For most of us, working with the dead isn't something we are going to have a whole lot of opportunity to do. That means most of us won't have a frame of reference for what is normal and what is "weird" when it comes to corpses, caskets, and the industry of death in general.
That might be why this reddit thread has generated some buzz.
It's not a world most of us get a peek into, so these responses are equal parts fascinating and kind of terrifying. We've got worms, exploding caskets, we've got one person who was the weird thing going on at the cemetery.
Yeah... things get interesting.
Funerals and tombstones are the family business and my dad has lot of stories. One that really stood out was the time they were dropping a vault (cement box they the casket goes inside) into a gravesite before a funeral and noticed what looked like "large pieces of grilled meat" at the bottom of the hole.
On asking the cemetery directory what was up (the hole is supposed to be empty) , he was told to ignore it. He did not ignore it and instead brought it up with some others, eventually notifying the authorities. Turned out they had a crematorium on site and were only partially burning the bodies as a means of saving money. The leftovers were being dropped in the graves of others being buried. Few people went to jail for that apparently.
My roommate worked in a graveyard in high school. Said he saw an old man hunched over in a chair at 6am from across the graveyard. Didn't think anything of it and let the man mourn in peace. Around lunch time he was still sitting there. He went up to him and saw that he was hunched over because he had shot himself from under the chin up. He said his blood was all over the grave of his wife who recently had died. Very sad Romeo and Juliet ending.
A nearly 50 % calcified heart.
The man was in his mid 30's and unexpectedly passed. I'm only an assistant, but our chief has been in the field for 34 years and has never seen such an extensive calcification on someone so young, let alone someone that could live long enough for it to get that bad. He honestly had no idea how such a thing could even happen.
He was more impressed by the patients life span than the actual heart.
Never Get Used To It
I'm an EMT and our ambulance station is attached to the county morgue. Sometimes I'll assist the coroner or pathologist. I'll never get used to seeing someone I once saw alive laying in the anatomical position with their guts out.
Last time it was a girl who added me on Facebook that I was thinking of dating. I wasn't prepared to see her in there like that.
Not A Dignified Way
I worked in a jail and the county morgue was attached to it. I'd sometimes go help them move corpses around. One night we were transferring a body into a hearse to be taken to the funeral home. All of our gurneys are from like the 1950-1960's. They didn't really make them to handle a morbidly obese person back then. The gurney broke and dumped a very, VERY fat corpse on top of the new guy I was trying to show how to do the job. Knocked him over and pinned him underneath, and it took 3 of us to roll the corpse off of him.
He was in hysterics and quit, and we all got yelled at for it even though it was solely due to the fact that we have outdated and worn out equipment. But yeah, the bodies being brought in are bigger and bigger as years go on, and the equipment for handling corpses usually was only designed for bodies half that size at max. We tried to be as respectful as possible while handling the dead, but there's just not a dignified way to move a 500 pound dead person.
A Thorough Checking
My sister works for the county coroner. They sent off the body of a middle aged father who seemed to have passed away from a heart attack. She received a call asking if all of the man's orifices were thoroughly checked. Evidently he had a large sex toy in his colon.
One Way TripGiphy
Not a worker, but I have severe epilepsy. I had a massive seizure while visiting my family's plot once and hit my head hard. My mom had to call an ambulance. At first, they didn't believe her when she gave the address, but finally one was sent. When it rolled it, the caretaker came out and hovered around while I was stabilized and loaded, then driven away.
Afterwards, while my mom was getting ready to follow it to the hospital, he said "Well, that's the first time they've ever taken any bodies OUT of here. It's normally a one way trip." Then he offered my mom a free plot and burial service if I didn't make it.
The Totaled Van
I worked as a gravedigger for a family owned Cemetery/Mortuary for a few years...20 years ago. Craziest thing that ever happened... I got a call from my boss at 11 pm one night. No alarms yet, we were on call on the weekends, so a late night call from the boss wasn't that weird. This is where normal ended. He asked me to come down to the cemetery, ASAP and open a grave that we scheduled to be opened first thing the next morning, but he needed it ...at midnight!?!?
He then tells me what's been happening. Apparently we dis-interred 2 caskets from a cemetery in the Los Angeles area. This was in the early 2000's and the bodies were originally buried 1979. I don't care what anyone says, stainless steel, waterproof caskets are a bad idea. The caskets were intact enough to be removed but when they were being put into the transportation van... they bumped together, and the corners of the caskets broke... releasing the contents. The fluid contents. All over the inside of the van. The driver was not happy. But, got on I-5 to Sacramento anyway for the 6 hour drive. The driver said he gagged the entire trip. He said the smell was so bad he drove with his head out the window to avoid the smell. He called the boss and told the boss that the graves need to be open and ready the second he arrived so that we could get these caskets in the ground and covered as soon as possible. Which we did.
