Wednesday, October 18, 2006

it's you know where your deceased are?

You want Halloween? I gotcher Hallowfreakinween right here. Is this something out of Robert Bloch or what?

No, you have to read it. You're human; you will die. Go read the damn article.

This is not only callous, it's not merely fraud, it's just not clean. These are people who know better than most why it is not a good idea to carve up the deceased like deli salami and pass them around. But they did! To anyone! They didn't care! They even went ahead and parted out Aleister Cooke!!! For the love of God, people, Aleister Cooke! You don't part out Aleister Cooke! No no no!
Furthermore, poor Aleister died raddled with cancer, so someone with a compatible blood type got an unexpected bonus gift along with their cadaver meniscus or skin graft.

This was just waiting to happen. In fact I'm not at all surprised to see it.

Leslie P**** ran the funeral parlour in the town I grew up in and he had an established reputation for stealing things off the dead. To this day, I think of that pallid, hand-wringing waste of skin eyeing my grandmothers' ring and wondering whether it was worth the trouble of taking and my blood just boils.

He hired one of my cousins as a mortuary beautician and fired her when she walked in on the night janitor enjoying the charms of a female drowning victim. ( Your 'moistened bint' joke here.)

My high school asked him to donate the use of a coffin to our high school haunted house.
We got a cardboard box. A goddamn cardboard box with a cardboard lid; an actual, brown, unadorned cardboard box like appliances come in. (And I know all about this particular one because I spent Halloween night in it dressed as Dracula, which was most excellently cool, especially as I was stoned off my tits and my eyes glowed green under the black lights hanging overhead and my face and shirt were smeared with fake blood as though I'd hit an artery the last time I had lunch.)
When the haunted house was over the cheap, cheap, cheap prick asked for it back.
Someone went to their reward in a USED CARDBOARD COFFIN.

A girl I was friends with was engaged to a mortician in California. Guess what he did as a sideline? For a certain consideration, he would 'lose' those pesky dead drug dealers you had stacking up around the place. Permanently. Right up the flue.

My daughters' first grade teacher was married to a mortican with one of the only crematoria in the county. It was in a residential neiborhood, on a busy intersection. We used to drive past it every morning. Some mornings, thick, black, greasy smoke was oozing out of the stacks and across the road and lawn, raining ash onto the cars passing by.
I started taking a different route.
A retort operating at legal temperature emits nothing but superheated air. Only one in which the temperature is illegally low will put out smoke....and only one operating at household oven temperatures will put out BLACK smoke. Black smoke is cold smoke. And cold smoke contains PATHOGENS.

The only thing that will act to lower the preset temperature and hold it there in a crematory retort is cold mass in excess of manufacture standards.
The disgusting bastard was doing multiple body burns. Utterly in defiance of the health code, not to mention decency. And doing them in a residential neiborhood, two blocks down from an elementary school. I called the health department. Mr. Le V*** was 'retired' from the operation shortly thereafter.

A mortuary retort fires at kiln temperatures. To comply with public health standards, Mr. Cadaver's water and fat-based elements must completely volatilize and the mineral content reduced to clinker; a shrunken heap of black-grey crud similar in appearance to what you find on the bottom of your oven at home after you run the 'self-clean' operation. (The morbidly obese cadaver has been taken into consideration here when they design the things. The chamber is pretty big.) Consequently, an optimum crematory burn consumes an enormous amount of energy. And that's the problem.

If they still perform them, most cremations undertaken by a small, family type operation are probably in violation of the public health code. Unless the funeral parlor is charging rates even more obscene that the norm, the place couldn't break even otherwise. That's one reason why the funeral industry in America is moving from privately run operations into one made up of corporate franchises.

If the place has no viewing chamber, if you do not see dear departed Aunt Gazania actually enter the oven alone, you can begin placing odds that Gazania may have had some very diverse companions on her last trip. She may have gone in with a load of amputated parts from the local hospital. The teeth the dentist pulls. Bales of marijuana. Heroin seized by the cops. Even animals from the local veterinary. That old 'urban legend' about the guy finding a six inch fang in the cremains of his uncle has a basis in truth.

