I have discovered the most disgusting smell ever

I thought I had progressed nicely in the area of nasal stimulation - you know, the way you’re supposed to start kids on the path to taking care of a pet starting slowly and working their way up to more complicated and demanding pets only after they’ve mastered the simple tasks.

The fragrant equivalent to a house plant for me was Berkeley, or as I like to call it, The Pearl of the Odorent. Not that I don’t like the town, but if Bott’s Every Flavor Beans were scents, Berkeley would be a jumbo-size bag with almost all the varieties.

In the same way that children then move on to care for a goldfish or guinea pig, after Berkeley, I worked in salt marshes and estuaries. Sulfurous farts were perfectly undetectable whenever I was on the clock. Returning home from work, I was guaranteed the personal space of ten large men when I stopped by the supermarket or stood in line at the voting booth. Friends and family became responsible for a surge in UFO sightings.

Many children would be content with a cat or retriever. I’m one of those who insists to mom and dad that a Savannah Monitor is really no more difficult to keep than a rabbit and the gerbil only died because Jimmy wanted to see what would happen if it drank Pepsi and yes bubble gum does stay in your guts for seven years cause David says when the doctors treated his aunt they needed to use a plumbing snake for three days. So I pushed my aromatic envelope as an EMT in emergency rooms. The envelope contained dead bodies, and I’d have rather moderated a debate between the proverbial infinite monkeys and that most windy of dinosaurs, the thesaurus, than suffer that redolence of despair, blood, and feces. But I did suffer it.
I thought these things had prepared me. I believed my defenses were strong. I was like a Caesar or a MacArthur of fragrance, master of all I surveyed while Chinese hordes crept up out of view.

Six weeks ago the porpoise remains fell into my lap (figuratively. Stop scanning the skies!) The theory is pretty simple - a carcass can be turned into a skeleton for educational display through maceration, allowing the carcass to decay and be digested by bacteria, until many bits of the flesh part from the bone like small republics from a totalitarian superpower. This comes with side effects.

When I opened the small cooler containing the head, it was like the wave of unpleasant heat and humidity that hits you as you leave Miami’s airport in summer. I could handle this. Not good, but I can hang.

Then I opened the larger cooler containing the porpoise’s body and fins. This was like being plucked from Miami’s heat into the waiting maw of Godzilla’s atomic fire. He’s recently eaten a batch of jalapeño peppers, you see, and believed that rubbing the inside of his belly with Tiger Balm would complement the flaming magma main dish. I tried breathing through my mouth. It gives you the insidious feeling that your taste buds are now coated with the mucus of the Old Ones. My knees turned to jelly, my stomach to stone, and a career in podiatry became increasingly attractive.

What could I do? I pulled out the body and began to slice away for couple hours.

On the way home (I carpool with wevetlady), I expressed my dubious thoughts on the wisdom of going straight out to a restaurant for dinner. I wanted to clean up. Wevetlady is also very sensetive to bad smells, and I wanted to shower as soon as possible to spare her the horror.

She insisted on a hug and a kiss before I washed. When I stretched out my arms to her, she sniffed and looked at me accusingly: “Were you wearing latex gloves today?”

I’ve read that pig farms are the worst smell. Fresh dog poop in the back yard on a hot day is the worst I’ve ever smelled personally. This is a fun thread.

I live in south, south, south FL where it’s blazing hot all the time. My next door neighbors rent their place weekly, and about a week after the last tenants left, I could smell something bad. Something dead or decomposing. I figured it was a dead iguana or crab or something. A day or two later the smell was overpowering and I started to wonder if there was seriously a body rotting over there. When the landlords finally came they discovered that someone unplugged the outdoor fridge. The bait fridge. That was full of bait.

The stench when they opened that fridge was so bad that everyone over there was heaving and I vacated the premises for the day. Even after it was gone, the smell lingered for a while. Truly horrid, putrid, liquefied, rotting death fish stink.

My most memorable smell so far was necrotic breast.

In case anybody ever wondered:

Not changing your bandages for extended periods of time until all that is left of one of your breasts is a large black spot is not recommended.