The next day, before the mortuary opened we had locals calling in complaining about the smell. The Fire department came by, the police eventually called to inquire about the complains and the smell. It was coming, not from the grave, but from the van used to transport the caskets. We stripped out the carpet and burned it, the plastic came next and we bathed that in bleach, then drenched the inside of that van with every cleaning chemical that we had. Nothing helped. So, the boss called the insurance company.
The adjuster showed up, and the boss met him outside at his car, across the parking lot from the van. The adjuster immediately asked about the horrible smell. The Boss told him that it was coming from the van, and that why he was here. The adjuster looked at him for about 3 seconds and said, "it's totaled, I'll call a tow truck," then got back into his car and drove away.
A guy with an ascaris infestation (intestinal worms). As the body cools down they start exiting through the nose, mouth and all the orifices, which makes for a really gross spectacle. I had to finish pulling them out (they are long, wriggly and disgusting, and wouldn't stop coming) so I could commence my autopsy. I found more inside, too. Blegh.
Are You Real?
My neighbor has a funny story. She was visiting the hospital and got in the elevator. Now this hospital isn't built entirely on the same elevation. The main entrance is on top of a hill. This means that to get to the main floor, you have to press the 1st floor button. Underneath that button is another floor labeled M. She thought it was labeled M, for main floor. It was actually labeled M, because that floor was the morgue. So she gets off at the morgue level to try and figure out where she is. The mortician comes around the corner and nearly has a heart attack when he sees her. After asking her if she's real, he shows her that the first floor is the main floor and helps her get to the main entrance.
My father worked cleaning a hospital morgue for a while. His co-worker was supposed to transport an amputated limb from the morgue to the furnace out back, which was at the top of a steep hill that had been covered with snow and a thick layer of ice from freezing rain and sleet the day before.
Dad was at the bottom of the hill and, thinking it would be funny, the dude waved the amputated leg at my dad. Then he dropped it, watching in horror as it skidded all the way down the icy hill into a small crowd of visitors-- which included some of the hospital's investors-- who screamed bloody murder and took off in random directions. He was fired, but later considered the story in itself to be worth losing his job.
My uncle used to be an EMT in a really small town in PA, so they pretty much deal the with everything. Neighbors hadn't seen this old lady in quite some time so called 911 and my uncle and his crew went to see what was up. Lady had died doing something to the furnace (old school in your living room type one) and when she died she landed on it and pretty much "melted" onto it. They had to scrape her off. I can only imagine what seeing that does to people...
We were prepping the body and removed the sheet to find a cotton string tied around his penis. Another funeral home had embalmed him so I can only assume they put it there. But why?
"Dancing" On His Grave
Worked in cemetery as a teen in the mid 60's. The old widow probably in her late 50s would bring her new boyfriend and have sex on her deceased husbands grave stone. We had to chase them off several times.
A friend of mine is in the business that his family has owned for a while.
A guy called asking a LOT of technical questions about the crematorium. How hot does it get, how long do you do it etc.
After answering questions he asks what is going on.
The callers dad was in his late 80s and had a terminal illness. They want to do a home cremation.
They explain that you can't really do that that there are laws and procedures with the police and hospital etc. The caller dismissed all of that legal mumbo jumbo and thanked him for the info.
A couple of months go by and the guy calls back.
How much do you charge for a "partial" cremation? A partial? What is going on there.
I guess the dad died and they got a bunch of railroad ties and tried to burn the dad up in the backyard. The partial was the leftovers from the fire.
For those that don't know you have to have temperatures way higher than you ever could reproduce in your backyard to completely burn up a body
After they said they didn't do partials the guy hung up.
I used to process bodies that were donated to science. This company would offer a free cremation for people if they could take parts they could use. They promised a minimum percentage of ashes returned (I think 40%) thru would take a lot of knees, shoulders, elbows and doctors could practice using Magellan surgeries. Had one woman come in. She weighed 65 lbs. And I had no problem lifting her myself.
Cancer ate her up. These people were mostly poor people that had been stuck on some institution. Her hip had dislocated and refused to her pelvis. She had horrible rotting bed sores. I had just started the job and was about four weeks into training. I was worried the job would be too much and this woman was what I was afraid for. It took me back so much that I asked my boss if this was something we should report to authorities. A week later they tell me they don't think I'm suited for this line of work and show me the door.
My father in law served in the RAF in Germany in the early 80s. He was a driver but was somehow given the job of body Collector for the local morgue along with a few others.
He's told us loads of stories, but one that sticks out the most was when they were called to a railway line.
They were told to bring shovels. That's when they knew it was bad. He said all they could do was shovel as much as what was left of the man, onto a gurney.
He then told us how he'll never forget the sound of the remains sliding off the gurney into the body bag.
"It was basically human soup"