Seeing a dead body move through a surveillance camera seems more like the opening for a zombie movie. However, that's exactly what researcher Alyson Wilson found in footage of a secret "human body farm."
For over 17 months, Wilson used time-lapse cameras to document the decomposition of a donor body in half-hour intervals. They found that the arms of the body "were significantly moving," meaning the arms that were down ended up being at the side of the body.
"One arm went out and then came back in to nearly touching the side of the body again," she says, according to VICE, a Canadian-American print magazine focused on lifestyle, arts, culture, and news/politics.
The magazine notes that while it's expected to see some slight motions in the early stages of decomposition, it was surprising to see continued movement for the duration of 17 months. Wilson theorizes that the corpse's movement is due to the shrinking and contracting as the body's ligaments dry out.
It was these scenarios that led to the foundation of Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), which investigates "the specifics of human decomposition under a variety of conditions that replicate crime scene scenarios," according to VICE.
It adds that the fact that a dead body can move on its own could be a significant finding for crime scene investigators regardless of the cause—since those investigators assume that the position a body was discovered was the initial position it died in.
"This research is very important to help law enforcement to solve crime and it also assists in disaster investigations," Wilson says.
"It's important for victims and victims' families, and in a lot of cases it gives the victim a voice to tell their last story."
"Amazed" at the corpse's movement in the footage, forensic anthropologist and criminologist Xanthe Mallett asserts the significant implications of such observations in future crime scene investigations.
Mallett, who supervised the study, says this might be the first time that the movement of a body while decomposing was ever captured.
"I think people will be surprised at just how much movement there was, because I was amazed when I saw it, especially how much the arms were moving. It was astounding."