The University of Tennessee’s forensic research center made Popular Science magazine’s list of top summer destinations for “Geek Getaways,” but officials really don’t want tourists to visit.
Representatives at the school’s Body Farm — its official name is the Anthropology Research Facility — where human corpses are allowed to decompose and are studied, say they constantly refuse public requests for tours.
“I could work probably 20 hours a day, seven days a week doing nothing but showing people the Body Farm,” said Dr. Bill Bass, founder of the Body Farm. “We have just hundreds of requests.”
According to Bass’ Web site, the Body Farm “is a place where human corpses are left to the elements, and every manner of decay is fully explored — for the sake of science and the cause of justice.”
Bass said he has received tour requests through the years from groups ranging from fans of the television show “CSI” to a Girl Scouts troop. The constant calls forced the university to post a flashing message on its Web site indicating no public tours of the facility.
“We don’t offer tours of the facility to members of the public. We let people know the facility is not the kind of place where you want to take a tour,” said UT spokesman Jay Mayfield. “This is a facility for scientists and law enforcement, but we do appreciate the attention from articles like the one in Popular Science.”
The magazine’s article was a humorous effort to list some of the world’s best research centers and does not truly suggest families visit “wild scientific hotspots” like the Body Farm.
“You can’t tour the actual ‘de-comp’ yards, but you can learn about the recovery of remains at crime scenes and disasters such as 9/11,” the magazine said in its Body Farm entry.
Bass, a forensic anthropologist and author who founded the research facility a quarter-century ago, established the Body Farm to study how corpses decompose and help determine the time since a person’s death. The facility is utilized by researchers and law enforcement as a scientific research lab.
Mayfield said many UT football fans come much closer to aspects of the Body Farm than they realize.
“The anthropology department is housed in Neyland Stadium and the bones (from the Body Farm facility) actually end up in Neyland Stadium,” he said.
“They are sitting on about 5,000 to 6,000 skeletons (in Neyland Stadium),” said Bass.
Bass said the football stadium is the closest the public should come to the research conducted at the Body Farm.
“You don’t go to the morgue to see people have an autopsy and I think the Body Farm falls in that category,” said Bass.