Morgue stories from funeral directors and morticians


Morticians Describe the Most Gruesome Facts About Dead Bodies  

1

“Decomposing Bodies Almost Always Have a Lime-Green Abdomen.”

“I’ll start with cool facts:

We use denture adhesive to put skulls back together.

Decomposing bodies almost always have a lime-green abdomen.

Once, a husband asked me to make his wife “perky.”

Decapitations are not fun… it involves a lot of stitching and wax.

I’ve had to work on bodies so severely dehydrated that they looked like jerky, but the results were amazing.

Rigor mortis makes muscles stiff so yes, genitalia might be ‘hard’ but it will be very small because of lack of blood flow, unless he died face-down but then it would be flaccid.

When you die, blood gravitates/settles so that’s where you swell… I had a man who had his face swollen from blood on half and completely dried out on the other side.

If someone is overweight, it is likely that they will have to buy two cemetery plots… he/she may not be able to fit in the crematory retort [cremation furnace] and we do not chop bodies to make them fit.

I hate that if a mother and baby die, they can’t go into the crematory retort together in Michigan… state law.

I have had to make an entire new face before using modeling clay, wax, and a lot of makeup.”

2

Working on the Bodies of People You Knew

“Q: Have you ever encountered someone you know? And how do you remain calm when you’re around death all the time?  

A: I’ve dealt with a few… That was rough, I cried. I haven’t had to work on someone super close yet but I’d rather work on them than someone else. I don’t trust anyone to do as good of a job with my loved ones as myself.”

3

After the Autopsy, You Get Your Organs Back

“When the embalmers get the body, the autopsy tech finishes. For the manner that this describes (a full autopsy), we undo all of the sutures. The viscera, which is usually placed back inside, is now taken out again. We then put the organs into a bucket filled with cavity fluid, which is a higher concentration of the embalming fluid that is injected into the vascular system. Now the body is prepared. Severed vessels are tied off, and injection and drainage of arterial fluid is begun. While in a regular case, we try for injection in the right common carotid artery and drainage from the right jugular vein, this is not possible with a case that has had an autopsy. Multiple vessels are chosen for injection and drainage, and the process is begun. After the embalming process is completed, the newly disinfected organs are placed back in the abdomen, hardening compound is placed over top, and the deceased is re-sutured. The brain would have also been taken out, to later be put back in. The funeral director will set the brain inside the skull, put the calvarium (the piece of skull that was sawed off) back on, and wire it into place using either a needle injector with pins, or by drilling holes it the two pieces and wiring it shut that way. The skin and epicranius is gently pulled back over the skull, and hidden sutures are used to secure the skin in place. A sealant is placed over the sutures to prevent leakage, embalming powder may be placed over the skin, and plastic garments are usually worn under the clothes to prevent them from getting wet, and to keep the casket dry. Regular procedures such as setting the features would have been done before the actual injection. To hide visible sutures, a wax with cosmetics would be placed over the line of demarcation.  
“For organ donors the process is similar to that used on an autopsied body. For long bone donors, such as the femur, a PVC pipe or dowel will be placed inside the empty cavity to recreate natural form. Bodies where the deceased donated skin will have to be cauterized where the skin is missing, usually the back and backside, then dressed in plastic garments to prevent leakage. If the eye has been removed in a tissue donation, the cavity is disinfected, packed with cotton, an eye cap is placed over top, and the lids are closed.  

4

Concerning Gunshot Wounds

“I worked on several cases before involving gunshot wounds. They take a lot of time: denture adhesive for putting bones back together and a lot of phenol to stop bruising, but both cases were good. I learned so many tricks for makeup that day.”

5

Q: If I Were to Donate My Balls, How Would You Remove Them?

“A: Tie off the gonadal arteries, stitch you closed, and proceed as normal. I’m guessing it’s similar to having your testicles removed if you were to have testicular cancer, torsion, or some other disease process. Not having any myself, I’m not entirely sure of all that can go wrong with men.”

from our partners

6

“The Entire Organ Set Can Be Yanked Out in One Piece”

“Say you die in a manner that requires an autopsy. In no particular order and skipping mundane examination facts, here’s what can/will happen:

“Your body will be taken to a morgue where a pathologist and/or a pathologist’s assistant will make a Y-incision starting just under the shoulders, meeting in the center of the sternum and then going down to your pubic bone. If you’re a lady, we cut underneath the breasts. Your ribs are cracked and the thoracic cavity is opened. With the organs exposed, a series of cuts are made that sever the connections to the esophagus, larynx, certain arteries and ligaments. Next, the organs’ attachment to the spinal cord as well as the attachment to the bladder and rectum is severed. Once this is done, the entire organ set can be yanked out in one piece and makes dissection a breeze.

