Contrary to what these photographs might lead you to believe, the people in them are dead; they represent a special kind of funerary service that involves anything but laying down. Instead, the deceased are posed doing things that you’d see them doing while they were alive. Miriam Burbank is seen with a can of Busch beer and menthol cigarette between her fingers, while the body of Christopher Rivera is propped up in a faux boxing ring.
These strange and creepy displays aren’t anything new, although they are unusual. The phenomenon first appeared as early as the 1984 funeral of Willie Stokes Jr., a Chicago gambler known as the Wimp. He sat through his services behind the wheel of a coffin made to look like a Cadillac Seville. And even earlier than that are the post-mortem photographs of the Victorian era, where the recently deceased were captured while sitting in their finest clothing. While it’s not a funeral, they show how throughout time, we’re trying to remember those passed for how they lived.
Elsie Rodríguez, vice president of the funeral home that organized Rivera’s service, explains some of benefits of these situations, telling the New York Times, “This is not a fun or funny event; the family is going through a lot of pain. 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.” (Via The New York Times)