What is a body farm?


Announcer

Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.

Josh Clark

Hey and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. Chuck Bryant's here.

Chuck Bryant

Hello.

Josh Clark

That's right, Chuck. How are you doing?

Chuck Bryant

I'm well. How are you?

Josh Clark

Fine, Chuck. Let's go for a little walk, shall we?

Chuck Bryant

Okay, let's do.

Josh Clark

So Chuck and I are here at the University of Tennessee campus -

Chuck Bryant

Wow, this is nice.

Josh Clark

- in beautiful Knoxville, Tennessee.

Chuck Bryant

[Inaudible]

Josh Clark

And we're kind of on the outside of the campus. We are in the woods basically.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it's a little creepy out here. I gotta tell you.

Josh Clark

It is, Chuck and you're about to find out why. Actually, Chuck watch out.

Chuck Bryant

What?

Josh Clark

Don't step [footstep]. Oh, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

You just stepped in a corpse.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, in a corpse. Yeah, that thing really opened up a lot more than I thought it would.

Josh Clark

Yep.

Chuck Bryant

Felt like a ripe canamelon. My foot went right through. That's gross.

Josh Clark

Yeah. I'm not sure what a canamelon is, but -

Chuck Bryant

It doesn't smell like that. It's a lot nicer than that smell.

Josh Clark

That's gnarly. So okay, well, I guess we can get out of Knoxville before anybody says anything.

Chuck Bryant

Right. What is this place?

Josh Clark

I'll tell you. Let's just get out of here, okay?

Chuck Bryant

All right.

Josh Clark

Okay, Chuck wow. I'm very glad you washed your foot off.

Chuck Bryant

Back to the studio.

Josh Clark

Threw your shoe away, got rid of your jeans. It's a good thing you weren't wearing shorts. That was gross.

Chuck Bryant

I was up to my ankle in body.

Josh Clark

So Chuck I know that was patently unnecessary that we went all the way to Knoxville for that, but what we were just at is called the Body Farm.

Chuck Bryant

The Body Farm. That's the best set up we've ever had.

Josh Clark

I know. And just for that, I'm taking my shirt off for the rest of the podcast.

Chuck Bryant

Oh God. Don't do that. Oh, dude.

Josh Clark

Okay, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

I can't do this.

Josh Clark

Yes, you can. Let's talk about death baby.

Chuck Bryant

No. There's no way.

Josh Clark

Yeah, you can.

Chuck Bryant

I can't.

Josh Clark

Chuck, settle in.

Chuck Bryant

No.

Josh Clark

Come on.

Chuck Bryant

It's really gonna mess me up.

Josh Clark

Okay. All right, I'll put my shirt back on then. Hold on.

Chuck Bryant

Wow, we've reached new lows here.

Josh Clark

Okay. Are you better now?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

You big baby.

Chuck Bryant

I am.

Josh Clark

You can't do a podcast with a shirtless Josh?

Chuck Bryant

I know. I'm sorry.

Josh Clark

All right. Well, let's get back to the issue at hand: body farms, okay?

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

Sure, um-hum.

Josh Clark

So this is right up my ally.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I thought it was a cool article.

Josh Clark

So you liked it as well?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, written by your boyfriend, Tom.

Josh Clark

Um-hum, long-time boyfriend, Tom [Inaudible].

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it was good. Body Farm's very gruesome, but necessary. Cool, interesting topic.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

You just won't kick this one off, will you?

Josh Clark

Well, what do you want me to do -?

Chuck Bryant

Well, let's talk about - no, let's talk about death first.

Josh Clark

Okay. So the whole point of a body farm is to study decomposition, right?

Chuck Bryant

Right, that people might not even know what one is. It's where you study a dying - or a corpse in a state of decay so you can learn things from that.

Josh Clark

Well put. I think that's right out of Webster's actually. So there's actually three body farms around the country. There's one at Western North Carolina University go some things. There is University of Tennessee. Their main campus at Knoxville where we just were and your kind of -

Chuck Bryant

The volunteers.

Josh Clark

Um-hum, yeah. I won't say go Vols though and you know why.

