Tag Archives: Death


A5The term “serial killer” makes us think of hi-profile monsters like Ted Bundy, who beat and strangled his victims, or the Zodiac Killer, who shot most with a gun. There’s Clifford Olson who used a hammer. Jack The Ripper who liked his knife. And Willie Pickton who drugged his ladies, cut them apart with an electric Sawzall, then fed their pieces to his pigs.

By nature, serial killers follow a specific Modus Operandi—an M.O. peculiar to their wares. Some strangle, some shoot, some smash, and some slash. But the most unique and unsuspecting method of serial killing I’ve heard of came from Gilbert Paul Jordan, aka the “Boozing Barber”, who got his victims comatose drunk then finished them off by pouring straight vodka down their throats. He intentionally alcohol-poisoned at least nine women—possibly dozens more.


Gilbert Jordan was a monster from the 1980’s operating in the Down Town East Side of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Today, the skid row DTES of Vancouver is still one of the most dangerous, crime and drug-ridden inner cities of the world. In the DTES, the most popular drug of choice is still alcohol—ethanol as it’s known in the coroner and toxicologist world.

A6Jordan was born in 1931 and started a crime career in his twenties by kidnapping and raping a five-year-old aboriginal girl. He beat the charges and went on to commit more sexual assaults including abducting a woman from a mental institute and raping her, too. Jordan bounced in and out of jail. He continued to prey on the helpless and downtrodden, especially alcoholic women from the First Nations culture. Gilbert Jordan, himself, became a raging alcoholic and consumed over fifty ounces of vodka per day.

Jordan learned barbering skills while in prison. Between jail sentences, he set up a barber shop on East Hastings Street in the heart of Vancouver’s DTES, being a regular fixture in the seedy bar scene. He blended easily and was not at all intimidating—short, stocky, balding, with thick glasses.

Jordan was a well-known mark for buying vulnerable aboriginal women drinks and he’d take them from the bars to his barber shop or a room which he kept in a derelict hotel. Here they’d party till they passed out. It’s estimated that hundreds of women binge drank with Jordan during his spree from 1980 to 1987.

Overdose deaths in the DTES were common.

A7The majority were intravenous drug users, many having a lethal toxin level amplified with mixed use of ethanol. It’s still that way today. But overdose deaths from ethanol consumption alone are rare. Usually, heavy drinkers reach a blood-ethanol limit where they pass out—long before ethanol effects shut down their central nervous system. The few deaths from ethanol alone are almost always caused by an unconscious victim aspirating on vomit—not from reaching a lethal blood-ethanol-content. A BEC of 0.35% (35mg of ethanol per 100 milliliters of blood) is considered the start of the lethal range. Note that 0.08% is the standard for drunk driving.

During Jordan’s run, there were increasingly suspicious amounts of aboriginal women deaths from shockingly high BEC. They included:

  1. Ivy Rose — 0.51
  2. Mary Johnson — 0.44
  3. Barbara Paul — 0.47
  4. Mary Johns — 0.76
  5. Patricia Thomas — 0.51
  6. Patricia Andrew — 0.79
  7. Vera Harry — 0.49
  8. Vanessa Buckner — 0.50
  9. Edna Slade — 0.55

A8When Edna Slade was found dead in Gilbert Jordan’s hotel room, and it became apparent Jordan was the common denominator in many similar deaths, Vancouver Police put Jordan under surveillance. From October 12th to November 26th, 1987, VPD observed Jordan “search out native Indian women in the skid row area of Vancouver and take them back to his hotel room for binge-drinking”.

VPD officers listened from outside Jordan’s door and recorded him saying phrases like “Have a drink. Down the hatch, baby. Twenty bucks if you drink it right down. See if you’re a real woman. Finish that drink. Down the hatch, hurry, right down. You need another drink. I’ll give you fifty bucks if you can take it right down. I’ll give you ten, twenty, fifty dollars. Whatever you want. Come on, I want to see you get it all down. Get it right down.

