Working Stiffs

“So You Want to Be a Corpse Picker-Upper?”

by Dan Kapelovitz

Meet a medical examiner technician a/k/a a bag boy.

Years after leaving Marilyn Manson for “chemical reasons,” Gidget Gein was looking for work at a “welfare office-type of thing.” He was scrolling through the career listings computer when a want ad caught his eye; it read, “mortuary attendant.”

Although the job title sounds as if it’s describing someone who stands around funeral homes in a three-piece suit, Gein soon learned it was much different.

“I go to the place,” Gein recalls, “and the guy says, ‘Kid, do you know what you’re getting into to? You might pick up some lady who killed herself after putting her baby in the microwave, and you have to scrape the baby out.’ I’m trying to contain my excitement–I’m like, ‘Man I hope this guy doesn’t see the twinkle in my eye.’ “

Luckily, his new boss didn’t notice (or didn’t mind) his over-eagerness, and Gein was given a minivan and a Nextel two-way radio so he could be on call 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

His first job was at a nursing home. “My partner put me in the room with the lady, and I’m thinking, ‘This is so surreal.’ We take her to the Medical Examiner’s Office, where you take the body off the gurney and put it onto the table. I learned later that it’s better just to drag them over, but my partner was like, ‘What do you want–the top or the bottom?’ I said, ‘The top, I guess.’ I grabbed her head instead of her shoulders, and all the blood and shit came out of her neck.”

Surprisingly, Gein was only paid a measly 20 bucks per corpse, but he was kept pretty busy, picking up an average of three to five bodies a day. “A lot of people die in Florida because of the old people,” he explains.

A junky at the time, Gein supplemented his income by robbing the dead. “We’d steal shit–prescriptions, jewelry, money, whatever,” he says, with no remorse.

Usually, there were police officers around to keep the technicians from ripping off the stiffs, but not always. “If it was really gross, the cops wouldn’t stay in the room with you. Also, we would take the stuff to the Medical Examiner’s Office, and we were responsible for cataloging everything; so we would just write down a few pills and take the rest.”

Gein once even tried to heist part of a deceased motorcyclist’s skull. “A semi went over this biker dude and dragged him for a quarter of a mile. I had to scrape his lungs, his heart and his eyeballs. I picked up his brain, and it felt like it was tingling in my hands, like it was still alive. There were chunks of bone everywhere, and I found this good chunk of skull that I put on the curb in the gutter to come back and get it, but the detective saw it and made me pick it up.”

It’s hard to believe, but a corpse spread across a fourth of a mile was not the most disgusting death Gein encountered.

“The grossest are decomps–decomposed bodies. One time, we picked up a guy who was dead for a week. He was about 150 pounds, but he looked like he was 400 pounds–all big and black–maggots all over him. His skin was green and pussy. There was a puddle by his feet where it dripped out, and his face was missing. We finally got the guy in the body bag, and when we’re leaving, the cop said, ‘Hey, can you get that dog that it’s in the bathroom?’ I’m thinking, ‘I’m not gonna take it. What am I gonna do with a dead dog?’ But I go in there, and it turns out the dog ate the guy’s face because he had no food, and then the dog died from lack of water.”

According to Gein, a corpse takes approximately 12 hours to stiffen up, another 12 hours for the rigor mortis to leave, then they begin to decompose.

“Drownings are gross because usually they won’t be found for a few days. The water really fucks them up, and the crabs will be eating at them. They’re bloated and have chunks of flesh all over them. They stink too. Even if they are fresh in the water, they stink really bad.”

But the thing that actually makes Gein gag are the leftovers. “People who shit themselves–I couldn’t take that. I’ve picked people off of the toilet who have been there for a week, really nasty, flies and this and that, and it won’t be that big of a deal. I know how to breath so I’m not smelling it–I just take real shallow breaths through my mouth. I pull them off the toilet, and I look in the toilet, and they’ll be a poop, and then I’ll start gagging.”

From his experiences as bag boy, Gein has learned that a great many people spend their final moments sitting on the toilet. “Some people will wake up in the middle of the night and think they have heart burn and have to shit so they’ll go to the toilet. Really, they’re having a heart attack, but most people, like Elvis, will be constipated and they’ll strain really hard which stops your heart. It’s not constipation, but actually straining that will kill you.”

Gein says that a lot of men ejaculate right when the die and that hanging victims often shit and piss themselves. In cases of auto-erotic asphyxiation, they might do all three.

“I picked up this one guy who was a hundred-something pounds but looked like a 300-pound black guy. His brother busted down the door after a week and found his decomposing bloated brother with a bag over his head, a butt plug in his ass and his dick in his hand with a porno in the VCR. This other guy was jerking off and he tied a rope to a chandelier and put it around his neck. We found him naked with his dick in his hand, hanging there and standing on the table. When we cut him down, we went to catch him because we thought he was going to tilt over, but he just stood there, he was balanced perfectly.”

One of the oddest suicide victims Gein encountered was a man who cut his head almost completely off with a table saw. “I never picked up a full decapitation, but this guy got underneath a circular saw and yanked it down, but his spinal cord saved him from completely losing his head. When I picked him up, his head was flopping around. He reminded me of one of those bobble-head dolls everyone is so fond of nowadays.”

Gein thinks that the most pleasant way to off yourself is via carbon-monoxide poisoning. “They just look like they’re sleeping. You really don’t choke on the fumes or anything. It just knocks you out.”

Gein has seen thousands of corpses in his life, but he hopes no one sees his rotting body. “There’s no dignity in death. I want to explode–blow up so there’s nothing left of me.”

When asked if he was ever tempted to go necro, Gein replies, “Nobody looks good when they’re dead. I don’t care how hot they were.”

He did, however, have sex with a co-worker in the coffin room. They never did it in a actual coffin (“That’s a little too Goth for me”), but he did bend his colleague over a tombstone for sex. “I just wanted to get laid, but she was really into [the fact that they were doing it in a house of death].”

Eventually the job got to be too much for Gein. “I quit because I thought I was having these psychic episodes where I would see people dead, and I’d feel what they were going through when they died–suicides or whatever–it was kind of like I was there at the times of their deaths, and I’d feel their emotions; so it flipped me out.”

Even so, Gein, who recently moved to Hollywood, California, is now hoping to get a job with the Los Angeles coroner. “Out here it’s a better, you have a schedule and you have benefits. There, I worked 24/7 and didn’t get shit.”

Sidebar: Portrait of an Artist as a Sick Fuck Besides being a bag boy, Gidget Gein is an artist–a self-described “surreal pop exploitationist.” His two worlds collide in a series of art pieces he’s created using body bags.

Gein describes the inspiration for his Louis Vuitton body bag. “There were all of these drive-bys. The dead gang-bangers were all wearing Gucci. I was thinking that they should have a designer body bag as well.”

He thinks that many of the dead rich people he picked up in Palm Beach would also appreciate his designer bags o’ death, which he either paints directly on or silkscreens.

And in case you’re wondering how Gein obtained these nylon and vinyl “canvasses,” let’s just say that he describes them as “slightly used.”

(This article first appeared in the June 2005 issue of Men’s Edge Magazine)

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