Chuck Bryant

I know.

Josh Clark

And then there's another one at Texas State University San Marcos. That's it; three body farms in the entire country and these people are really churning out the information.

Chuck Bryant

Right. I know one of the researchers pointed out that they think it would be nice one day if there was a body farm in each state because it's so geographically specific that it would help to know these kind of things.

Josh Clark

Yeah, yeah, makes sense. I think Tennessee's got much of the Southeast covered because it's just wet and sticky down here everywhere. It's muggy. And so any information coming out of Tennessee probably applies to much of the south.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, and Texas probably - you cover the sand and the rocks of the West, I would imagine.

Josh Clark

Yeah, but what happens if you die in Idaho?

Chuck Bryant

Exactly. Maybe they should open one in the Pacific Northwest. That would be my suggestion.

Josh Clark

I agree. All right, so Chuck, what we're talking about is body farms and basically, essentially, it's just an area, a tract of land. I think Knoxville's is like 300 acres or something like that.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it's a big one.

Josh Clark

Yeah. And then Texas is even - I think it's about ten times the size of that. I think its 3,000 acres. And they have dead bodies scattered across it. And I know Tennessee was the first one to ever open this up and it was 1971. There was a guy named Dr. Bill Bass who - you sent me a video that was awesome. He seems like such an affable man.

Chuck Bryant

Um-hum. I should say Josh, though the Tennessee one is a three acre inside of a 300 acre area.

Josh Clark

Got you.

Chuck Bryant

So the farm is actually smaller, which is one of the reasons the residents signed off on it because they were a little skeptical.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and I can understand how someone would be.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

So back to Bass.

Josh Clark

Yeah, so Bass opened the first one in 1971 at the University of Tennessee and he did it because the cops kept coming to him and asking him if they could - if he could help with this - some murder investigations; something like that. And he finally realized that we don't know nearly enough about decomposition as far as it pertains to criminal investigations. So he took it upon himself to start collecting corpses. And actually, the first ones he got were unclaimed corpses from local morgues and he just took them out to the body farm, which is actually the technical name for it is the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Facility. And he just started scattering them around the place.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, and studying them.

Josh Clark

And studying them.

Chuck Bryant

And taking journals and logs and photos and noting the rate of decay; that kind of thing.

Josh Clark

Yeah, so let's talk about the rate of decay. Let's talk about decomposition. We already handled rigor mortis and liver mortis and - what is it? Algor mortis?

Chuck Bryant

Algor mortis.

Josh Clark

In our rigor mortis podcast. We don't need to talk about that. We already talked about autolysis too, but there's some other stuff too like the putrification process and the effects it has on the body. Let's talk about that because it's gnarly.

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

Okay?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, sounds good. Now are you talking about the flies and maggots?

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Okay, we'll start there.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

One way that insects actually give a lot of insight into how longa body may have been lying there in a state of decay - I think they said that flies will go in through the orifices like the nose and the ears and the mouth.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and in one of those videos that you sent me, it shows flies going into a nose and the eyeball less eye sockets.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it's gross.

Josh Clark

It's awesome.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, so they'll do this within like a day of the body dying if they have access to it like if the body's outside.

Josh Clark

Yeah, because the body - oh, the flies?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

And then they'll lay eggs.

Josh Clark

And then in 24 hours, the eggs are hatched into larva.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, which AKA maggots.

Josh Clark

Right. And these maggots are decaying flesh eating machines.

Chuck Bryant

Big time.

Josh Clark

Actually, apparently, they can consume 60 percent of a human corpse within ten days.

Chuck Bryant

From the inside out.

Josh Clark

And actually - no, they start from the outside in.

Chuck Bryant

Oh really?

Josh Clark

Um-hum, because it's laid on the - the fly lays its eggs on the skin and then they start burrowing in and eating and eating.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, well dude, I'm very wrong then.

Josh Clark

And they actually grow about ten times in five days because they eat so much and they're built for it too. They have like a mouth hook is it called?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It's a mouth hook that scoops the goo into their mouths and then I think their mouth is on one end and then their breathing apparatus is on the other end. So they're just little eating machines. They don't have to stop to breathe. They can just keep going.