On four occasions during the surveillance, police intervened and remove the comatose victims to the hospital.

A9Gilbert Jordan was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Vanessa Buckner. The prosecution used similar fact evidence from the other eight identified deaths. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. This was reduced to nine years on appeal and he served only six. When Jordan was paroled in 1994, he went right back to the business of stalking alcoholic aboriginal women. He was being watched by VPD and immediately sent back to prison for parole violation and an additional sexual assault. He served out his sentenced but was released in 2000, again returning to a life of chronic alcoholism and serial predation.

Gilbert Jordan, the Boozing Barber, died of the disease called alcoholism in 2006.

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Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, has been used by humans for thousands of years for its relaxation effect of euphoria and lowering social inhibitions. Drinking ethanol is widely accepted around the western world and is an enormous economic force.

A12Ethanol abuse is a contributing factor in untold tragedies.

Despite ethanol’s popularity as a social interactor, the medical pathophysiology considers any amount of BEC to be clinically poisonous. Ethanol is metabolized by the liver at a rate of about 50 ml (1.7 fluid ounce) per 90 minutes. That’s like two beers or one 9-ounce glass of wine every hour and a half. Drink more than you can absorb and you’ll get drunk. Wake up still drunk and you’re hung-over.

A13The acute effects of an ethanol overdose vary according to many factors. The body mass and tolerance to the drug are primary as is the rate of consumption. Ultimately, acute ethanol poisoning depresses the body’s central nervous system, causing the respiratory system to shut down and the victim asphyxiates.

These are the average symptomatic presentations of ethanol poisoning in relation to BEC:

  • 02 – 0.07% — Intoxication and euphoria
  • 08 – 0.19% — Ataxia (loss of body control ), poor judgment, labile mood
  • 20 – 0.29% — Advanced ataxia, extremely poor judgment, nausea
  • 30 – 0.35% — Stage 1 anesthesia, memory collapse
  • 35 – 0.39% — Comatose
  • 40 +             — Respiratory failure, sudden death

A14In my time as a police officerthen as a coronerI attended lots of deaths where ethanol was a contributing factor. Very few were acute ethanol poisoning deaths, though. Many were mixed drug overdoses, especially mixing booze with prescription pills. Then there were suffocating on puke cases, suicides while pissed, fatal motor vehicle crashes driven by drunks, and violent homicides done during ethanol-fueled anger and inebriation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not slamming the social use of ethanol. I’ve been around the booze scene my whole life and still enjoy decent wine and good scotch, although I’ve never had a taste for beer.

A15I grew up in a socio-economic environment where rampant alcoholism was common. It was accepted. Grant RobertsonI worked with Grant in my teensGrant was proud of his breathalyzer certificate proving he was caught behind the wheel at a 0.44% BEC. True story. I saw the paper. Grant was a die-hard—a chronic alcoholic with forty years of practice. I don’t think Grant ever went below two-five.

As a young cop, I brought an old guy in for a blow. I couldn’t tell if he was drunk but he’d caused a minor car accident and slightly smelled of liquor. Legally, I had to demand a breathalyzer test. He pushed the needle to a 0.36% and I’ll never forget the breathalyzer operator’s remark “You’re no stranger to alcohol, are you?

People have different tolerances to ethanol. And different physiological responses.

A16I’ve worked with cops who were drunk on duty, seen judges half-cut on the bench, had my pilot pass out before time to depart, and I’ve woken in places unknown. I’ve had countless laughs, spent way too much money on time pissed away, and have stories from nights in the bars.

But I still can’t get clipped in my buddy Dave’s chair without thinking of Gilbert Paul Jordan, the “Boozing Barber” Serial Killer of the Down Town East Side of Vancouver.


A14The word “mummy” conjures images of ragged-wrapped, stretch-armed, walking dreads of the dead—frenzied figures from Hollywood’s hideous horror. Like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the hairy old Wolfman, mummies were classic fictional frights. But, in reality, mummies are tangible ghosts. They’re bodies that stick aroundlong after death—and they’re still here, fascinating us with mystical gore.

