We asked funeral home employees to tell us stories about their jobs, and what they had to say is definitely surprising…
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1. “Sometimes, you might get the wrong corpse.”
As if spending time in morgues, hospital corridors, and asylums wasn’t creepy enough, you have to face situations that could scare you deader than the actual corpses.
“Once, we went to collect a body from an old folks’ home. As it was a shared room, the dead person was in one bed, and someone was sleeping in the other. When we were called, we arrived quickly, and when I went to move the body onto our stretcher, it started coughing,” says an employee who transports bodies to the funeral home.
2. “Funeral home employees play the cruelest jokes one one another.”
Working in a funeral home is a baptism by fire, and as a sort of hazing ritual, you have to scare newcomers.
Most of those interviewed stuck with the classic: someone hides in a casket, someone else asks the new person to go find something, then they jump out screaming at the right time…
LOOKS LIKE YOU NEED A CLEAN PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, NEWBIE.
3. “Some people keep the belongings of the deceased”
An employee told us that one time, when they went to close a casket, they found two metro passes in the dead person’s pocket. He kept them, and then felt so guilty that he said an “Our Father” and two “Hail Marys” for the deceased every time he used them.
“You could think of them as the coins ancient Greeks left for Charon”, he explained.
4. “We use glue to seal the mouths and eyelids of the bodies.”
“We use glue to seal the eyelids and mouth of the bodies, so they don’t open during the funeral.”
But mistakes still happen: “Once, we hadn’t glued the mouth, and two little antennas suddenly poked out of it. The family noticed, and let us know that there was a cockroach inside the body.”
5. “We sometimes get scared of getting stuck to the bodies when we use glue.”
The recurring fears of employees include:
– that the body moves.
– that the body “breaks”.
– getting the wrong body.
– getting stuck to the body when they use glue.
– positioning the body wrong and having it fall down in the middle of the service.
6. “The things people say during the funerals are little gems.”
“During one very sad funeral, I heard a relative say ‘congratulations’ to the recently widowed wife.”
Let’s be honest, we never know what to say in those moments.
7. “If the body is too big, we occasionally have to break its bones.”
That’s right… sometimes bodies just don’t fit like they should, so workers have to break bones (the shoulder blades, for example) to get them in the casket. Or if the hands are stiff due to rigor mortis, for example, the fingers must be broken in order to cross them over the abdomen.
If just reading that gave you the chills, you wouldn’t want to hear what it sounds like when they have do it.
8. “We don’t always put makeup on them.”
Not every funeral home makes up the bodies before the funerals. Sometimes they simply clean the body up a little, glue it shut, and dress it up.
“Once, there was a 90-year-old lady whose family wanted to bury her in the wedding dress she wore when she got married in her twenties. In those cases, we cut the clothes and place them on top of the body. We at least try to get the sleeves on to make the body look like it’s dressed.”
9. “People always ask if we’ve had sex in the caskets.”
The answer? Depends on the person and their conscience.
How about you… would you do it?
10. “And they ask if we do ‘things’ with the bodies.”
What do they mean by “things”? Puppet shows? Or other really creepy and morbid things?
11. “With time, you get used to the ‘sighs’ of the bodies.”
Because of decomposition and other factors, gasses are created in the body after death, and as they escape, the bodies make sounds.
You can’t imagine the fright you get the first time you hear a dead person “breathe.” And let’s not even get into what happens when it goes out through the back end, instead of the front.
12. “Every funeral home decides on their own how to ‘cleanse’ the place. (Yes, we’re talking about any presences that may stick around.)”
Funeral parlors can be so full of feelings, energies, spirits–and whatever else we believe in–that some find it necessary to “cleanse” from time to time.
Cleansing rites can range from the classic–like burning sage–to the more obscure–like leaving glasses of water to absorb energies. Some even hire specialists or members of religious orders to help.
“We don’t recommend bringing animals or small children to funeral parlors because they perceive more things than we do.” explained one employee. She said that dogs will sometimes start barking at nothing. Or at least nothing any human can see.
13. “Growing up in a funeral home was the most normal thing in the world… at least for me. Less so for my friends.”
Even if it seems crazy for some people to do a job like this, others grew up immersed in this environment, and the business that their family managed for years was just a part of their lives.
“One time we got a call from the kindergarten teacher of one of the employees’ children, asking why her kids were pretending to talk on the telephone and saying things like, ‘Where was the body hidden?’ and ‘Do the police know?’ It was just everyday life for those kids.”
14. “Sometimes people ask us if it’s the correct body in the coffin, or if it’s someone else in there.”
“After the coffin is closed, you start questioning who or what is actually inside. But before closing the casket, a relative confirms the identity of the body, so there’s little chance of a mix-up. Of course, if the person is cremated…”
15. “Happy funerals are the best funerals.”
“One woman requested that mariachis perform at her funeral.” When her wish was fulfilled, it was a surprise for the employees, but it was a bigger surprise for the friends and family of the person being mourned in the next room over.
16. “Some people get laugh attacks.”
One employee witnessed a friend of the deceased who couldn’t stop laughing.
“Everyone went to hug her, but she wasn’t crying, she was laughing.” She did cry eventually, but it was from laughing so much. After a while, she explained that when they went to close the casket, she saw that her friend had one eye half-open.
“It seemed like she was winking at me, and that made me think she wasn’t dead; that it was all just a joke.” she later recalled.
17. “It’s not cheap to die.”
“Funerals are sad, but people really cry when they find out how much it costs for the flowers, the wreaths, the casket, the transport, procedures, the space in the cemetery, the cremation, the obituary, etc.”
Nobody ever said it’s cheap to die. I guess the silver lining is that if you’ve died, you’re probably not so worried about the cost.
18. “More people are concerned about the food we serve than about how the family of the deceased feels.”
No matter how sad (or happy) they can be, funerals are meant to give loved ones a space to mourn. But some people can’t help themselves and feel the need to criticize. So what if the sandwiches they serve are terrible? Or who came? Or who didn’t?
19. “The ultimate way to go out in style is in a personalized casket.”
Are you the type of person who would take your favorite team’s logo all the way to your final resting place? Well, there are companies who make special, custom caskets.
What would yours be?
20. “Sometimes there are extreme situations, like one woman who decided to hold her mother’s wake in a pasta shop.”
One woman in Argentina decided that the last farewell to her mother needed to take place in a pasta shop, of all places.
Another inexplicable situation: a funeral home employee who took a selfie with a body and was (justifiably) fired after posting it online.
21. “NOT EVERY FUNERAL HOME EMPLOYEE WATCHES SIX FEET UNDER!”
Every time a funeral director tells someone about their job, they get asked if they’ve ever seen Six Feet Under. STOP ASKING.
22. “Be more afraid of the living than the dead — they’re capable of far worse things.”