Josh Clark

They're literally built for it.

Chuck Bryant

So back to what I was saying about the rate of decay: they can take a look at the size of the maggot and determine, "Well, if a maggot is this long, then it's been in the human body growing for this many days and it was probably hatched on this day. So the body's been there for X number of days or weeks."

Josh Clark

And that's just one type of fly and this is actually - they're called the Corpse Fauna. No. Yeah, the Corpse Fauna and just the - I think the common housefly is the one that Tom's talking about in this article, possibly the bottle fly, but it turns out there is a whole ecosystem of flies that start to come in at different stages of the decomposition process. So some really love to pick the little remnants off of skeletons; others start the whole decomposition process and aid. Others like to show up when the body's really starting to turn to goo. But yeah, they study the flies and they can figure out how long the body's been out there, which is a big one.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, that's a big indicator for helping cops kinda figure out - not motive, but time of death and stuff like that.

Josh Clark

Right. And also, from this article, I found out that CSI is a bunch of liars.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, they never do that stuff.

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

I didn't know that.

Josh Clark

Blood stain pattern analysis: that's not forensic.

Chuck Bryant

Don't do it.

Josh Clark

No. Handwriting analysis, shoot guns into that gel: that's all - that's not true. They're liars.

Chuck Bryant

TV.

Josh Clark

Yeah, which irks me to no end?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, but you are - we've talked about this before. TV always sensationalizes it. Just get over it.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

It wouldn't be very entertaining if they just came by and said, "Well, the maggots are 20 millimeters long. Case closed."

Josh Clark

I gotta tell you those videos you sent me are pretty entertaining and gruesome.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, God did you see that one guy with the big distended belly?

Josh Clark

Yes. And actually, one of the things that happens to a corpse as well is the skin blackens.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, and that video did point that out that certain parts turn black. And I know when the blood collects in certain parts - we talked about that before - certain parts of the body will be darker and some will be more pale.

Josh Clark

Yeah, lividity.

Chuck Bryant

Can we talk about degloving?

Josh Clark

I can't wait. I think you should talk all about it, yeah.

Chuck Bryant

It's pretty cool. We learned this from the video as well. When let's say you look at a human hand that's been lying in the woods, over the period of the days of decay, it'll start to look really raisony like it's been in dishwater, you know?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

And then it starts to literally - you see it kinda start to gather up and slide off the hand. And the epidermis literally comes off of the hand and they call it degloving.

Josh Clark

Yeah. And they actually have figured out that you can take this glove, this degloved skin that's kinda laying nearby the hand if you can get to it before an animal comes up and is like, "Heck yeah, a glove," you can take it into the lap, put a rubber glove on and then put this human skin on like a glove and then fingerprint that way because once the epidermis comes off, there goes the fingerprints. And forensic anthropologists like Dr. Bass at the body farm have figured out that you can do this. How many - just figuring that out, how many crimes have been solved because somebody figured out you could do that?

Chuck Bryant

I don't know; probably a bunch.

Josh Clark

That pays for itself as far as I'm concerned.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, because before that they just had no fingerprints. They lost the fingerprints.

Josh Clark

No, they're like "Oh well."

Chuck Bryant

And now they do the Buffalo Bill thing and it's all good.

Josh Clark

Yeah. Good bye horses. It puts the lotion in the basket.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, that wasn't very good.

Josh Clark

That was pretty good.

Chuck Bryant

All right.

Josh Clark

Okay, so yeah, that's dead body stuff. I'm sure we'll get to more of it in a few, but really forensic anthropologists come in most handy when there is no flesh any longer, when it's just bones because think about it: you've lost any visual identification of even whether it was a man or a woman -

Chuck Bryant

Race.

Josh Clark

Ethnicity, yeah, age; anything like that. You can't just look at it like you can - like that time we found the drifter in the woods that one time. He was pretty new you could tell. And we knew it was a white, probably mid-30s male. And we just walked along and minded our own business. Whatever happened to that guy?