The old switcheroonie is another time-honored method of making sure the morticians kids go to college. Family A buys Grandpa a top of the line funeral...viewing coffin, sealed enrobement, and concrete vault. While you're all piling in to the limo to ride to the boneyard they dump grandpa out of the nice coffin, stuff him into a cheap one, seal him up and ship him out. All you see going into the hole is the concrete vault.
"But I stood there and watch the guy seal the enrobement! He used a morticians key and everything! We heard the vaccuum! "
The sealing mechanism is REVERSABLE. It's the law. It has to be. It's a simple screw-driven latch. A morticians' key is not magic. It's a socket driver.

There is no such thing as a Funeral Home Enforcement Squad. Most municipalities would prefer to spend their resources on the living, which is perfectly understandable. But it leads to an enforcement gap wherein a complaint must be pursued before any action takes place. People who are grieving a personal loss are not likely to be in that kind of a headspace, and people who are struggling to pay bills already are not going to have the kind of money it takes to prove a case of fraud against a crooked funeral home. Furthermore, most people are willfully ignorant about mortuary practices in general, fraudulent practices in particular, and utterly in denial that anything of the sort occurs anyway.

Given this state of affairs only the most egregious offenses are the ones that tend to come to light.

Like Ray March, a funeral director in Kentucky who inherited the business from his father and carried on the fine tradition of dumping bodies in the woods behind his house. 322 have been found so far.

Or the funeral director in California who operated an urban crematory in such vile, blatant disregard of public health that his night attendants used to bet on how many bodies they could cram into a single oven...and burnt the place down when the rendered fat pouring out of the retort chamber caught fire. They were using broomhandles...salmon gaffs...rakes...yeah. The same man, David Sconce, openly referred to intake procedure as " harvesting AU" (that's the periodic table of elements sign for 'gold', y'all) . Never without his pliers, he had an amusing habit of playfully snapping them like castenets at employees. Sconce was keeping a fence in business almost singlehandedly by sending him 'harvested' gold bridgework and teeth and letting him keep a portion of the smelting.

The moral of this story is: Unless your faith prohibits it, get an organ donor card. If you don't have one, become an organ donor. At LEAST do some good.

Another option is to be an observant Jew and be buried in accordance with halacha. It's clean, reverent and very sane.

OR GO ALL THE WAY. State explicitly in your will that your body is to be donated for research and donorship. Specify an institute. Inform your family.
This is what I have done. I will end up in a nice clean medical facility somewhere and be portioned up, shipped off, used for practical jokes and finally reduced to hamburger by enthusiastic medical students under the auspices of a single, well-regulated agency. There is no way in hell that I'm letting the funeral trade get ahold of me.

News story about David Sconce, California:
Books: 'Chop Shop' also 'Family Business' (out of print)

News story about Ray March, Noble, Georgia funeral home scandal Feb. 2002:

By the way, the site above there is an excellent place to gorge on tales of violence and depravity. Visit today!


  1. Huh. Most of this is utterly shocking.
    Much of this is not surprising at all.
    Though, i can now say that i learned something new today. Most of what i know about funerals, i learned on Six Feet Under.
    Is your friend's husband still in business? I've got about 3 or 4 dead drug dealers stinking up the basement right now...

  2. claire: a cheaper alternative might be dermestid beetles. empty them down the heat register and let the party begin! educational fun for the whole family!

  3. Bring out ch'er dead!
    *rings bell*
    Bring out ch'er dead!
    *rings bell*

  4. and they would provide entertainment for the dogs, too, i imagine.

    good idea.

  5. Phew! I'm nauseous now and my kids are screaming for dinner.

    If Mr C 'accidently ' falls in the oven I will make sure its on self clean!

  7. woah! Beast has a new photo. I don't know how i feel about that. Jarring...

  8. cb: ah feel 'appy!
    claire: now you've got it!
    mutha: go over to claires place. they have dermestid beetles.
    beast: good plan. are you going to stay with this avatar? i like it!
    claire: no like? tell him to go check on the dead drug dealers in your basement.

  9. Urgh...cremation...urgh. I hate even the thought of cremation as i have a horrible fear that I might not be dead when they roll me into the oven. I want a nice big stone crypt. With stairs and a door and a working phone in it. Just in case...

