One thing the Charley Project does, you might have noticed, is that as often as is possible (which isn’t all that often, I’ll admit), if there are tattoos, pictures of the said tattoos will be posted. If not, at least I’ll try to provide as clear a description as possible.

This came to my mind just now as I was writing up a case: numerous sources said the MP, who has several tattoos had “grams and a butterfly on her wrist.” I thought: whaaat? Grams, like the measurement? That would be a pretty weird tattoo. It took some reading before I found an article that clarified it was “Grams” as in the word, as in the nickname for “grandmother.”

That kind of thing happens a lot. Like, let’s say the source just says:

Tattoos: Rose on abdomen

Usually, this would be a tattoo of a rose. But it could be also be a tattoo of the name Rose. Something like that, small as it is, could be vital when it comes to identifying a body.

(There was an MP once where she had a flower tattooed on her ankle, and I could not figure out whether it was the actual flower or the word for the flower. Well, it turned out to be the word, and what’s more, that word was the MP’s daughter’s name. A private detective assigned to the case wrote to me politely asking me to remove that bit of information, in part to protect the daughter’s privacy.)

I don’t have any tattoos, myself. Michael has said if I want to get one, he would pay for it, but I’m not sure I want one and that seems like the kind of thing you had better be sure of. I do think I know what I’d get, if I get one. One of two phrases in Latin: either “deus ex machina” (meaning “machine of God”) or “carpe noctem” (meaning “seize the night” as opposed to “seize the day”, in reference to my nocturnal habits).

24 thoughts on “Tattoos

  1. amy August 26, 2013 / 10:27 am

    I would like to get one, but in deference to the fact that I apparently can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery with one, I have declined. I would get a tat of the old yellow plastic things people used to put in the middle of 45 records, for my love of music, but it would be colored purple.

    If I ever find out it won’t change my burial status- I’m in like Flynn!

    • Meaghan August 26, 2013 / 10:42 am

      So where are all the Holocaust survivors buried?

      • Peter Henderson Jr. August 26, 2013 / 12:16 pm


        In general, Jewish law does not permit the intentional defacement of the human body, and this applies to tattoos. Note the emphasis is on intentional.

        I was raised Catholic, but good friends of my mom and dad survived the death camps as teens/young adults. They met and got married in a interment camp at the end of the war. My mom used my question about the woman’s tattoo as a teaching moment. My first political lesson was of mans inhumanity to man and the tyranny of the majority.

        The couple are buried in a Jewish cemetery in Westport, Connecticut.

        According to Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser, “I do not know of any rabbi or Jewish cemetery that would refuse to bury a Jew because their body had a tattoo. That would be a terrible violation of the Jewish principle of Kavod Ha-Meit, giving honor to the dead.”

        I don’t know if Goldwasser is Reform, Conservative or Orthodox however, and that may make a difference..

  2. Princess Shantae August 26, 2013 / 2:57 pm

    I’ve seen some tattoos that were nice looking, but a lot of them aren’t, and an awful lot look like the kind of thing you’d outgrow eventually. I mean, Mickey Mouse on roller skates might be funny when you’re 16 but it seems very silly even on a young person and even more silly as they age. I actualy did see a Mickey on skates tattoo on somebody once.

    • Meaghan August 26, 2013 / 7:31 pm

      There was a recent MP I posted who had a very elaborate, original and (I thought) quite pretty tattoo: a gun with a bouquet of flowers coming out of the barrel. The tattoo sort of wrapped around her side and I think was over her ribcage, so it must have been painful. I remember thinking: I wouldn’t mind having a tattoo like that.

      But most tattoos are either boring or pretty stupid. Like those Chinese characters — does anyone really know what they’re saying? According to my friend John (who knows Chinese, lived in China for awhile and has a master’s in East Asian Studies), more often than not those characters just say nonsense words.

      He also said sometimes people in China get English words tattooed on them without knowing what they mean, which equally silly results. In a similar vein, he told me about a t-shirt factory that exported to America, and it got an order for a bunch of shirts saying “Free Tibet!” and it dutifully printed and exported thousands of them over a period of months without realizing it was basically committing treason.

      • Peter Henderson Jr. August 27, 2013 / 8:36 am

        Meaghan, when did this woman disappear? It sounds to me like that tattoo may be meant to depict the rock band Guns N’ Roses. They were popular in the late ’80’s – early 90’s. The band is still in existence but of the original members only Axl Rose remains.

        Fan tattoo’s for this band are large and elaborate. One I just saw covers a woman’s chest, both breasts and her torso

      • Meaghan August 27, 2013 / 8:48 am

        Only a year ago:

        Of course, there are plenty of G&R fans still around. I have their song “Mr. Brownstone” on mp3. I really like that line “I used to do a little but the little wouldn’t do it so the little got more and more.”

  3. whereaboutsstillunknown August 26, 2013 / 6:35 pm

    After all the years I avoided going to the doctor/dentist because I didn’t want to be prodded with a needle, there’s no way I’m going to pay someone to stick me with a needle thousands of times just for the fun of it… never gonna happen!