Chuck Bryant

I have no idea.

Josh Clark

Anyway, if it's just a skeleton, if that dead drifter had just been a skeleton, then we wouldn't have been able to say any of those things with any kind of certainty. So when just a skeleton is found, they call in a forensic anthropologist and they go to town Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Right. They can still learn some of these things Josh. As you know, they can look at - I guess the easiest thing they can do to determine gender is to look at the size of the bones because typically, men's bones are larger where attached to the muscle. Not a dead give away. No pun intended, but a good one. And there's differences in the pelvic bone. Apparently, the foreheadis also a big telltale sign in gender and race.

Josh Clark

Yeah. Well, men's foreheads tend to slop backwards and women's are more rounded.

Chuck Bryant

True. And looking at you, you have a very sloped rear forehead.

Josh Clark

Do I?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. You can tell. That's not your forehead, dude. That's the top of your head.

Josh Clark

Oh. Oh, I got you.

Chuck Bryant

And female's chins usually come to a point where a man's chin is a little more squared off.

Josh Clark

How's my chin?

Chuck Bryant

It's beautiful, Josh. It's beautiful.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

Ribs apparently can help determine age if you have ragged ribs.

Josh Clark

Well, they get a little more ragged in our age. They just get ragged out.

Chuck Bryant

Didn't know that.

Josh Clark

Yeah. And also, with men and women, a dead give away is - especially post adolescent men and women is the pelvis. The pelvis inlet is much wider in women. Basically, the hole in your pelvic bone is much bigger in women than it is in men to allow for easier childbirth.

Chuck Bryant

You got it.

Josh Clark

Yeah. You don't wanna pass a kid through the pelvic inlet of a man.

Chuck Bryant

No. That would be painful; like it's not painful enough already.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

And then when it comes to the race, they don't get too specific. They kinda wanna say African, Asian or European. They try to stay pretty broad there.

Josh Clark

Well, at least at first. And then apparently, there's some other signs that you can kind of narrow it down even further, but those are the first three categories they lump them in.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Actually, I thought it was an interesting fact Tom had in here that there were more differences within each racial group than there are between each group as a whole which I thought that was kinda cool.

Josh Clark

Yeah, that is interesting isn't it?

Chuck Bryant

Um-hum.

Josh Clark

So those are bones, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, those are bones. Dem bones.

Josh Clark

Dem bones, yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Josh, you wanna talk about disease?

Josh Clark

Of course.

Chuck Bryant

I know one of the big concerns for residents that live near these body farms is, "Wait a minute. They just let the bodies" - sometimes as many as 40 and 50 bodies out there. They're worried about buzzards, disease, their bad stuff getting into the water and nearby creeks, but it doesn't happen.

Josh Clark

Yeah. No one wants to drink dead body.

Chuck Bryant

No. Do you know why?

Josh Clark

Why?

Chuck Bryant

Because if you have an infectious disease, it's not gonna still be around after your body is decomposing.

Josh Clark

Yeah, the infectious disease's organisms also decompose.

Chuck Bryant

Absolutely.

Josh Clark

They don't stick around too long, but just to be certain, any faculty or students who are interacting with these body farms are inoculated against all manner of stuff because you don't wanna really take a chance.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

But also, they go out of their way - I think they test all corpses that are donated to them for any kind of infectious diseases beforehand. So you got a clean live-in corpse that you just have out there that's not really gonna cause much problem.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And it should be noted too. Like you said, people do donate. I think the one in Tennessee said they had a list of - either a list of 300 or they had already had 300 bodies donated. And you can do that just like you're an organ donor. You can say, "I'd like my body to go to a body farm after I die."

Josh Clark

Well, I think you'd wanna contact the body farm first.

Chuck Bryant

Well, sure; see if they have room.

Josh Clark

Hey. Here's a fun fact for you.

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

In 2006, the University of Tennessee had more corpses and skeletons on its campus than it had Asian students enrolled. There were about 900 in the osteopathological collection, 900 skeletons, another 700 in two other skeletal collections and then 40 or so bodies on the body farm, and there were only 673 Asian students on campus.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

Isn't that crazy?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, crazy. I wonder if they had any Asian bodies.

