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What does a bleeding corpse tell you in different cultures?

Do you know what happens to your body after your heart stops beating?

Within seconds of death, the oxygen in your body will be depleted. Then the blood collects in the most dependent parts of the body (liver mortis), and then your body starts to stiffen (rigor mortis).

Finally, the temperature of the body will decrease and this is when the body goes through algor mortis.

Since your heart stops pumping after death, the flow of blood around your body stops. This causes the blood to coagulate forming clots and becoming thick and lumpy.

But it does not mean that your body will entirely stop bleeding after you are dead.

Under normal conditions, the intestinal bacteria in the corpse produces large amounts of gas that flows into your blood vessels and tissues.

This gas is responsible for bloating in the dead body, making the tongue and eyes protrude and pushes the intestines out through the vagina and rectum.

It also causes bloodstained fluid to exude from the nose and mouth. Although a bleeding corpse is scientifically proven as part of the body’s decomposition process, this scene can be easily interpreted as other reasons in different cultures.

A bleeding corpse and cruentation in European countries

Cruentation was one of the medieval methods of finding proof against a suspected murderer. This was based on the common belief was that the body of the victim would spontaneously bleed in the presences of the murderer.

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In the olden days, this practice was used in countries such as Germany, Poland, Bohemia, Scotland and European colonies in North America.

If there was suspicion of murder, the accused was brought before the corpse of the victim.

He or she was then made to put his or her hands on it. If the wounds of the corpse started to bleed, the accused would be deemed guilty of murder.

Can you imagine how many people couple had been wrongly accused of murder for the past of centuries just because of a corpse’s propensity to bleed?

A body in its coffin starts to bleed in the presence of the murderer in an illustration of the laws of Hamburg in 1497. Credits: Public Domain.
In old Chinese superstition, a bleeding corpse meant a relative recognised the dead person.

There is an ancient superstition still believed by Sarawakian Chinese communities during the 1940s.

It was believed that when a dead body was recognised by a family member, blood would begin to come out from the corpse’s nose.

In November 1947, a dead body was found floating in the Sarawak river. According to a Sarawak Gazette report, the body was then dragged to the steps of Pangkalan Batu.

Soon enough, it was reported “an European police officer, of impeccable observation and indubitable integrity, took charge of the case.

“After a little delay a Chinese arrived who thought that he could recognise the corpse as that of his brother who, he understood, had been missing from his home for two days. He brought his sister to make sure. When the sister came she had no difficulty in identifying the deceased.”

Then, a curious thing happened to the dead body as blood began to trickle out of the corpse’s nose.

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That was when the dresser informed the European officer that if blood flowed from the nose of the dead body, it meant that the deceased was recognised by a member of the family.

Do you know any more superstitions behind a bleeding corpse? Share with us in the comment box.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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