Funerals are somber affairs, with lots of crying and hugging. Funerals are said to be meant for the living, to get a sense of closure with their lost loved ones. It can be one of the worst experiences you ever have to face.
So imagine how much worse it could be if everything went horribly wrong. Funerals are super-formal, and we all know how they are supposed to go, which is totally by-the-book. But attendees are focused on their grief and not on things that might go awry, which is why it’s so shocking when an otherwise ordinary funeral turns into a complete nightmare. The sense of closure is lost, and one of the most depressing days in a person’s life is now one of the most horrifying, too.
Though it is rare, mistakes, accidents, and even intentional disruptions can make a funeral go from bad to catastrophic in moments.
Chadil Deffy married his girlfriend at her funeral
There are few things that can compare to losing the love of one’s life, especially in youth. The future you planned together is gone, and one of you is left behind to pick up the pieces. This is what happened to Thai TV director Chadil Deffy, who was engaged to marry his longtime girlfriend, Sarinya Kamsook. They had delayed the wedding several times, but finally planned to go through with it.
A few days before their nuptials, though, tragedy struck. Kamsook was in a horrible car accident. She initially survived, but died from her injuries after she waited hours for treatment at a crowded hospital. Deffy was bereft and decided to hold the wedding ceremony alongside Kamsook’s funeral, according to Dose.
While this sounds a bit disturbing, it’s also somewhat romantic. Deffy and Kamsook had been together for a decade, and had dreamed about their wedding for several years. To lose that moment just days before it happened, and due to a death that could have been prevented, must have been absolutely awful. So while marrying the body of a dead woman raises some uncomfortable questions, it is sort of sweet Deffy could finally wed the love of his life.
Timothy Cleary punched a stranger's corpse in the middle of the funeral
Imagine you’re sitting quietly at a funeral, mourning the loss of someone you knew and loved. The priest gives the eulogy and you’re remembering all of the times you had with the deceased. Then a stranger walks in, leaps onto the open casket, and begins physically beating the corpse, punching it repeatedly. This is exactly what happened with Timothy Cleary, an Orlando, FL resident, according to UPI. Certainly a contender for the coveted title of Florida Man of the Year 2007, Cleary walked into Orlando’s Harvest Baptist Church, mid-funeral, and started attacking the corpse on display. He was then subdued by the mourners, who called the authorities.
Cleary was arrested immediately after the attack and police quickly found out he had no motive for the assault whatsoever. His deceased victim was not named, presumably for the family’s benefit. In fact, it’s not even apparent Cleary actually knew the victim at all. It seems it may have just been a random, unprompted attack. A judge ordered a complete mental evaluation on Cleary, but no follow up news reports were ever made public, so it’s not certain how things shook out after that. Still, it seems like a safe bet anyone who attended the funeral probably found it quite traumatic.
Kenneth Roberts' bizarre body switch
One thing people don’t always tell you about funerals is that the deceased may not look the same as you remember them. While morticians work hard to make your loved one look like they did in life, it’s never exact, and sometimes they can even appear very different. Funeral directors will occasionally warn the family of this beforehand to head off any concerns, especially if they have difficulty preparing the body.
But that’s nothing like what happened with Janin Holsey and her husband, Kenneth Monroe Roberts. Upon first viewing the body, Holsey and the rest of Roberts’ family insisted the corpse in the coffin wasn’t him, according to 6 ABC. The funeral home claimed it was him, corpses sometimes just look different after embalming. Apparently, Roberts’ family were very patient, because the funeral directors continued to maintain the body was Roberts all day, even after numerous complaints.
It wasn’t until the next day, during the viewing before the burial, that the funeral home finally acknowledged they had messed up and mixed up Roberts’ body with someone else’s. It then took them an hour and a half to locate the correct body. Once Roberts finally arrived, the family were aghast — his body was face-down in the casket and hanging halfway out of it. It’s not clear exactly what caused the mistakes, but Roberts’ family were understandably horrified.
