Being a Mortician is DEFINITELY not a career choice for everyone. It can be depressing, morbid, and not to mention spooky. But sometimes, a day at work for a Mortician can be down right strange. These Morticians shared their peculiar experiences on the job that they will never be able to forget. For better or for worse.
Content has been edited for clarity.
Not Well Is An Understatement
“My friend’s dad ran the funeral home in our small town.
There was a guy in town who was always trying to break in to have intimate relations with the corpses. My friend’s dad said the guys was trying to ‘earn his blue-wings.’
This guy was eventually arrested and sent to the funny farm for trying to dig up a recently buried corpse, too.
Dude was NOT WELL.”
What A Way To Learn
“I’m in mortuary school at the moment and help out with removals and embalming.
The gnarliest one I’ve worked on was a man who had been fished out of a creek after 48 hours. We couldn’t even tell the ethnicity of the guy because of how green/gray he was. The entire left side of his face was gone due to the rocks and debris that eroded the skin off, and from hungry animals. You could see his skull through it. We counted six bullet holes throughout his chest and head.
Another case that stood out to me was picking up an elderly man that went into a Home Depot, found a corner, and shot himself in the head. We found a suicide letter explaining that he was recently diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease and he didn’t want his family to suffer.”
“The Body Wouldn’t Stop Moaning”
“I had a job for a while picking up bodies and transporting them to a funeral home. I was unbothered by it and didn’t mind, it was actually a really chill and easy job.
One day I got a body that wouldn’t stop moaning and it freaked me the heck out. I even pulled over and checked their pulse to make sure they were dead. They had all the signs of being dead. There was no pulse, skin was cold to the touch, skin was going pale as the blood began to drain and pool downward. They were definitely dead. It was just creepy as all heck. Never been so disturbed by a dead body before. It was deeply unsettling for some reason. I had seen bodies move and twitch and occasionally make sounds of various kinds, but this one was freaking moaning every couple of minutes. Man that was creepy. Sounded like someone having a dream while asleep.”
Single Piece Of Pie
“We had to retrieve a body of a man who killed himself in an attic, in Florida, in the summer, and no one found him for three weeks. His genitals were eaten clean off by maggots and you couldn’t recognize any features because of his state of decomposition. Maggots were crawling everywhere in the van on the way back to the funeral home. We had every window down and spraying air freshener to no avail. He was double bagged and went directly to the Hazmat cooler before cremation. You could smell him from outside of the cooler for a week. I felt so bad for him but jeez it was awful.
Another time we had a natural death at a residence, one week expired. He had a peach pie on the counter that had one slice eaten from it. He had cracked his head on the counter as he fell, and maggots were all up in there. He was a very large man, so we had a removal team of 4 associates and an oversized gurney. Two of my coworkers ended up on the porch vomiting while we were trying to get him loaded.”
No One Deserves That
“I am a funeral home apprentice. We actually caused a crematorium to shut down because of what happened to me and the decedent.
I get sent to pick up some remains January 2019. No big deal. I get to the crematorium and ask where the decedent is and they say, ‘Finally you came! He’s been in the back since November!’ Okay? So I go to grab the cardboard box they put the remains in and I walk in to see a large cardboard box… It was the box we dropped him off in. He wasn’t cremated.
The room stunk to high heavens, I lifted the box to find our mummified decedent. His face slack jawed and eyes empty and sagging. He looked like he was covered in green cotton candy. It was mold.
I gag. Call the boss and explain the situation. He gets mad, tells me to bring the body back and he will call the authorities. I get back with the body and we learn the decedent had no family and was a veteran. The state would’ve paid. They did. They lied about the cremation to get money.
Needless to say, he was taken care of, we actually put him in a nice casket and had a special ceremony after the desecration his body had to go through. We just felt bad.”
He Made An Impression In Life And Death
“I wasn’t a funeral director but I was a staff associate there. I was the new guy and they loved to mess around with me.
