Museum of Hoaxes
"Very well-researched and delivered in an engaging, breezy, wink-wink tone similar to that of Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg's Why Do Men Have Nipples?, this will likely be enjoyed equally by science buffs and casual aficionados of the curious. One of the finest science/history bathroom books of all time."
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#15: The Electrification of Human Corpses
imageIn 1780 the Italian anatomy professor Luigi Galvani discovered that a spark of electricity could cause the limbs of a dead frog to twitch. Soon men of science throughout Europe were repeating his experiment, but it didn't take them long to bore of frogs and turn their attention to more interesting animals. What would happen, they wondered, if you electrified a human corpse?

Galvani's nephew, Giovanni Aldini, embarked on a tour of Europe in which he offered audiences the chance to see this stomach-turning spectacle. His most celebrated demonstration occurred on January 17, 1803 when he applied the poles of a 120-volt battery to the body of the executed murderer George Forster.

When Aldini placed wires on the mouth and ear, the jaw muscles quivered and the murderer's features twisted in a rictus of pain. The left eye opened as if to gaze upon his torturer. For the grand finale Aldini hooked one wire to the ear and plunged the other up the rectum. Forster's corpse broke into a hideous dance. The London Times wrote, "It appeared to the uninformed part of the bystanders as if the wretched man was on the eve of being restored to life."

Other researchers tried electrifying bodies, with the specific hope of restoring them to life, but with no success. Early nineteenth-century experiments of this kind are considered to have been one of Mary Shelley's main sources of inspiration when she wrote her novel Frankenstein in 1816.

Listed in chronological order. Newest comments at the end.
I wonder if you could selectively animate different parts of the corpse's body by introducing current into selective parts of their motor cortex. This is probably possible unless the force of the current is needed to get their muscles to contract (in addidtion to the electricity needed to transmit the signal)....
Posted by Ashley  in  San Francisco  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  03:14 PM
Rectum? Wrecked him? Naw, he was already dead.
Posted by Prank Call of Cthulhu  on  Fri Sep 14, 2007  at  11:16 AM
Edgar Allen Poe wrote a couple of stories based on these experiments (these and other stories based on speculative science are the reason some credit Poe with being the father of Science Fiction).
In one, an ancient Egyptian mummy is re-animated by application of a Galvanic battery and the mummy makes numerous observations on life, etc.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Falfurrias, Texas  on  Tue Dec 18, 2007  at  02:15 PM

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