Monday, December 01, 2008

History Channel Airs "Corpse Tech"

On Friday, November 28, 2008, from 7 to 8 pm, The History Channel aired a Modern Marvels episode entitled "Corpse Tech" (2008, 50 mins.) that featured Dauphin County (PA) Coroner Graham Hetrick and Funeral Director Nathan A. Bitner, both of Harrisburg, PA.

Celebrating ingenuity, invention and imagination brought to life on a grand scale, MODERN MARVELS® tells the fascinating stories of the doers, dreamers and sometime-schemers who created everyday items, technological breakthroughs and man-made wonders.

It may seem grisly or macabre, but a human's body remains useful long after the person who lived in it has passed away. From forensic investigations to medical experimentation to organ and tissue transplantation, every cadaver has a purpose.

In CORPSE TECH, MODERN MARVELS tours the boneyard to discover just how our remains are put to use.

Meet a County Coroner and visit the University of Tennessee's famous Body Farm to see how dead bodies contribute to criminology. And tour a morgue, a crematorium, and one of the largest tissue banks in the United States to discover the multitudinous fates awaiting our earthly vessels.

So, whether saving a life, catching a crook, or memorializing the departed, CORPSE TECH will show you how the job gets done.
The nationwide television appearance of Graham Hetrick and Nathan Bitner --both of whom I've known here in Harrisburg for awhile -- came as a surprise to me when I viewed the new episode.

However, their appearance had been noted in advance in a Press Release issued by Dauphin County, PA, dated July 23, 2008, entitled "Dauphin County Coroner to Appear on TV Show" (which only mentioned it in the title).

Graham noted the significance of death as an emotional and spiritual event that holds the deepest meaning. Nathan explained (and demonstrated) how rendering a corpse in a presentable way can allow for some closure in the grieving process.

The documentary was upbeat, detailed, and antiseptic in exploring the technological, business, and environmental aspects of its offbeat, but common, topic -- disposal of human remains by burial or cremation.

This episode is one of a few produced by The History Channel about death, which include:

  • Crypts, Coffins and Corpses -- "From the Ganges River to a college of Mortuary Science, this is a comprehensive look at how mankind has dealt with the dead throughout the ages."
  • Rites of Death -- "How does belief in an afterlife affect rituals which give meaning to the greatest and most terrifying of mysteries: death?"
  • Business of Death -- "Go inside the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, where they believe in hands-on training."
  • Cemeteries -- "Industry insiders offer a behind-the-scenes look at the $20 billion American funerary business. It's the one journey we all make."

  • Beyond Death -- "Mainstream researchers, mediums and those who have had near-death experiences help explore the eternal mystery of what awaits us when we die."
That last episode leads to the topic presented in A&E/History Channel's Paranormal State: Cemetery, which featured Pennsylvania State University students in their club affiliated with the Paranormal Research Society:
Other students at Penn State University join clubs to play chess, speak French or go camping.

But a special few share an interest that goes far beyond this plane of existence. They are The Paranormal Research Society (PRS).

Under the leadership of club founder and director Ryan Buell, the intrepid team sets out each week to discover the truth behind terrifying real life mysteries, hauntings and ghosts. * * *
If you are interested in their investigation at cemeteries, this is what that episode covered:

Spend some quality time among the gravestones with Ryan and the rest of the PRS crew as they track a disturbing force to a mysterious, unclaimed cremation urn.

  • Forget the Ghostbusters! Call the Paranormal Research Society!
  • PRS investigates cases submitted by ordinary people suffering hauntings and other phenomena.
  • A gothic graveyard is a suitably creepy setting for PRS' latest investigation.
I know, I know . . . you'd rather watch Modern Marvels: Corpse Tech, like I did.

Well, I have some bad news, straight from The History Channel's website: "There are no upcoming airings within the next two weeks.