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"Necropants" Made Of Human Skin Were Once Rumored To Make You Rich

We’d recommend trying literally anything else.

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Rachael Funnell

author

Rachael Funnell

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

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necropants

Important to note that this is a replica pair of the cursed necropants. Image credit: Bernard McManus from Victoria, BC Canada. Stretched background, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia 

Everybody loves a harebrained get-rich-quick scheme, but if there’s one that has to top the “Absolutely Not” charts it’s surely necropants. The pants, also known in legend as nábrækur or nábrók, were rumored to bring the wearer of a pair of human-leg-skin trousers riches, but only if you followed a strict set of instructions.

The good news is that necropants could only be made from the legs of a willing participant, so prospective wearers would need to get permission from a pal to skin them after death before fashioning a pair. Hypothetically speaking, if you were to find a friend generous enough to lend you their legs posthumously, then the real work began.

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The legend went that a sorcerer must wait until after the body was buried, then dig it up and skin it from the waist down without accidentally poking any holes. Easier said than done considering how quickly the skin starts to degrade after death, but if successful, they would find themselves with one pair of necropants that are ready to be worn.

After putting on necropants, it was said that the skin trousers would fuse with the wearer apart from a small slit near the scrotum. This pocket of sorts played a vital role as a store for a magical Icelandic symbol (Nábrókarstafur) written on a scrap of parchment, explains Atlas Obscura, and a coin that must be stolen at a time of religious significance from a very poor widow. Once the necropants were complete, they’d bring great riches to the wearer as the scrotum filled with coins indefinitely.

The only downside (beyond the fact you're wearing someone else's skin) was that the necropants came at a cost: one eternal damnation in hell, to be precise. The only way to avoid this ill-fate, writes Ancient Origins, was to convince someone to take the pants from you.

Nábrókarstafur
Necropants? Ready. Coin of a destitute widow? Ready. Parchment bearing the Nábrókarstafur? You're on your way to riches, apparently. Image credit: Ræveðis - Own work, CC0, via Wikimedia 


All pretty grim, then, and captured in their wonder by a replica pair crafted by stage designer Árni Páll Jóhannsson that’s on display at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Fortunately, we can jest about necropants because, as far as is in public knowledge, nobody’s ever actually made a pair of human skin trousers outside of Ari Aster's Midsommar.

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“Whenever someone asks me whether they are real or whether a pair ever existed, I’m forced to tell the truth,” said Sigurður Atlason to Iceland Magazine, who manages the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík. “Necropants have only ever existed in local folk legends.”

While apparently a work of folklore fiction, necropants don’t seem like that much of a stretch considering historically people have wrapped books and doors in human skin. We’ve also gotten pretty creative with fat in the past, as well as the skull lichen. Waste not… want not? 

Now, we’re off to delete our search history.


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  • money,

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