So one day I come into work and all the funeral directors were sitting there smiling. One of them looks at me and says, ‘Hey you’re here! We have a surprise for you!’ So I follow her down to the prep room and laying on the table, is a big blue body bag. She looks at me and says, ‘Think of it as a present, now let’s go unwrap it.’ So I walk over and unzip it and, oh boy, I was not ready for the stench of all that blood.
It was a guy who died for reasons unknown, but he had an autopsy done. Now that’s not all that all that weird for a mortician, but this guy had TERRIBLE tattoos, literally from head to toe. My favorite of which was of two rabbits getting it on and the tattoo that was misspelled. He also had his teeth filed to points, he had eyebrow piercings that I had to cut the teeth of a comb and put them into the piercing holes. When he died, he had his fingers making devil horns, due to rigor mortis. I had to spend about 20 minutes bending his fingers flat. When we went to put the eye caps in, his right eye was missing. When we put him in the fridge overnight, his head was too far forward on the head rest, and his skull cap was pushed forward, making a ridge on his forehead. So I had to basically punch this guy in the forehead until his skull popped back into place.
Needless to say, this guy was a nightmare to work with. And to top it all off, it was my first autopsy body.”
Stuffed Her Bra
“I worked at a funeral home as a staff associate. I was in the prep room during an embalming where the woman had implants. The volume of embalming fluid must have been too much because one of her implants burst.
The embalmer ended up stuffing cotton balls in the chest to fill it back up.”
He Had A Specific Obsession
“I did body removal for the coroner.
We had to go to a hoarder house. We could barely get up the stairs, due to old newspapers, logs (yeah … like chopped up logs for the fire?), boots, etc. blocking the way. He had died on the couch in the living room, which was full of old mattresses, garbage bags full of clothes and tons of other furniture. Poor guy had pretty much melted into the couch at this point, and what hadn’t melted was being eaten by maggots.
But the odd thing was, I’m kind of obsessed with the TV show Hoarders, and I’m always amazed at different places and how they seem to hoard different things. Some people it’s just garbage, others hoard food like they’re waiting for the next zombie apocalypse, but this guy …. it seemed like just random crap at first, but the coroner motioned for me to follow her to the bedroom.
Lo and behold, this room was chock full of women’s high heeled shoes. Like, thousands of them. And all of them in a large men’s size 11. And actually, fairly neatly displayed. And all of them like … tall stilettos. I can’t imagine the amount of cash that went into this collection. It was bizarre. I mean, even if this guy WANTED to parade around his house in these shoes, the rest of the space was so crowded with junk, there would be no way to navigate anywhere.”
“Nothing But Madonna”
“I was an intern at a funeral home my senior year of high school. I was basically the 2nd unofficial assistant to one of the two morticians. We had nothing really too strange.
We had a guy who wanted nothing but Madonna played during his wake, a woman who wanted her father to be naked in the casket, and a woman who wrote in her will that she must be buried in her wedding dress (the dress was a size 2, she was at least a size 14).
But the strangest was the family who wanted an open casket wake and funeral for their son. Nothing out of the ordinary there… Except their son had been decapitated in a car accident. The rest of his body was actually fairly well intact, I mean trauma was obvious, but aside from the neck, he was looking fairly well. He had been decapitated by a 10lb bowling ball in the back seat that had been flung forward when he crashed into a tree at 65 mph. His head was just horrifying to look at. I had to leave to vomit when I first saw it. The father was the only member of the family who had seen the kid after the crash to identify him, and yet he still wanted the kid to have an open casket wake/funeral… We did what we could.”
“A Priest Punched My Coworker”
“I saw a priest punch my coworker.
I was working a Catholic service. The priest started offering communion partway through the service. The casket was right in the middle and instead of standing in front of the casket so it wasn’t in the way the priest stood back and people had to go around the casket. The set up for that wasn’t safe and the casket kept getting pushed back and forth as people tried to squeeze by.
My coworker was lead on that one and said, ‘Let’s move the casket a few feet over.’ As we did, the priest punched my coworker in the shoulder. It was weak but it wasn’t a joking around punch. After the mass, the priest approached us and yelled at my coworker. My coworker (a good Catholic) told him if he EVER tried that again, he would kick his butt.
