Be warned: This page contains some serious Squick material!
"See, say what you like about us British, we're punctual and clean - none of this shitting-out-our-internal-organs-in-a-screaming-blubbering-heap for us. No, we just lay down and die, in neat piles.
People die, for whatever reason. Some die a natural death, some get killed, some kill themselves, but still dead is dead is dead
. People die when they are killed.
A natural occurrence is after all is said and done, is that someone tries to retrieve the body of the dead person. However, biology does not stop at death. Muscles control the retention of wastes in the bladder and the rectum, and these muscles relax soon after death. If the rectum or bladder happens to be occupied at the moment of death, the result in Real Life
is the people who find the body wishing the dead person had worn brown trousers
(and wishing they had brought a gas mask). Girls and women are much more likely to urinate when they die, as males typically need to use muscular movement to push out their pee, while females urinate using gravity.
In fiction, this practically never occurs. Therefore, we have a case of No Dead Body Poops, where the death scene is almost always much much much
less nasty than it could be in real life. This is not surprising, given that most people are not aware someone dying can be a crapshoot
. It is also somewhat undignified - it really wouldn't do for The Lancer
's Heroic Sacrifice
to end with a fart noise and a bad smell, would it?
Even rarer than the post-mortem evacuation in fiction is recognizing the fact that serious abdominal injuries - gut shootings/stabbings and the like - can often let out what's supposed to stay in.
For examples of living people whose biological functions of this type aren't shown, see the supertrope Nobody Poops
No examples of this trope being played entirely straight are listed below. We're not interested in having a huge list of every character dying without soiling themselves.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime and Manga
- In Yoshiyuki Tomino's Mobile Suit Gundam novels, one character is described as losing control of her bowels while suffering a particularly violent death. Interestingly, she also seems to suffer a psychic version of this effect & begins uncontrollably broadcasting her worst memories into Amuro's mind in her death throes.
- Referenced in the Rurouni Kenshin manga when Jin-e tries to kill Kaoru by paralyzing her lungs with his illusory stare. He then tells Kenshin about how asphyxiation is an "ugly way to go", mentioning that Kaoru will salivate and lose control of her bladder and bowels, urinating and defecating as she dies.
- In Yomigaeru Sora Rescue Wings an earthquake victim suffers from crush syndrome and is shown becoming incontinent.
- The characters of Queen's Blade wet themselves very often, usually in fear or pain, and almost, if not all the girls who are killed urinate when or after they die.
- Averted once in the manga version of Corpse Party when a character is shown urinating after her apparent suicide.
- Averted in Blood-C, where Kanako's corpse is seen twitching and urinating after she's murdered via an Impromptu Tracheotomy.
- Steve Martin plays an asshole action movie director in the Kasdan movie Grand Canyon. In an early scene, he berates a flunky for cutting out a scene where a criminal is shot in the head because there was "too much blood splatter." Later, after he himself is shot by a mugger, he lies on the street bleeding, and the camera reveals he'd also urinated on himself.
- The Golgothan Shit Demon from the movie Dogma is a demon created from this exact excrement. Golgotha was the place where Christ was crucified so obviously it's made from the build up of hundreds of crucified criminals in a cursed place but on the other hand it was where Christ was crucified too so, while never stated, it might quite literally be "Holy Shit".
- A related example is from the film Point Of No Return, the American Remake of La Femme Nikita, where Maggie urinates after being given a lethal injection.
- In Repo! The Genetic Opera, after finishing disemboweling his latest victim, the victim's waste is emptied onto Nathan Wallace's shoes, as far as we can tell from his expression and the subtle sound effect.
- At the start of Black Belt Jones, a pair of Mafia thugs kill a man, then hide his body in a wine cask. Their boss then orders, "Mark this one down to five dollars a bottle - he shit his pants when he died."
- In Phantasm, after a man is killed by the silver sphere, a pool of pale urine slowly spreads across the floor from the corpse's legs.
- The Takashi Miike film Visitor Q shows the father having sex with the naked corpse of a young female coworker. Halfway through the act, he feels that her genitals have moistened, and muses about corpses still being able to get wet. Shortly after, however, he realizes that it's actually because the woman's body has voided her bowels; the movements have caused her feces and urine to flow out of her dead body. Doesn't bother the man though, as he keeps going.
