000 years ago in what is now northern Chile and southern Peru, are at risk of rapid decomposition. Scientists are warning that due to climate change and rising humidity levels, flourishing microbes are threatening to reduce the ancient remains into nothing more than a “black ooze.”

The University of Tarapaca’s archeological museum in Arica, northern Chile is already seeing the effects on some of its 120 Chinchorro mummies.

via CNN

A Chinchorro mummy with a clay mask

While the earliest known Egyptian mummy dates to around 3000 BC, it is believed that the Chinchorro mummies appeared around 5000 BC. The process involved removing the organs and replacing them with natural fibers and ash. The flesh was removed and replaced with clay, and a clay mask was put over the face before wrapping the bodies in reeds to dry.

The Chinchorro culture is notable in the fact that mummification was performed on all members of society, rather than restricting the practice to the elite. They were the only people preserving their dead among the other cultures in the area.

A Chinchorro mummy in the Atacama desert

Naturally mummified remains were discovered along the arid Atacama desert coast dating to around 7000 BC.

Memento Mori: Paul Koudounaris Photographs the World of the Dead

Dr. Paul Koudounaris photographed the often vibrant realm where the distinction between the living and dead ceases to exist for his new book Memento Mori.
A skull wearing sunglasses from Memento Mori by Paul Koudounaris
Photo from the La Paz skull festival in Bolivia by Paul Koudounaris

Dr. Paul Koudounaris, author of the macabre and fascinating The Empire of Death and Heavenly Bodies, is known for his beautiful photos of the dead.

His new book is no exception, as it explores the relationship between the living and the dead in cultures where there is very little distinction between the two.

Through photos taken at more than 250 sites in thirty countries over a decade, Paul Koudounaris has captured death around the world. From Bolivia’s “festival of the little pug-nosed ones,” where skulls are festooned with flowers and given cigarettes to smoke and beanie hats to protect them from the weather to Indonesian families who dress mummies and include them in their household routines; from naturally preserved Buddhist monks and memorials to genocide in Rwanda and Cambodia to the dramatic climax of Europe’s great ossuaries, Memento Mori defies taboo to demonstrate how the dead continue to be present in the lives of people everywhere.

kolin 18th century charnel house in the Czech Republic from the book Memento Mori
The Kolin charnel house in the Czech Republic. Photo by Paul Koudounaris.

Memento Mori book by Dr. Paul KoudounarisMemento Mori: The Dead Among Us

Death is universal, but the human response to death varies widely. In Western society, death is usually medicalized and taboo, and kept apart from the world of the living, while in much of the rest of the world, and for much of human history, death has commonly been far more integrated into peoples’ daily existence, and human remains are as much a reminder of life, memento vitae, as of death, memento mori.


Creating King Tut’s Horses for the Milwaukee Public Museum

The Milwaukee Public Museum’s new exhibit Crossroads of Civilization features a life size recreation of King Tut’s chariot, including two taxidermy Arabian horses.
Milwaukee Public Museum's new exhibit features King Tut's chariot and horses

The Milwaukee Public Museum became the birthplace of modern taxidermy and habitat dioramas when Carl Akeley set the bar during his work there in the late 1800s.

The new Crossroads of Civilization exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum continues that legacy with a life size recreation of Tutankhamun’s chariot. To accomplish this, taxidermist Wendy Christensen was tasked with creating two white Arabian horses to pull the boy king.

The real challenge was getting the proportions historically accurate, as the features of King Tut’s horses would have been different than those of modern Arabians.

Molly Snyder via On Milwaukee:

Through research, Christensen learned that Tut’s horses would have been smaller – more the size of a modern pony – and looked different from today’s Arabian horses which have been bred to have slender muzzles, “dished-out” foreheads and wide-spread eyes. (Arabian horses always had these features, but they are more pronounced in the modern animals.)

Christensen worked with experts in the field of ancient horses and chariots and also visited a horse farm with an Arabian horse. She took more than 100 measurements of the horse and then, through research and information from experts, figured out how much she had to scale down her horse mannequins to serve as the main forms for the project.

Continue reading

Creating King Tut’s Arabian Horses

The Crossroads of Civilization exhibit opens March 15th. More info here.

Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures Takes Home Ed Gein’s Cauldron

Ghost Adventures star Zak Bagans put in the winning bid on the cauldron once used to hold human body parts by Wisconsin deviant Ed Gein.
Ghost Adventures star Zak Bagans takes home a cauldron once owned by Wisconsin deviant Ed Gein

An item believed to have been owned by Ed Gein hit the auction block in Wisconsin last weekend. The object was a rusty cauldron said to have been purchased from the Gein estate sale in 1958. A former neighbor named Hollis Brown saw the cauldron in a shed on the property while assisting police with cleanup in the wake of Gein’s November 16th, 1957 arrest.

It was filled with blood and human remains.


Following the auction, a member of the Sauk County Paranormal group was kind enough to drop by and give us an update. It turns out Zak Bagans, star of the Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures, had his eye on the cauldron. Not surprisingly, he had the winning bid at $2,800.

He told TMZ later that he thinks the cauldron will “make a nice conversation piece for guests” while on display in his home.

A cauldron that belonged to Ed Gein was bought by Ghost Adventures star Zak Bagans
The Ed Gein cauldron bought by Zak Bagans

Skepticism Over the Cauldron’s Authenticity

Naturally, there has been some skepticism over the authenticity of the cauldron. In the comments of my original article, even a resident of Plainfield, where Gein lived and committed his bizarre acts, expressed doubt in the claims. Katy said “I live in the Plainfield area and I don’t believe for one minute this stuff belonged to gein. It’s a good story and a good way to make money. But the people in Plainfield don’t talk about or offer up artifacts.”

The cauldron’s previous owner, Dan McIntyre, whose grandmother claimed to have purchased the cauldron from the Gein estate sale in 1958, says “there will always be skeptics.” He doesn’t seem to let it bother him. It was his friend Hollis Brown who told him about helping Gein’s parents render hog fat in the cauldron in the years before he saw it filled with human remains in the shed.

McIntyre does, however, seem to be relieved to be rid of it. He believes it may be filled with a dark energy that went dormant while sitting covered in his garage. While preparing it for the auction, though, he thinks the evil was awakened. He blames the cauldron for a mysterious illness and disturbances of his electrical devices in the month leading up to the sale. He wonders if he should have kept the cauldron and planted flowers in it, let it be forgotten by time, rather then send that evil out into the world.

Besides the cauldron and a shovel, which were both won by Bagans, a pair of skis and other items that once belonged to Ed Gein were also sold at the auction.

Bagans is known for being a collector of macabre and presumably cursed objects. In 2014 he purchased a house in Gary, Indiana known as the “Portal to Hell” where claims of demonic activity made headlines in 2012. Later that year he reportedly put his Las Vegas home, complete with secret dungeon, up for sale after fleeing it two years earlier. He believed a demonic entity had attacked himself and his girlfriend after he brought home a human skull.

Alien Photos Found in Attic May Be Proof of Roswell UFO Crash

Secret photos from the 1947 Roswell UFO crash found in an attic in Arizona depicting a dissected alien body may be the smoking gun.
Alien autopsy exhibit at the Roswell UFO museum
Alien autopsy exhibit at the Roswell UFO Museum

Newly discovered photos from the 1947 Roswell UFO crash may be the smoking gun UFOlogists have been waiting for to settle the controversy. Verified by a Kodak film historian as genuine Kodachrome from 1947, the slides are said to contain photographic evidence of an alien body following the incident.

So where did these photos come from?

Bernard Ray was a geologist working in the Roswell area in 1947, where he and his co-workers apparently stumbled upon the cordoned off area. Army personnel instructed them not to interfere, but Ray secretly snapped a few photos of the scene. After his death, his wife Hilda hid the slides inside the inner lining of a trunk in the attic of their Sedona, Arizona home presumably for fear of government reprisal.

The slides were discovered after Hilda’s death in 1989 by a woman preparing the Ray’s belongings for an estate sale. It seems she quickly understood the importance of a photo containing what appears to be an alien 3-4 feet tall, with a large head, lying partially dissected on a gurney with an Army blanket.

Notably, the body in the photo matches descriptions from eyewitnesses in 1947 rather than popular depictions of spacemen from the time.

The photos will finally be revealed to the public by Roswell researcher Donald R. Schmitt during the Cinco de Mayo event at the National Auditorium in Mexico City on May 5, 2015, followed by a presentation at the Roswell UFO Festival in July.

5/5/15 Update: Reactions to the Roswell Slides