Graveyard Shift Morticians Describe the Most Gruesome Facts About Dead Bodies  

Christopher Shultz
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Ever asked yourself, "What happens to dead bodies once they end up on the mortician's table?" Most people might have at least a passing knowledge of embalming methods, but what of the more specific and, for lack of a better term, grosser details?  

For anyone with a morbid curiosity about the fates of dead people, consider these mortician facts, shared by real morticians and funeral directors via a Reddit thread, as well as an AMA with a mortician who specializes in facial reconstructive surgery.
1

"Decomposing Bodies Almost Always Have a Lime-Green Abdomen."


"I'll start with cool facts:

We use denture adhesive to put skulls back together.

Decomposing bodies almost always have a lime-green abdomen.

Once, a husband asked me to make his wife "perky."

Decapitations are not fun... it involves a lot of stitching and wax.

I've had to work on bodies so severely dehydrated that they looked like jerky, but the results were amazing.

Rigor mortis makes muscles stiff so yes, genitalia might be 'hard' but it will be very small because of lack of blood flow, unless he died face-down but then it would be flaccid.

When you die, blood gravitates/settles so that's where you swell... I had a man who had his face swollen from blood on half and completely dried out on the other side.

If someone is overweight, it is likely that they will have to buy two cemetery plots... he/she may not be able to fit in the crematory retort [cremation furnace] and we do not chop bodies to make them fit.

I hate that if a mother and baby die, they can't go into the crematory retort together in Michigan... state law.

I have had to make an entire new face before using modeling clay, wax, and a lot of makeup."

2

Working on the Bodies of People You Knew


"QHave you ever encountered someone you know? And how do you remain calm when you're around death all the time?  

A: I've dealt with a few... That was rough, I cried. I haven't had to work on someone super close yet but I'd rather work on them than someone else. I don't trust anyone to do as good of a job with my loved ones as myself."

That's bad, but not as bad as this story.

3

After the Autopsy, You Get Your Organs Back


"When the embalmers get the body, the autopsy tech finishes. For the manner that this describes (a full autopsy), we undo all of the sutures. The viscera, which is usually placed back inside, is now taken out again. We then put the organs into a bucket filled with cavity fluid, which is a higher concentration of the embalming fluid that is injected into the vascular system. Now the body is prepared. Severed vessels are tied off, and injection and drainage of arterial fluid is begun. While in a regular case, we try for injection in the right common carotid artery and drainage from the right jugular vein, this is not possible with a case that has had an autopsy. Multiple vessels are chosen for injection and drainage, and the process is begun. After the embalming process is completed, the newly disinfected organs are placed back in the abdomen, hardening compound is placed over top, and the deceased is re-sutured. The brain would have also been taken out, to later be put back in. The funeral director will set the brain inside the skull, put the calvarium (the piece of skull that was sawed off) back on, and wire it into place using either a needle injector with pins, or by drilling holes it the two pieces and wiring it shut that way. The skin and epicranius is gently pulled back over the skull, and hidden sutures are used to secure the skin in place. A sealant is placed over the sutures to prevent leakage, embalming powder may be placed over the skin, and plastic garments are usually worn under the clothes to prevent them from getting wet, and to keep the casket dry. Regular procedures such as setting the features would have been done before the actual injection. To hide visible sutures, a wax with cosmetics would be placed over the line of demarcation.  
 

"For organ donors the process is similar to that used on an autopsied body. For long bone donors, such as the femur, a PVC pipe or dowel will be placed inside the empty cavity to recreate natural form. Bodies where the deceased donated skin will have to be cauterized where the skin is missing, usually the back and backside, then dressed in plastic garments to prevent leakage. If the eye has been removed in a tissue donation, the cavity is disinfected, packed with cotton, an eye cap is placed over top, and the lids are closed.  
 

"I apologize if I missed anything!"

4

Concerning Gunshot Wounds


"I worked on several cases before involving gunshot wounds. They take a lot of time: denture adhesive for putting bones back together and a lot of phenol to stop bruising, but both cases were good. I learned so many tricks for makeup that day."