Exploring the Ratz Bechtel Funeral Home
This large beautiful abandoned funeral home once served as a mansion to an early pioneer of the city it is located in, it then turned into a funeral home in 1949. The building dates back to 1897 when it was built for just over $10,000.
The now abandoned funeral home was the place of thousands upon thousands of final goodbyes but the Victorian mansion had her own final goodbye when large funeral corporations were buying and merging with the smaller ones and moving them together into new locations. This grand old building with its old fashioned construction, creaky floors and complex heating systems just could not keep up with the times.
Much of the charm and ornate woodwork of the original mansion is still visible from the grand staircase to the original owners hand crafted wooden desk and a classic bell in what was once a billiards room, as well as original fireplaces.
On my first visit to this old abandoned funeral home, I had to move quickly as I was losing sunlight making for tougher lighting conditions. There is still power to the funeral home but I prefer to shoot with natural light for the look and mood I like.
The abandoned and empty funeral home was deathly quiet and it was like a maze going to and from all of the different rooms and hallways. On the main level there was a chapel, many many rooms which served the thousands of funeral services over the years, and also a grand staircase with an ornate carved wood newell post.
Up on the second level of this abandoned funeral home where the staircase winds up to there are more vexing rooms and waiting areas, at the top of the stairs the room is decorated with the original wood finishing, the office and desk of the original owner who had the mansion built in the late 19th century.
Also on the second floor i approached a door with a security lock on it, obviously a section of the building that was off limits to the general public and mot as sanitized and nice looking. I came to a door with an interesting sign on it and I knew I was in for a real treat once I walked in:
This was the entrance to embalming room and prep room, immediately upon entering the room you are greeted by a wooden table with a sink at the end and multi coloured lights that allow the make up artist to apply the appropriate make up for the lighting conditions back downstairs. Also in this room was a very old elevator where the deceased would be transported up and down from the main level.
Also in this room was the embalming room, I had expected to see ceramic slabs in this room but they were either removed or not there at all. However in the middle of this room was the embalming station where the deceased would be prepped for visitation and burial. There was an odd smell to this room, assumed to be from the chemicals used in preparing a body for an eternity in the ground – or for a pleasant viewing experience.
I had hoped to find more tools and items of the trade however the prior owners had done a great job of cleaning up and removing everything – I did however find a pair of trocars in the embalming station – used to clean out the organs of fluids to avoid any nasty mishaps during visitation.
Moving on i then found a staircase going up to the attic, I was quickly pleased when I found a coffin lowering device up there, what I did not realize at the time was that the device was there to lower coffins down from the attic and that there was a door below it that led to the second floor. The attic was dark and silent and just as creepy as one would expect the attic of a funeral home to be, and there were dozens of old wooden coffin storage racks up there.
Moving along, I found stairs leading to the basement of this empty and abandoned funeral home, and if the attic wasn’t good enough for some creepy photography well the basement surely made up for that! There was a cold storage room with dozens of stacked coffin storage racks, followed by two other rooms with old wooden storage racks, there were also two coffin trolleys and a chemical storage room complete with a protective coat still hanging on the rack.
After my first visit i had to get back to use get some more close up work done and to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I stayed much longer than I should have but I didn’t want to miss anything and have to come back for another visit.
I also had to get some fun self portraits done, what better place for dark creepy self portraits than an old abandoned funeral home??
Lastly, here is a long and boring video walk-through of the whole funeral home