- In The Human Centipede, which is already teeming with Body Horror, this occurs upon the death of one of the victims. Too bad that victim's anus is sewn to another's mouth.
- In Se7en, the guy who ate until he burst (guilty of the sin of Gluttony, obviously) is reported to be "sitting in a pile of his own piss and shit"- an easy way for the police to tell that he was dead without having to check his vital signs.
- Kate Hudson voids her bladder in The Killer Inside Me after Casey Affleck beats her to death.
- In the little known New Zealand film Carry Me Back the lads take their dead father back home-on several occasions the corpse farts prodigiously.
- In Monsters Ball, when a condemned criminal is to be electrocuted he is shown with adult diapers.
- A dying character shits himself at least twice in Cannibal.
- There's a strangely brutal scene in which Bundy is shown getting cotton jammed up his ass before his electrocution in Ted Bundy.
- Monster Clown butler Mr. Mascaro comments on this phenomenon while killing a security guard in Blood Dolls.
Mr. Mascaro: Two kinds of people I know about, little man - The kind that piss their pants when you kill them, and the kind that don't. Now, which kind do you think you are?
[guard dies, Mascaro looks down at the body]
Mr. Mascaro: Pisser.
- In The Master of Disguise, the villain has irritable bowel syndrome and occasionally farts while in the middle of something important. When he is flung into a pool, the protagonists wonder whether he is dead, citing this trope. Sure enough, the villain responds with a massive underwater fart.
- The 1988 Polish film A Short Film About Killing directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski shows its protagonist Jacek Łazar quickly and efficiently put to death by hanging. The body is shown defecating immediately afterwards.
- In the 1994 thriller Sensation, police detective Ron Perlman attepts to Squick out heroine Kari Wuhrer by describing a murder scene and noting that the naked victim emptied her bowels while she was being strangled.
- In the Hurog duology, a character kills someone who had held her captive, but refrains from stealing his clothes, on the grounds that there was "something other than blood" on them because of his death.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday, the heroine explains to her friends in graphic detail exactly why they do not want to drag a dead cop to their secret hiding place (which is accessible only through the hot tub), at least unless they clean up the corpse first.
- In Salman Rushdie's short story Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship, one of the dirty jobs Isabella gives Columbus is cleaning up the bodies of dead soldiers for burial, and the fact that they're wearing (usually full) diapers under their uniforms is mentioned.
- In Gabriel García Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold, after Santiago Nasar gets stabbed in the belly, his fiancee's family notices the smell of shit coming from his protruding bowels.
- A Song of Ice and Fire, where Tywin Lannister very obviously defecates after being shot. With a crossbow. On the toilet. And unlike his reputation states, he does not, in the end, shit gold.
- In A Dance with Dragons, Grand Maester Pycelle shits himself after he's dealt a fatal head wound. Varys had to open a window because of the stench.
- Tamora Pierce averts this some of the time, particularly with several strangling deaths in the Circle of Magic books.
- Also mentioned in Pierce series Protector of the Small, where Kel knows she's fatally wounded a centaur because of the stink that alerts her to damaged (human) intestines. She ends up having to perform a Mercy Kill because no healer can cure a "belly wound".
- The Godfather includes a scene where one traitor to the Corleones is garroted in a car and craps himself. The killer then rolls down the window to let out the stink.
- Also the description of the garroting of Luca Brazzi.
- In The Bible's Book of Judges, chapter 3, King Eglon is stabbed in the gut by the left-handed Ehud, causing "the dirt" to come out. The fact that "dirt" is excrement is made even clearer when Eglon's personal guard delay going in to check on him because they believe him to be relieving himself-they can smell it.
- Most of the deaths in the Honor Harrington series involve people being blown up in space, but one in particular notes this as occurring. An undercover agent, realizing he's been made, judo flips over and snaps the neck of the man who's caught him, and notes in narration the smell of the voided bowels, presumably while his victim is still upside down.
- David Weber also makes reference to this in Safehold, when "the stink of voided bowels" follows a character being killed.
- This is referenced in the Mission Earth series by L. Ron Hubbard. It is one of the alien invaders who are attempting to turn the world's population homosexual who uses it to argue that this means the sphincter is central to life.
