My students were always pleading for tours to The Body Farm and the morgue. They wanted to see death scene photos. But it isn't just my students. There are books and websites dedicated to crime scene photos. People slow down at car wrecks and stare at body bags. Why are people so fascinated with death?
Death is the only unknown. We have pictures of mars. We have sent people to the moon. Depending on what you believe, we can find out about our past lives, our futures, and tell a lie from a truth. One dab of spit can tell if you committed a crime or who your great-great-great-great-grandfather was, and where he came from. There just aren't that many unanswered questions any more.
We rely on faith to tell us where we go when we die: Heaven if we are good, Hell if we are bad. Depending on religion, it is God or Allah or Buddha or - you get it. But we only know these things in faith. A dead body is tangible evidence of what happens to us. There it is: spleen, stomach, brain, eye sockets.
And we have become a nosy society. True crime shows. Reality shows. Magazines that tell us the REAL story why Jennifer and Andrew split. A baby bump on who? So many years ago, this would have been considered intrusive. Look how long it took to print JFK's affairs and dalliances: Nobody's business, especially John Q. Public's. Now it's everyone's business, including how someone died, the gory details...and the gorier, the more interesting.
Society loves shock value. Why do we love roller coasters? Scary movies? The adreniline pumps, the fear factor kicks in. For a few moments, we move from a mundane, predictable, boring life to something we cannot control, something scary, a real life horror film, house of terror, real evil. And then we look at the perpetrator and see they could be the person next door, in the next office: Mr. or Mrs. Normal. Wow. Even more scary.
Back to Texas and that Criminal Justice class. We did not see dead bodies, but we watched three autopsies on video, and at least a third of the class almost lost their lunch. But about a week later, a horrible house fire broke out and killed the girl who had blurted out, "Do we get to see dead bodies!" She was trapped in her bedroom and she burned to death. The next time I saw the ME, I told him about it. "Oh," he said sadly. "That was an awful (autopsy) to have to do. That poor girl..." He grimaced in sadness and disgust.
Unfortunately, she got to see a dead body. A lot of them. Surrounding her own.