Mummification is the process of stopping your body’s natural decomposition after death. Nature built a recycling system into all of us including your cat, your dog, crocodile, cobra, monkey, macaw, and your pet parrot—all have been made into mummies.

A10Where did this preservation process originate? How does it work? Is mummification still done today?

Or is the art of making everlasting mummies lost forever?

The English word “mummy” originated from the Latin term “mumia and the Arabic term “mumiya which meant a preserved corpse. The Old English Dictionary defined mummy as “A human or animal body embalmed (according to the ancient Egyptian or some analogous method) as a preparation for burial”.

Chamber’s Cyclopedia goes a step further. “A human or animal body desiccated by exposure to sun or air. Also applied to the frozen carcass of a human or animal embedded in prehistoric ice or snow”.

Scientifically, a mummy is simply a being who’s soft tissue has been long preserved after death. Normally when a person dies, the process of decomposition sets in immediately and is divided into two actions.

A18The first is autolysis which is the body’s enzymes beginning to digest themselves. This is followed by putrefaction which is the bacterial breakdown of organic matter.

The rate and manner of decomposition is dependent on many factors. Mainly it’s the surrounding environment’s elements of heat or cold, humidity, exposure to air, and the physical makeup of the body itself. Large, fat corpses in a hot humid location will rot much faster than a small, skinny one in a cool dry setting.

Mummies are classified into two groups.

A19One is termed anthropogenic which means it’s intentionally preserved or manmade. The other is termed spontaneous. These mummies naturally occur due to death taking place in a suitable environment like a hot dry desert, a cold icy glacier, or the oxygen depleted, anaerobic depths of a peat bog.

The anthropogenic mummification process has been around 10,000 years and evolved through centuries of experimentation. Plus a lot of trial and error.

A21The earliest human mummies are found in South America and are more like hybrid corpse-statues than the fully preserved, full sized cadavers of the Egyptians. The Chinchorros of Chile disarticulated the bodies, sun-dried the sections, then sewed them together with sinew, sticks, and straw. It seems they were kept in their houses for the sake of the family rather than the deceased.

Man-made mummies have been found on every continent of human habitation. They’re common to China, Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, and North America, but mostly attributed to suitable sub-climates, including the islands of Papua New Guinea where they practiced shrinking heads.

The most famous mummies were made by ancient Egyptians.


Anthropogenic preservation has been recorded in Egypt since 3500 BC as their culture’s belief in the afterlife evolved. The early residents of the Upper Nile buried their dead in the hot, dry sand and made the remarkable observation that this preserved bodies in a permanent state.

This led to their profound conclusion that since the body remained intact, therefore the soul must remain intact after death as well.

A23Ancient Egyptians saw a connection between the preservation of body and wellness of the soul in the afterlife. They believed if a body was well-prepared for eternity then so would the soul. Progressively, this led to advanced preservation techniques. Fortunately, it was clearly recorded.

Two sources exist that describe the mummification process Egyptians perfected. One surviving papyri translated as The Ritual Of The Embalming.  It describes more of the ceremonial practices than the practical. Herodotus’ Histories, however, left us with an intricate manual of exactly how human mummification was done at the height of the craft—the New Kingdom’s 18th through 20th dynasties in the period of 1570 to 1075 BC when the world’s outstanding mummies were made.

The instructions go like this:

Step One: Organ Removal

A24First, make a small incision approximately 4 inches long on the left side of the abdomen. Then remove most of the organs through this small opening, cutting them away one by one. The exception is the heart. Leave the heart intact because it’s the seat of intelligence and needs a last judgement before the soul enters the next life.

The intestines, stomach, liver, and lungs are also regarded as an essential requirement for the body in the afterlife. So, after their removal, preserve each separately inside a canopic jar. Each jar is protected by its own god whose head is represented on the jar lid.

Brains used to be removed through the nose using a metal implement, however our best Egyptian mummies now have their brains left in place. As in life, the brain does not seem to have any use after death, so ignore it and leave the brain to dry in place.

