Mausoleums are marketed as a "clean and dry" alternative to burial. In reality, gases and fluids can build up (especially in so-called "sealer" caskets), leading sometimes to leaks or even explosions that breach the crypt. Understandably, mausoleum owners would prefer caskets be vented so the remains dehydrate. Families-whose fears are exploited and stoked by businesses that sell them a bill of goods about "clean and dry" burial products - want their dead "safely" sealed up.
Reality and consumer expectations can't be reconciled, so what's a mausoleum to do? Apparently one Kentucky mausoleum owner decided to prop open the caskets when the families weren't around. And now she's being sued:
Betty Greiman of North College Hill says what she saw in April 2005 still haunts her dreams - her mother's casket was propped open."Some of us are having nightmares thinking there are varmints crawling around in our mom's casket," Greiman said. "My daughter is just hysterical. Mother was loved, and for her final resting place to be disturbed is not right."
Greiman said she became more upset when she filed a lawsuit three years ago in Kenton Circuit Court and the former owners of Forest Lawn Memorial Park claimed the casket was opened to prevent gases from the decomposing body of her mother, Mary Harmon, from being trapped in the mausoleum and blowing up.
It is a macabre phenomenon the funeral industry calls "exploding casket syndrome," said Joshua Slocum, the executive director for the non-profit consumer education and watchdog group The Funeral Consumers Alliance. He said there are cases across the country where decomposing bodies erode caskets and fluids run out of the crypts or gases blow off the front.