20 Things You’ll Probably Wish You Didn’t Know About Dead Bodies

12. The corpses of people who die in house fires smell like a barbecue, and their rib cages look and smell just like smoked ribs you’d get at a restaurant.

“Hollywood can prepare you for a lot of the visuals and even some of the sounds of death/the morgue, but they can’t prepare you for the smells. Even recently deceased people have pretty bad odors coming from the abdominal cavity. Not only do you have the feces in the large intestine, but you have food in varying degrees of digestion from the stomach through the small intestine.

Some of that is recognizable in appearance, and the worst is sort of recognizable by smell. I’ve done about 2,250 autopsies, and the only time I puked was when somebody’s gastric contents still looked and smelled like warm food. And I was hung over; that’s probably the key detail.

Like Inuit/Eskimos have many words for varying types of snow, we have many varying types of foul odors. Everybody’s colon smells like shit. Feet and armpits that haven’t been washed in months have a bad smell and flaking skin. Infected bodies with sepsis/pneumonia/urinary tract infections have a unique smell. People who are drunk can smell like alcohol or even ‘sweet.’

Decomposition also yields a variety of foulness. Early ‘dry’ decomps are at the lower end of the spectrum, whereas a body that’s been in a river for a few weeks during the summer will be at the worse end (plus there are jumping maggots called cheese skippers accompanying these cases). There are certain foods/smells I can’t tolerate outside of the morgue because they remind me of the smell and feel of sloughing green-black skin off decomposing bodies.

Last, and perhaps grossest, are bodies of people who die in house fires. The good news is that almost all of them die from CO/smoke inhalation before their bodies burn, so there’s no real pain for them. The bad news is there’s frequently a lot of charring and loss of recognizable features. The ugly/gross news is that they smell like a barbecue, and their rib cages look and smell just like smoked ribs you’d get at a restaurant. Your mouth waters and your stomach growls even as you’re trying to determine if this person died as a result of the fire or died before the fire (e.g. homicide covered up by arson or heart attack causing them to drop a cigarette into the couch causing the fire).

FWIW, I really do like my job, but most people tend not to want to know anything about it.”


13. We make corpses ‘smile’ by shoving metal pins through their eyeball sockets and pulling up the cheeks.

“For funeral prepping, to make a dead person smile we shove these metal, pin-like things in through your eyeball sockets and they go down inside your mouth by your cheeks. They grab the inside of your cheek and you can adjust it however the smile needs to be.”



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