It has been said that the exceptional conservation of these bodies must come from the particular composition of the soil or the air at the place of burial.  Unfortunately, this explanation is not possible…

If we have another look at one of these cadavres exquis, we can see that, in the case of the little girl at Brive, the authorities had proceeded to a general exhumation of a whole part of the cemetery.

The collection of tombs situated around that of the young dead girl were in a state of total ruin.  Hers had not been spared and was in no way different from the others.  It was in a lugubrious pile of overturned gratings, fallen tombstones covered in moss, pieces of coffin, humus, fragments of bone falling into dust, that the little dead girl was found, miraculously preserved.  Her eyes were wide open and she looked as if she was smiling.  Her white dress was slightly stained by a few traces of earth and humidity…

Anyway, it is enough to see that the remains of certain very rich Americans sheltered inside several metallic coffins, one inside the other, do not resist one day longer to normal corruption.

If it were possible to preserve bodies from putrefaction by using hermetic containers, men would have been doing it for a long time now.  The Egyptians notably, who had perfected the techniques of embalming bodies, over a period of three thousand years.

As for the composition of the soil, it doesn’t explain anything either.  It is enough to see what happened to the bodies placed in Father Chabrel’s crypt.

This hypothesis is even less credible in certain cases where quicklime was added to the soil in which the dead were buried…

For example, when Francois-Xavier dies on 2 December 1552, his body is put into a big box which is packed with quicklime.  This was done so that, the flesh being consumed quickly, the bones could be taken rapidly to Goa.

When, on 17 February 1553, the coffin is opened to recuperate the bones, the body is found perfectly preserved.  The face notably, which had been covered with a thick layer of quicklime, was fresh with a slight vermilion tint “as can be seen in people who are asleep” say the minutes drawn up at the time.

One hundred and sixty years later, it is in the same state, and when they want to detach the right arm to send it to Rome, light red, very fluid blood escapes from it.

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These two little Sicilian girls, who died over two centuries ago, are in an astonishing state of conservation.

Although Francois-Xavier is one of the greatest Christian saints, the conservation of his body is not a very exceptional thing, for in 1727, in the Quebec Hospital tomb, the perfectly conserved cadavers of five nuns who had died in 1707 were discovered reposing in quicklime.

In the same way, the body of Saint Teresa of Avila was buried in a very deep grave which was then filled with a mixture of limestones and damp soil.  It is true that, as she was the reformer of Carmel and one of the greatest Spanish spiritual writers, we are again in the presence of an exceptional saint.

The tribulations and avatars of her remains are also extraordinary.  It is to be remembered that her body exhales, from the first months following her inhumation, extremely pronounced perfumes of violet, iris and lily.

When the grave was re-opened eight months after her death, a cadaver whose clothes had been completely dissolved is discovered.  The body is entirely covered with a light green froth but is perfectly intact.  It bathes in a sort of balsamic oil that the cadaver slowly exudes and which is the origin of these suave odours.

In 178 years, the cadaver is many times exhumed, exhibited, put in a shrine, and several times mutilated to take relics from it.  Examined carefully too, by all that Christendom counts in scholarly doctors and hagiographers…  It escapes all corruption, and the saint even conserves the extra weight that she carried naturally.

In certain places, the body presents the real aspect of life:  when pieces of cloth are applied to it, they are immediately tinted bright blood red.  This phenomenon of tissular osmose appears particularly inexplicable.

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This photograph of the Sicilian crypt was taken in 1900. Since that date, the bodies suspended upright, which date from the XVIIIth Century, have not changed.

Among this race of living-dead, the saints can appear to be better represented than others…  This is not certain.  Let us just say that people were a lot more interested in those who passed for saints than in the others.  With the evident goal of religious edification.  And it is also for this reason that incorruptible bodies seem to us to be miracles, in the Roman Catholic sense of the word.

Once again, examples are fairly numerous of preserved cadavers not having received Catholic Unction or not belonging to people professing this sainthood faith.

During the pontificate of Sixtus IV (1471-1484), the body of a young, very beautiful blonde girl was discovered under the Appian Way.  The body is almost entirely immersed in a sort of dark brown maceration, and had been buried there necessarily before the construction of the Appian Way in 312 before the present era.

Closer to us, in 1960, an English taxi-driver discovers at Rhyl, Wales, the cadaver of a woman dressed in a floral dressing-gown and pink pyjamas…  standing in a cupboard.

The apartment had not been occupied for twenty years, and the taxi-driver was in the process of repainting it to live there.  The cadaver of this woman, a certain Mrs Alec Knight, was in a perfect state of conservation.  The Police made enquiries and concluded that she had been assassinated…  twenty years earlier.

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If the lady’s cupboard had emitted light intermittently, like Father Chabrel’s tomb, she would have been discovered sooner.  These luminous phenomena are absolutely inexplicable, even though they appear in two cases at least of “living-dead” people.

In the case of Father Chabrel, the Region’s Prefet himself notices the phenomenon, and it is he who convinces the monks, at first sceptical, of its reality.

A similar case is evoked in the book by J. Moschus, Le Pre spirituel.  Roman peasants discover a kneeling Anachorete monk in a cave situated on a mountain.

They had climbed the mountain because, for several months, luminous signals had been coming to them from the cave.  When they approached, they saw that the hermit was dead.  He had written this last message on a paper placed next to him:

“I, humble John, died at the fifteenth indiction.”

By a calculation made thanks to the ecclesiastical comput, they determined that this man had died over seven years before.  However, his physical appearance seemed to indicate that he had only just died.

***

There are a certain number of living-dead among animals.  On 23 June 1851, three workers were deepening a well near the Bolis Station.  At a depth of nineteen metres, they came to an enormous silex which they had to break.  Between two pieces of perfectly dense, homogenous rock, there is a cavity, and inside this cavity, perfectly filling the whole volume, there is a toad.  The rock appears as if it is moulded onto it and…  it is alive.  The Academie des Sciences examines it.  A Commission of four scholars give an account of the event, and the toad survives until 11 August the same year.

In 1862, some miners in Newport discover, in a block of coal twenty centimetres thick and two metres long, another living toad.

The block of coal was found two hundred metres deep.

Living lizards have been found in limestone quarries, at Lux and at Talbott, Indiana.  Having no ocular globes, they were a curious copper colour.  They survived only a few minutes, but had been there, according to scholars, for a few tens of thousands of years.

***

Once again, no explanation.  Except that death, in spite of what we know of it, is surely not quite what we think.

The presence of fresh blood on some cadavers seems to indicate that certain constituting elements of blood, as yet unknown, are apt to reproduce themselves almost indefinitely after death.

Unless we retain the thesis of Robert Amberlain who believes – and cleverly attempts to prove it – that the living-dead, whoever they are, are also always at the same time…  vampires.  Who survive by regularly going to visit the jugulars of people living close to their tombs…

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