- In Bryce Courtenay's book Tommo And Hawk this is used to confirm a character is dead.
- In The Witcher novel, when Ciri's team gets slaughtered by a Psycho for Hire, he makes her take a look at the bodies "See, that's how people die. In their own piss."
- Justified in Enderby, by Anthony Burgess: The title character, about to kill himself, is very careful to empty his bowels first.
- The trope is noted several times in The Acts of Caine books. Within the first few pages of the first book, in fact.
- When Lestat, the main character of The Vampire Lestat of Anne Rice, is transformed into a vampire and has to "die" for this, it is described in great detail how his bowels empty while he isn't able to move and the rats come to eat the excrement. Yeah.
- Almost all the female characters in Under the Dome avert this. Particularly notable when Junior kills Angie and Dodee, as both girls urinate and defecate as they die. He later goes on to molest their dead bodies, noting that more fecal matter oozes out of them as he moves their corpses.
- Has been referred to indirectly in Discworld. In A Hat Full of Sky Granny Weatherwax depicts the chores done by a witch on a regular basis, which includes sitting with an old man during his last moments and helping the widow clean the body and change the bedsheets, which is no chore for the faint of heart.
- In Making Money Moist von Lipwig has just, for intents and purposes, inherited the Royal Bank after its president passed away. He's trying out the bed in the suite provided, noticing that it feels all warm and squishy, then immediately shoots up and asks where his predecessor died. He's informed she died at her desk, sitting in her chair (which has since been replaced).
- In one of the Hitman novels, Agent 47 kills a clone brother, who makes a long "farting" sound as he's strangled to death. Realistic much?
- In John Varley's Steel Beach we learn that low gravity + explosive decompression + no space suits/clothing (clothing optional moon colony) + bowel gas = the 'Brown Rocket' effect.
- Conan the Barbarian at one point justifies putting a man out of his misery with a list of what he would have had to endure before dying anyway. The stink of his own gutsnote is on the list.
- In the Liveship Traders trilogy, Davad Restart returns to his carriage to find a dead pig hanging out of the window and the word "traitor" written on the vehicle in blood. It is also noticed that the pig's bowels had losened in death and as a result the coach was smeared with the pig's shit as well.
- The Ender’s Game companion, Ender's Shadow, averts this, as Achilles talks about how Poke urinated and defecated as she died.
- The Gentleman Bastard Sequence features a scene where young Locke and the twins end up buying a corpse from the day's hanging (long story) and Locke is annoyed that he had to be downwind of the corpse because ... well.
- Referenced in a David Sedaris essay. His Greek grandmother came to live with the family when David was a kid, and his father was telling him and his sisters about how the grandmother found her brother dead in the streets, slain by mercenaries. David and his sisters pester the grandmother with questions like "When he died, did he crap his pants?"
- Somewhat averted in BattleTech's Blood of Kerensky trilogy, where Dr. Lear at one point goes into some detail on just what treating a soldier with abdominal injuries means for both the patient and the medics. No, she's not a fan of war at all.
- Averted in the Outlander series, as it is often described that the deceased 'lose their bowels' shortly after death, except in the case of Roger, who lost his bowels when he was NEARLY hung to death.
- Referenced in Dead Lines by John Skipp and Craig Spector. The antagonist tries to avoid soiling himself after committing suicide by fasting and emptying his bowels and bladder as much as he can beforehand, because he doesn't want his body to be found covered in effluvia. It is not stated whether the plan worked or not.
- In his Island in the Sea of Time and Emberverse series, S. M. Stirling often describes people as "voiding" when they die, and battlefields smelling like sewers.
- In The Book of the New Sun, Severian, while having the last talk with a prisoner he is to execute the next day, advises him to eat only a light breakfast to avoid this.
- In Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers. Divine is described as excreting her body's waste matter quite graphically after her miserable death from tuberculosis. The author doesn't shy away from the subjects of various bodily functions (even when one might want him to) and it's not a terribly romantic scene.
- In The Dark Sleep, Escott first realized that his acting-troupe colleagues ... all 12 of them had been murdered when he catches the scent of blood, urine and excrement at the crime scene. He recognizes the significance of this, because he'd smelled the same thing during his WWI military service.