Aurelie Tuccillo was cremated by mistake
At the visitation for Aurelie Germaine Tuccillo, some of her family noticed something was… off. Her brother, George Hamel, observed that his sister looked different, but shrugged it off as the result of the embalming. Others, like her son, Ralph Tuccillo, said right away the body was not Aurelie’s, but that someone had seemingly made it look like hers. The family confronted the funeral home and found out the terrible truth: Aurelie’s body had been mistaken for someone else’s.
But that’s not the end of the story, according to The News-Times. Apparently, the funeral home may have actually been aware of the mix up beforehand, because Ralph Tuccillo accused the home and the owner of trying to make the corpse of the stranger look like his mother so the family would be unaware of the switch. It seems the family believed the funeral directors had intentionally made the corpse look like Aurelie Tuccillo so they wouldn’t know the horrifying truth.
Because not only did the funeral home mix up the two bodies, but Aurelie Tuccillo’s body had been cremated by mistake, in order to fulfill the wishes of the other woman. The body in the casket was of the woman who was meant to be cremated, which is why Aurelie Tuccillo’s family became concerned that, after the mistaken cremation had happened, the funeral home tried to cover their tracks in a truly morbid and unethical manner.
Julie Mott's body was abducted
On August 8, 2015, Julie Mott died from cystic fibrosis at the young age of 25. Although tragic on its own, her family’s nightmare had only just begun. They held a memorial on August 15 and Mott was to be cremated the following day. According to the funeral home, when they returned the next morning, Mott’s body was gone. The coffin had a broken hinge, but the building itself had no signs of forced entry, the security system wasn’t triggered, and the cameras didn’t catch anything suspicious, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Police investigated, but found no suspects, much less the body. They had one person of interest: Julie Mott’s ex-boyfriend, Bill Wilburn, whom Mott had left two years earlier, was reportedly obsessed with her. Funeral home employees said they had to escort Wilburn out of the building when he lingered after Mott’s memorial. Police later discovered Wilburn had called the funeral home hundreds of times before the funeral, and was reportedly vocally unhappy with the decision to have her cremated, according to the Laredo Morning Times.
Despite this, though, investigators found no evidence implicating Wilburn, and he was never formally accused of the crime. Corpse-sniffing dogs even inspected Wilburn’s car and property, but found nothing, according to KENS 5. Mott’s family sued the funeral home, which had used a contractor they gave “unfettered” access to the building, for gross negligence, but the culprit and body have still never been found.
Much drama ensued at Rudolph Valentino's funeral
Rudolph Valentino is one of the earliest examples of a Hollywood megastar. In the silent era, he starred in several blockbuster films of the time and was a 1920s sex symbol. He was beloved for his looks and charm, so when he suddenly died in 1926 at the age of 31 due to complications after abdominal surgery, it was one of the first shocking movie star deaths of the burgeoning film industry.
Historical sources indicate that over 100,000 people swarmed outside of the funeral home in New York, mostly fans who were devastated at the loss of their favorite actor, according to History Collection. Things got a little hectic at that point, so hundreds of police were set out on the street to help keep the peace. Actress Pola Negri allegedly caused a scene inside the funeral home by proclaiming she and Valentino had been secretly engaged (there’s no evidence of this whatsoever) and flying into hysterics, according to biographer Allan Ellenberger. This apparently riled up the crowd even more and led to a broken window on the front of the funeral home.
Most disturbing of all, though, are reports of numerous suicides by female fans. It is claimed women in New York, Los Angeles, and all over the world were found dead of self-inflicted causes, clutching photos of Valentino. It’s not clear if any of these actually happened or are merely Hollywood legend, however.
Shay Bradley got the last laugh at his funeral
In October of 2019, military veteran Shay Bradley passed away quietly. His family went to bury him in Dublin a few days later, and as the bagpipe music began to play (a tradition for Irish military funerals), the sounds of knocking and shouting began to fill the air, according to Dublin Live. “Hello? Hello? Hello?” in Bradley’s voice and several thumps were heard. “Let me out! It’s dark in here!” Attendees looked at each other, horrified.