“Then your brain is removed. A cut is made with a scalpel from behind one ear, across the forehead, to the other ear and around. The cut is divided, and the scalp is pulled away from the skull in two flaps. The front flap goes over your face and the rear flap over the back of the neck. The skull is cut with a special saw to create what’s called a ‘cap’ that can be pried off, exposing the brain. When the cap is pulled off (there is a sucking vacuumy pop when you pull it off) , the dura remains attached to the bottom of the skull cap. The brain is now exposed much like Ray Liota’s in Hannibal. Your brain’s connection to the spinal cord is severed, and the brain is lifted out of the skull for examination.

“By now you’re a shell (literally) of your living self. Examinations are finished. Your organs are either preserved or disposed of (most medical waste is incinerated) or put into viscera bags and put back into your body cavity.

“You’re sewn up with ‘baseball’ stitches, called so because they resemble the stitching on a baseball. The skull cap is placed back on your cranium and sewed into the scalp to close. We call the mortician and your new embalming or cremation journey begins.”

7

The Pay Isn’t Great, but the Payoff…

“We don’t get paid enough… Like $50k/yr. I initially began my studies because I wanted to help people. I really do feel I make a difference when people can actually look at their loved one normally and peacefully instead of remembering a mangled damaged face. It brings closure.”

8

They “Pop” Your Organs with a Stick

“I was never creeped out but that is probably because I’m a Halloween girl and my mom desensitized me with scary movies when I was little. I still am a little creeped out by the trochar though… It’s a long sharp hollowed-out ‘stick’ that has to be shoved into the abdomen in order to pop the fluid-filled organs. It’s attached to a suction hose and pulls out the fluids. Later a chemical is applied in the cavity to keep it preserved.”

9

Ghosts Aren’t That Common

“As for superstitions, I’ve always believed in ghosts but I thought, ‘Hey, if I die, I’d rather haunt Disney World than a funeral home.’ I only experienced something one time and that was around 10pm, after two years with no activity at the location. I had turned all the lights off in the chapel and when I went to check the casket door, the lights turned back on. I was nowhere near the switch. I haven’t experienced anything else at funeral homes.. Other places though, I have EVP and photos as well as experiences.”

10

Rigor Mortis Fun Facts

“Well, all the bodies are in varying stages of mortis (rigor mortis, livor mortis, or algor mortis). Fun fact! Rigor affects both smooth and skeletal muscles, including hair follicles (resulting in postmortem ‘goose bumps’) and seminal vesicles (resulting in postmortem semen release).”

11

Your Teeth May Not Survive

“Every embalmer has their ‘thing’ that creeps them out. Mine is teeth because I’ve had them break in half on me while doing mouth closures.”

12

An Over-Filled Body Starts to Crack

“I’ve worked with a few older people who have been in the business for years. Legally they’re not supposed to embalm, but I think it was only in the 80s when they started enforcing in my state. They may not have current methods but I learned from them to improve myself. They usually get good results. I’ll just never fill a body until it’s rock hard like I saw once… The decedent started to wrinkle and crack after a few days.”

13

They May “Iron” Wrinkles Out of Your Face

“Swelling goes down with a compress and we can actually ‘iron’ a face to remove wrinkles but it may never look the same. I do try my hardest but we can’t take anything away from a body. Even autopsies, we put the organs in a bag filled with cavity fluid and seal it back in the body. Your loved one is always whole.”

14

Surprise Discoveries Inside Dead Bodies

“You’d be surprised some of the things we’ve found inside people’s…orifices. Coins, lots of coins, car keys, bobby pins, LEGOS, fake nails, a wedding ring, and a flashdrive come to mind.

“The flash drive was empty apart from two photos of the flash drive.”

15

Q: How Do You Protect Yourself Against Diseases?

“Personal protective gear. We wear respirators or masks to stop the airborne bacteria/viruses as well as formaldehyde (causes cancer). Apron, double layer of gloves, and usually a change of clothes… I actually scolded a parent once because a toddler dropped their pacifier on the ground and the parent put it back in.”

16

Your Lips Are Sutured Shut

“As far as procedures of embalming go, I grew up around this so I’ve never really been disgusted or uncomfortable with any of these things, though I did find the method they use to secure the jaw closed a little weirder to me than most parts. Not quite sure why, it’s pretty simple after all… 

“You place the pins with the wire attached into a little handheld gun, called a needle injector, which embeds the needles into the mandible and maxilla. Then you suture the lips together.”

13

They May “Iron” Wrinkles Out of Your Face

“Swelling goes down with a compress and we can actually ‘iron’ a face to remove wrinkles but it may never look the same. I do try my hardest but we can’t take anything away from a body. Even autopsies, we put the organs in a bag filled with cavity fluid and seal it back in the body. Your loved one is always whole.”

14

Surprise Discoveries Inside Dead Bodies

“You’d be surprised some of the things we’ve found inside people’s…orifices. Coins, lots of coins, car keys, bobby pins, LEGOS, fake nails, a wedding ring, and a flashdrive come to mind.

“The flash drive was empty apart from two photos of the flash drive.”

15

Q: How Do You Protect Yourself Against Diseases?