  10. you mean you'd rather be buried alive than burned alive? burning sucks, but at least it's faster than suffocation.

  11. Sick. Just sick. Now you can't even die and rot in peace amongst the maggots and have to be chopped up, molested and just thrown away long after you have taken your last breath.

    My uncle is a mortician...wonder what he has done. He did always creep me out.

  12. hendrix: specify an autopsy to determine cause. by the time you reach the oven, you'll be dead.
    cb: supposedly burning is a more humane(!!??) fate..apparently one deep breath of the superheated air and thats it except for the audience-pleasing special effects.
    awaiting: oh, ew! oh ew ew ew! yes, I...ew. oh ew.

  13. I remember this case - happened pretty recently in New York! Boggles the mind. I'm with Claire - my knowledge comes from Six Feet Under.

    I remember my sister and I years ago checking the "any and all" on our drivers licenses to the organ donor question. Now I have to agree being Jewish (and my prior experience not - Irish wakes notwithstanding), this is the way to go. Bury me before your eyes are dry and talk about me over rugelach for the seven days of sitting shiva. Such a difference - really.

  14. I am scandalized! However, I once operated a cremation business.

  15. Oh my gawd. It's like Frankenstein without the over-dramatics...

  16. Cheerful. V. glad that the crematoriums in this country are publically owned. never heard a bad story yet - not to say they don't happen. When they recycle you FN, will they make your tats into a lampshade? Im sure it'll get great bids on Ebay.

  17. I was going to have a nice grilled steak for me tea
    ****sound of Beast opening the bin and dumping the steak*****

    Yes FN I have cast off Mother Theresa like an old sock , all hail the new Beast

  18. Hail, Beast!
    Hail, Beast!
    *trumpet fanfare*

  19. G: I remeber reading an account written by someone who was a member of their chevra kadisha and i thought 'now thats the way it oughta be with everyone.'
    witsie: tell me you don't smoke cigars too, witsie. please. because that would be so wrong.
    noshit: well, and without the reanimation. one hopes.
    frobi: to hear english death-fetishist tell it they all have 'a friend in the business' who keep them supplied with bits and pieces.
    i am hoping my tattoos will be made into a handy coin purse. and ebay won't let you sell human 'leftovers' anymore. crap!
    beast: i dunno...mother theresa was pretty beastly..
    cb: well, i guess there's one vote for the new beast loud and clear! whats the countdown, cb???

  20. do you know that over here we don't put them in coffin?

    and oh, how do you make your eyes glow green again?

  21. trees: do you just throw them to the monitor lizards?
    green eyeballs-if you are very, probably hazardously close to a lit black light tube your eyes will glow green. *snerk* its cool.

  22. actually i rather liked Beastly Theresa myself. I was just following orders.

    30 DAYS!!!

  23. no, we just dump em in the ground, full stop. mothernature takes care of the rest. she's been very busy lately.

    maybe the lizards do help a little. occasionally.

  24. Darling, haven't you read Stiff? You should - it's a good read. It proves you never know just where your donated body is going to end up. I, for one, am afraid that my remains will be plastinated and exhibited as "grossly obese lesbian" in some third-rate, travelling "human bodies" show...

    I once dated a woman whose family owned and ran a funeral parlour, actually. I was a bit freaked out when I learned she'd applied make-up to corpses, but she was good in bed, so I forgot about it. Unfortunately, it's only now I realize that I should wonder where she'd practiced her skills...

  25. I went on a haunted walk where guys with masks jumped out at you with a mask and an axe.

  26. lewwarden12:11 PM

    I'm involved in a heavy litigation in California which gets right down to the nitty-gritty on what they do, how they do it, how they cover it up, and how to penetrate the elaborate veil this out-of-
    control industry has created to cover its shocking practices. It's an end-of-the-line salvage business, gross but not nearly as dramatic as Soylent Green. I'd really like to hear your "out of the horse's mouth" stories.
    Hey, do you suppose that's what happened to Jimmy Hoffa?? Personally, I much preferred "Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well." But we really are running out of conveniently situated real estate in which to bury and properly mourn our dear departed.