The 6 Worst Things That Can (And Did) Happen at a Funeral
Through no fault of their own, funerals are some of the lamest parties anyone can throw. You have all your friends and family together, but because there's a corpse in the room, the whole thing is a bit of a downer. Imagine what it's like to be Al Gore -- that's what it's like to be at a funeral. And that's just when things go according to plan. But as with buying a new home or getting tested for VD, sometimes things go horribly awry. So if you can avoid these things, do so.
Back in your grandmother's day, Rudolph Valentino was widely considered the greatest thing since sliced bread -- which, having recently replaced punching a loaf of bread with a fistful of salami, was still pretty hot. Valentino was one of the biggest silent film stars in the world, which meant he had to carry entire stories based on how intensely he could grimace, stare ominously, and make that face you make when you really have to go to the can.
To many women at the time, Valentino was what you would get if you mixed Brad Pitt with low-fat yogurt and expensive shoes -- these being the three main things women love, as I understand it. So when he died suddenly at age 31, people lost their minds. A hundred thousand New Yorkers lined the streets for his funeral, some even breaking windows to try to get in to see the body. And some fans, totally unable to cope with the monumental loss of a person they had never met or, you know, heard speak, tried to off themselves.
Two women attempted to kill themselves in front of the hospital where Valentino had died, and elsewhere it's said that a boy decided to lay down with some of the actor's photos and take his own life, presumably with cyanide or a velveteen hammer. A 27-year-old actress poisoned herself at a friend's apartment, surrounded by photos of Valentino and letters she'd written to him, which we'll go into more detail in our article "The Five Most Inconsiderate House Guests of All Time."
Using The Wrong Body
Funerals are often pretty formulaic, and if you've been to one, you have a good idea of how to prepare for any other you're apt to go to. There's a somber mood and a certain degree of acceptable flirting with hot strangers, depending on how close to you the deceased was. You've got your finger sandwiches and, generally, the right dead person. Those last two are super important. Science says the smaller or larger you make a sandwich, the more awesome it becomes. Oh, and the corpse should be someone you know.
When Kenneth "Tex" Roberts passed on, the funeral home had one of those zany incidents wherein they stored all the bodies together, presumably in a ball pit or something, so when they went to get him ready, they pulled out the wrong dude and dressed him in Roberts' clothes. So the dead guys were all naked in that pit, too. Rough deal.
Upon seeing the body, Roberts' widow pointed out that it wasn't her husband. However, an adept funeral home employee responded, "That's how you look when you die," and things went ahead. So for future reference, you look exactly like a different dead person when you die. Remember that.
Before the service began, the funeral director noticed the mistake and raced to the rescue, admitting that Roberts was not the man in the casket -- in fact, he was at a totally different funeral home. It was then that the crying, asthma attacks, and seizures began. Luckily, they were able to go get the real Roberts and drive him back lickety-split. The fact that the drivers were in such a hurry that Roberts popped out of his casket a little bit so that his legs were hanging all willy-nilly probably did very little to calm anyone down, though.
Plagiarizing Your Own Eulogy
You know what's probably awesome? Irony. I learned what it means from Alanis Morissette, so my grasp is tenuous at best, but I know that when it plays out over life and death situations, it can get pretty trippy.
Brian Moore, a high school athlete, had to whip up something to say before the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a group of Jesus-lovers who may or may not have traveled Middle-earth. What he came up with was an essay called "The Room," and it was one hell of a story. It detailed how he met Jesus in a room full of file cards, and each card detailed something about his life. Basically, it was his view of Heaven, and covered how ashamed he felt when confronted with all his wrongdoings in life. Two months after he wrote the essay, Moore died.
The essay was read at Moore's funeral, and sometime later the local paper reprinted it because it was that good. It was around this time that people who had read that exact piece two years earlier in a magazine sent friendly notes to the paper that the real author was a guy named Joshua Harris. Moore, who had been built up so much by his community as a brilliant student and writer, exceptional athlete, and wonderful person, was also a bit of a plagiarist. He stole the essay and presented it to the Fellowship as his own. God knows what happened to them if that's all they had when the Balrog attacked, but it probably ended with something prolapsed.
Going Cheap To Be Eco-Friendly
Turns out Baby Boomers, who sexed most of our readers into the world, love the environment almost as much as they love having sex with one another (which, incidentally, is like so much you don't even know). What you may not have noticed is that, like the free love movement, the elder generation's rush to save the environment has gotten a lot more horrifying as they've gotten older.
The truly cheap / eco-friendly amongst them can forego old standbys like embalming and wood boxes, and instead get popped right into a cardboard box, dropped in the ground, and marked by a freshly planted tree that will grow strong as it saps nutrients out of your decaying, pulpy, cardboardy grossness.
When Claire Wallerstein decided to have her father buried in an eco-friendly manner, she probably wanted all that stuff to occur. The fact that eco plots are hard to come by and thus her father got put to rest a couple of steps away from a pet cemetery was probably not in the brochure, however. She also didn't plan on her dad being stored in a freezer for a few days and then being unavailable for the planned viewing, since humans, much like a Fudgsicle, need to be put away if you want to enjoy them later.
It also turns out that if you want to use a tree as a grave marker, you need to let the earth settle for a while after the burial. So you have to come back a few months later and then plant it. This in turn means that if no one took the time to jam a stick in the ground to mark the grave in the meantime, you're going to spend your afternoon counting paces from the nearest parrot grave, trying to remember where you buried that box your dad was in.
Cremating The Wrong Body
While a missing body at a funeral is a pain in the ass, they generally tend to turn up, since they're usually right where you left them. Except when someone lights them on fire.
Like misplacing your keys and then finding out someone else in the house reduced them to ash, occasionally funeral home workers will mix up bodies and put one in a casket while they cremate another. It's like a hilariously morbid episode of Three's Company that haunts the nightmares of all involved. So like most episodes with the Ropers.
So how do you mix up bodies? How did Aurelie Germaine Tuccillo end up cremated when her family had been expecting to bury her, and someone else end up in her casket? Pop culture assures us that funeral homes, such as those in Six Feet Under and Phantasm, are nothing if not zany and full of homicidal dwarves. The funeral home in question only issued a statement of regret and condolences regarding the "incident," so we're forced to assume the workers got loaded the night before and played "Spin the Cadaver" and lost track of who was who in the fray.
Beating Up The Corpse
There's some saying or other about beating dead horses, but I've been advised to avoid pissing PETA off. So instead let's focus on what happens when a random drifter happens upon a funeral and decides to duke it out with the dearly departed, in what would be a hilarious scene in a Will Ferrell movie, yet in real life was probably just horrifying. Really, there's no reason to laugh.
Back in 2007, Timothy Cleary, out for a stroll, made his way to the Harvest Baptist Church, where a funeral was taking place. I like to think he saw the open casket and thought something along the lines of "Holy shit, I'm insane!" then burst into a wind sprint and leapt on the corpse, raining down blows. Mourners, not fans of Ferrell-style comedy, then attacked Cleary and pulled him off the dead man before calling 911.
Turns out Cleary didn't know the deceased, and police weren't readily able to come up with a reason for the attack. The responding officers were likely too busy trying to decide whether Cleary was batshit insane or simply crazier than a shithouse rat.
Check out more from Fortey in The 8 Most Insulting Attempts to Raise Money for a Cause and 12 'Sexy' Ads That Will Give You Nightmares.
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Kathy Benjamin's Funerals to Die For: The Craziest, Creepiest, and Most Bizarre Funeral Traditions and Practices Ever unearths very true stories that put the, er, "fun" back into funerals!