- In Chris Ryan's novel Strikeback, the Hezbollah mention that the reason they're starving their captive Katie is to give her a "dignified death", mentioning that Katie's body would void her bowels when she died.
- Averted in the Michael Crichton book Prey, when in the beginning a person in a hospital is dying next to the bed of a small boy. The curtain's are drawn during the dramatic death, but the boy can still smell the bowels being emptied.
- In The Dressmaker Stuart Pettyman does this after running head-first into a wall and breaking his neck.
- Averted in The Riftwar Cycle; the stink of the bowels being voided is often mentioned when someone dies.
- Not quite dealing with post-mortem defecation, but corpses in The Things They Carried are mentioned as belching as they are loaded onto carts.
- Averted in Spider Robinson's Callahan's Legacy, when a character talks about a knife fight he had when he was younger. He specifically mentions that he knew, intellectually, what was going on, but becomes shocked and physically ill when he gets feces on his hand after stabbing someone in the abdomen.
- Implied aversion in the Xeelee Sequence story Raft. One character sees "a shape hanging from rope" and "a pool of something brown and thick" beneath it.
- One of the CSI: Miami tie-in novels averts it, the corpse is found in a car trunk and a 'number 3' is referred to, then it's explained.
- In The Afterlife by Gary Soto, Chuy is stabbed to death in the bathroom while on a date. When he looks at his body (as a ghost), he thinks that his father will be ashamed of him because he peed himself.
- In Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Mimi tells the story of how, when she was a little girl, her aunt and sole caretaker died. Mimi tried to clean up the body before going to get anyone, which is how she found out that her aunt had wings too, just like her.
There was a stain forming under Auntie, piss and shit and death-juice, and as I looked at her, I had a firm sense that it wouldn't be right to bring people up to her apartment with her like this. I'd seen dead people on TV. They were propped up on pillows, in clean hospital nighties, with rouged cheeks.
- There's an aversion played for horror in Donald Goines's novel Dopefiend. When Terry's pregnant friend commits suicide by hanging, Terry discovers the body and suffers a Freak Out after accidentally touching the woman's feces that have slipped to the floor. Then the narrative mentions that the fetus's head is protruding from the dead woman's vulva.
- In George Hutton's Zapotec, a thirteen-year-old virgin girl defecates as she is killed on the altar as a live sacrifice.
- In James Thompson's Lucifer's Tears, when the cops discover the dead body of Iisa Filippov lying on a hotel bed, they note that she had voided her bowels in death, and the bed sheets under her thighs are stained with her urine and feces.
- In the novel The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon, Noelle is given an enema before her execution to prevent her from defecating in death when she is killed. However, she still urinates as she is shot dead by the firing squad.
- In Mark Baker's Cops, the protagonist pulls a dying young girl out of a wrecked car from an accident. The girl urinates as she dies, soaking his arms and uniform.
- Referenced and then averted in J.F. Gonzalez's Shapeshifters. Before committing suicide, Carol goes to the toilet to pee, as she didn't want whoever cleared her body to "deal with what she shit out of herself". Nevertheless, she still soiled herself as she died; Bernard, who discovered her body, mentions the "stench of Carol's voided bowels" and the dirty mess under her corpse.
- In Michael R. Collings's Devil's Plague, Alix is fatally poisoned, and wets herself while convulsing in death.
- In Anthony Genualdi's Treason, Alissa lesbian-rapes Arianne's dead body, and the movements cause the dead girl's urine and feces to ooze out of her.
- Averted in Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon, where Louise defecates as she is tortured and killed. Her body is later thrown and locked in a car boot with the protagonist, who comments with disgust at the sight and stench of the young woman's body voiding the last of her bowels.
- Referenced in Jonathan Smith's Summer in February, where Gilbert reads a book on death by cyanide poisoning to learn about how Florence died. The book mentions that her involuntary muscles would relax upon her death, causing her body to void her bladder and bowels, and that "the strong smell of her feces and urine would be evident to one entering the room".
- Averted multiple times in Seishirou Terumi's Essence by the characters who die in the battles.
- Two Hearts, a sequel to The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, has a scene towards the end where King Lir is nearly ripped in half by the griffin. The narrator notes that there is "blood, and worse", and when Lir speaks to the others while dying, he too notes the smell and suspects he wet himself. Notably, the griffin did not suffer the same, although its "lion half" is dead.
