Death + Popular Culture

John Troyer Performs: 150 Years of the Human Corpse in American History

Bristol Live Open Platform (BLOP Festival)
The Arnolfini, Bristol (UK)
Saturday 25 February, 2012 11.00am – 8.00pm
£6.00 / £5.00 concessions


Full BLOP Festival Schedule
John Erik Troyer, Ph.D. performs at 2:45pm on February 25

We here at the Death Reference Desk are always full of surprises. So it should come as no shock that I, John Erik Troyer, Ph.D., will perform a short theatrical piece for the upcoming Blop Festival in Bristol, England on Saturday, February 25. The festival is being held at the Arnolfini arts centre.

I hit the stage at 2:45pm sharp!

The performance’s full title more or less sums up what happens on stage:

150 Years of the Human Corpse in American History in Under 15 Minutes with Jaunty Background Music

Not much else to say, really.

Here, however, is a more robust show description:

In 1851 American chemist Thomas Holmes invented the first reliable method for mechanically embalming dead human bodies. Holmes put his embalmed bodies on display in cities across America. Those human corpses attracted so many spectators that riots often erupted near the viewing areas.


Death, as nineteenth century humans understood it, would never be the same.


In 1972 John Erik Troyer was born, son of a funeral director and an early student of mortuary science. His life-long study of the dead body would eventually help him write a doctoral thesis entitled Technologies of the Human Corpse and assist his becoming a Doctor of Philosophy. This one-man show is a combination of all these things: a meditation on the human corpse, the untimely demise of a self-absorbed thanatologist, and it is all done in under 15 minutes. With jaunty background music.

The story of John Erik Troyer, Ph.D. is a cautionary tale of intellectual labor run amok and a hilarious comedy of necrophilic proportions.


Death, as we twenty-first century humans understand it, will never be the same.

That’s that. If you have any questions or would like to, say, book me a national tour (we can start small, you know, just the West Country at first) then here is my contact information:

John Erik Troyer, Ph.D.:
Telephone: 01225 383585
Twitter: @deathref

Finally, here is a video of me doing Modern Dance. The video doesn’t have anything to do with the show on February 25. Per se. But it could. If I get that National Tour! Right now, this is just shameless self-promotion. Straight up.

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