What do you want done with your earthly remains after you pass away? Do you have a plan?

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We all have a general understanding of what happens to our corpse when we’re buried in the ground, but do you know what happens when you’re placed in a mausoleum? It’s a much different experience; it’s kinda gory.

Photo only to show the inside of a mausoleum.

Funeral workers have been talking squeamish people into purchasing expensive mausoleum slots forever; they often promise a clean, dry place where your body will be well preserved. If you pay more, you may spend eternity indoors; there is often the promise of air conditioning in the summer, heat in winter, and often most importantly, there’s an understanding of no bugs. This is so completely different from the reality.

Marilyn Monroe, so beloved that fans kiss the mausoleum wall

The corpse is placed behind a thin wall and left to rot; meanwhile loved ones come to visit and sometimes even kiss the wall separating the corpse from us. We’ve all seen lipstick prints at the mausoleum; do not do that, not ever! Behind that inch thick wall is a rapidly decomposing body; corpses decompose so much quicker in a mausoleum than they do when they’re in the ground!

So the building is supposed to be built in a way that allows air flow which will dehydrate the body. The small space the coffin slides into is supposed to be angled, slanted so that the decomp fluids flow to the head of the coffin. If this isn’t engineered perfectly, well. You can end up with a putrefied “festering soup” of bodily fluids gushing through that one inch thick wall and onto the ground.

Imagine seeing this!

If you wanna look it up, there are so many reports around the US of families filing suit against those in the funeral business. How would you like to be talked into paying all that extra money for your loved one only to visit and find their bodily fluids gushing out that wall and onto the floor? Imagine having that image, the ghastly smell of your dearly departed loved one etched in your memory forever!

Sometimes the body will actually explode; if the coffin is sealed too tightly and none of the gas can escape, it will become like a “pressure cooker”. Workers have said that a “boom” can be heard when this happens; just imagine that mess! So, in order to prevent this, workers have been known to open up sealed caskets a few inches to let some of the gases out. No, the families aren’t usually notified that their loved one’s sealed casket is being opened; this is very much illegal, you’re not supposed to open a sealed coffin for various reasons – but it happens! There was one woman who went to visit her beloved Mama’s final resting place and found that her coffin was currently being propped open with a 2 by 4! Yep, she’s suing!

Now let’s talk about the bugs, because that’s a huge reason many people opt for these fancy above ground burials. Nobody wants anything playing pencukl on their snouts, right?
Well, my friends, think again!

Those caskets which leak and rot from all the decomposing bodily fluids? They stink. The odors attract phorid flies AKA corpse flies and death gnats. These pesky critters infest the caskets, eat the flesh, and breed right there on the remains! They particularly like to infest your orifices; you know, since they’re moist – but it’s not just flies!
Let me tell you about what happened to Frances Edward Vincent. This poor guy was absolutely petrified of bugs in life and desperately wanted to avoid them in death. When Frances passed suddenly in 2005 from a heart attack, his family placed him in a temporary crypt in a very posh mausoleum while construction on a new section was being erected. Frances’s family had been assured that this fancy crypt would be clean, dry, and above all they were promised that his corpse would remain bug-free, of course!

Just a cockroach, for reference

As soon the new crypt was ready, Frances’s entire family showed up at the mausoleum to witness as their loved one was moved from his temporary spot to in his final resting place. Imagine their surprise when a cockroach infested coffin was pulled out! “When they pulled it out, it was a cockroach field. My father’s remains had been eaten by cockroaches.” We’re talking beyond infested, and yeah, the Vincents are suing the funeral home.

Sadly this isn’t uncommon – especially here in the South; it’s hot as Hades, and there will be bugs. Don’t be fooled, there’s no amount of money which will ensure you stay bug-free. They do sell Casket Protectors, these keep the fluids contained and allow the gases to escape so nothing gushes out. This is done for the loved ones sake, so they can visit your final resting spot without smelling and seeing your funk.

Photos taken from “Beyond The Pall”

Now, I’m definitely not telling you that all people in the funeral industry are lying con artists, that’s simply not true; a lot of them are caring and honest people. Also there are some really well constructed mausoleums out there, but even then there are often still problems. If you still wish to spend eternity in a mausoleum, do your research before buying; the funeral home is not going to tell you all the bad things, they explain “just enough”. If your heart is absolutely set on a mausoleum, experts say to tour the place, make sure there are no stains or smells, and search for things like hidden air fresheners. Never buy a sealer casket for a mausoleum; if you’re told they’re required, run! And think about buying one of those overpriced plastic bags to go around the coffin so your leakage doesn’t spill out onto the floor.

*Yes, I do realize that many find it silly to worry about what happens to your corpse after death; after all, we will be dead! But still a ton of people really do worry about it. I researched this subject after my grandmother (my Meme) passed away. To say we were close is an understatement, she helped my mom raise me, and she was my entire world. My Meme was promised by the salesman that if she upgraded her plot for the pricey mausoleum that she’d have AC in summer and heat in winter. My Meme had emphysema, and had a very difficult time breathing in the heat so the whole AC thing got her. Silly since the dead don’t breathe, but that was my Meme – we all laughed about it while she was still alive, she knew it was silly. She was promised that her corpse would be better preserved, and there would be zero bugs – the woman had been petrified of bugs. After her death I obsessed over her remains, and what was going on with her body; I had to researching the subject. What I discovered upset me beyond words, it kept me up at night; my Meme had been taken advantage of, and she should have been placed in the ground along with the rest of her family. As for myself, I am leaning towards cremation.

My Meme, her husband who I called Dad, and myself at my grad party. They’re side by side in a Louisville, Kentucky mausoleum. Their final resting spot was “vandalized” a few years back so now we need a key to visit them.
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