What Does Death Smell Like?

What Does Death Smell Like?

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Halloween is just around the corner and memento
mori’s are everywhere. Little reminders of death, Skeletons, ghosts, literally show
up at on your doorstep. but if death really did show up at your door, would know what
it smelled like? Hey guys Julia here for DNews. Weird question
I know, but we’ve all heard the horror story of some one’s apartment building starts
smelling weird. And for like a week everyone just complains as the smell gets worse and
worse. Until one day the landlord checks it out and finds out that the neighbor down the
hall has been dead for days. ugh creeepy. But the thing is, as…. common as the smell
is, it’s hard to pin down. I mean scientists are very good at figure out the physics of
other senses. Like light and sound. But the thing is, scents don’t come in waves. It
comes in molecules that diffuse through the air to reach your nose. How they move is totally
random. The molecules bounce off each other till they fill a space. Once they reach your head, those molecules
fit certain receptors and trigger a specific smell. So maybe we have specific receptors to smell
death. In the case of death, when something dies, or meat rots, certain chemicals are
produced when protein decomposes. It’s broken down into it’s smaller molecules, amino
acids lysine and ornithine, then, those break down further into putrescine and cadaverine.
When those molecules reach our nose, we react with revolusion. But we’re not the only ones, surprise surprise.
Lots of animals seem to have an adverse reaction to a whiff of death. The zebrafish are a prime
example of this. In one study published in the Proceeds of the National Academy of Sciences,
researchers sought to find what goes on in their fishy brains when they catch a whiff
of of death. They found the fish react very strongly to low concentrations of cadaverine.
The fish instantly swam away from just a drop of death. The researchers found that a certain
receptor in their brains, TAAR13c, fit exactly the compound for cadaverine. It’s kind of
like a lock and key system, the receptor only binds to that compound. While that particular
receptor is only in bony fishes, we have similar receptors in our brains. And for good reason, Putrescine and cadaverine
warn us when something is wrong. Whether meat that has gone bad that could potentially poison
us or when something dead is nearby signalling danger. We probably evolved these specific
receptors to help keep us alive. For some reason, humans smell different when
we decompose. Those who’ve smelled it say it smells like nothing else. Trace unfortunately
enough, experienced the unpleasantness first hand. He described it as ““sort of like
wet dog but worse, wet dog but warmer and more heady, earthy”. A recent study published in the journal PLOS
one measured the smell of death. Specifically the smell of human death. Belgian researchers
isolated specific compounds from decomposing human remains. They put pig, mouse, mole,
rabbit, turtle, frog, and bird remains in separate jars and let them decompose over
the course of 6 months. Not the greatest postdoc job in the world, but someone’s gotta do
it. The researchers periodically took samples
of the gases and found 452 organic compounds. Only eight compounds distinguished pig and
human remains from those of other animals. Which makes sense they’d look for ones exclusive
to pigs and humans since human and pig flesh are pretty similar. But the researchers also
found five fragrant compounds called esters that separated pigs from humans.
While these esters could be the key to the smell of human death, more research is needed.
The study only sampled certain body parts and didn’t include the microbes that help
with decomposition that could possibly contribute to the smell. Besides just for funsies, the researchers
hoped that nailing down the exact molecules behind the smell of human decay they could
“allow a more efficiently training of cadaver dogs or portable detection devices could be
developed”. So that could be cool, it could make it easier for forensic investigators
find evidence or maybe it could be kind of creepy. Most people are morbidly fascinated by the
subject of death. It’s mysterious, terrifying, and yet comes for us all whether we’re ready
or not. Trace recently explored the topic in depth over on his TestTube Plus Podcast.
Check it out. So have you ever experienced the smell of
death? What did it smell like to you? Tell me about it down in the comments below and
hit those like and subscribe buttons so you don’t miss a single DNews ep

100 thoughts on “What Does Death Smell Like?”

  1. Working in ambulance and rescue for a time, I became well acquainted with death including the smell of human decomp. One would expect that it had the smell of rotting meat, but it was quite different, and more of a very strong and sickly honey sweet smell mixed with a hint the aforementioned rotting meat, dirty sweat socks and moldy cheese. The one thing that was most telling was that once it got into your nostrils, it was almost impossible to get rid of it and even masking it with Vicks Vapo-Rub on your upper lip wasn't enough to keep it out. It's a smell that I will NEVER forget.

