Morticians and other people who work with the bodies of the recently deceased often come across strange discoveries while on the job. Sometimes it's as simple as a weirdly shaped organ, but sometimes it's something that's totally unnatural to the human body. From huge tumors, to missing organs, to golf balls, to a still living grub, these workers have made some truly macabre observations. Luckily for us, they took to Reddit to share the strangest, most bizarre stories. Content has been edited for clarity.
A Sad Circumstance
“My mom works in the transplant field, and two of my aunts are in medical. One Christmas I was home, they were passing around the table a pic on their phone of this guy on the autopsy table with his bum rotted off to the bone.
It turns out he was a paraplegic in a nursing home. The nurses just neglected cleaning his bum for so long that it rotted off and he couldn’t feel it, and it wasn’t discovered until he was on the table (how??). I got really angry because they were debating if they should report it.
Like, OF COURSE, you should, you’ll be in one of those homes soon so you should really give a darn about the treatment.”
The Case Of The Cracking Spleen
“I’m a medical student so I haven’t seen much, but the first autopsy I attended was interesting.
The medical examiner found a cyst in the spleen about the size of a cantaloupe. The examiner told us to back away while she popped it because of the potential burst of fluid/pus. But it didn’t burst, instead we heard a huge crack! It had calcified and looked like a huge, pus-filled ostrich egg.
The examiner was visibly shaken and said she hadn’t seen anything of that size and that we should feel lucky that we got to witness it.”
A Gruesome Surprise Years In The Making
“A mummified fetus.
I was working in Africa and the usually very stoic Congolese surgeons called me into the OR, gagging. The patient was an elderly woman with a protruding abdominal mass. When they opened it, they found that it was a long, long dead mummified fetus which, as a result of an ectopic pregnancy, had somehow managed to both wall off after it died and somehow avoid killing the mother.
Her body had encapsulated the alien tissue and over the years, it had slowly eroded her anterior abdominal wall to the point where it finally caused her to have enough symptoms to get something done about it.
It was horrific and the smell was worse.
Happily, though, the patient survived the procedure and just left the surgical team with a gruesome memory.”
Three Shocking Cases
For our morgue rotation, I saw a couple of interesting cases. The first guy was a older-middle aged black guy, found in his apartment that was sealed very well. He was NEON GREEN. Not really decomposed but intact and actually green. He had HIV, Hep C and all the comorbidities that come with those. The pathologist said it was a mixture of all his meds and the environment of the apartment.
The next guy was a suicide who jumped from a bridge, he shattered his legs from the landing in the water. He got caught on a piece of floating debris and half the body was submerged and half above water. The half above the water was mummified by the sun and the other half a bloated watery mess.
The last guy was brought in as we were cleaning up. Approximately 40-year-old man, morbidly obese still wrapped in his blanket from home. He had an apparent heart attack from all the coke and physical exertion with the woman he hired to sleep with him (who called 911) and then took off after taking all his money. When they took the blanket off, this guy had THE BIGGEST piercing on his junk that anyone has ever seen. When they opened him up, his heart was the size of my head.”
One Solid Piece Of Metal!
“My father owns a crematory in Texas, we once cremated a man (with no clothes and not in any container) and along with his ashes came a massive belt buckle. I kid you not, we have no idea how it got in him but it was definitely there. It could have been from someone else, but we never cremate with cloths or in a container, so at least somebody has a belt buckle in them! And for those curious, burning someone without clothes or not in a container isn’t a big deal. After a while, you become very desensitized to death. You really do get a good grasp on how a person’s body is nothing more than matter after their conscience has moved on. That being said, nobody but us, unrelated crematory operators, see the body at this time.”
There Was A Dead What??
“The weirdest thing was in a woman’s intestine. A dead mouse. Tiny little thing, too. Obviously, I never got the chance to ask how the mouse got there as this was post-mortem. Definitely unexpected though. Later someone suggested it might be because of a mental illness. They used to work in psych ward that had to place a patient on an ‘object restriction’ because she would place anything and everything up her lady bits. Broken light bulbs, rings, pencil erasers, broken pencils… She always had to have a 1:1 (which means a staff member always had to be within arms reach of her and always have her in their sight) because she was so eager to shove anything she could find up there. This is not uncommon and is usually a sign of extreme abuse.
