For most people, the idea of spending all day around corpses is a hair-raising proposition. Yet for a select few, that’s just a normal day in the office. Morticians spend their workdays in close proximity to the recently deceased, doing a job that would be far too creepy or unsettling for most of us to attempt. It’s no wonder that this career shows up on a list of jobs that Americans fear the most, along with infectious disease microbiologist, crime scene investigator, and radio or cell tower repairer.
It takes a certain kind of personality to tackle these jobs that give the average person sweaty palms. In honor of the Halloween season, we’ve put together this list of seven spooky jobs that aren’t for the easily frightened, along with how much you can expect to earn for enduring a scary workplace.
A mortician prepares bodies to be buried or cremated. The job can involve everything from picking up bodies at odd hours, embalming, and comforting grieving family members. The idea of spending all that time around the dead gives some people the heebie-jeebies; people named it one of the jobs they fear the most in a 2014 CareerBuilder survey.
Because funeral homes are often family-run, many morticians (who are sometimes called undertakers or funeral directors) inherit their positions, though others work their way up, according to Caleb Wilde, the author of the Confessions of a Funeral Director blog. Either way, it’s a career that requires true dedication. “It’s not a job…nor is it just a profession … this business is a lifestyle. And if you’re not ready to marry it, then move to another job that demands a less committed relationship,” he wrote.
*Average salary for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2. Crime Scene Cleaner
Salary: $37,590 per year*
If you’ve seen the 2009 movie Sunshine Cleaning, you know about crime scene and trauma cleanup professionals, who are charged with the unpleasant business of getting rid of the mess that results from murders, suicides, unattended deaths, and accidents. They may even clear out the homes of hoarders or clean up meth labs. Not only must people who do this job be willing to deal with biohazards on a daily basis, they must also be able to cope with the emotional toll that comes with the work. Turnover is high, the owner of an Australian cleanup business, said in an interview with Narratively. Even Mike Rowe of TV’s Dirty Jobs has deemed this profession “too grisly” to feature on his show.
For such a rough job, crime scene cleanup crew members are not always well paid, plus the hours can be unpredictable. Pay reportedly starts at around $25 an hour, though if you own your own business your salary might rise to six figures.
*Average salary for hazardous materials removal workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
3. Forensic Entomologist
Forensic entomology combines two things that make many people squirm: bugs and death. Professionals in this field apply the study of insects to crimes, particularly to help determine the time a person died. The presence of certain insects can also provide clues about where and how a death occurred and even what drugs were in a person’s system before death, according to the Journal of Forensic Dental Sciences.
The average salary for a forensic entomologist is $52,000 per year, according to data from Indeed.com. But the job isn’t a common one. In 2009, there were just two dozen or so entomologists with forensic experience in all of the United States, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
4. Haunted House Performer
Salary: About $10/hour
Crazy elaborate (and crazy scary) haunted houses have proliferated in recent years, which means there’s more work than ever for people who enjoy giving others a good scare. While the wages aren’t great (most job postings on Indeed.com list wages of around $10 an hour) and the work is temporary, it’s still the perfect gig for Halloween fanatics.
Professional acting experience can help you get a job at some haunted houses, but in other cases, enthusiasm is the main requirement. Special skills may help (the online job application for the Headless Horseman haunt in Ulster Park, N.Y., wants to know it you can breathe fire, walk on stilts, or juggle) and being able to deal with the strange reactions from visitors is essential. In this Reddit thread, haunted house workers describe being punched and harassed by visitors, among other indignities.
Stalking the halls of a hospital during the witching hour may sound creepy, but nocturnists, or doctors who work the overnight shift at medical facilities, actually play an important role in keeping patients safe and healthy. The position has emerged in recent years in response to concerns that people weren’t getting adequate care at night, when the most experienced doctors weren’t usually on site, according to Kaiser Health News.
Like most doctors, nocturnists earn generous salaries. Most positions listed on Glassdoor.com pay about $200,000 per year.
6. Bat Biologist
On the very first episode of Dirty Jobs, host Mike Rowe tagged along with a bat biologist to investigate the health of a bat colony in Texas. He later recalled it as one of the worst jobs he tried, in part for its “epic monumental dirtiness,” but also because it was just plain creepy, as he explained in an interview on Discovery.com:
“How…can one describe the ‘feel’ of a bat as it settles on the nape of your neck, its velvety wings brushing your ear and the side of your face? Or the sensation of flesh-eating beetles falling over the tops of your boots and burrowing into your socks and chewing into your skin? How, on television, can I show you the indescribable smell of toxic ammonia, as it billows from tons of sticky bat poo that clings to your feet as you stumble forward in suffocating blackness? Or the creepy stench of the ill-fitting rubber gas mask that you pray will not slip from your sweaty face?”
*Average wildlife biologist salary according to Indeed.com.
Parapsycholgists and psychical researchers investigate bizarre or difficult-to-explain phenomena like near-death experiences and past-life memories, according to the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. While it might sound a pseudoscience conducted by amateur ghost hunters, there are a handful of formally trained scientists who conduct research on hauntings and other spooky happenings at legitimate academic institutions.
Because parapsychology is an unusual field, average salary estimates are hard to come by. But what is clear is that jobs that are completed dedicated to parapsychological research are few and far between.
“Opportunities for making a full-time career in parapsychology are very rare, since there are presently many more qualified people wishing to work in the field than there are funds for their support,” according to the Division of Perceptual Studies website.
*Average salary for scientific researchers, according to Payscale.
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