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Fast facts


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Illustration by Arnie Bermudez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 19, 2004
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Things you always never wanted to know

  • Under the proper conditions of moisture and heat, the flesh of a buried body will turn to soap. Known as adipocere, this strange substance is a chemical much like baking soda mixed with fat (and thus almost identical in composition to soap) and is called "grave wax" by undertakers. For years the corpse of William von Ellenbogen, a soldier whose body turned to adipocere after he was killed in the Revolutionary War, was on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

  • Since its completion in 1937, more than 600 people have committed suicide by jumping off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

  • After the great ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky died, doctors cut open and examined his feet. They wanted to find out whether his foot bones were different from those of ordinary men, thinking that his bone structure might account for his ability to perform.

  • Henry IV of France (1553-1610) was exhumed nearly 200 years after his death so that a death mask of his face could be made.

  • In 2003, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 2,423,000 deaths in the United States, with a death rate of about 8.3 people per 1,000. Thanks to the growing population overall and baby boomers living long lives, the U.S. death rate is expected to begin increasing by the year 2020, when the rate is projected to be 9.3 people per 1,000. By 2040, it will be 10.9 people per 1,000.

  • The average cost of a funeral is $6,500. This includes a burial container, but not cemetery costs. Funeral homes in the United States generate about $11 billion in annual revenue.

  • Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes.

  • A poodle fell from a balcony in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October 1988. It killed three people. One was struck on the head, the second was run over by a bus while watching, and the third had a heart attack after witnessing the event.


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