Yeah, flesh rotting, whether it’s that of a dolphin, fish bait or breast (ew!) take it, no doubt. I’ve been unlucky enough to (twice now!) come home after vacation to a deep freeze which was not, in fact, freezing. The overpowering stench of rotting turkey, chicken, beef, potatoes, onions (the two worst veggie offenders, IMHO) and the sick soup at the bottom was only slightly less disgusting than the requirement to jackknife my body over the edge and stick the upper half of my body all the way inside to reach the bottom to clean it all out - upside down.

And then what, may I ask, do you do with the stuff? Put it in a garbage bag, sure, but then what? I assure you, my neighbors did not want the Bag O’ Death in the dumpster outside on a hot sunny day any more than I wanted it in my kitchen.

Trimethylamine is my least favorite smell - it’s a combination of rotting fish and burning tires. Bleh. And it passes through gloves and stays on your hands all day if you’re unfortunate enough to work with it.

curls into a ball and cries…uh, why was…what happ…


Worst I’ve smelled was necrotic flesh mixed with what was essentially baby powder.

I had a cat that tended to stay outside, and we wouldn’t see him for days at a time. Naturally he ended up in a fight with another animal. We thought the wounds healed over, when instead they developed into an abscess. We found this out when it burst open leaving blood all over the house.

Took him to the vet, where they cleaned him up, shaved the area, and got rid of what they could. The rest had to finish rotting away and dropping off, while we kept it sprayed with antibiotics. The vet recommended some no wash bath powder, which to me seemed nothing more than regular talcum powder with a ridiculous price.

I gagged for three days after using that stuff on him. I’d have rather just had the rotting flesh smell.

It took weeks after he died to get that smell out of the house.

I think the necrotic breast probably wins, but I had a patient with such a large decubitous ulcer on her coccyx all her connective tissue had disintegrated. Her dermis was actually separated from her muscles of her buttocks. The drainage was graphite grey. This was in August. It was the hottest summer with least rain in Vancouver in years upon years. I was pregnant. Not much frightens me in smells after that. Yes she died quickly. Yes I think that was merciful.

Once I clipped my toenails and threw them into an ashtray. Later, while putting out a cigarette, one of the toenails caught fire. Now that’s a stench.

Wiki article

Maybe this is why it’s often said that vagina smells like fish - although the comparison only actually applies when both things are in a less than pristine state…

If you leave dirty water mixed with cat hair in the reservoir of your carpet shampooer for about a month, the result could be used in biological warfare.

As I have said before here at the SDMB I ran the tongue saw at a slaughterhouse for awhile back in the late 1970’s. The department I worked in was in a room between the two rendering rooms where all of the inedible bits of the steers were ground up and cooked down into a sludge that could be loaded into tank trucks. I am sure that most of you have driven by a slaughterhouse and wondered what that smell was. It comes from the cookers in rendering.

I recently met a guy who’s very interested in raptors (has several hawks and an eagle). He told a story of of his youth, when he and a friend decided to inspect the nest of a pair of turkey vultures. They thus learned of a powerful vulture defense mechanism: vomiting on threatening creatures.

They knew that vultures specialize in the consumption of rotting flesh, but were nevertheless thoroughly unprepared for the smell. His friend was the one directly affected: He washed himself nonstop for about 2 days, but still could not be allowed indoors for nearly two weeks. It was about 6 weeks until the smell could be said to be mostly gone.

A friend’s Enviromental Geochemistry MSc project involved collecting and analysing leachate from a few garbage landfill sites.

He had to give a defense talk to the faculty. When he opened the sample bottle about halfway through the talk, the entire room just … stopped breathing, it seems. I’m sure the Bog of Eternal Stench must smell like that. Think of every bad-smelling thing you can - dead animals, rotting veggies, full diapers - then distill all of that over time to a thick, tarry liquid, with all the smells intact, plus many new ones. That’s leachate.

I was once at a Chinese restaurant and the waiter walked past me bearing a dish of “stinky tofu”. Calling that particular foodstuff “stinky” is being far too polite. It smells more like stir-fried hot fresh catshit mixed with rotting fish and garlic.

I’m known for eating just about anything, but I don’t think I could stay in the same room with stinky tofu. Gralph.