Another time, we placed the urn at the front of the chapel with a folded flag (military). I went to take a leak (you gotta know where bathrooms are because everyone asks you). When I came back, the flag was next to the sign in book. I asked why and my coworker told me that the church didn’t allow the flag in the front. I said, ‘Oh, that’s weird I’ve been to churches that allowed it.’ Suddenly a Nun appears out of NOWHERE and asks me to repeat myself. A little confused I explained what I said. She was like, ‘No Catholic Church will ever allow a flag in front.’ To which I replied, ‘Some I had been to allowed it.’
A few hours later I get back to the office and I’m told I have to apologize to Sister Catherine. Nope. Did the job from 1999 till 2013. From when I was around 19 till I was in my 30’s. I worked Catholic/Muslim/Jewish/Buddhist/Baptist. Military. All ages from stillborn to over 100 years old. Seen all kinds of stuff.
I was laid off a few years later. Glad I was. Funeral homes don’t pay nearly as much as you would imagine. Seriously. I relied on tips which could be kinda decent.”
“I worked a funeral one time for a man who had assaulted and killed his 19 year old step daughter, then committed suicide afterwards. We had police there just incase anyone lost it. Fortunately, that did not happen. However, his wife, mother of his step daughter, showed up in tears and cried over the casket. Repeatedly saying how much she loved and missed him.
Another time, I did a pickup from the morgue with no prior information other than a name. When I attempted to pull the man over to my gurney, the bag felt nearly empty. I questioned the staff and they just kind of shrugged and handed me his belongings. I really thought nothing of it, took his bag of belongings and went back to the funeral home. When I returned, I took him inside to prep him for cremation. As a safety protocol, we check all bodies for things of value and toe tags for identity. We also use a picture of the deceased, just incase. I opened the belonging bag first. A small brown paper bag, which contained all of the mans bones. Inside the actual body bag was his skin, in near jelly form.”
Only Mostly Dead
“This guy had been suffering from strokes for the better part of a decade thanks to his chronic smoking. He had been placed in hospice care after the last major stroke some six months prior. The man was actually doing better, he was going to be headed back to the nursing home he was originally in. Well, one morning he had another stroke, the nurse found him unresponsive and since he had a DNR, he did not perform CPR on the man. He calls the attending physician who goes through the whole process of making sure the guy is actually dead. He dead for half an hour while the doctor got the paperwork together and called us. He was transported to our funeral home after all paperwork was done and the crew had no problems with him on the way there.
I got there and we were getting ready to prep him, we weren’t busy that week. Some weeks are slow at funeral homes, others, especially around the holidays for some reason, are very busy. I’d only been working there about a month, sometimes the human mind tricks us into seeing the body breathing when it isn’t. I see this guy’s chest moving and I just know it’s my imagination. That is until the mortician’s assistant, a man who’d been working the trade for over a decade, looks at the guy on the table getting ready to be bathed and says, ‘I shouldn’t have taken a week off.’ I ask why. ‘Because I’m seeing his chest move again.’ I laughed.
The assisting mortician shakes his head. Looks at the guy over several times before checking for a pulse in the wrist and neck. He tells me to call 911 immediately. The guy was alive. Barely, but he was alive. The head mortician told us that that had been the fourth case he had seen a patient come back to life in his forty years in the funeral industry. I have no idea what happened to the guy, but for the remainder of the 18 months I worked there, he was not back.”
Fleas And Maggots
“I am a Funeral Apprentice.
One of my favorite removals was the one where we all nearly got fleas pulling a guy out of a hoarder house- my guy was dead on top of a full bag of uneaten McDonalds.
Second place goes to the woman we affectionately referred to as the ‘Maggot Lady’ because she died in her apartment (with no A/C) and wasn’t found for nearly 3 weeks so she was basically soup and bones in the body bag. We double bagged her and STILL got maggots on the floor.”
