The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft in Holmavik allegedly holds a pair of 17th century Icelandic trousers, made from a corpse. Warning, the image in the article is not for the faint of heart.

Was it possible hundreds of years ago (or even today) to skin a human so perfectly and preserve the "trousers" from decay so well, or is this more likely to be a hoax/made from modern materials?

  • With hair and toenails??? Seems far fatched to me...
    – nico
    Oct 31, 2013 at 6:59
  • 1
    @nico "Shrunken heads" still have their hair attached.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 31, 2013 at 16:53

1 Answer 1


The nábrók, or "necropants" as they are known in English, were actually featured on an episode of QI (a fact-based entertainment show) and the particular artifact that is on display at the Strandagaldur Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft is reported as a replica in the media (one, two).

The museum describes the process for making them as follows,

If you want to make your own necropants (literally; nábrók) you have to get permission from a living man to use his skin after his dead. After he has been buried you must dig up his body and flay the skin of the corpse in one piece from the waist down. As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper. Consequently the coin will draw money into the scrotum so it will never be empty, as long as the original coin is not removed. To ensure salvation the owner has to convince someone else to overtake the pants and step into each leg as soon as he gets out of it. The necropants will thus keep the money-gathering nature for generations.

However, anthropodermic bibliopegy is the process of binding books in human skin and in fact, the Harvard Libraries have some of these books in their collection.

Arsène Houssaye’s, Des destinees de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc), bound in human skin.

So in theory at least, a properly tanned and preserved leather artifact could survive for a very long time in remarkable state. In fact there is at least one instance of a 5,500 year old leather moccasin-like shoe that is remarkable shape.

  • why would the man need to be buried first? if you have permission you can take off the skin in the morgue Oct 31, 2013 at 19:23
  • @ratchetfreak No idea, of course, some of those old magical recipes didn't exactly have much in the way of explanation as to why they were supposed to work the way that they did either.
    – rjzii
    Oct 31, 2013 at 19:40
  • @ratchetfreak I know this is a super old comment, but I like that of all of the strange steps in that magical recipe (stealing a coin from a poor widow, putting it in the scrotum, etc.) that you think the fact that the man would have to be buried and dug up for it to work is somehow the weird bit
    – Kevin
    Feb 4, 2019 at 18:00
  • @KevinWells I was more commenting about why the recipe dictates that it should be buried and dug up instead of skinned before the burial. Feb 5, 2019 at 10:02
  • @ratchetfreak Yeah, and I was pointing out that there are a lot of things in that recipe that I think are far more weird than that part of it
    – Kevin
    Feb 5, 2019 at 14:36

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