Then it quickly dawned on them all — it was a final prank from Bradley, who was notorious for them. With help from his daughter, Andrea, Shay Bradley recorded the messages before his death and, per his wishes, had them played at the funeral. He even sang a bit of Neil Diamond’s “Hello Again” against faux sobs. The prank was so successful that a video of it went viral, which was just a little icing on the cake for Bradley, whom Andrea said would have loved all the attention it got.
While the friends and family who attended did figure out that it was all a joke, if you watch the video, there’s a clear few seconds at the beginning where they don’t know what’s going on, and several people look very shocked. Imagine how much more shocked they would have been if it had been for real and they actually had to rescue someone who was nearly buried alive.
Tainted beer devastated a Mozambique funeral
Funerals in Mozambique are unique (no rhyme intended, but happily included) in that one of the traditions is for the family of the deceased to brew a homemade beer from millet, known as pombe. While alcohol at funerals is a time-honored tradition in many parts of the world, there aren’t many places that actually go through the trouble of making the alcohol from scratch. But it’s a big deal in Mozambique and other African countries, and is considered a community thing.
In January of 2015, though, a funeral went horribly wrong due to a tainted batch of pombe. Although people who drank it earlier in the day were fine, according to the Washington Post, those who drank it in the afternoon and evening were poisoned. Nearly 200 people ended up in the hospital and 72 died, including the woman who brewed the pombe. It’s not clear exactly what happened, but authorities announced the pombe had been intentionally poisoned with crocodile bile.
The thing is, it’s not even clear if crocodile bile is toxic enough to kill people, or even toxic at all, for that matter. It has a cultural reputation for being poisonous, but this is unproven. There are many native plants in Mozambique that would produce the symptoms seen in those poisoned, though, so that’s a far more likely source. Regardless, investigators were unable to find a culprit or motive, much less the poison used.
Kelvin Santos briefly returned from the dead
Throughout history, it’s common to hear stories and legends about people being mistaken for dead, only for them to “resurrect” later. Being presumed dead, and even buried alive, is a huge cultural fear all over the world, so much that people even center a lot of fiction around the idea. Even with all that in mind, though, the story of Kelvin Santos is still a disturbing one.
A 2-year-old Brazilian boy from the city of Belém, Kelvin Santos was declared dead at Aberlardo Santos Hospital in 2012 due to complications from pneumonia, a serious illness for such a young child. Kelvin’s parents were devastated and arranged a funeral to bury their young son, according to Gawker. One hour before the funeral was set to begin, though, something very strange happened — Kelvin sat up in his coffin, causing those in attendance to scream. He then asked his father for a glass of water, laid back down, and was unable to be revived again. Kelvin had died for a second time.
Kelvin’s parents took his body back to the hospital again. While his family held out hope that he might miraculously rise a second time too, this sadly did not happen. Doctors at the hospital were unable to explain just what happened. Police conducted an investigation to find out if there was malpractice on the part of the hospital, but no conclusion was publicly announced.
Elijah Bell Funeral Home nearly buried the wrong baby
On February 16, 2014, Nefta Jabari Malcolm, Jr. was born prematurely. Sadly, doctors were unable to keep him alive and he died on March 2, 2014. Losing a child that young is one of the most heartbreaking things that can possibly happen, but Nefta Jr.’s parents had more heartbreak to come.
At Nefta Jr.’s burial, staff from the Elijah Bell Funeral Home quietly asked his parents, Nefta Malcolm, Sr. and Porscha Stephens, to speed up the service, but refused to say why, according to Christian Today. After Nefta Jr.’s casket was lowered into the ground and in full view of the family, funeral home employees raised the coffin back up without saying a word and walked off with it. Family members had noticed that the coffin contained a pink blanket and that the pastor, supplied by the funeral home, referred to a baby girl in his sermon, and now they realized why — the funeral home had given them the wrong coffin.
It doesn’t end there, though. Apparently, funeral home employees wanted to be sure they had the right coffin this time, so they opened it and made Nefta Sr. identify the body right there. According to Fox 8, the funeral director then asked the horrified family if they’d like to have a second funeral service to make up for the mistake. The family later filed a lawsuit against the funeral home for gross negligence.
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