  2. Well I have one experience with 2 rotten corpses that had swelled up after lying in the sea for over 6 months and that smelled like sweet sugar, sulfur and earthy like scent. But it is hard to explain it in words for me and I still can not cope with that thought in the smell of it and it still haunts me. As they say is that when you smell death you never will forget how it smells and it sticks to your clothes.

  3. I know the smell of death. I work at the hospital and a few times we had people who were slowly dying. One man lasted 3 months waking up only long enough to puke up his rotting insides… it was not a fun time for anyone.

  4. Before watching video:
    As someone with a sensitive nose i can tell you right now that death smells exactly like rotting meat. Put a piece of meat out in the sun and that's what it smells like.
    And actually with my sensitive nose I notice that anything decaying has a trace scent that is the same from all decaying things. Land animals decaying smells the worst, fish less offensive, and plant matter the least. But they all got that trace scent in it. At least to my nose.

  5. I went to the medical examiners office two years ago and when we visited the freezer I started gagging and had to leave the room

  6. I was just wondering, because in my dorm there is a closet next to the bathroom everyone on this side of the "house-dorm-thing" uses, and it smells horrible. But I haven't opened the door (because I don't want to touch the handle), and I think it's used for storing he stuff for cleaning the bathroom, but I smelled the top vent of the door and the air was warm, putrid, and just plain nasty. It had been smelling like that for a while now, and even after winter break it still smells. I might just be mold or something, but I don't know. Perhaps it's just the chemicals used for cleaning the bathroom, but the bathroom never smells that bad after it's cleaned. Also, i'v never seen the door open.

  7. I'm blind and autistic and get hooked on words.
    "cadaver" is one of my favorites, so is "cadaverine."
    According to my calculations, which would be counting on my fingers, you said "cadaver" only one time, but you said "cadaverine" about seven.

  8. My neighbor that lived below my apartment was found dead after complaints of the smell. I can definetly relate

  9. I wouldn't say it smells like wet dog. It literally smells like rotting meat, along with an odd pungent sweet and sour quality to it, it is very sharp. It really is like nothing else though.

  10. The smell of a dead human body is one of the most nauseating smells you will ever encounter and it will stick to your mind. Contrary to popular opinion it doesn't smell like feces but has more of a sweet smell but very nauseating! Even thinking about it will make you heave.

  11. i work in care.sometimes people will smell like that just before they are about to die they (are dying. Very distinctive like no other.. animals can smell this pet dogs etc,I have been right on this many times it scares me.Anyone else aware ???prior to actually passing away?? john,
    Reply

  12. Death smells like a piece of raw flesh, pasted by blood onto dusty sheet rock, and it doesn't just affect your noes or head, It affects your soul. You almost jump when you sense it.

  13. I played a joke one Halloween on my roommates by hiding containers of pig brains I got from a butcher shop in some kitchen cabinets forgot there were there till like 7 days later when there was a bad overwhelming smell in the air where we couldn't figure out where it was coming from until I looked on top of the cabinets

  14. My cousin is a cop 👮 and he said the smell of death 💀 is horrible. No words could describe it!!! 😱😬🤢

  15. I don't know what a decaying corpse smell like. However, I've had dreams about dead bodies. The smell was distinct, sickening, revolting…like a combination of a wet dog and a dead rat, or worse! Hard to explain. I wonder if that's what it smells like in reality?

  16. I’ve been exposed to a rotting deer corpse and other things like mutilated animal organs and formaldehyde. The smells don’t really bother me that much

  17. I had this dream I was at an abandoned facility with a medieval vibe to it. You could see many different torturing devices made of iron, and curtains of blood-spattered chains hung throughout the many different levels of this place. The smell was overpowering,dead body's everywhere and blood everywhere. The imagery of the dream was no where near as horrifying and unbearable as the smell of death. I can still smell it if I just think back to that dream. Someone in the comment section said that death smells of rotten meat/flesh, sweet, but sickly. That's exactly what I smelled in my dream.

