Thought Catalog
January 5, 2017

20 People Describe The Smell Of A Dead Body

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Flickr / Mick Amato
Flickr / Mick Amato

1. It smells like farts and then gets worse.

“Buy a Boston Butt pork roast and let it rot. Pigs and humans are apparently similar, meat-wise. It actually turns like a sea blue-green color. (It smells like farts and then gets worse.)”

Adam


2. Imagine a rotting piece of meat with a couple drops of cheap perfume.

“A dead body, specifically a human corpse has a rank and pungent smell mixed with a tinge of sickening sweetness. Imagine a rotting piece of meat with a couple drops of cheap perfume and you’re halfway to understanding what a human corpse smells like.”

Courtney


3. It smells like there are a million dead and rotting rats around you.

“I have assisted in an autopsy on a body several days old, and even though it was in a huge chilling compartment, the smell was in the whole complex. It smells like there are a million dead and rotting rats around you.”

Gaurav


4. You want to gag when you’re fifty feet away.

“Understand that a pound or two of rotten meat only gives you a faint whiff of the smell of a full-grown corpse. The power of the smell is incredible. Personally, I’m not sure it’s describable. You want to gag when you’re fifty feet away. It can take years for the smell to leave a house. It just lingers in the background. Cars are totalled by the insurance company for the odor. And the guy driving the wrecker can’t drive fast enough to get away from the smell.

It gets on your skin and clothes. (People use bio-suits for body removal for a reason.) Maggots abound, fluids abound, and I’ve never read a good description of the experience. No matter how well you write, it will be but a pale imitation of the experience.”

Jim


5. Rotten eggs, feces, and a used toilet left out for a month x 1000. It is unholy.

“Rotten eggs, feces, and a used toilet left out for a month x 1000. It is unholy.

The smell gets into your throat and you can taste it. You will literally run to find some clean air. Even then, it lingers and you can’t quite get the smell away. Even though you can no longer physically smell it, you remember it and it takes quite a while to get over it.”

Kitty


6. Like a cross between rotting meat and very dirty kitty litter box.

“A dead body to me smells like a cross between rotting meat and very dirty kitty litter box. Very distinct smell that you won’t forget.”

Crystal


7. Like shit mixed with meat.

“You ever have like a dead mouse or something hiding somewhere and you just smell something awful? It’s pretty much that. The best I can sum it up to is like shit mixed with meat…in a weird way.”

Sharondelarosa


8. A powerful, pungent, disgusting odor that I can only describe as a garbage can left to ferment in high heat for an extended period of time.

“In my experience, any formerly living creature, whether human or non-human, has that same powerful, pungent, disgusting odor that I can only describe as a garbage can left to ferment in high heat for an extended period of time. It does vary some between species, though.

A couple of other answers written in this feed point to some things that are accurate. First, two chemicals, Putrescine and Cadaverine, are both found in decomposing tissue. Both are diamenes and they are produced as a result of amino acids (most notably Lysine) breaking down. They each gave their own characteristic odor which by themselves are bad enough. When they are combined due to the simultaneous presence, they are indescribable.

Second, pigs are indeed closest to humans in terms of the odor they give off when decomposing. Any animal with a musk gland (skunks, badgers, and muskrats are some examples. I’m sure there are many others as well) are also pretty stinky when they break down. All produce these same two chemicals because when you think about it, any creature that breathes in Oxygen and releases Carbon Dioxide is going to have a similar metabolic makeup that, when stopped is going to respond in a similar manner.”

Walter


9. The odor is sickening.

“Once, I took a trip. When I returned, there was a terrible odor in my den. I know the odor of dead animals on the road or in the forests. Mom puts out poison for mice, so I have smelled them under things in her home. There was a rotten odor like this in my den, so I looked under everything, but I found nothing. The next day, I saw some cops and medics at the next apartment. I learned that my neighbor had died and decomposed for days before anyone found him. The odor is sickening. It’s hard to describe fully.”

Miyuki


10. If you have ever smelled rotten meat it’s similar to that.

“It depends how long it’s been dead but if you have ever smelled rotten meat it’s similar to that. some words commonly used to describe it would probably be rancid, foul, putrid, the smell of decay, etc. If it’s decomposed down to the skeleton there probably won’t be any smell anymore since the flesh, muscle, and organs are the ones that create the most smell and decay quickly.”

Cassandra


11. It’s a cold smell, a heavy smell.

“I recently in countered a dead body that had been rotting in a van near my home for 5-7 days. At first, I though it was Korean people making kimchi, but after seeing the body removal with my own eyes I know that the smell was not of pickled vegetables. I work for a plumbing company so I’m always finding myself walking in raw sewage in basements. And I have to say the smell is similar to sewage or waste. Its nauseating and quite foul. Authorities have removed the body, but the area still smells of fragrant corpse. To be honest, I don’t know why you’d ever wonder about this. But yes indeed, it’s very disgusting. As a female I always find myself running out of breath when I’m dealing with sewage, but a body is about 10 times worse.”