  4. Jose August 26, 2013 / 6:37 pm

    Is there any cases on Charley project like this? Example: Jean had a heart attack and died at the emergency room, but body was misplaced and never found.

    • Meaghan August 26, 2013 / 7:27 pm

      No. I don’t think such a case would qualify.

    • Sara August 26, 2013 / 7:43 pm

      Not really related, but there was a case where a man was put in jail and then disappeared– I want to say while he was in jail but maybe it was just after he was released? I want to say it was from the 1970s? I would search but I know “jail” or “prison” will bring up approx a million results.

      • Meaghan August 26, 2013 / 7:46 pm

        Yeah, Joseph someone I think. If I remember right, he called Dad and said he was in jail, and Dad came to get him and jail said he wasn’t there and hadn’t been. He’s been found dead since then.

    • Meaghan August 26, 2013 / 7:47 pm

      NamUs has a few cases from I think Vermont where a hurricane flooded a cemetery and washed a bunch of bodies out of their graves.

      • Peter Henderson Jr. August 27, 2013 / 7:50 am

        That’s correct Meaghan, with the exception of Danby Hill Jane all current unidentified victims in Vermont, both male and female, are the result of disinterred graves caused by flooding during Tropical Storm Irene. This was the storm where Marble Ace Arvidson, 17, disappeared, just before it started.

        The lone unknown victim of a possible homicide is a Asian female, Danby Hill Jane, found on 2/12/12. Here is her story.

  5. seanmunger August 27, 2013 / 1:37 am

    As I recall Joseph Bushling had a beautiful tattoo.

    As far as concentration camp tattoos are concerned, I know that Barbara Zakon had one.

    • Meaghan August 27, 2013 / 7:32 am

      Yeah, Joseph Bushling’s tattoo was a very nice, clean, classy-looking design.

      Fun fact: although Barbara Zakon’s tattoo was on her forearm, as were most concentration camp tattoos, they weren’t always placed there. Hershl Sperling, who went through the worst Holocaust experience I have ever encountered (which is saying a lot), had his Auschwitz number tattooed on his chest. No one knows why.

    • Meaghan August 27, 2013 / 7:36 am

      Actually, Sean, I know you don’t do a lot of Holocaust stuff, but you’re interested in history, and Hersh Sperling is someone you might want to consider writing about. See my review on the book about him:

      The man survived the initial Nazi bombardment, fleeing his hometown, returning, then the ghetto, then transfer to a larger ghetto, then Treblinka (where he was one of less than 100 survivors out of half a million), followed by six or seven other concentration camps. But he didn’t REALLY survive. He was much a victim of the Holocaust as any of those who died in the camps — it just took a few decades longer to kill him.

  6. meanmaryjean August 27, 2013 / 2:39 am

    I’m a nurse and a co-worker has “NO CPR” on her chest.

    There’s actually a UID on websleuths with a ‘NO CPR” tattoo.

    • Meaghan August 27, 2013 / 2:44 am

      That’s pretty good. Much more visible than a Medic Alert bracelet.

      • Justin August 27, 2013 / 5:46 am

        But would that be legal to abide by? Although it’s obvious to most people what that would mean, a case could be made that the acronym “NO CPR” could be for a number of things. If the hospital didn’t perform CPR on someone because of that tattoo, they could be sued if no supporting documentation was found for a DNR.

      • Meaghan August 27, 2013 / 6:12 am

        I have no idea. You could also make the argument if that if they DID perform CPR, they could be sued for assault. Imagine the attorney for the plaintiff: “My client did not want CPR, and his wishes were literally tattooed right there on his chest. What else did they want?”

  7. Princess Shantae August 27, 2013 / 8:23 am

    T touble is also that ppl get stupid tattoos for a joke, like I once heard of someboody that got “Cut Here” and a dotted line around his neck. Who’s to say whether the unconscious person with No CPR tattooed on them wasn’t just being funny, or what they thought was funny?

  8. seanmunger August 27, 2013 / 11:18 am

    I don’t know about anyone else, but if a person is dying right in front of me and I have the power to save them, the last thing I’m going to be doing is paying attention to any tattoos. I probably wouldn’t even notice them regardless of what they say.

  9. Idyla (@idylarocks) August 28, 2013 / 11:51 am

    The NO CPR tattoo is not uncommon in the medical profession – especially those who work in a hospital as they see how brutal CPR is. A lot of things are overlooked so while they might have on a medic alert bracelet, a card in their wallet, and a notation in their cell phone, having it tattooed is just an added precaution. It’s more about having the information in as many places as possible rather than it being a legally binding contract/order the way a DNR or living will is (no witness, no date, etc.).

    Tattoos are becoming more and more common as yet another means of conveying important medical information (especially chronic conditions such as diabetes or allergies). I wouldn’t be surprised if someday there isn’t a standardized format decided upon to be legally binding in addition to some sort of paperwork.

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