More bodies seem to pop up on TV at Halloween than at any other time of year. Cop shows usually add a spooky element to body discovery, with ghostly noises and haunted-house sound effects. Standards & Practices (network oversight departments that determine whether certain material is appropriate for public viewing) apparently looks the other way during October when a bit more blood and gore is added to the crime scenes.
One popular plot hook is to stow bodies in a wall. In general, the fictional bodies are discovered by accident when a building is being demolished, but in a second season episode of a Canadian P.I. show, Private Eyes, “Brew the Right Thing,” a family brewery is the target of repeated sabotage. An investigation into the puzzling incidents leads to the P.I.s swinging sledgehammers into a wall constructed decades before.
Why stow the bodies inside a wall? It would seem safer for the perpetrator to remove the body from the scene of the crime and bury it elsewhere. But consider this scenario: perhaps the murder was a crime of passion and the perpetrator had not planned to ‘off’ anyone at a construction site. A confrontation got out of hand and somebody wound up dead. Not wanting to go to jail, the perpetrator seizes the opportunity right in front of him, grabs some plastic tarp, and rolls the body into it. An unfinished wall turns into a burial hideaway.
Let’s take a look at the restrictions of hiding a body at home inside a wall with the help of Kelley, our resident 5-foot skeleton. Standard two-by-four studs actually measure about 1 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches. Kelley is 5-6 inches thick, front to back through the sternum. Sooooo, unless the victim’s ribs have been crushed, his chest will poke out past the studs, requiring an adjustment to the hiding place.
Note: the normal distance between most studs is 16-24 inches. A big man’s shoulders wouldn’t fit straight in the narrower space, even discounting the thickness of the chest.
In a Hawaii 5-0 (modern version) 4th season episode, “Buried Secrets,” a wall is extended out into the room to create a thicker wall space that accommodates a body. More than one TV or movie crime boss has had his/her henchmen place new drywall over dead snitches, even using abandoned real estate properties as a final destination.
The assumption is that nobody will find the body once it’s in the wall. Honestly, there is really no reason to think otherwise, unless the criminals are caught in the act while mudding the drywall, or a guilty party is overcome with remorse and points a finger, or a homeowner decides to knock down a wall during a renovation.
Death in Paradise, a super popular British series, featured a disgruntled husband who buried his wife in the patio cement, after much was made of the construction site at his remote house. That cement truck raised no suspicions.
Other popular spaces to stuff a fictional TV body:
The bottom of an elevator shaft
The bottom of a dumb waiter
Cinder block construction
Foundation cement at a new construction site
Imagine the guys on This Old House discovering a body while doing a big remodel. They might start using thermal imaging devices to thoroughly inspect walls and foundations before agreeing to take on new projects. (this is not meant to imply that there ever was a body found on a This Old House site)
Has your favorite mystery/crime show featured a body-in-the-wall plot? Let us know in the comments below.
Please enjoy a safe, Happy Halloween!
Photos: by Patti Phillips
Tis the season for skeletons and other Halloween traditions, but did you ever wonder about the origin of the phrase “skeleton in the closet?”
The prevailing view implies that someone has skeletons in said closet if the person in question has something nefarious to hide, but historically, there’s a bit more to the story.
In England, until the early 1800s, physicians were not allowed to collect and dissect bodies other than those of executed criminals. Even after an Act of Parliament was passed to allow other bodies to be used for research, doctors hid the bodies (presumably in closets or cabinets) from the squeamish eyes of the public. The bodies might still have had a great deal to reveal medically and might have been kept until all that remained was the skeleton.
Hiding a skeleton might have cast a bad light (from a legal as well as a squeamish perspective) on the keeper of same, but as time went by, humorous and/or serious references to deeds or activities not related in any way to skeletons, arose.
But skeletons don’t always get a bad rap. They have been included in Halloween celebrations all over the world for thousands of years for the purpose of warding off evil spirits.
How many skeletons do you have in your closets?
Stay safe and have a Happy Halloween!
*Thanks to Toni L.P. Kelner (Leigh Perry) for many hours of fun with her Family Skeleton series. “The Skeleton Haunts a House” is the book appearing in two of the photos.
*Photos by Patti Phillips
Clowns creep me out. They always have. Not the rodeo clowns with fun painted faces and red ball noses, but the clowns with masks and fixed artificial smiles, as well as the clowns that paint faces that are intended to scare or horrify. That’s probably a subjective statement, because what may be scary to me might make you laugh or the other way around. I always thought that clowns were meant to be cheerful or goofy, but that has not been the case in certain parts of the country in the last couple of months. When the cops have to get involved, definitely not laughable.
Now, most likely as an unfortunate reaction to recent horror movies, clowns are being used for nefarious reasons. Since the end of August, people dressed up as clowns have been reported luring children into the woods with the promise of money, heard banging on doors, and standing on the road in the dark, looking creepy to passersby. The police are taking the threats/reports seriously, and actively follow up on the leads.
Some schools have banned the use of masks and even face paint for this year’s Halloween celebrations, and many have banned clown costumes altogether.
Target and Wal-Mart have put away the clown costumes and/or masks for this year in reaction to the rise of menacing clown sightings. Their reasoning? Halloween is supposed to be fun, not dangerous, and neither company wants to fuel the actions of some misguided individuals. Other sources for costumes are selling out the clown outfits, however.
The clown craziness continues to make news as people posing as clowns take to social media, with tweets, hashtags, and Facebook pages that make threats, cause school lockdowns, and otherwise create havoc. Parents and school officials alike are perplexed as to the motivation behind the social media attacks, but are taking action to avoid any possible actual harm. Several arrests were made after people reported sightings or crimes involving a clown and they turned out to be hoaxes.
Law enforcement continues to investigate each new sighting, because as one officer said, “This is neither funny, nor cute.” Sadly, one teenager lost his life in a stabbing as a result of a clown related incident.
Stay safe this Halloween and be aware of your surroundings. As always, don’t send the children out alone, even in supposedly safe neighborhoods. A trusted adult should be in sight at all times.
Our town has a ‘no mask’ policy for the younger skeletons and princesses. That’s a great idea, because the little ones are less likely to trip and fall if they can actually see where they’re stepping.
Every year, our community center holds a Halloween party after school for kids who don’t walk the neighborhood. A couple of police officers stop by to help out and show the crowd that cops are the good guys. Some local churches now host gatherings for the families in their congregations. Children hear the hype on TV, see the candy in the store, and want to join in, so supervised parties can be fun in some areas that aren’t really right for trick-or-treating.
Best tip? Make sure the kids look both ways before crossing the street to get to the ‘best candy’ house on the other side. Getting hit by a car tops the list as the most dangerous thing that happens to children on Halloween.
*No clown photos included, on purpose.