It's hidden, locked, and a forbidden place for all of us, which is what makes it even more thrilling. One of the nation's largest body farms is in our own backyard. Researchers aren't fans of the term 'body farm,' which originated in the 90's from a crime fiction novel by Patricia Cornwall.
The Forensic Anthropology Research Facility is owned by Texas State University. Dr. Daniel Wescott is the director of FARF, which was founded about ten years ago.
"It is a big ranch," he said. "It about 4,200 acres or something, and that is a lot of acreage to search for a hidden body."
The bodies are tucked away in the hill country in San Marcos. Dr. Don Huebner said everyone is interested in wanting to see the corpses. The body farm on the ranch makes up about 26 acres. Right now, there are about 60 bodies.
"So, we have this huge buffer around it to have controlled access," he said. "Because it is research and you want to preserve it, and that's why you can't just walk into it, or it wouldn't have the research value."
The students are the ones who primarily visit the 26-acre site daily to collect data from the bodies. Their studies are extensive, but their work is important to helping solve crimes. One of the many scopes of their job with law enforcement is precisely trying to figure out how long a body may have been out at a scene.
"When we give an estimation of time of death, we give a really good idea of when and what that accuracy really is," he said. "So that we are not punishing somebody for something that we didn't do based on faulty evidence likewise we are not letting somebody go because of faulty evidence as well."
The study of decomposition can be difficult, but these students look at different variables and see how they contribute to the rate of decomposition. One of the variables is weather, especially the unique conditions we see in South Texas.
"How is this body out there that is a short-lived, nutrient-rich addition to the environment, how is that affecting the environment," he said. "How are microbes and flies interacting with each other?"
People are so interested in the decomposition process that there are already 400 people who have signed up to donate their body. For more information, click here.