Another weird one was 3 golf balls in a man’s stomach. His cause of death was lung cancer. Still trying to figure out how he ate golfballs/how long they were in there considering he was on life support for 2 weeks before he died.”
A Childhood Injury Takes Years To Be Discovered
“He wasn’t quite dead yet, but he would be.
A guy came in for an outpatient MRI of his cervical spine. On the form where it asks if he ever had any metal in his body (specifically asks if he had been injured by a metal object), he selected no. Same with a verbal questionnaire. Also, we do a keyword search in the patient’s hard chart for the term foreign body in case it’s documented – nothing came up.
He lays down, and I start taking images while talking to him through the speaker. During one of the image sets, he starts pounding on the inside of the scanner and screaming. Figured he was claustrophobic, so I stop the machine and get him out. Immediately he jumps up and starts talking nonsense and runs into the wall, screaming he needs to get away from the ‘ocean.’ I call overhead for emergency room staff to come down and security as he’s flailing, continues screaming and running into the wall before we restrained him.
The staff rush down, and he’s talking a mile a minute and explaining how he is inside of the poster of the beach that covers the entire wall in the room he’s in, scared out of his mind and hallucinating. Security restrains him, and he’s taken down to get an X-ray of his skull. There was a BB in his frontal lobe. It had just enough ferrous metal left in it to travel a few millimeters in his brain due to the magnetic field of the MRI. In the emergency department he kept trying to escape, and was very fast. While unrestrained he got up (somehow convinced the guard he was ‘better’). Patient bolted out of his room into the main hallway. A code was called for a lost patient. For over an hour, nobody could find him until a nurse looked into a large storage closet. Poor guy was found in a pool of blood. He crashed into a large mirror that was leaning on the wall, and had severe lacerations of his neck, face and arms. Efforts were made to transfuse him but it was too late. Still haunts me how a simple BB from 40 years earlier could do that. Discovered his brother accidentally shot him with a toy weapon when they were kids.”
A Pen And A Knight
“I work in mortuaries in England. There’s the usual beheadings, train jumpers, and decomps, but as to weird, you don’t get much of interest outside of the occasionally interesting history of death (most are just depressing).
I did once do a post-mortem on an elderly gentleman and while the doctor was dissecting his bladder they found an old felt-tip pen lid (anyone growing up before the millennium will recognize the type I’m talking about, the tops look crenelated like a castle wall). Not a comfortable item to have inserted up your urethra but apparently at some time in his (hopefully) youth he had done exactly that, maybe he’d put the whole pen up and lost the lid? Hard to tell for sure.
A friend of mine once did a post-mortem on a 600-year-old knight that was dug up underneath a church. They’d preserved him so well that his clothes, hair, everything was still intact. He even had some blood left in him when they eviscerated him, crazy really.
I think that once you’ve been doing it for a while your idea of weird changes a bit and it’s hard to pick out what you’d be interested in as it’s all a bit ubiquitous to us.”
“Like A Water Bed”
“When my mom was a mortician, I would hang out in the mortuary watching TV. Her boss showed me a guy who had retained water and drowned (it’s basically fluid that forgets it needs to be in the blood or cells and goes to hang out in between tissues). His balls were the size of a grapefruit. Not the most pleasant thing to see at age 15. When you poked him, he moved like a water bed. Her boss said something about the guy having cancer and how his medication caused it. It was so sad to see. I couldn’t imagine how painful that must have been, too.
We also had a guy that almost exploded. He was in a state of decomposition after being left out in the sun. Didn’t touch that guy, but lemme be the first to say: the smell of a rotting corpse is TERRIBLE.”
This Was Uncomfortable For Everyone
“I was a mortician for a religious organization, and I have to say that The Adult Toy Conundrum of 2013 was among the more difficult issues I’ve faced in the field.
A decedent arrived in my morgue with a bejeweled adult toy firmly in place within the rectum, which led to a very interesting issue. If the family had known that the deceased was likely to have had such an item, we’d be in trouble if we didn’t list it amongst personal effects to be returned to the family. But if they were as vanilla as most of the relevant religious community claimed to be, such an item would probably be considered a slanderous perversion. Fortunately, my boss was a member of the relevant clergy, so I simply removed the item and popped it into a biohazard bag for him to decide upon. I actually don’t know what decision was reached, and alas, that boss has since shuffled off the mortal coil himself.”
