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Links:
Death To Dust: What Happens To Dead Bodies? Death To Dust: What Happens To Dead Bodies?
Death Investigation: The Basics Death Investigation: The Basics

"The Worm Song"

From: Iserson KV: Death To Dust: What Happens To Dead Bodies? Second Edition
Galen Press, Ltd. Tucson, AZ, 2001, 821 pages.


In bodies left unprotected from the elements, "worms" will indeed make their grand appearance and help nature return them to dust. The "worms," however, are normally maggots, and rather than "crawling in," they arrive airmail. Forensic entomologists now use insect evidence to determine the time of death and to help identify murderers.
Maggots were once thought to be a type of worm, and many writers throughout the ages commented on the effect of "worms" on the corpse. (See Chapter 14, Say It Gently.) Shakespeare, among others, described man simply as "worms' meat." Similarly; the Book of Job (24:20) records that "The worms shall feed sweetly on him." The best known description of these "worms," however, was first penned in 1795 by M.G. Lewis, who wrote, "The worms they crept in, and the worms they crept out, And I sported his eyes and his temples about." This was modernized by British soldiers during the Crimean War (1854-1856) and by unknown multitudes thereafter, so that one twentieth-century version of the song goes:

Did you ever think when a hearse goes by,
That you may be the next to die?

They take you out to the family plot,
And there you wither, decay and rot.

They wrap you up in a bloody sheet,
And then they bury you six-feet deep.

And all goes well for a week or two,
And then things start to happen to you.

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The ants play pinochle on your snout!

One of the worms that's not so shy,
Crawls in one ear and out one eye.

They call their friends and their friends' friends too,
They'll make a horrid mess of you!

And then your blood turns yellow-green,
And oozes out like whipping cream. [Spoken] Darn, me without a spoon!

Your eyes fall in, your teeth fall out,
Your liver turns to sauerkraut.

So never laugh when a hearse goes by,
For you may be the next to die.


Copyright 2001-2013 Galen Press, Ltd.