“Once the ashes cool, they’re crushed by a machine into three to four pounds of coarse white powder (more for big folks).”
According to my understanding, it’s the bones and teeth that are actually crushed, because the fire’s not long or hot enough to burn them to ashes. (This may have been mentioned when the column first ran in 1998, but I point this out for the benefit of those (like me) who are too lazy to look it up.)
The machine used, I understand, has large steel balls that crush the bones and teeth.
“Sounds pretty grim, I suppose.”
Well… not quite as grim as anaerobic decomposition in a sealed coffin. <Bleah.>
Yeah, that’s what Faces of death, I think #8 said. The Discovery Channel said the same thing. I told Mrs. @ss to spread my ashes on the vegetable garden, rent a tiller and turn them under. Since turning my corpse into dog food is out of the question, I think that’s the best way for me to return to the food chain.
DaveoRad, that’s what I’ve read too. Then, once the bones are crushed, everything is swept into the center of the room where there is a gutter (for lack of a better word), which leads out of the room and into a receptacle.
Interestingly, the skinnier you are, the more there is left over (of the skeleton) to be crushed. In a person with a higher “fat content”, the cremation process is more effective because the person’s fat is actually used as fuel for the flames.
I’ve also read that its very difficult to clean everything out of the room where the cremation takes place. So there’s a good chance your remains are going to be mixed in with a little of whoever was leftover from the last cremation.
There’s a chapter in **Dead Men Do Tell Tales ** that goes into a lot of detail about cremation, if you’re interested.
I once had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Henry Lee, LA Medical examiner and “Coroner to the Stars.” It was the funniest talk I have ever heard. He told a story of a woman who came to him with a relative’s cremated remains, claiming that “something was not right.” Evidently teeth-being the hardest substance in the human body-remain intact after incineration. After counting the number of teeth in the urn, he informed the horrified woman that it contained “one and one-half people.” A big stink ensued and now crematoria are required to crush the remains and empty the furnace after each “customer.”
I used to work the graveyard shift with a woman whose family owned a funeral home/crematorium. Their last name was Dedmore. She took me on a tour after work one morning. I think the cremation oven was more of a very large appliance than a room, but this was a few years ago. Anyways, it had a stainless steel tray thingy that you put the body on, and then the ashes were swept off that onto a gutter and then into the grinding machine. Since the tray and gutter were both smooth metal, it seems like any blending of bodies would be very minimal.
In a corner of the room, there was a large bin full of things that didn’t burn and couldn’t be pulverized–charred artificial hips, steel bone screws, etc. Morbid, but cool.
When I visited a crematorium in the mid-'70s, things were less high-tech. The “cremains” were swept out on the floor, and an old fashioned road-tamper—the kind they flatten asphalt with—was used to pound the chips into smaller “ashes.”
Didn’t bother me a bit; I still opt for cremation, rather than what happens to you in those airtight coffins! Now, THAT’S creepy.