Ribs In The Head Bone
“I work as an embalmer at a high volume funeral home.
One day I was working on a deceased who had been autopsied (very common, nothing out of the ordinary there) except when I opened up their cranial sutures to remove the skull cap before injection, I noticed something very different than what I’ve seen many times before. There was a baseball size area behind the ear at the base of the skull that was missing. In place of the missing skull, were pieces of her ribs, they looked to be split in half and wired together and then bolted to her skull to form a shield of ribs. It was a previous injury, had nothing to do with the cause of death. It looked very old from the scarring and grow over. Apparently, she had previously had some head injury and it’s common for the docs to take some of the skull off to allow the brain to swell without bruising/compressing against the skull. The skull is usually attached to the ribs to keep it alive. And when the swelling goes down they take the skull back off the ribs and put it back on the head.
What can go wrong is that the skull piece doesn’t attach to the ribs properly and dies. If that happens they need to find some bone to repair the skull (assuming the brain swelling goes down and the patient recovers well enough). And ribs are pretty useful for that.”
Cut In Half
“I work as an undertaker at a funeral home, I do embalming, cremation, and other typical funeral home things.
One day we had a man, kind of overweight, but not obese, come in. The paramedics warned us that it was bad and we should be aware in advance of the severe injuries. I’m thinking, ‘yea ok, I’ve seen it all.’ We pull back the sheet and I almost passed out right there. He was a mess. This man obviously died a horrific death, and when we go to pick him up he almost pulls in half. I guess we hadn’t noticed from all the fat, but he was practically cut in half and had wooden fragments sticking out of him. There were guts and everything just spilling out, along with the wood.
We finally get him on the table, sew him up, embalm him, etc… We kept wondering, what is this wood? Finally, after what seemed like forever, we get him cleaned up and removed all the wood from him, and put him in the morgue. After that, we later found out that this man was in a horrific accident and had fallen over fifteen plus feet into a wooden table and it somehow cut him practically in two.”
Fragments Carried Everywhere
“I’m a pathologist and during training, I was working with the local medical examiner and had a case of shooting to the chest that penetrated the heart; however, no exit wound was found and no bullet was recovered upon evaluation of the heart.
An X-ray revealed bullet fragments within the major arterial vessels in the legs which presumably occurred when the bullet, lodged in the ventricular spaces of the heart, was taken up by the last agonal circulatory heartbeats and carried down to the lower extremities via the aorta through to the femoral arteries.”
A Cadaver Littered With Surprising Discoveries
“I used to teach human anatomy. The weirdest cadaver we ever had came in with the cause of death listed as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (very common for our cadavers.) Once we opened him up we discovered a lot of weird stuff.
He had a baseball-sized tumor right at the curve between his ascending and transverse colon, which messed up both sections. His liver was malformed and tilted posteriorly. We never found his gallbladder but there were still cystic ducts, so I’m not sure if the tumor wrapped around it or he has had it removed. He had a number of cysts on his kidneys, including once the size of an over-filled water balloon that was filled with dark green fluid.
The kicker though was a massive aneurysm at the end of the abdominal aorta. It was the size of a duck’s egg. It was so big when I first saw it I assumed it was a tumor on his spine and not an aneurysm. It was also full of plaque, like a centimeter thick on the entire arterial wall.
The problem with getting cadavers for teaching is that we get limited medical history. I believe we get so little because preserving the anonymity of the person donating is important. It’s in part to respect their privacy and part so we don’t worry about people figuring out they know the deceased. Because of this, there was a lot of shrugging from me when my students asked why something looked weird, like in this case.”
He Was Blue Inside
“Undertaker here. I’ve seen lots of abnormalities. Once I did an autopsy on a person who had a history of various substance abuse. Upon opening him, we found the inside lining of all of his organs to be bright turquoise blue. From his trachea down to his colon was bright blue. It was a weird but welcome break from the usual red and yellow.
We think that the person was drinking various household chemicals trying to get high. Something he had been ingesting must have contained a copper compound that built up in his system. Strangely, this seemed to only affect his internal organs and not his skin or muscle. There have been reported cases of long-term copper and silver poisonings before that can change the color of tissues in humans.”
