Cremation Facts: The Basics and a Little More

We know – you’re up at night thinking, “I wonder what’s up with cremation? How do they DO that?” OK, well maybe cremation isn’t something that keeps you up at night, but there are some facts about the cremation and funeral industry that can prop your eyes wide open (no matter WHAT time of day!).


Interesting Facts About Cremation: Did You Know…

  • Cost of a funeral in 1960: $708 (a bargain if you don’t consider inflation…)
  • Cost of a funeral in 2008: $6195 (wow)
  • Ten states with the highest cremation rate: Nevada, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Maine, Colorado, Vermont, New Hampshire (ranging from 58% New Hampshire to 69% in Nevada)
  • Ten states with the lowest cremation rate: Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Arkansas, South Dakota, Utah (ranging between 11% for Mississippi and 24% for Utah)
  • Cremation practices date back to 3000 BC (according to the Cremation Society of North America)
  • Modern crematories do not expose a body to flames – it’s the intense heat that reduces the body to ashes.
  • Cremation only came to North America in 1876 when the first crematory was built in Washington, Pennsylvania.
  • Only one body can fit in the cremation chamber. It’s also illegal to cremate more than one body at a time in a cremation chamber. This means stories about cremains being mixed with other bodies are myths or are derived from less regulated times. The only way to mix cremains, if you really want to, would be in a companion urn after the cremation process is complete.

Before the development of a practical chamber in the 1870s, cremation could be a controversial subject. The requirement of a very large amount of fuel to burn the body did not counter well against the need for cemetery space in a world with a much smaller population. It was however a ritual among druids in the ancient Celtic lands, and it was their tradition that won the legal argument in favor of the practice.

Dr. William Price was an eccentric 19th century Welshman, physician, and Archdruid. Before L. Frank Baum invented the Land of Oz, Dr. Price practiced his crafts and fought his political fights in emerald green suits, red cloth embroidered with green letters, and a long, white beard. When the first of his two sons named Jesus Christ Price died, he performed what he understood to be a traditional druidic cremation. He was saved from a mob of villagers only by the police who had come to arrest him. Dr. Price won his case in court and nine years later was cremated himself, complete with two tons of coal and an attending audience of around 20,000 people.

Cremation is a process that’s seen a big resurgence in the last decade after centuries of being practically taboo. While many baby boomers are opting to have their remains cremated rather than buried, the process still isn’t quite as well known as the typical burial or embalming processes. Just like with burial, there are some crazy facts, stories, or procedures that make the topic of cremation a really fascinating one to learn a little more about.  Here are some other facts about cremation that we think you’ll find interesting.

More Strange but True Facts about Cremation

  • In 1920, there were only 20 working crematories in the US. By 2003, there were over 1,800 crematories all over the country.
  • Initially, the cremains don’t resemble the final “ashes” that people place in cremation urns. The final processor is called the cremator, which presses the bone fragments into a fine powder.
  • Pacemakers with lithium batteries are removed from the body before cremation since the batteries explode in the high temperatures of the furnace, causing serious damage to the structure.
  • Silicone breast implants are also typically removed from the body since cremains tend to stick to the implants.

See? Cremation has a lot of interesting aspects to it that you might not have known already. While you’re in a learning mood after reading about cremation facts and crematorium facts, why not take the time to check out the evolution of funerals, unique memorials for loved ones, and our infographic on death and memorials.

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