  18. Here's my 2 cents worth on this subject. After my mom passed in the waiting room at the local hospital, my friend and I went to go see her body. About 25 feet from where her body lay, we both caught the whiff of death. It is unforgettable. My theory on this matter is this. When the spirit leaves the body, as this clip indicates, there is a sudden burst of energy. That burst is what I believe causes the smell of death to emit from that transition. I don't believe that smell is of decaying flesh. It is a significant sign of the spirit leaving the body. In the 19th century, there is a term which was used to describe spiritual matter left behind on a person when they experienced a significant spiritual event. That term is Ether. Check this clip on the substance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97CK92QqMWE
    I noted that that stench my friend and I smelled was around 25 feet from where my mom's body lay. And its no wonder all the ER staff were not hanging around my mom's dead body either. If you ever smell death, you will not forget it. Happy Easter. 😀

  19. The airborne bacteria clings to your sinuses. So after you take a shower and watch a ballgame you'll begin to smell it all over again. The dead person l smelled was like bad garbage and that was from the outside.

  20. I know the smell of death. I was supposed to work in an apartment where a guy passed away he was there for a week before anyone found him. The couch still had his bodily fluid all over it from decomposition. I couldn't work there. I was a painter and they wanted me to paint the day they were taking the couch. It smelled like rotting meat, bad armpit stink, and a weird sweet cologne. The body odor smell and the sweet smell are the creepiest, because it smells human.

  21. My cat named Lilly( a bad luck name in my family) got bitten in the head( behind the left ear) and died after I fell asleep…. Right before she died and I went to bed, she smelled like roses, with a bitter scent after, I smell it when her spirit is near…

  22. No matter how much you try to describe it, it just isn't accurate enough unless you smell it for yourself. The type of decomposition stage, how they died (natural, in water, burned, etc) can change and affect the smell. All I can compare the smell of a decomposing body on land to, would be a really full garbage metal rusty container that was mainly full of rotten meat (fish, chicken, etc) and old wet garbage full of old period pads that give off this rancid musky old blood and ammonia smell and let it all bake in the hot humid sun for a very long time, now let the wind waft these odours into the air and that's what it smells like to me. It's a very overpowering, lingering, putrid smell.

    You have probably smelled it at least once in your life maybe while you were walking home from school or a jog, and noticed a really awful smell in the air that would get stronger and stronger, but you probably never knew what it was… yeah, that is probably the smell of a dead animal, which is pretty much similar to what a dead human body smells like.

  23. I used to deliver refrigerators and I moved one particular Lady's refrigerator it was tied shut at the handles and kind of opened a little as I moved it. The smell inside was do disturbing I could smell it for weeks after. She said it was rotten food but it smelled different. She told me her son's dog died recently and he was going to be disappointed when he came home from the military. IDK for sure what it was but it was a "new" foul oder and it had my imagination running wild.

  24. Guns and death have a mystique. I just smelled that smell the other day, this homeless guy on the bus. His leg is necrotic and rotting. The smell was exactly the same as decomp. Essentially is the same.

  25. There's something in my wall That's smells like a dead animal and I don't know where it is but it's bothering me to no end. Smells like a mix of death and cabbage. The smell started this morning and we think it's somewhere in the wall.

  26. I went into a funeral home today and the smell that came from a body was the most horrid thing I’ve ever smelt my nose actually hurts after smelling it

  27. I actually like the smell of Death. It smells sweet, so sweet that it feels like the smell of Death itself then punches your stomach.

  28. I visited a person at the hospital in palitive care The most horrible smell over came me It was in my clothes ,mouth hair so discussing & im not exaggerating When I got home I had to launder my clothes & shower.Its not a pretty smell!!There should be something in those rooms to eliminate the smell vinegar/&bk soda.maybe.God Bless those people.

  29. U wanna hear something can scare u a murder kills him and take his all skin and when he meet somone he smell death

  30. My next door neighbor died two weeks ago. He was living all alone in his apartment. His dead body was discovered when his corpse was releasing odor. It smells like a dead rat. Finally, LAFD & LAPD removed the body but the smell is still there. Which is reducing day by day. May God rest his soul. Amen

  31. My neighbor just died yesterday. The smell was strong urine and fishy type smell and rotting meat. She was in her apartment for almost 2 weeks

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