Last weekend, a friend and I went to the Netherword Haunted House event on Halloween. We went around 6pm, in hopes of avoiding large lines, but we still waited 40 minutes before entering the house. Some people were in costumes and most, like myself, were in casual attire with a terrified facial expression. It was my first and last time going inside a haunted house.
In class we’ve discussed how funerary practices and mortuary services often require some financial contribution, which supports the idea that associating with the dead creates a profit. In regards to Halloween, stores are able to raise their prices of candy, costumes, and pumpkins, which further commercialize the holiday. According to various pieces of literature, Halloween is believed to be a time where the veil between the living and the dead is lifted. But the holiday can easily be associated with the fall season. Which is marked by the end of the harvest, leaves falling, and animals entering a state of hibernation, as we approach the “dead” of winter.
Halloween serves as a holiday influenced by the event of death itself. Throughout the haunted house, there were many images and props of the “living dead.” There were also individuals in each corner wearing some form of costume that represented zombies and famous killers such as Michael Myers. I found it interesting how relaxed people seemed to be with such gruesome images of the dead. I was somewhat uncomfortable throughout the entire time, especially when I stepped inside the fake coffin. I felt as if I was mocking the dead.
Is it ethical to make money off the dead and their image?
On October 13th, 1972, the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed into the Andes mountain range in South America. There was a total of 45 passengers on the flight, and only 27 passengers survived the initial crash. Rescue parties searched extensively and after 10 days, the passengers were presumed dead and the search ceased.
Survivors desperately began to search for resources. These efforts soon became fruitless, as they continued to search on the snow covered mountain that lacked any natural vegetation or livestock. Under harsh weather conditions, the survivors were soon faced with a difficult and unforgiving choice. As a group, they made the collective decision to eat the flesh of their dead friends. Nando Parrado, one of the survivors states, “again and again I came to the same conclusion: unless we wanted to eat the clothes we were wearing, there was nothing here but aluminum, plastic, ice, and rock” (Miracle In the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home).
“Survivors: Passengers shelter near the tail of the Uruguayan plane which hit a mountain shrouded in mist as it flew from Santiago to Montevideo.”
What I found interesting was that the surviving passengers were all Roman Catholics, and initially, they were against the act of cannibalism, but soon realized it was their only means of survival. They began to justify their actions with bible verses and compared the act of eating their dead friends to the rituals present in the Holy Communion. By using religious context to condone their behavior, it decreased their levels of guilt and humiliation. Many argued that the pain experienced by their loved ones would be more severe than the act of dying itself.
One of the survivors of the crash was a second year medical student, Roberto Canessa, who had successfully managed to objectify the deceased loved ones into sources of protein and fat. My question is, at what point do your friends and colleagues transform into simple cadavers, despite extreme conditions? Every individual has the right to be buried with dignity and in accordance with their personal beliefs, because even in death, they still maintain their identity as a human being.