TV shows and movies have long used the ‘put-the-body-in-the-suitcase’ mode of hiding a body when someone dies in a nefarious way during a vacation. But is it realistic? Could it really be done?
If we set aside the smell factor (bodies start to stink within 24 hours if left unrefrigerated) corpses need to be hidden while they are still flexible and ‘stuffable.’ Rigor mortis (post-mortem stiffening of the body) sets in fairly quickly, so any book or TV show that shows the body being stuffed into a container in the first hour or so after death, is probably fairly accurate in that detail. Cold temperatures slow down the rate of rigor mortis and warm temperatures speed it up, so the surrounding environment plays a big factor in how speedy the corpse disposal must be.
Bodies are bulky and have those inconvenient limbs that don’t want to stay where they are put. In “Is that a body in the rug?” I chatted about why carrying a body around in a rug is a dumb idea. Waaay too many things can go wrong.
So, what to do? If the evildoer needs to move the body away from the scene of the crime in order to allow him/her to establish an alibi, a large container with wheels might be a solution. A laundry cart would fill the bill in a limited way if the victim died in a hotel, but what if the murderer wants to get the body out of the building?
The photo above shows my travel golf bag with a man standing next to it. As you can see, it’s not really long enough for stowing a grown man’s body, even though it looks like it should be when seen rolling through an airport. I tried getting into it, scrunching down, bending my knees, holding my arms tightly to my body, but nope. Not long enough even though I’m less than six feet tall. Maybe for somebody shorter?
Season #4 of the popular TV show, “Longmire,” included an episode featuring a body found on the side of the road in a large duffle bag after a tour bus had left the scene. There was an assumption that it had been inadvertently forgotten after a highway traffic accident. Until somebody tried to lift the bag. And then looked inside. Ooops.
Bodies are waaay heavier than can be handled by normal luggage seen in department stores. I did find a company online that makes six-foot long duffel bags complete with heavy duty stitching and zippers – important for those times when something other than tent poles would be in the bag.
Would it be possible to send the body by commercial airline? Aside from the logistical problems of getting the body to the airport and the smell factor – who would carry it, etc. – commercial airline restrictions limit baggage to 50 pounds each. Some airlines (not all) will allow overage in some cases for an extra fee, but that’s at the discretion of the agents at the airport and/or requires special permission. If the flight is fully booked, an agent will check the cargo weight before takeoff and leave bags behind if the safety weight limit for the total cargo has been reached. My mother asked me once how I could manage carrying my travel golf bag (filled with the clubs as well as golf clothes, shoes, gloves, and golf balls). First of all, the bag has wheels, and the clubs themselves weigh less than 25 pounds.
And then there is the size restriction and no airline employee can fudge on that without someone in the baggage chain questioning an extra-large bag. Remember, baggage handlers have to pick these bags up and hand load them onto baggage movers. The upper limit on size is 72” – that’s a combination of the length, width and height measurements. The 6’ duffle would be long enough for the average adult, but it doesn’t take into account the width of the bag or height, thereby eliminating it from travel by commercial flight without those special fees and permissions. Plus, most duffles don’t come with wheels.
The “Longmire” body was that of a petite young woman, so she fit easily into a six-foot duffle. The gal probably weighed about 100-120 pounds, but there were no wheels attached to the bag. How did the murderer remove the fully packed bag from the crime scene? No spoiler here, but he/she had to have help, even with the handles on the bag. The use of the tour bus as the would-be mode of transportation was believable, since the fully loaded duffle would never have made it through all the security checks on a commercial airline, even a cargo flight. Kudos to “Longmire” for realism.
Having said all that, as one advertisement said, you need a bag that “will carry you through any situation or season.”
For all around ease of use (wheels, size) a trunk probably is the best choice. And, they’re even on sale right now at some locations. Kidding. 😉
But, as a long-term way of establishing an alibi? Face it, you’re gonna get caught. Moving large duffles or trunks? Somebody is going to see you do it and remember it. After all, it’s not a bag of groceries.
*Note: no bodies were found in any of the suitcases or trunks we used for research.
**Further note: this information is for entertainment purposes only. Seriously.
***Photos by Patti Phillips
“What? Is somebody trying to kill the builder?” you ask.
‘They’ might be thinking about it. As in, more than one person is annoyed.
Here’s what is happening. When we moved in, the neighborhood was full of wooded lots. Even the properties with houses already there, had plenty of trees at the edges, along the fences, or next to the houses. Some were mature trees that had been left on the otherwise cleared lots before construction had begun. Property owners added flowering trees as time passed. Wildlife flourishes in this residential neighborhood of 1/4 and 1/3 acre lots. We’re not out in the country, but these are not zero-lot homes either.
Phases 1 and 2 of the larger housing development have long been completed. Phase 3 was finished three years ago, the original trees are beautiful, and the owners are adding new fruit/flowering trees each year.
Enter Phase 4. The original developer had a few lots left and found a builder to buy them. That builder wanted the lots cleared before finalizing the deal. That’s when we, the neighbors, discovered that some of the grassy/lightly-wooded areas between existing homes were actually unsold lots.
