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Joseph Scott Morgan
September 5, 2014 5:18 AM   Subscribe

(1)I still remember the first time I smelled brain. It was my grandfather, cracking open the skulls of squirrels he’d killed. They’d scamper down the sides of pecans and live oaks among the Louisiana timbers where I grew up, enter his sights—then, oblivion. (2) At 21, he started sweeping the floors in a morgue in New Orleans’ Jefferson Parish. When he assisted with his first autopsy, his stomach proved as unflinching as his curiosity. In the late 1980s, he became one of the country’s youngest medicolegal death investigators, logging 7,000 autopsies and 3,000 next-of-kin notifications around New Orleans, then Atlanta. (3) Morgan relates gruesome tales of true crime scene experiences while weaving in parallels from his own (often dark) adolescence in Louisiana. After so many years of performing autopsies and doing one of the most horrific and traumatic—and generally unrecognized—jobs, Morgan was diagnosed with severe PTSD and forced into retirement from fieldwork. (Warning: Very disturbing photos in the first and third links. Very detailed talk of murder, suicide, and prostitution)
posted by josher71 (32 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are some VERY sad stories in that last link. Don't ruin your Friday.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:46 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


Paging ColdChef, Mister ColdChef to the white courtesy phone, please.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:01 AM on September 5 [9 favorites]


My wife has a friend who works as a mortuary technician in a hospital, a job which often involves working on her own among the dead, sometimes at night. She loves the work, but admits that it has its disconcerting moments - like the night one of the corpses grabbed her ass.

Apparently it can take a while for all of the nervous tissue to die off, resulting in the occasional muscle spasm. So there you go.
posted by pipeski at 6:21 AM on September 5 [7 favorites]


She loves the work, but admits that it has its disconcerting moments - like the night one of the corpses grabbed her ass.

Jesus that would be the end of that job and probably also sleep for me for a very, very long time.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:25 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


the night one of the corpses grabbed her ass.

Classic grandpa! Even from the slab he's a feisty old coot.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:40 AM on September 5 [22 favorites]


Metafilter: They are meat that used to have a pulse.
posted by k5.user at 6:48 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


The first link feels like it's trying just little too hard on the "death is horrible and you will shit yourself and then rot and you're just a bag of meat and no one loves you" angle. So a Vice article, basically.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:51 AM on September 5 [9 favorites]


I am saving the last link for a time I can better handle it. Well written, but quite creepy.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:51 AM on September 5


My sister died when she was 23. It's funny, the whole experience traumatized the shit out of me, but the worst part, the thing I spent the most time thinking/trying not to think about was the autopsy and how it left her. That's the stuff in the nightmares I still occasionally have to this day. Needless to say, I read this with trepidatious absorption.

Also needless to say, all this left me with few to no illusions.
posted by nevercalm at 7:17 AM on September 5


Holy. Shit. Some of the stories in that third link.... The banality of evil, indeed.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:19 AM on September 5


Yeah, I picked the third link to read first, and it is relentlessly grim in both case details and a portrait of a person who simply has no fucks to give anymore.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:30 AM on September 5


Don't ruin your Friday.

Too late. I'm never eating red beans and rice again.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:40 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


a portrait of a person who simply has no fucks to give anymore

This. I dearly hope that he gets the help and respite he needs.

I've had what must only be a miniscule amount of the PTSD he clearly has, and I can't even ... finish this sentence. I just hope he heals.
posted by Dashy at 7:46 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


it is relentlessly grim in both case details and a portrait of a person who simply has no fucks to give anymore.

Yeah, I found him more saddening than the stories he told. This guy did work that was grim but necessary, a service to the rest of us, and after years of it he's come out badly hurt.
posted by schroedinger at 8:20 AM on September 5 [6 favorites]


Fascinating reading, I hope he gets to heal now that he's out of the field.
posted by arcticseal at 8:27 AM on September 5


Oh man. I have seen all of this and worse.
posted by ColdChef at 8:27 AM on September 5 [10 favorites]


I'll read these links, but not today. It's been a tough week.
posted by ColdChef at 8:30 AM on September 5 [12 favorites]


Red beans and rice is a Monday food.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:18 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


I'll read these links, but not today. It's been a tough week.

More than a week for you by my count, my friend. Eat some ice cream with your kids. Hug a puppy.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:21 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


My wife has a friend who works as a mortuary technician in a hospital, a job which often involves working on her own among the dead, sometimes at night. She loves the work, but admits that it has its disconcerting moments - like the night one of the corpses grabbed her ass.