Step Two: Sterilizing and Packing the Body

A25Wash out the empty body cavity with palm wine. It is alcohol and acts as a sterilizing agent. Next, mix the palm wine with pine resin. This is an antibacterial agent.

Again, following ancient methods, pack small linen bags containing crushed spices, myrrh and sawdust inside the body to maintain its form. Stitch the abdomen up and seal it with hot beeswax.

Step Three: The Protective Coating

Blend together specific quantities of plant oil, pine resin, spices, and beeswax. Brush this mixture over the entire surface of the body to create an even layer.  Leave this outer coating to set.

Step Four: The Natron Solution

A26Now treat the body with the Egyptian salt called ‘natron’. It’s made of four constituent parts; sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, and sodium sulphate. If Egyptian natron is not readily available, carefully measure each of these components to recreate the naturally occurring natron. Pour the blended salts into deionised water to create a solution of optimum concentration.

Also, place the intestines, stomach, liver, and lung in the same natron solution, within their individual containers.

Leave the body and organs in this solution for exactly 70 days to allow the necessary chemical changes to occur. As water is drawn out of the body through the process of osmosis, the natron salts diffuse into the body’s soft tissue and the carbonates combine with the fats, turning them into a stable form more resistant to the process of decay.

Step Five: Wrapping and Drying

A27Remove the body from the natron solution and dry it out for two weeks in a sealed unit, set to a specific combination of low humidity and warm temperature of the Egyptian summer environment.

Begin the long process of wrapping, using strips of linen cut to varying dimensions to fit different parts of the body. Seal each layer with melted pine resin and beeswax.

Remove the intestines, stomach, liver, and lungs from the natron solution. Dry, wrap, and place in their separate containers. Then place the wrapped body and organs back in the sealed unit and leave to dry for a further six weeks.

Finally, set the mummified body into a fitted sarcophagus, seal it with resin and beeswax, then set the sarcophagus in a tomb and leave it there for eternity.


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A29In modern time, entire industries grew from public fascination around mummies. Beyond Hollywood movies and museum displays, mummies were considered medicinal magic. Ground mummy powder was sold for intestinal ailments, infertility, and internal bleeding control. A whole side-show industry offered mummification services to gullible people wanting their bodies preserved forever. Their makeshift mummies were hastily rushed, leaving their conned corpses sealed in ornate tombs and rotting away, with customers none the wiser.

Mummification morphed into modern times. Famous folks like Vladimir Lenin were stuffed and put on display in the Kremlin. Popes were preserved. So were saints and some scientists like Gottfried Knoche who was the inventor of embalming fluid. Evan Peron was encased in wax. Her life-like appearance led to the technology of plastination where water and fat are replaced by polymers that retain microscopic tissue properties. They don’t stink and are great for Body World’s traveling displays.

China Mummified MonkLittle known to the western world is the ancient Buddhist monk practice of Sokushinbutsu. There are shadowy accounts of monks who were able to consciously mortify their flesh to death. It’s claimed Mahayana monks knew their time of death and prepared their bodies for preservation through a sparse diet of salt, nuts, seeds, roots, pine bark, and urushi tea. Their remains were set in the lotus position and sealed in a drying vat for three years…. their mummified bodies then adorned with gold… and put in a shrine on display.

Sounds way over the top?

Well, I found this article from a Chinese website. It was published this month and proves the art of mummy making is anything but lost.

