It sounds like a Tim Burton film, but the reality is much creepier: Chinese police have arrested 11 people in the country's east who are accused of playing a role in a "ghost marriage." In the ancient custom, a man who dies single is laid to rest with a dead "spouse" to ensure he isn't a bachelor in the afterlife, the South China Morning Post reports. The Guardian last year ran down the history of the ritual, which dates to the 17th century BC and was largely stamped out under Mao Zedong in 1949. Though stealing corpses is now a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison, the tradition persists in rural areas, with families even turning to matchmakers to find the right mate.
In the latest alleged instance, Shanghaiist reports the accused are said to have retrieved a woman's body from a grave in Shandong province three months after her death and sold it to a middleman for about $3,000. The middleman kept the body in a hospital's mortuary before selling it to a family in the city of Wuan for roughly $6,200. "Years-old carcasses are not worth a damn, while the ones that have just died, like this one, are valuable," says the group's supposed ringleader, identified only by the surname Wang. Wang reportedly confessed to the crime during an interrogation after police caught him stealing motorcycles. In 2007, Newser reported on a man who killed six women to serve as corpse brides, saying it was "easier than stealing bodies from graves."