“Personal protective gear. We wear respirators or masks to stop the airborne bacteria/viruses as well as formaldehyde (causes cancer). Apron, double layer of gloves, and usually a change of clothes… I actually scolded a parent once because a toddler dropped their pacifier on the ground and the parent put it back in.”

16

Your Lips Are Sutured Shut

“As far as procedures of embalming go, I grew up around this so I’ve never really been disgusted or uncomfortable with any of these things, though I did find the method they use to secure the jaw closed a little weirder to me than most parts. Not quite sure why, it’s pretty simple after all… 

“You place the pins with the wire attached into a little handheld gun, called a needle injector, which embeds the needles into the mandible and maxilla. Then you suture the lips together.”

21

No Strapless Dresses, Please

“Clients have some weird questions/requests for their loved one. Just please everyone, don’t ask to have your loved one wearing a strapless dress… We do the incisions around the distal (further away from the middle of the body) part of the clavicle.”

22

There’s a Stranger in Your House

“About 99% of the cremated remains in the urn on your mantle are actually your relative. You’ve probably got bits and pieces of a couple other people in there.”

23

Large Plastic Screws Prevent You from Leaking

“There are large plastic screws that are shoved into peoples butts to stop stuff from leaking out all over the coffin during the viewing.

24

Concerning Families of the Deceased

“The people are interesting. There’s no telling how a family will react. I’ve had to break up fights and call cops, I’ve had to pull living people out of caskets who wanted to go with their loved one, I’ve had people who laugh the entire time. I’ve been threatened a lot too…Paperwork isn’t too bad but it’s tedious and few people know what their grandmother’s personal information is or where all the insurance paperwork went.

25

Post-Mortem Penis Pump

“Q: How can I make my penis look bigger and more alive?  

A: Haha, lots of fluids… My friend told me when someone requested that. They hypodermically injected down from the abdomen… formaldehyde stiffens and preserves and enough of it swells the area (his testicles swelled too, though). I’ve only had to work on perking up breasts before.”

26

The Almighty Dollar, or the Sleazy Details

“Casket markup is typically 150% from wholesale, but some places charge up to 3 or 4 times as much as what it costs them.

“Body donation to a science institute will cost the family $300-500 for the paperwork and transportation.

“If you buy your burial vault from a cemetery rather than a funeral home, it has more than likely been sitting outside exposed to all the elements for however long they have been waiting to sell it.

“Funeral directors are salesmen, but most are wonderful and caring people. A few will use sleazy tactics to sell you the most expensive bronze casket they have, usually through a guilt trip of ‘Your husband bought you so many nice things. Why not pay him back one last time?’

“Funeral homes intentionally place expensive caskets closer to the doors of the entrance because most people will buy the first one they see.

“Bodies have, and will, get mixed up from time to time due to human error.

“Funeral homes are a very referential business, and we have ways to make our names known. Gifting pastors and clergy allows us to be open to their congregations, and the same goes for nursing homes and retirement communities. All this info is from various books and meetings with funeral directors, as in four years I will be one. Hope this is informative.”

27

The Yuletide Rumor Is True

“Christmas is the worst… The elderly slip and fall while the young commit suicide… So sad.”

28

Mother/Child Deaths

“If a mother dies giving birth, the medical examiner will always take the baby out to find cause of death. The baby and mother go through an autopsy. When they get to the funeral home, we can embalm both and keep them in the same casket. If the family wants cremation, we do have to cremate them separately and then the family can mix the remains.”

29

Concerning Odors

“… the fresh ones usually only smell like urine or fecal matter due to defecation, ones who have been long dead are terrible smelling. I have disinfectant when I open those bags.”

30

How to Reconstruct a Decomposed Body

“Clean it out, you apply a powder that dries it out and let it sit. When it’s dry, you can inject either through the arteries or using a needle into the skin so the bacteria dies. From there, there are chemicals that stop skin from sloshing and breaking, there’s wax to restore holes and destroyed features, airbrush covers pretty well… It’s a long process.”

31

Drowning Victims Require Extra Draining

“The drowning instance was not experienced by me but a coworker, a young local boy with a mental handicap ran away over near Kalamazoo and they couldn’t find him. It was early winter when he vanished and in the early spring, they discovered his body. My coworker told me the boy stayed extremely well-preserved but was waterlogged. They drained the logged areas and used a wig to replace the hair but the family was able to have an open casket.”

32

Embalming Is Optional

“Most funeral homes in the US won’t allow a viewing if the body isn’t embalmed, for sanitation and health reasons. Some may allow a private viewing with just family. If you died from an infectious disease, you would be embalmed to protect others. There’s certain cases that embalming may be required by law, but in most cases it’s personal preference of the deceased and next of kin.”

33

The Obese Are Difficult to Work With

“Obese people just have so much pressure and construction that you have to keep raising new arteries to inject and if it still fails, you have to go and take a needle all over the body to get fluid in…”

34

Potty Mouths Need Not Apply

“Laws [in Michigan] have made it so you can’t even swear around the dead without losing your license and getting pegged with fines.”

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