Ever Smelled a Decomposing Human Body?

Inspired by this tread of a lady not found under a mattress in a Memphis motel

Simple question:

Have you ever smelled a decomposing human body? If so how bad was the smell?

I have never smelled a decomposing body. I’ve found people dead but they were dead too short a time.

I read that both Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy had foul smelling flats and houses (Gacy blamed the smell on a dead rodent in the crawlspace, which the police initial bought).

Have you ever smelled a decomposing rat? Dog? Goat? Horse? It’s all the same, just more so.


Living in an apartment building and the guy next door fell in his bathtub (apparently). We didn’t see him often, so it wasn’t anything weird to not see him but his audio books were put on his doorknob and stayed for a couple days (he was blind, they delivered books to him to listen to).

Started smelling really weird, and since my son was just a baby at that time we’d initially thought somehow we hadn’t put a diaper in the garbage and it had ended up somewhere and was stinking up the place, searched high and low but couldn’t find it. The landlady knocked on his door (all our doors, handing out notices) and we mentioned we hadn’t seen him in a bit… half an hour later she was letting the police into his place.

I can’t imagine the smell in the same room though, it was bad enough being in the next apartment!

Yes and this:

Only it is worse…just so much worse (at least after you know what it is) and it seems to stick with you. Once you smell it, you’ll be smelling it for a while.

I was the envy of my gross lab, I have almost no sense of smell. :smiley:

I work in a very high volume mortuary, so yes, all the time.

The best is when they’re decomposed and autopsied, and I have to remove the viscera. (insert Tauntaun joke here).

Wait, wouldn’t they have taken the viscera out during autopsy? Or in humans that are going to the mortuary, they just stick the viscera back in the body as if it were a weird gift box?

Really curious, I do necropsies, and, unless the animals are going for private cremation, we just dispose of the carcasses and organs.

In the autopsy that I saw, the organs were put in a biohazard bag and placed back in the abdominal cavity. It was explained to me that that helped the morticians by keeping the body in a more-or-less normal visual profile. Experience N=1, so YMMV.

Yes. I did a rotation through the medical examiners office in med school. During that time we had a couple bodies that were brought in from seedy hotels after someone in a neighboring room complained of the smell. I have no idea how someone could stay in the room with the corpse without noticing something wrong.

Yep, as a cop for 17 years, I smelled some ripe examples. We kept vapo-rub and cheap cigars in the glove box for such occasions, but I always felt as if the smell permeated my clothes.

Related story here.

I’ve smelled rotting feet on a live person.

Now how is that possible, gangrene? Seriously though, is that what it is? If not how?

The plant nurse at the last place I worked encountered this – a couple of toes on a diabetic man who was in denial about how serious his condition was. I don’t remember how much had to be amputated.

They had some kind of severe fungal infection in their feet. They did not lose their feet in the end just flesh. I never was given details as to what the exact infectious agent was. It was so bad smelling around them you had problems not puking. What ever it was the tissue was rotting, and they were on antibiotics along with atifungal medicine for months.

I’ve causally known people that kept losing more of themselves like that.

Decomposing humans seem to smell much worse than decomposing animals - that’s my experience, anyway.

I’m an outdoorsman, hunter and tanner and have met all sorts of rotting beings in all kinds of situations. But the stench of death I encountered after participating in emptying an apartment where an elderly lady had died in a couple weeks ago, it was something else. Utterly permeating clothing and skin, the worst smell ever. Almost physically painful, even though the body and associated mess had already been removed days earlier. I’m a detached-kinda guy, and did not feel sadness or horror at the lady’s fate, it was pure physics. Gotta wonder if there’s some primeval instinct in humans kicking in at the smell of decaying kin.


A bunch of decomposing people floated into Antigua. They brought them in to one of the boatyards, the stench from 100s of feet away was intolerable. Poor buggers.

Fun thread.

Good times.