China Mummified MonkBEIJING — A revered Buddhist monk in China has been mummified and covered in gold leaf, a practice reserved for holy men in some areas with strong Buddhist traditions. The monk, Fu Hou, died in 2012 at age 94 after spending most of his life at the Chongfu Temple on a hill in the city of Quanzhou, in southeastern China, according to the temple’s abbot, Li Ren. The temple decided to mummify Fu Hou to commemorate his devotion to Buddhism — he started practicing at age 17 — and to serve as an inspiration for followers of the religion that was brought from the Indian subcontinent roughly 2,000 years ago.
China Mummified MonkImmediately following his death, the monk’s body was washed, treated by two mummification experts, and sealed inside a large pottery jar in a sitting position, the abbot said. When the jar was opened three years later, the monk’s body was found intact and sitting upright with little sign of deterioration apart from the skin having dried out, Li Ren said. The body was then washed with alcohol and covered with layers of gauze, lacquer and finally gold leaf.
China Mummified MonkIt was also robed, and a local media report said a glass case had been ordered for the statue, which will be protected with an anti-theft device. The local Buddhist belief is that only a truly virtuous monk’s body would remain intact after being mummified, local media reports said. “Monk Fu Hou is now being placed on the mountain for people to worship,” Li Ren said.

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In my humble opinion… making mummies is far from a lost art. Monk Fu Hou is a phenomenal piece. He’s a guilded master of permanent human preservation and solid sample of scientific mummification.

I’d like to wake him and hear his views.

In this photo taken April 16, 2016, abbot Zhen Yu places a robe on the mummified body of revered Buddhist monk Fu Hou in Quanzhou city in southeastern China's Fujian province. The monk, who died in 2012 at the age of 94, was prepared for mummification by his temple to commemorate his devotion to Buddhism. The mummifed remains were then treated and covered in gold leaf, a practice reserved for holy men in some areas with strong Buddhist traditions. (Chinatopix via AP) CHINA OUT ORG XMIT: XHG805

In this photo taken April 16, 2016, abbot Zhen Yu places a robe on the mummified body of revered Buddhist monk Fu Hou in Quanzhou city in southeastern China’s Fujian province. The monk, who died in 2012 at the age of 94, was prepared for mummification by his temple to commemorate his devotion to Buddhism. The mummifed remains were then treated and covered in gold leaf, a practice reserved for holy men in some areas with strong Buddhist traditions. (Chinatopix via AP) CHINA OUT ORG XMIT: XHG805


A19According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, the worldwide human death rate averages nearly 8 per 1,000 in population. With over six billion people on the planet, that’s about 55.3 million deaths per year — 151,600 a day, 6,316 an hour, 105 a minute, and nearly 2 per second. That’s a lot of bodies to dump.

Conventional cemetery burial and fossil-fuel cremation are the two main means of corpse disposal but both have drawbacks by way of cost, use of natural resources, and effects on the environment. Today, many people are looking for alternate solutions in sending-off their dearly departed.

Here are eight other effective ways to dispose of a body.

A231. Promession is the process of freeze-dying human remains. Whereas cremation incinerates a body resulting in ash (ashes to ashes—dust to dust, as the saying goes), promession produces .04 inch (1 millimeter) diameter particles of organic material that can be returned to the earth in many ways.

The process is relatively simple… and gentle.

A24First, the corpse is frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 Celcius) and then placed in a vat of liquid nitrogen where the temperature drops to -320 Fahrenheit (-196 Celcius). A mechanical device vibrates the body which disintegrates in minutes, then the material is freeze-dried in a vacuum chamber, removing the water and reducing the weight to thirty percent of the original mass. Metals such as fillings and artificial devices are picked-out then the dry powder is placed in an urn and returned to the family.

2. Biodegradable caskets and burial shrouds are replacing exotic wood and metal coffins which used to be buried six feet underground in crowded, designated cemeteries. The thinking was to preserve the body as long as possible and delay the natural decomposition process.


Today, innovative interment containers made of wicker, bamboo, seagrass, cotton, or banana leaves break down quickly when laid in the earth’s organic layer which averages two feet in depth.

A73. Green or woodland burials are becoming popular throughout North America where land space in rural areas is still readily available. Recognizing that a human body is designed to naturally recycle in the earth after death, families choosing green burials have their member return to the earth.

Green burial spaces respect the natural environment by encouraging grass and tree growth which are fertilized by organic compounds in human bodies. Gravesites are marked through GPS coordinates rather than by headstones.