So much for thinking there might be one field free of hostile work environment issues.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:46 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


My Mom's boyfriend got to hear lots of stories, being a hospital administrator. Underneath St. Paul's hospital in downtown Vancouver are tunnels leading to the mortuary/church, dimly lit and quiet at night. One of the orderlies was wheeling a body on a gurney. Down the elevator, into the tunnels and it's late and he's not really paying attention so he takes a wide turn and whacks the corner of the gurney into a wall. The corpse promptly sits up in front of him, sheet falling off, waving it's arms towards him and saying, "huuuUUUUUUUHHHHHNNnnnn".
Right in his face, with breath like the grave.
The orderly hauls off and belts the dead dude square in the mouth and takes off, screaming, out of the tunnels like all hell is after him.
Turns out that the jarring of the gurney caused the muscles that were undergoing rigor mortis to convulse, constricting the abdomen and making the body sit up and expel air rapidly making the sound. The same for the flailing arms too.
Mom's BF said that after the older guys had stopped laughing enough that they could walk they went down to get the body - the young guy had broken it's jaw and knocked it clean off the gurney.

Sometimes, anything can be slapstick.
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:55 PM on September 5 [8 favorites]


in that case I think you'd call it slapstiff
posted by any major dude at 5:32 PM on September 5 [4 favorites]


This might be the single most upsetting thing I have ever seen linked here on Metafilter.

(Note: I'm home sick and I'm always emotional when I'm sick.)
posted by jokeefe at 6:40 PM on September 5


Sorry you're poorly, jokeefe; hope you're feeling better soon.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:23 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Aw, bless you FelliniBlank! That's very kind of you. I think I'd be feeling a bit better if I'd paid serious attention to the warning in the FPP. Note to self for next time: don't click.
posted by jokeefe at 11:16 PM on September 5


JFC, that diaper story in the third link is one of the more depressing things I've ever read.
posted by jaduncan at 12:00 AM on September 6


Okay, I can't help myself. Here's some pettiness.

In both articles, he mentions the Tulane girl who wanted to intern but was all gothed up. I don't know why he keeps on mentioning that she's from Tulane, because if he thinks that results in a smarter range of students then this Class of 99 alumnus has stories, oh yes.

And he says she's a physical anthropology major. That isn't fair. The one thing I would've totally adored as a major, but we only had one person in the entire anthro department with that as his focus. You'd become an anthro major and it was all "go study native tribes in South America," "no, really, study these tribes," "I guess you could also study French-speaking groups in Africa, but, really. South American tribes." "Oh, there's some Native American mound culture work going on. But South American tribes. Really."

I would have been an excellent physical anthropology major. I would've also been a respectful and polite intern. Darn it.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:50 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, there's lots of underdiagnosed PTSD in the forensic professions, particularly the more "hands-on" a worker is (pathologist, investigator, autopsy technician). Adding low pay and grueling hours on top of that is a perfect recipe for mental illness.

I know people who can't eat rice anymore because the grains are too reminiscent of maggots.
posted by Renoroc at 8:42 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]


And he says she's a physical anthropology major. That isn't fair

My anthro program had an internship program with our state bureau of investigation, so it's not that unusual. Admittedly, it was a program that accepted a grand total of 1 applicant, so also not the most common thing either. My uni also had a a pretty solid PhysAnth program though.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:07 AM on September 6


If anyone is interest in something similar in content, if not style, Forensic Anthropologist Mary Manhein has written a couple of books (The Bone Lady and Trail of Bones) which are essentially vignettes of the cases she has worked over her several decades in the profession. Still includes substantial amounts of maggots and skin-slippage, but done in a more respectful manner.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:12 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, there's lots of underdiagnosed PTSD in the forensic professions, particularly the more "hands-on" a worker is (pathologist, investigator, autopsy technician). Adding low pay and grueling hours on top of that is a perfect recipe for mental illness.

There are so many of these dreadfully debilitating but important jobs that really need to have strictly regulated on-duty/off-duty/away-for-recovery rotations for workers, but of course nobody wants to fund them or can find sufficient people willing and qualfied to do them in the first place.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:10 AM on September 6 [4 favorites]


I can't be the only one who really wants to hear the whole story about the ass-grabbing corpse.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:01 AM on September 11


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