Now, death depends on the environment in my opinion. I’ve smelt a few bodies in morgues and things like that, they just smell of death, it’s indescribable really, but you remember that smell. It’s a cold smell, a heavy smell (this is the best way I can describe it).

Rotting corpses of course just smell like any other rotting mammals, next time you spot some road-kill, stop and give it a sniff, pretty much what a rotting human corpse smells like.”

George


12. The bacteria is said to cling to your nostril hair and remultiplies later until it’s gone.

“I was a volunteer firefighter and police had to enter the residence before any of us could. The SCBA is automatic. So I quickly put it on a cop to enter the residence of a woman who neighbors haven’t seen in weeks. Those SCBAs block toxins and the cop ran out of the house drowning on his vomit. He claims he smelled her through the mask….That’s how bad a dead person smells. We eat everything. Those toxins in our bodies is what makes us stink so bad when we die. And to make it worse, when I got home I snorted soap while in the shower. A few hours later I began smelling the stench of her again. The bacteria is said to cling to your nostril hair and remultiplies later until it’s gone. I can’t tell you what it smells like. You’ll know it when you do.”

Maria


13. It does in a way smell like rotten eggs, but it is much more intense.

“Not very pleasant. It is a very strong, stomach turning, smell. It does in a way smell like rotten eggs, but it is much more intense. That is the best I can describe the smell, but I heard from someone else on how to make a small replica of it. Take a bag of soy beans, saturate them in water,let them stand a few days in heat above 70F while keeping them moist,crush some of the mixture.In a few days you will smell what decaying flesh/protein smells like.”

Kris


14. Even the TV stunk after airing out for week.

“My brother-in-law died in his appt. & was there 5 days before being found. When my wife & I went for the funeral (just a picture of him, no body) we went to help clean his place. I can’t describe the smell nor will I ever forget it. It permeated all soft things so badly they had to be throw out, we managed to keep a couple tables only. Even the TV stunk after airing out for week.

Sparky


15. Like getting hit by a solid wall of stink.

“Like getting hit by a solid wall of stink and causes involuntary uncontrolled vomiting!”

John


16. The pork chop/Tupperware trick will work.

“They use pigs to mimic humans in forensic studies, so the pork chop/Tupperware trick will work. I know room temp pork left about 18 hours will have a sweet smell (unless it’s dried out—in which case it doesn’t smell of much), and by 36 hours smells putrid, especially if enclosed and moist.”

Chris


17. This is the best that Death will ever smell.

“Take some meat and leave it in a bag outside for about 3 days in the middle of summer. Then open the bag and mix in some Mexican food diarrhea. Add a good helping of the strongest catfish stink bait you can find. Mix well. This is the best that Death will ever smell.”

Umpire


18. You get a very sharp, foul smell similar to horrible cheese mixed with the same smell you get from a full trash can in the sun.

“It varies from person to person and how long they have been decomposing.

You get a very sharp, foul smell similar to horrible cheese mixed with the same smell you get from a full trash can in the sun.

If the body decompressed and they had a full bladder, you’ll also smell body fluids, so stale urine and straight fecal matter. For those who don’t know, toilet poop smells bad, but shit that is airborne, not water logged or anything is straight horrific on its own.

If you have flying insect and larva development increase smell this far times two. If it’s hot outside times three and if it’s cold out and the heat in the house is cranked it’s times five at minimum for the dry heat.

The worse part is the materials they died on. Wood mixed with death has a woody slime smell mixed with the death ratio above, carpet has a wet padding smell (like cat wizz) plus death and it’ll it’s on furniture it’s really fun as it usually leaks through to the carpet and wood subfloor.

If you’re smelling these things outside a house, you don’t want to be near it when they go in. Cleaning and deodorizing that is pretty rough.”

Dasbaus


19. Smells like a used diaper.

“Living in an apartment building and the guy next door fell in his bathtub (apparently). We didn’t see him often, so it wasn’t anything weird to not see him but his audio books were put on his doorknob and stayed for a couple days (he was blind, they delivered books to him to listen to).

Started smelling really weird, and since my son was just a baby at that time we’d initially thought somehow we hadn’t put a diaper in the garbage and it had ended up somewhere and was stinking up the place, searched high and low but couldn’t find it. The landlady knocked on his door (all our doors, handing out notices) and we mentioned we hadn’t seen him in a bit…half an hour later she was letting the police into his place.

I can’t imagine the smell in the same room though, it was bad enough being in the next apartment!”

Flutterby


20. A dead human being just smells like dumpster.

“I my firsthand experience, I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘sickly-sweet odor that’s immediately recognizable and hard to forget’ or anything with romance like that. A dead human being just smells like dumpster. :X”

Ashley TC mark

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