Josh Clark

I don't know. Would that cancel out?

Chuck Bryant

No, probably not.

Josh Clark

Yeah? Okay.

Chuck Bryant

Or maybe it would count toward the total count.

Josh Clark

Both ways though, so they'd cancel one another out.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, okay. Sure.

Josh Clark

But everybody likes to be counted.

Chuck Bryant

So what else Josh? Should we talk about some of the ways that body farms have helped out?

Josh Clark

You mean specifically?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

E.G. John Wayne Gacy?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, that's a good one. Go ahead.

Josh Clark

I've long been in pursuit of a John Wayne Gacy painting. You know he's a prolific painter?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

And I found a website finally.

Chuck Bryant

Oh really?

Josh Clark

Yeah, that - he wasn't a very good painter, but just to have a John Wayne Gacy; that's crazy. He also loved the - the seven dwarfs were a common theme of his.

Chuck Bryant

Oh really?

Josh Clark

He was fascinated by the seven dwarfs for some reason.

Chuck Bryant

What a creep.

Josh Clark

He was a creepy dude.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Yeah. Well, when Gacy got popped in what, the '70s?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I guess for the two of you who don't know who that is, John Wayne Gacy is a famous serial killer.

Josh Clark

He was a serial killer of young men.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, he killed 33 men.

Josh Clark

He liked the boys.

Chuck Bryant

And he buried 29 of them under his house, which is not a good place.

Josh Clark

Yeah, I think - which it wasn't even necessarily his house. It was his mother's apartment, which goes a long way in explaining John Wayne Gacy, but when he finally got busted and he started telling the cops about how many people he had killed, they went out to his mother's apartment complex and used ground penetrating radar and found basically a mass grave. The problem is these bodies have been there for a while.He'd been killing kids for a real long time and the bones had become entangled and they didn't know who was who or anything like that. So they brought in forensic anthropologists. I believe they helped to successfully identify most, if not all of them. So that's one way body farms are contributing.

Chuck Bryant

Sure. That's pretty cool. They'll profile the bones and then they'll match that with data for missing kids and one kinda leads to the other and I know its closure somewhat for families in this kind of situation.

Josh Clark

Oh yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Which is what we're gonna talk about with The Big Bopper.

Josh Clark

I think you should talk about The Big Bopper.

Chuck Bryant

Okay. The Big Bopper was a singer that perished in the plane crash with Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly back in the day. And his son, The Big Bopper's son apparently got in touch with Dr. Bass because the body of The Big Bopper was found - his name was JP Richardson - was found 40 feet from the plane and the son wanted to know, "Hey, did my dad actually die in the crash or was he trying to go get help and then died 40 feet later?" because that would have made a difference in how he felt the whole situation.

Josh Clark

Well, apparently, that was a long persisting legend too and I guess he wanted to put it to rest.

Chuck Bryant

And he did put it to rest. Dr. Bass got involved, exhumed the body and basically said, "Every bone in this guy's body was crushed and there's no way that he survived the crash. And he was thrown from the plane." And that's the end of that story.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

So the son got that kind of closure.

Josh Clark

Well, can I tell one more?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

All right, so there's this case in 1933 in San Diego. A little seven-year-old named Delbert Aposhian was found floating in San Diego Bay and the coroner I guess ruled that he had been sodomized and sexually assaulted in other ways before being murdered, but they never found the killer. And then apparently, San Diego got some federal funding for opening cold cases and this was one of the ones they went after. So they hired a forensic anthropologist and showed him old crime scene photos and notes from the detectives that worked the case and I imagine it probably took the forensic anthropologist an hour or ten minutes to say, "No, this kid wasn't sodomized or murdered."

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Yeah. The thing is back then, they had no - no one was studying this kind of thing. Nowadays we know that when the body reacts with water all manner of nasty things happen.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Bodies break down twice as fast in the water.