ALL of the trees from those lots are being cleared, lots of red dirt remains, and now mudslides into neighboring backyards are expected with the next heavy rain.
The developer in charge of the work told me on the phone that the lots are not wide enough to have left the trees in place. The one in the photos is 60 feet wide. Years ago, I lived in a house surrounded by maples and evergreens. That lot was 50×100. IMO, this guy simply did not want to take the time to leave a couple of trees to shade the house and protect the wildlife on the lot.
The neighbors to the left and right of the bulldozer photo were concerned enough to have the City Inspector come out to assess the situation. Note the dirt to the left appears to be in a pile that crosses the property line and would be the most likely to slide into the neighbor’s yard in the rain.
The builder’s solution was to place sand barrier ‘fencing’ on the property line. The bulldozer operator moved the dirt up against it.
Other lots have similar problems with soil grading and tree removal.
Heated conversations have been held. The neighborhood grapevine is operating at peak efficiency. Town council meetings are scheduled on the topic.
In case you doubt that neighbors and builders would actually get angry over something like this, read on.
Existing homeowners in Colorado were upset with new builders in the neighborhood who appeared to be putting in homes that did not conform to the look of the development, thereby lowering everyone’s property values. Building was delayed while plans were reviewed. Board members who were in charge of approving the designs (but didn’t) were removed from their positions and new people replaced them.
When developers with big money at stake and disgruntled homeowners with possible deflated property values are at odds, tempers can flare, injunctions can occur, and nothing good happens. If the builder complies with city ordinances, there is little recourse for the neighbors who don’t care for the look of the newer houses, or how the new homes will affect them.
City codes exist for a reason. Check yours out. You might be surprised at what is NOT included in some communities, such as: building setbacks, curbing pets, rules about garbage, home swimming pool regulations, livestock allowed in the city limits, etc.
We haven’t seen any bodies in the remaining woods yet, but it is still early in the process. Kidding. Tempers are high, but so far, everybody is just at the yelling stage. Let’s hope that reason prevails and the builder corrects the problems he has created, then doesn’t produce any new ones.
*Photos by Patti Phillips
A pal of ours recently acquired a new refrigerator. Not just any refrigerator. A back-to-basics 1950s era fridge that is smaller than today’s ‘big-bigger-monstrous’ sized appliances that need special spaces in the kitchen created for them. Today’s models even come with apps that will tell you what’s on the shelves inside while you are standing in the store. (Now I ask you, doesn’t anybody know what lists are for?) But, I digress. Cynthia St-Pierre, a multi-talented mystery writer from Canada, tells me that the fridge needs to be defrosted once a month. Yup. I told you it was a back-to-basics variety. She sent us a photo of it – nice creamy hue that blends effectively with her color scheme and the retro look that she has been working toward in her home.
On the silly side, I started seeing the fridge everywhere. We watch a lot of British mysteries on TV and suddenly, it was in every kitchen in every show that is set in the late 1940s thru the 1950s. The refrigerators have most likely been in the scenes all along, but now there was a background detail that had jumped into the foreground for us.
It got me thinking. Quite a few TV shows featuring characters that need to store a body until they can get rid of it, have freezers in the cellar. More than one show has featured refrigerators or freezers in the storyline – sometimes in room sized freezers – remember Castle & Beckett turning into popsicles before our eyes? They made it out alive, but not all unfortunate souls do. If the show is directed by a horror buff, then the discovery is all the more startling or even gruesome. We may even have show overspill – imagine opening your refrigerator (especially your freezer) after watching one of these masterpieces? I might be tempted to eat only fresh food for a while.
The concept of hiding bodies in cold household places goes all the way back to the “Green Lantern,” in episode #54, and to “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” in the episode titled, “Lamb to the Slaughter.” I watched that one during a Hitchcock retrospective. Ewwwww!
It is only fair to note that not all retro freezers or refrigerators come with bodies included. Some current shows set in the 50s feature the retro fridge, but so far, no bodies have been found in them. The “Doctor Blake Mysteries” (from Australia) and the “Father Brown Mysteries” (from England) have plenty of bodies to be tripped over, but none have been found refrigerated. So far.
Just in case you don’t think this happens in real life, think again. In December, 2015, the fully clothed body of a woman was found in a refrigerator in a California garage being cleaned out after tenants had moved. The body was left inside the fridge and wheeled off by handcart to the coroner’s office.
Just last month (June, 2016) a woman found a body in a freezer that she had purchased in a yard sale in North Carolina. She was asked not to open it for a while because of a Sunday School project contained in it. The preliminary thinking about the seller is that the deceased was a relative and that she didn’t know what to do when the person died.
Keeping lots of chops and roasts in your cellar freezer? Hmmmm…
Ever notice that it is the size of a coffin?
Make sure that only a trusted few have access to it. If you happen to observe on a dark and stormy night that all the shelves have been removed and are leaning against the outside, you might need a witness standing next to you when you open the door.
Just to reassure you: no bodies were discovered during the writing of this post. Honestly.
Kelvinator photo: Cynthia St-Pierre
Freezer and the aqua refrigerator: internet photos