There’s bizarre, there’s deranged, there’s frothing at the mouth, bug-eyed lunacy, and then there’s the practice of digging up corpses and marrying them, also know as ghost marriages — something which is apparently on the rise in China.
Grabbing a trusty pick and shovel and setting out to dig up your decaying bride to be from the cold unyielding earth is not something even the master of the macabre, Edgar Allen Poe, would have considered to be the done thing.
Yet in mediavel China it was all the rage to marry a woman who was cold, rigid, riddled with worms, and softly decaying.
When Chairman Mao came to power in 1949, he decided such a custom wasn’t appropriate and banned the practice of marrying the dead.
Fast forward six decades or so, and it would appear the not so much gothic, but decomposing look is all the rage again, and police in China believe at least three dozen bodies have been dug up, given a new frock, a splash of make-up, and liberally doused with some strong perfume before being married off.
Before we venture any further beyond the grave into this dark and hellish tale, it should be stressed that the corpse brides are not being married to actual living people but to bachelors who were buried before they could tie the knot.
Still, the practice of ghost marriages remains freaky with a capital “F,” especially because a big business has been built up around snatching corpse brides from their grave.
These gone to seed ladies can fetch thousands of dollars from families who want to see their dead sons married.
The Mirror reports that in parts of China it is an ancient superstition that if a man dies before he finds a bride, he will experience nothing but bad luck in the next life. You would possibly think that being dead is as bad as it gets, but some believe that being a dead bachelor is even worse.
To help their dearly departed out, families are paying people to find corpse brides for ghost marriages to take place.
Once unearthed the corpse brides are reinforced with metal wires, before the ghost marriage take place and they are buried next to the expectant groom.
Ghost marriages are no laughing matter, however. In Southern Shanxi’s Hongtong County at least three dozen bodies have been reported stolen in the past three years according to Lin Xu, deputy director of the county police department.
The cynical grave robbing has left distraught families trying to track down their dead relatives,
Guo Qiwen’s mother was stolen last March, and he is still frantically searching for her.
“I have spent more than 50,000 yuan (£5,425) looking for her remains. It kills my heart not having her back.”
Such is the growing rise in ghost marriages, Chang Sixin, deputy director of the China Folk Literature and Art Association, explained that there are even matchmaking agents and companies who hook up dead bachelors with the corpses of women.
In 2011, a man was arrested for murdering his wife and then trying to make a profit out of her body as a corpse bride.
In 2015, three men were arrested for attempting to sell bodies for more than £25,000.
Jing Gouzi, purchased a corpse to bury next to his single older brother and justified his actions by telling Xinhua News Agency, “I thought of using a woman made of dough, but the old men in our village insisted only real bodies could prevent misfortune.”
Affluent families in China have reinforced tombs with steel and installed CCTV cameras to watch over graves in a bid to prevent ghost marriages taking place, but corpse theft remains a difficult crime to investigate because it is hard to unearth any evidence.