Josh Clark

Right, which is why a lot of people dispose of murder victims in lakes or rivers?

Chuck Bryant

Exactly. And I guess why these cops weren't able to really tell much, right?

Josh Clark

I think - well, not only that; they were just misled and over the course of this - the decades of studying decomposition, this forensic anthropologist was able to say, "This kid wasn't murdered. Close your cold case."

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, cool.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

I know one of the researchers I saw from that video at Tennessee is trying to put together a book like a reference guide for various states ofdecay so cops -

Josh Clark

It was really interesting.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, cops kind of look at this instead of having to truck all the way out to the body farm like we did.

Josh Clark

Well, yeah. And I got the idea it was gonna be like "Here's a picture of a body that's been underwater for seven days and hold it up against your body. Does it look the same?" "No." "Well, continue to the next page." So yeah, I guess it's gonna be like an illustrated atlas of decomposition, like a field guide, right?

Chuck Bryant

I would love to get my hands on that one when it's done.

Josh Clark

I'd love to go to the body farm again.

Chuck Bryant

You mean go back?

Josh Clark

Yeah, right. I talked to Tom and I asked him if he had gone and he was like, "No." They learned a long time ago not to let journalists or weirdoes in.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I bet.

Josh Clark

Yeah, so -

Chuck Bryant

The guy was describing a smell in the video. I thought that was interesting. He said it was - didn't smell like a dead animal like that familiar smell when you smell a dead animal. He said it's very different. He said it's unmistakable.

Josh Clark

Yeah. He said it was pungent and sweet.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Well, you smelled it.

Chuck Bryant

Interesting.

Josh Clark

Sure. So that's body farms. Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Anything else?

Josh Clark

I don't really have anything else; how about you?

Chuck Bryant

Nope.

Josh Clark

All right. So I guess let's just go straight to listener mail.[Chimes]

Chuck Bryant

Josh, we're going to - we're gonna ask our listeners for a little information here because I didn't know the answer to this question.

Josh Clark

Oh nice.

Chuck Bryant

And we rarely toss that out. So we had Paloma write in from California and Paloma said, "Long time listener; I love your podcasts. It makes my commute enjoyable and Josh, you chose Chuck as your partner in crime, and you have a great chemistry, blah, blah, blah."

Josh Clark

Could we resist each other?

Chuck Bryant

No. It was destiny. So she says this, "I had a very odd experience a few days ago. It was a soupy day; a bit chilly with a few sprinkles of rain here and there. I was over at my mother's house having a chat inside when suddenly, there was an incredibly bright white and blue flash and a quick zapping sound. I thought a light bulb had burned out in the room or something. My mother said that she saw a white bolt come through the wall, pass just in front of my face and then go through the opposite wall in the room.We looked everywhere and tried to think of any kind of rational explanation. No bulb had gone out, no strobe lights or camera to flash. 30 seconds after this weird phenomenon happened, we heard thunder rumble very nearby. After calming down, I immediately thought of you too. You have answers for everything."

Josh Clark

People think of us when they narrowly escape death. We're their first thought.

Chuck Bryant

So she says, "What in the world happened? Do you think it was lightning? Was it static electricity? What's going on here? Has anyone died of static electricity?" So I don't know the answer. I did look up and found out that no one can die of static electricity that I've found.

Josh Clark

Unless it results in spontaneous human combustion.

Chuck Bryant

And as far as I know, no, I don't think that lightning can pass through the room of a house like that.

Josh Clark

Plus, I don't think it goes right in front of your face. I think if it's coming that close to you, it goes right into you.

Chuck Bryant

Right and you would know. Well, because we had the other listener mail that I think had the side strike three blocks away and she was zapped. So Paloma, we don't have an answer, but I'm hoping some listeners out there that are smarter than we are might have a clue as to what happened that day.

Josh Clark

My money's on unicorns.

Chuck Bryant

So maybe we'll follow up on this if we get some feedback.

Josh Clark

Yeah, if you have an answer for Paloma, especially if it's unicorns, you can send us an e-mail solving this mystery to stuffpodcast@howstuffworks.com.

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