4. Eternal Reefs combine a cremation urn, ash scattering, and burial at sea into one meaningful, permanent environmental tribute to life.

A3Reef balls have been used for years. There are over 700,000 reef balls used in more than 4,000 projects in over 70 countries and are considered the gold standard in artificial reef development and restoration—particularly in building coral reefs.

Brilliantly designed, the balls are made of Ph-neutral concrete and are round, hollow, and perforated to allow the flow of water and population by marine life. Eighty percent of the weight is built into the bottom of the balls preventing them from being washed away by currents or storms.

A26Human remains, whether diminished by cremation or promession, can be mixed with the concrete or set in individual pockets built into the reef ball. Creating a healthy and sustainable marine environment is a wonderful tribute to a passed friend.

4. Green Embalming replaces the toxic, carcinogenic method of using formaldehyde fluids in preserving a cadaver whether the purpose is to make viewing presentable or long distance shipping possible.

A27For thousands of years, civilizations have been using organic compounds in their mortuaries. They include essential oils like pine, juniper, onion, and palm, as well as resins like lichen, oloeo-gum, beeswax, cassia, bitumen, and myrrh. Frankincense was used to mask odors and bodies were washed in wine.

These naturally occurring precursor agents are non-polluting and environmentally stable, unlike the chemicals found in traditional embalming fluid. While initially retarding a body’s breakdown, the effects quickly wear off and allow decomposition to proceed, which is what mother nature intended.

A105. Bios Urns allow someone become a tree. This patented product is essentially a cone or a sphere which contains soil, the deceased’s ashes, and a seed. The urn itself is biodegradable so you just plant the entire container, water it, and watch a sapling tree sprout from what used to be a relative.

The Bios Urns website offers a choice of plantings including maple, pine, gingko, beech, or ash as well as providing for custom orders. There’s also an app which alerts your smart phone of a need for hydration or an automatic watering system can also be bought.

A86. Donating a body to medical science has been an option available for years and it’s always in demand. Anatomical students need actual human cadavers for study and dissection and it’s an honorable use of deceased remains to provide schooling for the next generation of doctors and researchers.

Although there’ve been huge technological advancements in anatomical models and computer generated simulators, there’s nothing quite like the real thing for practicing professionals.

A207. Donating a body to forensic science is another option and something relatively new. Since the success of The Body Farm, which was pioneered by Dr. Bill Bass of the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility near Knoxville, six more farms were developed to study the decomposition process of human remains to aid in the forensic investigation of human deaths.

These farms accept over one hundred bodies per year and currently have in excess of thirteen hundred registered donors—when their time comes.

8. Human composting is a concept that’s proposed but not yet in operation. Architect Katrina Spade’s Urban Death Project is a dignified way to turn remains into nutritive compost as quickly as possible.


The Urban Death Project is more than just a compost-based renewal system. It’s a new model for death care in overcrowded cities and is replicable, scalable, not-for-profit, and totally beneficial to the planet.

A25In a bold departure to the status quo—never before have humans been composted—the Urban Death Project will be an architectural first that’s built as a three-storey compost core. Ramps will allow a funeral procession to carry a shrouded deceased to the top of the bin and conduct a service before “laying-in”.

The body is not embalmed as fast decomposition is essential to the process. Over the span of a few months, aerobic and microbial activity transforms the deceased—along with others—into a rich, organic compost that can be used to fertilize urban spaces such as rooftop edible gardens.

A17The Urban Death Project is working with Western Carolina University’s Forensic Osteology Research Station (FOREST) in studying the human composting process to develop a safe, effective, and dignified way of caring for the deceased. Osteology is a specialized branch of anthropology that deals with studying bone structure.

The organization aims to “fundamentally alter the way that Western Society thinks about death. The goal is to un-do the over-commercialization and needless distance currently created between ourselves and this inevitable human event”.

The first human composting facility is being planned for the city of Seattle in Washington State. Check out their website at www.urbandeathproject.org.