As Halloween approaches and the fall decor goes up, we find ourselves surrounded by pumpkins, scary movies and mountains of candy.
'Tis the season to be spooked -- but consider the fact that some people, like those who work in the funeral home industry, are surrounded by dead people every day.
Author’s note: Being a kid who grew up in a mortuary family, I spent many hours inside a funeral home and on the road as my family did a job that most people likely would avoid. For those of you who haven’t set foot in a funeral home or prefer to avoid the buildings altogether, here are 10 facts you might not know.
1. Hair and fingernails do not continue to grow after someone dies.
2. Dead bodies do NOT sit up. We know some of you were wondering.
3. The term "pallbearer" was originally a ceremonial position. In the early days, “pall bearers” carried a tip of the pall (a large white cloth over the casket) or a cord attached to it. Currently, a pallbearer is one of several participants who help carry the casket at a funeral.
4. Embalming, which is the temporary preservation of the body, is only required when there will be a viewing or visitation, so the public is not exposed to disease or any biohazards. People who are directly buried or cremated are not embalmed. While nothing will prevent the gradual decomposition of a body over time, embalming the body will delay the process.
5. Bodies that are in caskets are not stored in refrigerators overnight. Why? Embalmed bodies do not quickly decompose, so there's no need to keep them on ice.
6. Eyes and lips are not sewn or glued shut. During the embalming process, an "eye cap" is placed under each eyelid and over the eyeball. The eyes themselves may soften a little over time, but the eye cap helps to retain the shape of the eye. A Vaseline-like cream is placed on the lips to keep them together.
7. In the Islamic culture, not only are bodies not embalmed, but the casket is opened at the cemetery and dirt is shoveled onto the body to help it return to the earth quicker.
8. What if you “wake up” after dying? People feared that, at one point -- so much so that several centuries ago, morticians tied a string around the finger of a dead body that connected to a bell above the grave. The bell could be rung if the person came back to life. Needless to say, the bell never chimed; except on a windy day.
9. During cremation, the body cannot have any medical devices that contain a battery, for example, a Pacemaker. These items explode like a grenade during the cremation process and need to be removed.
10. There is tasteful humor at the funeral home. People say the most innocent, funny things. While writing an obituary, one funeral director asked:
“Do you have any grandchildren?”
“Yes,” the woman replied.
“Do you have any great-grandchildren?” he asked.
“No, they’re all pretty equal,” she answered.
Do you have any spooky funeral home stories to share? Leave them in the comments below.