Embarrassing A Man Well Past His Passing
“Neurologist here…we don’t get as many cool stories as the ER docs. However, when I was a medical student we had a cadaver with a very large and very tiger stripe tattooed private part. This was the only tattoo this man had and it was very unexpected when it came time for genital dissection.
Obviously, this was saved by the staff for use on all of our anatomy exams (you walk around the room to different parts/bodies and identify whatever is tagged, and this specimen was always identifiable by the only laughing medical student as they kept rotating around the room).”
A Man Cannot Live On Plastic Alone
“My colleague was embalming an autopsied male and found two hairnets, numerous plastic tissue sample slides, a plastic urine container (with another person’s name on it) and 27 (we actually stopped counting at 27) latex gloves within his abdominal cavity (meaning chilling in there alongside the organs).”
He Had Two Spines!
“One of our cadavers had two spinal cords, aka split spinal cord malformation.
One of our groups during our laminectomy (removing the back of your vertebra to expose spinal cord) lab, once they cut into the dura mater (the tissue that wraps around the spinal cord) noticed a spit cord in the in the thoracolumbar region, side-by-side. Our lead anatomist was very excited to see this and had the whole class gather around to see. Apparently, it’s not the most incredibly rare thing, but it is the weirdest anomaly I’ve seen thus far.”
Chemo Therapy Experiment
“Did an autopsy once where the patient’s plasma separated from the blood. One giant plasma ball. It was really weird.It was like a giant mass of plasma. It was about the size of a soccer ball. I picked it up and showed my pathologist and he was like, ‘What the heck?’
The patient was on their way to a hospice and was riddled with cancer. It was most likely a result from the chemo therapy.”
“In my anatomy lab, my groups’s cadaver had died from systemic complications of stage 4 lung cancer and when we got to the lungs they were two rock hard, necrotic blackened masses that looked nothing like the other cadaver’s pink and spongy lungs.
My anatomy prof took one lung out and wrung it resulting in this putrid black goo flowing out of the lung.
As he was draining the lung, he mentioned, ‘This. This is what happens when you smoke’.”
“Where Is It?”
“Not a pathologist but I work in a Coroner’s office. On more than one occasion we have directed a Post Mortem on someone who has died abroad, often due to heart-related issues.
I once got a phone call from the pathologist after he had opened the body to examine the heart:
‘This person died from a heart attack, yes?
‘You want me to examine the heart?’
‘…Where is it?’
Some other countries routinely remove organs when they are determining a cause of death, then the body is embalmed and sent back to their home country. We still often have to confirm the cause of death, so I’ve spent a lot of my time chasing missing organs around the world.”
A Body Filled With Tumors
“In cadaver anatomy, the woman we dissected was just filled with tumors. That wasn’t the way she died. One of her ovaries was basically entirely taken over by tumors. It was really odd to see, and odd that they had apparently never known/found out until after death. Though she was like in her nineties, so it’s possible she hadn’t been to a gynecologist in awhile.
That was the big one, but there were so many weird small things that it makes you wonder what there is weird about your own body that you may never know!”
Taking Dirty Teeth To A New Level
“A real grub inside a tooth.
An old patient came to us with a longterm and severe pain in her tooth. The doctor extracted the tooth and put it into a tray. After 1 minute, we saw a grub crawling out from the tooth. This woman had lived with it for at least 6 months. I have no idea how she didn’t know. Even the doctor didn’t know there was a grub in this tooth. He just diagnosed it as periodontal infection and because the tooth’s mobility was at level 4, he decided to extract it. We just found the grub after extraction. It surprised everybody. This is a very old patient. She presented the pain as an interrupted pain and she dealt with it by antibiotic and painkillers. Most of old people in my country use them for every illness (I am not living at US, but it is weird even in my country). We think it lived in the periodontal region – which is a tunnel around the tooth and will become larger because of the age and infection.
The egg must have accidentally fallen down there, then hatched into larva and it grew up and ate food debris and necrotic membrane. I can’t stop imagining what it would have happened without tooth extraction. Maybe it would have become adult fly… and one day it would fly out from its old nest…”