Maybe It Wasn’t The Toys
“I grew up living on top of a funeral home and out of my mother, dad, brother, sister, uncle and nephew, I’m the only one who is not a licensed director or working in the family business. However, I spent the most of my first 26 years of life working there (from body removals, makeup, working funerals, washing cars, paper work, pretty much everything except embalming).
I worked on most funerals including funeral masses.
Young guy dies of leukemia (early 20s), he’s well known and loved in the community, prior day’s visitation afternoon and evening was packed. Morning of the funeral, family and friends are at the funeral home, most people have gone directly to the church waiting for the funeral mass.
So the dude’s thing in life was collecting wind up toys. Before the casket was closed (note this was a beautiful sky blue metal casket), family and friends line up to say good bye and place a wind up toy in the casket.
We close the casket, put it on the bier, roll it out to the doors where the hearse is waiting, family is getting cars in line for the procession, pall bearers load the casket into the hearse and off we go to the church.
My dad is leading the funeral, my uncle is on the front of the casket I’m at the back, pall bearers on the sides carrying the casket up the church steps. We place on bier and put the funeral pall over the casket (kinda like a drapey cover with a cross used in catholic funeral masses).
The pall bearers step away to take their seats, we are at the back of the church and my uncle is on the front, I’m on the back and we start pushing/rolling the casket to the alter.
Every little bloody nudge, one of like a zillion wind up toys goes off.
BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. We stop then push again. BANG BANG BANG BANG, stop push again, BANG BANG BANG, whatever, let’s just get this thing to the alter.
People are turning their heads back in pews with horrified looks on their faces (remember, they went straight to the church and did not see the windup toy tributes be placed in the casket), everyone is staring at us, while this banging is coming and being amplified by this metal (not wood) casket.
In hindsight, this was hilarious, at the time it was utterly horrifying. From what I understood from family members and how they describe the personality of the young man who died, this would have been the best and most awesome outcome ever I liked to think he was looking down and cracking up laughing.”
“A Dark Slapstick Routine”
“I have done a lot of autopsy work.
I once had to field a request to help a resident remove the brains from a dozen or so decapitated heads. I’ve done the evisceration a hundred times, but it gets a lot more complicated when you’re lacking the weight of the body to hold it in place. I essentially had to hold them in an elementary-school-bully-style headlock as I sawed into the skull but, since they had been frozen and were thawing as I worked, the darn things kept slipping out of my grip and rolling around the morgue like I was in the middle of some dark slapstick routine.
After all this was done, we THEN had to take the heads to a bandsaw to get at a particular bone of interest for the resident’s research. Literally midway through sawing one of them in half down the middle, the outlet the bandsaw was hooked up to blew a fuse. I had to call this poor maintenance guy down to help get it fixed with this partial head just chilling on the bandsaw.
I take my work seriously and was really embarrassed that day for how ridiculous everything went, but at least I can look back at it now and see it as being kind of funny.”
One Last Picture With Grandad
“My mum was an undertaker (and eventually an embalmer), and during her first few weeks on the job, no one mentioned to her that to dress a corpse in a suit, it was easier to cut the clothes up the back to the collar, put the garment over the corpse’s head and then nearly tuck in the rest. Instead, her boss came into the mortuary to find my mum, a tiny little woman, sitting astride the corpse of a large man, trying to wrestle him into his suit.
Another time, she was asked by a grieving family if she would take a picture of them with their deceased grandad. They wanted the coffin upright with their grandad propped up inside whilst the family gathered around. Now this is not in anyway a common practice in the UK, at least, not since the Victorians and their love of postmortem photos. But my mum and her colleague tried to honor the family’s request. While her colleague took the photo, my mum crouched behind the coffin to keep it tipped at a slight angle so grandad wouldn’t tumble out.”
Maybe Not The Best Time For That
“I worked at a funeral home on Vancouver Island. The landscaper used to bring her dog to work, and made the mistake of giving it a huge beef bone to chew on. This dog used to sit at the entrance way, chewing on this long bone.
And even after some elderly lady fainted in the entranceway, they still never thought to take that bone away.”