Recently a friend of mine went to Manchester, England, to speak at a conference on “Encountering Corpses.” He mentioned that he’d met an autopsy assistant, Carla Valentine, who has set up a unique "e-way" for meeting others in her trade.
I was intrigued. Having tried online matchmakers, I find I’m uninterested in ordinary relationships, in which you walk on the beach, watch sports, go out to dinner, and do some cooking together. Blah!
I’d prefer a partner with whom I can converse, in particular about the business of homicide and/or the death industry. I love my friends who are detectives, profilers, coroners, pathologists, criminologists and crime analysts, but they’re already hooked up. How does one meet someone for a relationship in this rarified arena?
So, I checked out the Dead Meet website (http://www.dead-meet.com/). Although it looks like a dating service at first glance, it’s actually much more. You get member forums and profiles of others like yourself who are seeking not just companions but also networking arenas. It’s free to anyone who works in the death industry, such as pathologists, mortuary technicians, taxidermists, embalmers, and funeral directors. I assume that this could also include suicidologists and forensic professionals.
To learn more, I sent Carla Valentine some questions:
Tell me about yourself and how you formulated the idea for Dead Meet?
I'm a fully qualified Anatomical Pathology Technologist. In the UK, this is what we call people who assist the pathologist to carry out autopsies. I did this for 8 years after studying Forensic and Biomolecular Science at University and working on the job to get my certificate and diploma in APT.
I've now sidestepped slightly into Barts Pathology Museum, which houses 5,000 anatomical specimens. Here, I conserve and repair the pots, and organize museum events. For example, I had one about the Black Dahlia case in which Professor Vanezis, a forensic pathologist, discussed dismemberment cases. I also teach about the collection and history of pathology to medical students and the public.
I came up with the idea for Dead Meet while chatting to a friend who works as an admin assistant in a morgue and who commented about it being difficult to meet people. I too had that experience as an APT and wanted to know more people in my industry, especially romantically, for two reasons:
1) It's hard to meet someone in the same field so that you can sit down and have an honest conversation when they ask you "How was your day?", and 2) It's actually quite frowned upon to discuss your work with people who aren't in the industry.
So I thought I'd create a site that allowed people in the death industry to find each other. The reason it's for dating AND networking is that I also put on events at the museum. Recently I was trying to find an embalmer who could discuss Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One" and I contacted the British Institute of Embalmers but had no reply. I couldn't find one any other way. Now, within one week of setting up the site, I have found an embalmer! So people can similarly find research partners and collaborators, etc. using the site. It enables you to search by occupation.
How much interest do you think there will be?
I have no idea and it's not something I set up with a business plan in mind. It's really just something I wanted to get out there and experiment with. As it develops, and the members increase, I'm already in touch with professional web designers to put safeguards onto the site and enable it to reach its full potential.
You mention a London gathering of members eventually. What will this look like?
The London gatherings will be the same as other events I put on in the museum. Wine will be served and there will be a lecture on a related topic, with mingling time. It will have the same security and safeguards. Because the museum contains human remains, people are required by law to register before they are allowed entry. This environment is probably a lot safer than talking to a stranger in a bar.
I noticed that Carla also writes a blog at Wordpress.com, cleverly titled “Past Mortems,” which has plenty of intriguing content as well.
I plan to watch how her site develops. It’s a terrific idea for people who want to locate and talk freely with like-minded others who have similar death-based experience.