"Working Stiffs: Tales From a Real-Life Corpse Collector"
Interview by Dan Kapelovitz
Gidget Gein was the co-founder and original bassist for Marilyn Manson. After leaving the group for "chemical reasons"--in other words, drugs were fucking up his work with the band--Gein began a career as a "bag boy." His job was to pick up corpses all over Southern Florida for the medical examiner and for funeral parlors. Gein was addicted to heroin when he was first hired and wasn't above supplementing his income by robbing the dead.
Clean and sober for the past four years, Gein recently moved to Hollywood, where he is concentrating on his art, including his paintings for which he uses body bags as his canvass. "High Society" caught up with Gein at his art studio/apartment where he described the goriest--and the grooviest--ways to die.
HIGH SOCIETY: How did you get into this line of work?
GEIN: I went to a welfare-office-type of place, and I saw a want ad that read, "Mortuary Attendant" that seemed interesting. I'm strung out at this time, doing lots of drugs. I go to the place, and the guy is telling me, "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, thinking, "I hope this guy doesn't see the twinkle in my eye." Anyway, I got the job. I was on call for three days, then I'd have a day off. But I'd go there high; so I would be high for like 12 hours, and the rest of the time I was dope-sick, picking up the bodies. That wasn't cool.
HIGH SOCIETY: Did you pick up many overdosed junkies?
GEIN: All of the time.
HIGH SOCIETY: Did you ever steal their drugs?
GEIN: Yeah. We'd steal shit--prescriptions, jewelry, money, whatever. One guy I worked for got arrested for selling bodies to a medical school. I also think he may have been connected to the mob and cremated mob hits.
HIGH SOCIETY: How much were you paid?
GEIN: Twenty bucks a body.
HIGH SOCIETY: How many stiffs would you pick up each day?
GEIN: I'd average three to five. A lot of people die in Florida because of all of the old people. I was on-call 24/7. They gave me a minivan and a Nextel phone walkie-talkie.
HIGH SOCIETY: How many corpses have you picked up?
HIGH SOCIETY: What was your very first job?
GEIN: It was at a nursing home. I had a partner, and he puts 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 pick the body off the gurney and put it onto the table. I learned later it's better just to drag them over, but he was like, "What do you want, the top or the bottom?" I said the top; so he grabs her feet, but I didn't grab her shoulders; I grabbed her head, and it snapped, and all of this blood and shit came out of her neck.
HIGH SOCIETY: What is the most disgusting body you've ever seen?
GEIN: The grossest are decomps--decomposed bodies--when they've been there for awhile. 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 going out, 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?" It turns out the dog ate the guy's face because he had no food and then the dog died from lack of water.
HIGH SOCIETY: Where do the maggots come from?
GEIN: Flies lay eggs on your decomposing flesh.
HIGH SOCIETY: How long does it take before a person becomes maggot meat?
GEIN: It usually takes about 12 hours for you to stiffen up, and then about 12 hours for the rigor-mortis to leave, then you start to decompose.
HIGH SOCIETY: Is it true that people always shit when they die?
GEIN: Not really. Maybe a little poop comes out, but you'd have to really look for it. A lot of people jizz. They shoot a load in their pants. A lot of times people die on the toilet. 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--but I'll pull them off the toilet, and see a poop in the toilet, and then I'll start gagging.
HIGH SOCIETY: Why do so many folks die on the toilet?
GEIN: People 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.
HIGH SOCIETY: Do you have extra-large body bags for obese corpses?
Gein: No. They have regular size and pediatric size, and then they have ones for babies which look like pillow cases. Sometimes you have to jam the big guys into the body bags, and you can't zip the zipper closed.
HIGH SOCIETY: Have you ever have to scrape a baby out of a microwave?
GEIN: No, but I've seen people who've killed their babies--smothered them to death.
HIGH SOCIETY: Do you wear a biohazard suit?
GEIN: When they're decomps, yeah. Or if they are really bloody.
HIGH SOCIETY: Did you ever have to scrape a jumper off the pavement?
GEIN: Oh, yeah. One time I got this guy--he wasn't a jumper, but he was on a motorcycle--this biker dude, and a semi went over him and dragged him for like a quarter of a mile. So 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. I was going to come back and get it, but the detective saw me and made me pick it up.