Live Action TV
- Referenced (sort of) in Waiting for Godot, except it's about the penile sphincter rather than the anal one.
Vladimir: What do we do now?
Vladimir: Yes, but while waiting.
Estragon: What about hanging ourselves?
Vladimir: Hmm. It'd give us an erection.
Estragon: (highly excited). An erection!
Vladimir: With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That's why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that?
Estragon: Let's hang ourselves immediately!
- Postmortem erections, by the way, are known as "angel lust," and occur when a body dies in an upright position. Gravity causes the person's blood to pool in his lower extremities, which causes the feet and legs to swell along with... the obvious. In some cases they also ejaculate.
- Frank Wedekind (the guy who wrote the original Spring Awakening) references this in the play Lulu. After her elderly husband dies and she thinks he is just unconscious, Lulu notes "He's shit himself and doesn't even know!"
- In The Book of Mormon, "Joseph Smith American Moses" plays Joseph Smith's death of dysentery for maximum Toilet Humor.
- VG Cats example here.
- A rather infamous fan video for Puella Magi Madoka Magica crossed over with Hidamari Sketch, known as Chidamari Sketch, showed this happening to Mami/Miyako. Note that this did not take place in the actual episode... but many confused viewers believe it did.
- When Marissa's friend Chris dies, Krouse notes that his bowels had released, and even corrects Luke when he assumes that the smell outside was from a broken septic pipe and not all the dead bodies created by the Simurgh.
- In a fit of boredom, Jack Slash offers a deal to one of his soon-to-be victims:
Jack Slash: I'll even let you relieve yourself in the bathroom beforehand so you don't shit yourself so badly when you drop dead. You'd have to be quick, unless you want to be on the toilet when she comes in, but it's a chance few get.
- The Venture Bros.: When Race Bannon dies, he evacuates his bowels. The boys get Squicked out and Brock points out that, "They never show that part on TV".
- Averted in South Park as a Running Gag in Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes.
- In another episode, specifically as a Call Back to the above, it was an indication that a major character, Chef, had been Killed Off for Real. Cartman says "The last thing you do before you die is crap your..."- cue poop. Also see, Crosses the Line Twice.
- To the point where it's now become a running gag to show a dead body unceremoniously letting out loud fart sounds to purposely ruin the drama going on.
- In the Futurama episode "The Sting" the priest at Fry's funeral grosses out the audience by drawing attention to this having occurred.
- Referred to in one episode of Family Guy. When Quagmire is playing dead to be rid of a woman, Peter attempts to confirm it by shouting "You know what'll prove it? When people die, they void their bowels. I said, when people die they void their bowels!" Quagmire sells it. Peter then makes fun of him for it.
- In the season 3 episode, "Death Lives", Death told Peter he soiled himself when lightning struck him.
- Also, when Peter takes first aid, he runs to assist someone (who's perfectly fine), freaking them out when he insists he has to check if they've soiled themselves.
- Brian comments that Bertram voided his bowels upon being killed by Stewie.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Who Would Win", after a character is beaten to a bloody pulp and passes out, he farts. Finn's initial horrified reaction is, "Did you just die?"
- Semi-averted in a Robot Chicken sketch about G.I. Joe. After Seal Team 6 shoots Cobra in the head, Cobra's body farts for a couple seconds.
- Some Samurai would fast before a battle so that "their bodies would not pass dirt upon death" in order to avert this trope.
- Any mother who ever used the Stock Phrase "Always wear clean underwear, because it'll be shameful if you get run over by a car and are found to have been wearing dirty undies when you died". Er, hate to break this to you Mom, but, as Bill Cosby said in reference to mothers insisting that their children wear clean underwear in case they get in a car accident: "First you say it, then you do it." He did come up with a workaround in that most mothers say "Have a clean pair of undies" when invoking this phrase, all he needs is to have them stored in the glove compartment.
- The classic joke where the condemned orders fiber muffins for their last meal. Think about it...
- Not death, but one of the (several) reasons patients scheduled to undergo surgery are often instructed to fast beforehand is if their operation requires the administration of a muscle-relaxant that will affect the anal sphincter. This is also cause to pity obstetricians, since the baby's head emerging from the birth canal compresses the lower intestine, like a tube of toothpaste (squeezed from the bottom, no less.) In fact, a logical sister trope to this one would be No Newborn Has Crap On Him At Arrival. They're rarely covered, and what with all the blood and mucus as well you can miss it, but sometimes it's hard to miss entirely.
