The myth that even after death a person’s hair and fingernails could continue growing has been around since the 17th Century at least, when a number of dead Cavaliers (supporters of Charles II during the civil war) were dug up and found to have longer locks than when they were first buried. The appearance of longer hair or nails on the dead has been debunked by scientists as an optical illusion. Apparently after death the skin around the nails and hair follicles contracts as it dries out, revealing more of the root of the hair or nail and so giving the impression of growth. Humans are used to seeing hair and nails grow in life and unused to seeing the skin dry out and contract, so this misconception is understandable.

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