HIGH SOCIETY: How do you steal shit if the cops are watching you?
GEIN: If it was really gross, the cops wouldn't stay in the room with you. A lot of the time the cops don't want to do anything; so I'd have to find the dead person's IDs or take their jewelry off. 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.
HIGH SOCIETY: What's the best way to die?
GEIN: If you're going to kill yourself, probably carbon monoxide, because they just look like they're sleeping. You really don't choke on the fumes; it just knocks you out, and you go to sleep.
HIGH SOCIETY: Is that how you want to die?
GEIN: I want to explode, blow up so there's nothing left of me. I don't want anyone to see me dead; there's no dignity in death. Nobody looks good when they're dead. I don't care how hot they were.
HIGH SOCIETY: What are hangings like?
GEIN: I picked up this one guy in Miami--he tied a rope to a chandelier and put it around his neck. We found him hanging there naked, 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. When you hang yourself, your tongue comes out and you bite it--you get this big, black swollen tongue, and the chord digs into your neck. Those people usually piss themselves and shit themselves, and there's a puddle under them. They stretch a little bit. A lot of people use orange electrical cords for some reason. I guess, because they are there.
HIGH SOCIETY: Does the family of the deceased watch you while you work?
GEIN: Yeah. I don't like that. Sometimes they'll act as if the person is still alive--"Be Gentle!" The family is crying, and you always got to try to be cool. I always think I'm gonna start laughing, or I'm going to drop the body. I've gotten tips a few times; people have given me 50 bucks.
HIGH SOCIETY: Have you ever dropped a body?
GEIN: Not in front of anybody. One time, I was coming out of a hospital, wheeling the gurney out, and they were doing construction, and the gurney flipped over this ramp. The orderlies saw me.
HIGH SOCIETY: What are drownings like?
GEIN: Drownings are gross because usually they won't be found for a few days, and the water really fucks them up, and they're bloated. Crabs will eat at them so there are chunks of flesh all over them. They stink too. Even if they are fresh in the water, they stink really bad.
HIGH SOCIETY: Did you ever pick up anyone you knew?
GEIN: I picked up a friend of mine. You don't know who it is until you go there--they just tell you, "White male, 27," whatever. This one guy od'ed. My partner was doing the paper work, writing down the name and everything. I see on the bed that there are photos of people I know. I'm like, "What's this guy's name?" When he tells me, I have this tunnel vision. I recognized him once I knew who he was, but when he fell down, he hit the sink so his face was busted up and he was bloody, and he'd been there for 12 hours, so he was kind of puffy. He emailed me the day before and wrote, "I've been clean for a year and a half. Why don't we hang out?"
HIGH SOCIETY: Were there any other people you knew?
GEIN: I picked up the manager of my apartment complex; he drank himself to death. Once I picked up a friend's mother. It gets to the point that it's a job, and the dead people aren't even real. It's like you're loading cargo.
HIGH SOCIETY: Have you ever picked up any celebrities?
GEIN: I picked up a guy who had a fishing show on cable.
HIGH SOCIETY: Did you have any decapitations?
GEIN: I never picked up a full decapitation, but this one guy cut his head off with a circular saw--he got underneath and yanked it down, but his spinal cord stopped it; so when I pulled him over, his head was flopping around like a bobble-head doll.
HIGH SOCIETY: Did you ever get squirted with gooey shit?
GEIN: Yeah, sometimes when they're decomposing. They're bloated, and they'll pop, and they'll get on you. If they're really bad, I would wear a mask. Also, I would push down on their chest to make the gases escape, and they would moan.
HIGH SOCIETY: What are burn victims like?
GEIN: I picked up this one guy who was totally burned--his legs were completely burnt off--they were gone--dust, ashes. He just had a torso. But it smelled good. It was like a barbecue smell. But if they're burnt with dripping flesh, that's nasty.
HIGH SOCIETY: Tell us about your body-bag art.
GEIN: There were all of these drive-bys--by gang-bangers and they're all wearing Gucci. I thought, "They should have a designer body bag." So I designed a Louis Vuitton body bag.
HIGH SOCIETY: Where did you get the body bags?
GEIN: Let's just say, they're slightly used.
(This article first appeared in the October 2005 issue of High Society Magazine)
Click here to go back to articles page.