- More likely reasons are to avoid regurgitation/inhalation of vomit, and to have the operating zone reasonably clean in cases of intestinal surgery.
- In surgery, one of the medications given as standard anesthesia is a paralytic - all of the muscles are paralyzed in a relaxed state. This is why a respirator is required (the paralytic relaxes the diaphragm and the pain medications suppress the respiratory drive) and absorbent padding is placed under the patient's pelvis to collect any urine/feces released. One reason for the paralytic is that it is easier to cut through fully relaxed muscle tissue than muscle tissue that is in its resting (slightly tensed) state. Another major reason is if the patient has a seizure (for whatever reason), then the patient's body will not move in the slightest.
- If intestinal surgery can be postponed for 24-36 hours, then the patient undergoes the same preparation as for a colonoscopy. The patient, if conscious, will be required to drink a cup from a gallon of clear, colorless laxative (usually in the patient's requested flavor from 5-7 flavor packets that can make the laxative less distasteful) and clear, colorless liquids (water, clear soda) until the the gallon is finished, or the patient is passing only clear fluid from the bowels. This is generally in conjunction with antibiotics which kill off most of the normal intestinal bacteria, so that the bowels are both clean and relatively sterile before surgery. If emergency intestinal surgery is required, ample suction is used to remove bowel content as quickly as possible, and high doses of strong antibiotics are given during and after surgery to prevent infection inside the abdominal cavity.
- Though for procedures on the intestines themselves, an enema would usually be administered-the only way to reliably avert this. In the 20th century, it was quite common practice for hospitals to routinely give an enema to women in labor (as well as always shaving their genitals, for reasons harder to explain). Both have since been rejected by most authorities as unnecessarily invasive things to put the patient through at a time like that.
- Some places in the United States which still have the death sentence put an adult diaper on the condemned.
- When the killers were about to be hanged for the Clutter family murders in Truman Capote's non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, one of them kept asking to use the bathroom because they wanted to avoid this. They had to be told no matter how much you get out before you die, it will still happen.
- When a programmer says that their computer, program, or operating system "shit the bed," they mean that the computer/program/operating system crashed horribly. The phrase comes from this trope.
- In a variation, in Britain after one particularly awful incident women condemned to hang were given knickers made from a similar material to those worn for PE in order to prevent, at the least, evacuation of gender-specific abdominal fluids, and at worst, prolapse (the ejection and turning inside-out-of) of the entire vagina, womb and ovaries.
- This actually only applied to the last few women who were hanged (the woman in question died in the early 50s-she bled heavily from her vagina during death, causing rumours to spread that- contrary to the law-she had been hanged while pregnant, though it was very unlikely.)
- Care workers in old peoples' homes are inevitably confronted with the need to wash and lay out a body for decent inspection by the deceased's relatives and/or collection by the undertakers' "private ambulance". This invariably involves cleaning up the terminal bowel movement.
- Not just in modern care homes. Virtually every funerary tradition known to anthropology includes washing the deceased's body, for this reason (less well known is that undertakers or, before that, midwives, would also plug the orifices of the body to prevent leakage during the mourning rites-which in some Christian traditions could go on for days). Of course it's not hard to find a religious significance in a final 'cleansing' before the funeral (consider in the Christian faith, where it echoes baptism, or the significance of washing in the Jewish and Islamic traditions, which have very rich symbolism around hygiene.)
- An undertakers' practice in Britain once collected from a mortuary the corpse of a man who had succumbed to over-exertion during sex. Getting him onto the slab for preparation, they were consternated that the corpse still had an erection. This should be impossible, as the engorged blood vessels that supply an erection will drain back into the body on death. Thinking at first it was a medical students' prank, they looked closely at the corpse. It turned out that in life, the dead man had used a vacuum pump to artificially draw blood into his penis and to conserve the resultant erection; he had slipped an elastic band around the base of the shaft to prevent it subsiding. The police, the doctor certifying death, and the hospital staff, had either completely missed it or had left the band in place so the funeral directors could have a laugh too...