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Blood for Mortar

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"Our ancestors built this wall using ancient stones from the bosom of Greece herself. And with a little Spartan help, your Persian scouts supplied the mortar."
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We've all heard the Aesop about how "you can't get blood out of a stone". Apparently nobody told the architect of this building, who thinks blood and gore is a great construction material to mix with stone. Using Human Resources, their blood, bones or other parts are added to the building. It may become a Human Architecture Horror (unless those aren't corpses), or is otherwise just creepy.

This is usually done to show how Obviously Evil the creator or owner of the house is. Or maybe they believe or are from a culture that takes nothing to waste, not even corpses. Either way, it's almost always a source of Nightmare Fuel.

Can be a form of Sadistic Choice. Also a form of Powered by a Forsaken Child, though they aren't alive... hopefully. See Skeletons in the Coat Closet or Genuine Human Hide for when human body parts are used for clothing. Compare Meat Moss, where the walls have flesh grown on them. Compare with Human Architecture Horror, where humans have been literally fused with a building post-construction, and Constructive Body Disposal, where it's a convenient way to hide a body rather than using it as part of the construction.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Chinese legend of the bell casting sees use in Ushio and Tora, where it is used to forge the Beast Spear.
  • Shew in Fist of the North Star as part of his Face Death with Dignity carried the capstop to the top of Thouzer's pyramid, then as he's executed, the stone crashes his body, completing the construction.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Invoked in 300: A Persian emissary sees that the Spartans have stacked up the bodies of the Persian soldiers, and they tell him their blood served as mortar.
  • Lethal Weapon 3: The Big Bad demonstrates how vile he is when he tosses a subordinate that failed him into a pile of concrete being poured as a house's foundation, holds him down until he drowns, and continues pouring concrete so the man will be buried in the foundation.
  • Discussed and Defied in The Ten Commandments (1956). When Moses' fellow Egyptians ask why he will not let a Hebrew woman die during the construction of a temple, he states that "blood makes poor mortar" and frees her.

    Literature 
  • In Dark Apostle, the Ghethsemenacht is a tower made of recycled Imperial buildings and glued together with human puree, built as a monument to the Chaos Gods. One of the slaves working on it discovers this when he finds a human tooth in the mortar.
  • There is a Hungarian ballad, Aves Kelemen, which is about a group of masons building a castle but it keeps crumbling (if they build by day, then it'll crumble by night, if they build by night, it'll crumble by dawn) until they get a sign/decide to kill one of their wives and add her blood to the mortar. The first wife to show up bringing her husband's lunch is that of Kelemen, so she is promptly killed and the castle stands.
  • In The Left Hand of Darkness, an Earthman notices all the bridges in Karhide have keystones set with pinkish mortar. Turns out they believe an arch will fall without a bloodbond. They used to mix the mortar with human blood and bones, but these days, animal substitutes are used.
  • In Red Queen, the blood of Arvens is used to make Silver/Newblood gift-repelling Silent Stone.
  • Robert Westall's story "The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral" is about a cathedral which turns out to have incorporated a human sacrifice due to a Middle Ages master builder with secret pagan beliefs. In the story, the cathedral is being repaired, and attempts to absorb the protagonist as a new sacrifice.
  • The World of Ice & Fire mentions that, during a particularly vicious war between The North and The Vale, one Belthasar Bolton owned a "Pink Pavilion", fashioned from the flayed skins of a hundred men. The history notes that this may just be a Vale-based legend to demonize their foe; but as far as House Bolton goes, it's fairly par for the course.
  • Thirteen Storeys: Reclusive, sociopathic billionaire Tobias Fell has Banyan Court specifically to his specifications, whilst also burying the many of the workers and other people he decides to dispose of (such as disagreeable business partners) in the foundations and walls of the building. This is entirely designed to create a "spiritual faraday Cage" to protect him from the ghosts of his victims instead passing their vengeance off on other innocent people.
  • In Shadows Linger, The Black Keep is being built by minions of The Dominator using fresh corpses they buy from unscrupulous people in the nearby city It appears to be made of black stone, but during one foray into it, Shed gets a better look and sees corpses frozen into the stone.
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    Live-Action TV 
  • An example from No Man of Woman Born: In the Merlin (1998) mini-series, Vortigern consults a soothsayer to find out why his castle keeps falling. The Soothsayer (taking false information from Mab) tells him to mix the blood of a man with no mortal father into his mortar and the castle will stand. Merlin, who was the only candidate found, knows that there's a spring under the castle, so he's basically building on water.

    Music 
  • "London Bridge" Build it up with blood and bone, blood and bone, blood and bone, build it up with blood and bone, my fair lady.
  • "Orgasmatron" by Motörhead": Your bones will build my palaces, your eyes will stud my crown; for I am Mars, the god of war, and I will cut you down.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Antaeus, son of Poseidon and Gaia, murdered wayward travelers and used their bones to build a temple to his father. Hercules killed him while going to the Garden of Hesperides.
  • An old Chinese legend contains a variation. It tells about a bell which did not come out right during the casting. The ruler said the person who made the bell would be killed if he failed again. His daughter was foretold that a young maiden's blood needs to be added, so she jumped into the molten metal. It worked.
  • Historia Brittonum: When the building materials for Vortigern's new fortress miraculously vanish each night, a soothsayer tells Vortigern that only sprinkling the walls with the blood of "a child without a father" can break the curse, and Vortigern is ready to do that. However, the boy Ambrosius procured for this purpose can evade sacrifice thanks to his prophetic skills.
  • There are many myths about The Great Wall of China. Some say that both animal and human bones were mixed into the mortar, while others say that the people who died building it got buried inside the wall, used as a filler.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Ravenloft D&D setting, the House of Lament became cursed when a former owner had a young woman buried alive in its foundation, ostensibly because it was required (but in truth because he was a sadistic creep).
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition: The Ritual "Father W'soran's Architect" creates a 50-foot stone tower to the spellcaster's specifications. Its ingredients include a Stone Troll's skull and a map of the tower drawn in a mason's blood.

