10/30/2014 02:07 pm ET Updated Oct 30, 2014

11 Arrested After 'Corpse Bride' Is Dug Up

Leonora Saunders via Getty Images

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.

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 dead body to marry.