Tag Archives: morgue

Burning Down the House

Main Performance:

There’s a theater in Downtown Chicago called the James M. Nederlander Theater, back then known as the Iroquois Theater, which apparently burnt down once in 1903 with around 2000 people inside where at least 600 patrons ended up dead. The panic caused mass hysteria, the crowds of people tried to force doors that opened inwards, meaning that a wild crowd could not properly open them. Many other doors were locked by foreign locks, exits were not properly labeled, and the upper floor patrons as they were locked in as VIP 2nd floor rooms were locked from the outside as to keep the 2nd floor exclusive and not have anyone sneak in after the shows sold out. While many burned to death, others stuck on the 2nd floor threw their bodies out the windows, barely managing to cushion their falls from the bodies of those who fell before. The back alley served as a temporary morgue, accounts saying that bodies were stacked 6 feet high, and the area trapped the spirits of the dead to wander in and out of the back of the theater. Countless remarks about the inexplicable amount of noises, moving objects, and sightings of ghost inside and outside the theater and around the alley have been reported. The area is known as the Coach Place, Death Alley.


The informant, NC, is a friend from my highschool days who I bonded with over videogames and appreciation for animated shows who I still keep in daily contact with today. NC is particularly religious but loves to partake in the knock on wood superstition.


Because he was living separate from his family, NC did not necessarily have too many folklore or tradition to share and instead asked one of his friends if she had any interesting tidbits to share.

My Thoughts:

Reading up on the story some more revealed to me that there has not been a formal memorial marking the location of the incident, which might be the entire reason that these tortured souls have not been able to move on from their suffering in the first place. Much like how desecrated grave sites are the classic grounds on which angered spirits haunt those who disturbed their rest, this story feels as if these spirits haven’t been at peace at all. More than a ghost story, the entire thing reads like a historical account on how fire safety protocols were implemented because something horrific had to happen at least once for these things to be taken seriously. An infrastructure problem with the theater itself most likely led to many basic amenities and fire safety procedures we take for granted today. It seems strange that this particular location hasn’t been taken by the city’s government to be made into a tourist zone, one of the few examples of how things are left as they are and the story is allowed to speak for itself.

Morgue Joke

Context: The first time he told me this joke, the informant and I we with this his siblings on a family vacation in Florida, and we were in one of many car rides. They were telling jokes and he remembered this one— saying it was his best joke.

Piece: “Okay you ready? Okay so… uh a widow brings her husband, late husband to the mortician and uh he’s wearing a blue suit and she says to the mortician, ‘I’ve always thought my husband looked best in a black suit.’ She hands him a blank check and says, ‘Don’t spare any cost, I want my husband buried in a black suit. He says, ‘Alright, we can make that happen. Um I’ll see what I can do.’ Then comes the day of the funeral, and uh her husband is there in a beautiful, perfectly fitting blue suit. And the widow says, ‘Oh my god, looks so good, please tell me the cost I would just like to know.’ The mortician says, ‘Actually ma’am there was no cost at all, it was on the house.’ And she says, ‘No, really, I must repay you for this beautiful suit.’And he says, ‘Well, let me explain what happened. Uh, that same day another gentleman was brought in of a similar height and uh shape to your husband and he was wearing a black suit. So I asked his wife if it would be fine, if she cared if she was wearing a blue suit. And she said she didn’t care, as long as he looked nice. Then it was a matter of switching the heads.’”

Background: The informant, a 20 year old college student at Harvard, really enjoys joke telling and found this joke on Reddit, memorized it and found the opportunity to tell it to us. He will usually tell people this joke if asked to tell his favorite joke.

Analysis: This joke is an example of a death joke, a way to deal with repression. This joke forces people to think about death, something people dislike discussing, by using a grotesque and absurd scenario. The joke is demonstrative of how society tries to find the humor in death in order to make the event less tragic and unbearable. It also uses an element of unexpected that is shocking and comical.