    Toys 
  • Transformers: Generation 1: The Constructicon foreman Scrapper likes to take the bodies of fallen Autobots and make them part of whatever construction he's currently working on.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, striking certain walls in Windhelm may produce blood. No explanation is given, nor is it even mentioned. It is likely a bug, however, given the cities history and Nords general dislike of elves, it wouldn't be surprising if a couple were packed in the walls and left to a gruesome fate.
  • Eternal Darkness: The Pillar of Flesh is constructed by The Ancients to facilitate their entry into our world. It is built of people smothered with concrete.
  • In EverQuest, in the Wakening Lands, the Giants of Kael Drakkel will threaten to use your bones for mortar when you fight them.
  • Evolve Idle has several universes one can reset into, one of which is an evil universe where standard building materials like lumber and plywood are replaced with bones and boneweave obtained by "slaughtering the weak". Hell worlds in other universes have demons, which follow this trend.
  • Final Fantasy V: Exdeath's castle is made of necromantically reanimated corpses.
  • In God of War, the temple that contains Pandora's Box also contains the tombs of its architect and his family- apparently the gods required their sacrifice for the temple's construction. Some of the puzzles found within require the family members' skulls as keys.
  • Guild Wars 2: Almost everything built by the minions of Lich King Palawa Joko in Vabbi is made entirely of large bones, many of them human. This includes an enormous bone wall separating Joko's kingdom proper from the no-man's land of the Crystal Desert.
  • In The Secret World, the headmaster of Innsmouth Academy refutes the rumour that the school has a skeleton in every closet, he proudly declares that the skeletons are bricked into the walls. The school installs the corpses of mages into the walls and foundations to bolster its magical defences and the power they have to work with.
  • The Rotblood Norscans of Vermintide II used this for at least some of their construction, and the characters do not react well to discovering that fact.
  • In the backstory of World of Warcraft, The old Orcish Horde built a massive road on their homeworld of Draenor known as the Path of Glory, constructed from the bones of the victims of a genocide the Orcs waged on a race known as the Draenei. The Path can still be seen in the Hellfire Peninsula zone, the first area of the broken remains of Draenor known as Outland, which is the main setting of the first expansion The Burning Crusade.

    Web Videos 
  • Outside Xbox: In one Dungeons & Dragons campaign, titled 'Hammer Time', the party come upon an enchanted hammer belonging to the legendary Ethelfrith the Builder, allowing them to command his building crew of (now) 60 undead skeletons. Luke's character, Dob instructs a group of skeletons to build an orphanage after they accidentally tear down the old one, which they do by using stone from a quarry ... and the orphans as the mortar. Turns out, the skeletons have a curse on them that causes them to obey any command given by the hammer's wielder, but in the worst way possible. Crosses over with Literal Genie, as learning this makes the party much more wary of how they word requests, which just made the DM more able to comedically make the skeletons more emotionally hurtful.
  • In a YouTube Poop by DaThings, Crunch'n Crunch's Crunchity Crunches, Cap'n Crunch is horrified to discover that the Crunchlings' home city is made entirely out of Crunchling bodies.

    Web Original 
  • In the area of Ravensblight stands Darc Mansion, built-in 1817 by Gideon Darc, who sold naval and artillery shot during the War of 1812 (some say to both sides...) thereby making his fortune. The place has been abused, neglected and even struck by lightning and set aflame, but still stands as the pulverised human bone has been mixed into the mortar.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • JSTOR has an article on European legends of bodies buried under buildings and the Irish practice of putting horse skulls under buildings.
  • Research has proven that blood really does make good mortar. Specifically, it makes cement stronger and lighter. (United States Patent 4203674).
  • There are several Greek folk tales from the Byzantine and Ottoman period about grand constructions such as bridges that needed a Human Sacrifice (typically female) to stand. The most famous of those stories is the bridge of Arta, where the chief carpenter had to build his wife in the bridge so it wouldn't collapse. In some of these stories, the women would unleash a Dying Curse on the bridge. There's also a tradition stemming from these stories to sacrifice a goat or a chicken when first stepping in a new house for good fortune.
  • An urban legend about Hoover Dam claims that some of the 96 people who died during its construction wound up paved over into the dam. In reality, human flesh makes for a far weaker construction material than concrete, and the manner in which the dam was constructed would have made it impossible for a hapless construction worker to drown in wet concrete.
  • There is a similar urban legend about the Sydney Harbor Bridge containing the bodies of workers who died during construction.
  • There are cathedrals that have their walls covered entirely in human bones. They aren't literally made out of the bone though, the bones are simply inserted into the plaster. The reason for this, is that the churches ran out of space in their crypts. Putting the bones into the walls of the church was considered a respectful way of reburying those who had to be exumed so that new corpses could be buried. Still creepy though.
  • Because of its protein content, blood is a surprisingly good substitute for eggs in a variety of recipes—it acts the same ways that eggs do in contributing to the texture of cakes, breads, soufflés, etc. So the next time Christmas rolls around, be sure to celebrate with a delicious cup of bloodnog!

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