Lighting flashes. Thunder crashes. A single candle flickers in your hand, the power having long ago gone out. You can hear something shuffling around in the dark just outside the candlelight, circling, moving slowly, but deliberately. You call out, but the only response is your own voice as it reverberates through the corridors of the empty building. You’re alone, or at least you hope you are alone.
It’s a very subjective term, just like beautiful, humorous, or amazing. It’s not the same for everyone. The things we find creepy speak volumes about our own hangups, phobias, and nightmares. A friend of mine finds hamster feet “creepy”. Yeah, wrap your head around that one. Something is creepy if it causes fear or unease in someone, but two people can look at or experience the same thing at the same time and have two very different reactions. Me? I like hamster feet.
But there are a few things that are universally considered eerie. Sometimes they lean more towards the fear side of the equation, and other times they elicit our nervousness or anxiety. But it’s all described as creepy in the end.
When it comes to jobs, there are a lot that could fall under that label. And with Halloween just gone, there’s no better time to look at some of the creepiest among them.
Read on...if you dare.
The position may not be the back breaking, labour intensive job that it once was (heavy machinery replacing shovel and pickaxe), but gravedigger can still bring on a cold sweat. In the movies and gothic novels, they always seem to work at night, in the howling wind and rain, with nothing but a solitary lantern to keep the darkness at bay.
The reality may not match that (in fact, they work regular daylight hours like you and me), but their workplace and function can still creep us out. Cemeteries have always been considered menacing and ominous...they may look sculptured and welcoming, but there are dead bodies just below the surface, after all. Plenty of people suffer from coimetrophobia - a fear of cemeteries - because of what they are, and what they remind us of: our own mortality. Death lives there.
2. Undertaker or Mortician
There’s an entire industry built around the business of death. Gravedigger would fall into that category, but when we think of jobs that revolve around death, dying, and dead bodies, we can’t help but think of morticians. The undertaker, or mortician, or even funeral home operator is in the business of body disposal. They prepare the body for either burial or cremation, assisting the bereaved family.
They’re typically very kind, sympathetic, friendly people. But behind closed doors, they work very closely with dead bodies every day. That’s the job. They remove body fluids and embalm them. They might even apply cosmetic touches to make the recently deceased ready for an open casket funeral. Corpses are their bread and butter, but if you suffer from necrophobia - the fear of dead things - then this would be your definition of hell.
3. Medical Examiner, Coroner, or Morgue Attendant
But before the corpse even reaches the funeral home, it must go through the next position on our countdown of the macabre. A dead body is usually delivered to the city or county morgue for processing, and the people who work there deal with death - violent, sudden, and suspicious - all the time. For the coroner or medical examiner, it’s their job to examine the body and determine cause of death via autopsy and investigation. The roles are similar, although not exactly the same.
Even if you’re “only” a morgue attendant and not responsible for autopsies, you’ll often find yourself working the graveyard shift, alone, accepting and filing bodies all night. You’re surrounded. Again, those of you with necrophobia need not apply.
4. Building Caretaker
Another on the “that ain’t so bad” list, the job of building caretaker can be quite pleasant and rewarding...depending on the circumstances. For some, the building is vibrant and full of people. For others, they’re only required in the “off” season, when the building is empty and locked down until the spring. They live in and maintain the property through the dark days of late fall and all through the winter. It can be a hair-raising and frightening experience.
I once met a woman who lived by herself in a famously haunted hotel in Muskoka. She took care of the place, living in one of the rooms, doing rounds of the property throughout the winter, constantly hearing footsteps and doors slamming in the otherwise empty building. It can be a lonely existence, and the mind can and does begin to play tricks on you. No. Thanks. Remember Jack Nicholson in The Shining?
5. Forensic Entomologist
We’ve already discussed gravediggers, morticians, and coroners. Working with or around dead bodies is bad enough. The only way to make it worse? Add creepy crawlies to the mix. An entomologist studies insects - itself a creepy job for most of us - but a forensic entomologist takes that a creepier step further. They use the bugs present in or on a dead body to help determine the time of death (think Jack Hodgins from the tv show Bones).
Beetles, flies, maggots. Most have a very precise timeframe when they show up, and a forensic entomologist uses that knowledge to help solve murders and answer questions about suspicious deaths. Dead bodies? Check. Insects and other disgusting things that crawl or fly? Check. It’s a double-whammy.
6. Crime Scene Investigator
We’re all familiar with this position - at least the Hollywood version of it - via the television series CSI, or its multiple spinoffs. Their job is to investigate the most violent, bloodiest, ghoulish, and disturbing acts that we’re capable of as a species. Death, murder, dismemberment, decapitation, blood splatter, corpses, evisceration, and blood pools are just a typical day at the office. Think about that the next time you complain about your job.
7. Slaughterhouse Worker
Few of us like to think about where the meat on our plate comes from, but without the slaughterhouse, you’d have no barbequed hamburger. And most slaughterhouses (also called the much nicer sounding abattoir) don’t want you to think about it or see it, either. It’s horrific. Terrified animals are corralled to their deaths. There’s a lot of blood. Many of the animals that don’t die instantly scream and moan while they bleed out. Bodies twitch and kick while hanging from meat hooks. It can look like something out of a horror movie. It’s not for the faint of heart.
So, how many could you do? All, a few select ones, or none at all? But there’s more. Oh, yes. Creepy is not limited to dead bodies, blood, gore, and ghouls (real or imagined). What about pest control? Dealing with filthy rats, and bugs, and vermin of all sorts. Or a subway tunnel or sewer (which has the added “ick factor”) worker? Spending your days in cold, damp, dark, and confined spaces. Or a high-rise window washer? We wouldn’t automatically classify that as creepy, but if hanging from a rope several hundred metres above ground isn’t creepy, then what is? Deaths are rare, yes, but it’s enough to turn the stomach of almost everyone, whether they suffer from acrophobia - the fear of heights - or not. And there’s also zombie caseworker...okay, that last one is made up, but it could be a thing after the apocalypse.
Creepy, it would seem, surrounds us.
What’s your idea of a nightmarish job? Leave your suggestions in the comments below...