The Posing Dead: Funeral Homes Arrange Deceased In Elaborate Scenes

Insert your favorite "thinking outside the box" pun here

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APThe body of boxer Christopher Rivera is propped up on a staged boxing ring during his wake in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


A New Orleans funeral home is at the forefront of a macabre trend in which families have their deceased loved ones propped up and arranged in elaborate, diorama-like scenes, but not everyone is taking their unusual practices sitting (or lying) down.

According to the New York Times, the phone at the Charbonnet-Labat Funeral Home has been ringing off the hook ever since its June 12 viewing for Miriam Burbank, whose body was posed sitting at a kitchen table, smoking a menthol cigarette and reaching for a can of Busch beer.

It was the second service of its kind conducted by funeral director Louis Charbonnet, whose 132-year-old mortuary, known around town for "its ability to put the 'fun' in funeral," has also hosted mariachi bands and even parades. The first viewing, for a brass band leader in 2012, found the deceased standing with his hands curled over his walking cane, wearing a jauntily tilted derby.

But as with any trend, not everyone approves of what Charbonnet has said is only his attempt to honor his clients' wishes (he also said that he's received approval for his services from a local priest). His "haters," as he described them, have called out his viewings as potentially sacrilegious, an opinion shared by Charbonnet's wife.

Still, as he's quick to point out, Charbonnet is far from the first mortician to offer services of this kind. Similar viewings, known as "muerto parao" ("dead man standing"), have been popular in Puerto Rico since 2008: murder victims posed ridings motorcycles, elderly women sitting in rocking chairs, even a man dressed as Che Guevara, cigar and all.

> What it's like to be an undertaker

"It's been a real boom in Puerto Rico," Elsie Rodríguez, vice president of the Marín Funeral Home in San Juan, told the Times. "People have requested every type of funeral that could possibly come to mind. We have only done six so far, because the people who have requested the funerals have not died yet."

Rodríguez says that the idea came from Angel Luis Pantojas, whose viewing, which had him tethered and standing in his family's living room, was the first of its kind at Marín. Ever since attending his father's funeral at age six, Rodríguez said, Pantojas had told relatives that he wanted to be viewed on his feet.

"This is not a fun or funny event; the family is going through a lot of pain," Rodríguez continued. With these kinds of arrangements, "the family literally suffers less, because they see their loved one in a way that would have made them happy - they see them in a way in which they still look alive."

Attributing critics of her practices to "professional jealousy," Rodríguez still has her limits, refusing suggestions she finds distasteful - she will never pose someone in a swimsuit, for instance.

While "dead man standing" hasn't yet reached the same level of popularity in the United States, Charbonnet's funeral home in New Orleans isn't the only place taking notes. Earlier this year, a dead biker in Mechanicsburg, Ohio was buried atop his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, while another New Orleans funeral for a local socialite found her sitting on a bench, greeting guests of her own service.

"What my mother said to me some years ago was, 'I want to be at my own funeral having a glass of Champagne in one hand and a cigarette in the other,'" said the deceased woman's daughter. She got her wish.

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silky0342

This is not new, they have been doing this for years in Ireland and other parts of the world. In Ireland they hold wakes where the person may be sitting in a chair or standing up in a corner holding a glass of their favorite drink like whiskey and people come in and have a toast to their passing a celebration of their life.

July 01 2014 at 4:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
loannew

It is no different than Victorian mourning photos.

June 24 2014 at 3:55 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
prescottvalley6

This reminds me of the movie (Weekend At Berneys ) He had a great time lol

June 24 2014 at 2:37 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
silverfawn

Reminds me exactly of an old Twilight Zone episode where astronauts land on a planet where dead people were elaborately posed everywhere, "living" out their fondest fantasies. It was called "Elegy" and very, very creepy.

June 24 2014 at 2:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to silverfawn's comment
GoldLions

Totally creepy, wouldn't want to be remembered this way. "Sleeping" in the box IMO is more "realistic".

July 10 2014 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mark and sheri

Cremation simplifies everything. Then your ashes can be made into a vase, or a plate. Your descendants can use you for years.

June 24 2014 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
n2344

I think its great. The last memory is not lying in a coffin. Its a memory of going out the way u lived. Also its not as creepy for littler ones.

June 24 2014 at 1:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Annika

I think the idea is nice, especially if it's a peaceful scene like someone sitting in a rocking chair or at a table. Personally, I'd like to sit in an armchair, feet propped up, next to a fireplace and reading a book. A nice cup of tea and some cookies on a plate on a table would be a nice added touch. I don't think anyone could get very sad at the sight of that.

June 24 2014 at 1:30 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
sacibee

Too creepy for me. It's like going to a wax museum. Hate those too.

June 24 2014 at 1:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Sarah

I think we get all too upset over death. It's a natural part of the process, similar to going from an infant to a toddler to a child, preteen, teen, adult, etc. It's simply the next step. Our bodies are merely shells which house our "life essence" for a period of time. When that time is up, people apy BIG MONEY for a mortician to take the now-useless shell, embalm it, dress it up, put make-up on it, fix the hair and lay it out in an expensive "box" so everybody can walk past them and have a last look. Personally, I think that's extremely "unnatural". My family knows I feel very strongly against spending a lot of money dealing with my remains when it's my time to "go"...but if staging some scene using my body as a prop makes things easier, then STAGE AWAY!

June 24 2014 at 12:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hattie54

Love it!!!! Those folks are looking down and are real happy!!!!

June 24 2014 at 12:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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