The Morgue – Part Two

Morgue 2

Our tour of the morgue continues with a peek into the autopsy room where we’ll examine some of the tools of the trade. If your stomach holds up we’ll even have a glimpse of the star of the show, a murder victim.

The photograph above is of an autopsy station. Think of it as a pathologist’s workshop. To begin the autopsy, a body is placed on a gurney and is then positioned head first against the center, sink area of the station.


Pathologists select instruments from a rolling cart.

Tools of the autopsy trade.

Bone saw used for cutting through the rib cage beneath the “Y” incision. It’s also used for cutting through the skull.

Scales for weighing organs.



Upper chest area of a murder victim.

Ligature mark on the neck from strangling.

Post autopsy “Y” incision sutures.

The end. Really…



14 replies
  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I agree, Elena. The smell has never bothered me unless the corpse was in advanced stages of decomposition. Nothing like the sweet smell of putrefaction to whet the appetite. Oh, and lets not forget the wonderful aroma of freshly burnt flesh. Still, I’ve never had a problem observing an autopsy.

  2. Elena
    Elena says:

    I’ve witnessed several autopsies and found the smell to be generally just of the cleaning fluid. Strong cleaning fluid. Occasionally body fluids, but the bodies were moved to a metal table that had a gutter around it and a system that would run either plain water, or water with cleaning fluid from pushing on a foot pedal. Thus the table was flushed clean.

    Plus the room itself had a built in hose cleaning system with a drain in the floor. It was very easy to keep up with.

    There was also a display of jars with interesting bits and pieces in a preserving liquid available for comparative purposes.

    The rib spreader looked as though it came from a auto supply store.

    The facility was in a TB sanatorium where I was teaching high school.

  3. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    You’re right, Peg. Some M.E.’s use the loppers, but the bone saw is much neater and easier. I guess it’s just a matter of personal preference. With the saw, the M.E. can cut out a nice triangle. It’s easy to replace, too.

  4. Peg H
    Peg H says:


    I understand that one of the lower tech tools used to crack through the ribs comes from your typical garden shed, a lopper, used to trim branches off trees and hedges. Seems to be Dr. G’s favorite way to crack the ribs.

    Peg H 🙂

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Hi, Angie. Yes, it’s a little tough to look at, but seeing it makes it a little easier to write about. At least this way I did all the dirty work for you guys. I was there.

    Yep, that’s an actual ligature mark. This case was from last summer.

  6. Angie J-S
    Angie J-S says:

    This is so cool – okay, a little gross – but really fascinating! So that’s what an actual ligature mark looks like…

    I don’t think I’d last a minute in an autopsy, not so much because of the blood ‘n guts, but the smells. I have an acute sense of smell and I’m sure they’d be scraping me off the floor.

  7. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    No, I’m afraid there’s no genital blurring light. Everything’s out there for the world to see, but it’s a very professional, clinical environment. Well, it’s professional if you don’t count the dead-guy jokes.

  8. Terry
    Terry says:

    Ok, but tell me this — do they shine a bright light over the genitals so you can’t really see them — like they do on TV?

    My husband used to do necropsies on dead marine mammals. This kind of stuff is dinner-table conversation around our house. When our son was about 5, we were in the back of the pickup watching Daddy cut up a dead manatee on the trailer bed through the rear window, and my son (who had been on many of these salvage operations by that time), said, “Mom, wait. Next comes the spaghetti part. It’s neat.”

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