Death Salon SF (2014)



Hey guess what? You can now get video of these talks! Details here.

We’re bringing our first ever one-day Death Salon event to San Francisco October 11, 2014. Deathlings will be taking over the Fleet Room at the Fort Mason Center. Just like our other Death Salon events, we’ll have speakers and performers from various disciplines informing and entertaining you all day and evening on diverse topics related to the culture of mortality and mourning.

Please Note: This event will be filmed, upon purchasing a ticket, you are consenting to being filmed. Questions? Email us at info at deathsalon dot org. Below is the tentative lineup of speakers and performers.

DAY SESSION emceed by Death Salon co-founder, mortician Caitlin Doughty of The Order of the Good Death

Doors at 9am, session begins at 10am

Loren RhoadsWhere Have All the Graveyards Gone: the Pioneer Burial Grounds in San Francisco and the Grave Migration to Colma Beyond the remnants of the Mission Dolores churchyard, the National Cemetery, and the San Francisco Columbarium, relics of San Francisco’s pioneers continue to lie beneath many of the city’s neighborhoods, parks, and museums. If the last of the dead were supposed to have been removed from San Francisco in the 1940s, why do bodies and gravestones keep turning up?

Betsy Trapasso Death Runs in My Family Betsy knew that she was predestined to work in the end-of-life world ever since her mother gave her the nickname “Spooky” when she was only two months old, and it’s stuck with her ever since. She tells the tale of a familial connection to the history of hospice care in the US that showed her working with and advocating for the dying is in her blood as well as in her soul.

Jordan Posamentier, Esq. Why California Should Be the Next State to Pass a Death With Dignity Law & What You Can Do to Help Five states in the nation currently have death with dignity laws on the books, but California is not one of them. Compassion & Choices’ goal is to make aid in dying an open, accessible, and legitimate medical practice for all Californians. Currently, too many Californians suffer needlessly or endure unrelenting pain at the end of life and too many turn to violent means at the end of life when medical aid can help them die peacefully. ​A majority of Californians supports Death with Dignity, ​and Compassion & Choices has a five year grassroots plan to get there. As the boomer generation increasingly faces end-of-life choices, they’re making sure the last great civil rights battle of their lives will be won in our state.

Andrew ChesnutSanta Muerte: The Saint For All Seasons While the mass media in both Mexico and the United States almost exclusively portrays Santa Muerte as a narco-saint,  for most devotees on both sides of the border she is an omnipotent miracle-worker who grants favors far removed from the world of drug trafficking. We’ll explore a few of her most important roles, such as curandera,  love doctor,  and agent of prosperity, in addition to the most recent developments in this the fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas.

1-hour lunch break on your own, 12-1pm

Paa Joe & the Lion a Death Salon exclusive clip from the forthcoming feature film documentary chronicling the life of Ghana’s greatest living fantasy coffin maker.

Melissa CooperForensic Facial Reconstruction: Reading the Skull of a 9,000-Year-Old Los Angeles Native While reconstructing a face, the skull holds an impressive amount of clues. I’ll be discussing the techniques used to achieve the final depiction based solely on the skull in addition to the surprising reactions a simple rendering of a face has the power to inflict.  Whether it is to assist in solving a cold-case or to obtain new information about our ancient past, the purpose of these reconstructions all come down to one major common denominator: utilize the given clues to solve a mystery. However, as we all have likely experienced, solving one mystery has the potential to only make the plot thicken.

David Orr – All That Is Solid Melts into Air For the past seven  years, David Orr has been traveling to the sites of people’s deaths and photographing the skies above. David will lecture on this ongoing project, ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS INTO AIR, and how the resulting images function as both portraits of absence and as abstract memorials to the individuals represented. David will also discuss how dichotomies explored within the project (the ephemeral and the timeless; the permanent and impermanent; the material and immaterial) create meaning, and how science indicates that these images may be more representational than you might think.

Rachel JamesTranscending the East vs. West Suicide Paradox: Netting the Bridge and Walling up the Volcano By comparing Mount Mihara and the Golden Gate Bridge, we’ll look at the conflicting ideologies surrounding suicide in Asia and the US, using these popular suicide locations and their prevention solutions in each locale as focal points to examine not only the opposing cultural attitudes, but how they are evolving from opposite sides of the philosophy spectrum and beginning to “meet in the middle” with concern and compassion.

Elizabeth HarperThe Public Corpse: Exploring Death Rituals and the Spaces Dedicated to Them in Rome Death is not the end of the road for Catholics in Italy. Though the public  display of corpses and bones may seem macabre, these traditions illustrate a spiritual and physical journey that begins at death. It’s a journey that takes us through the liminal space between here and the afterlife and between flesh and bone; where the impermanence and even embarrassment of the human body and it’s functions only underscores the permanence and dignity of the soul. In this illustrated talk, we’ll take a virtual walking-tour of Rome through its crypts, purgatorial societies, tombs and shrines and find this message of life hidden in places devoted to death.

Jill Tracy Whispers Behind Glass: After Dark in the Mutter Museum Composer/storyteller Jill Tracy presents songs she composed alone at night inside Philadelphia’s famed Mutter Museum, and spellbinding tales of the collection including Harry Eastlack (The Ossified Man), renowned Siamese Twins Chang and Eng, The Mermaid Baby, and eccentric laryngologist Chevalier Jackson.


Death Salon official banner logo, designed by Jenelle Campbell of

NIGHT SESSION emceed by Death Salon: SF Curators Annetta Black (Odd Salon) and Death Salon director Megan Rosenbloom

Starts promptly at 6pm, ends at 9pm

Cara Rose DeFabioAfter the Tone: Performing Grief through this humorous performance art piece, Cara comments on death in the age of the funeral selfie, with clever insights about the intersection of death and technology.

Beza Merid Stand-up Comedy and the Popular Culture of Cancer This talk will address the popular culture of cancer, and how cultural venues like marches for hope as well as the restrictive languages of illness proliferate the idea that there is a right attitude to survive disease. Beza explores how and where post-diagnosis individuals challenge this idea, and why stand-up comedy is such an apt space to explore anxieties about health, illness, and death.

Annetta Black Dead Soldiers & Utopian Dreams: The Vernian Visions of Dr. Benjamin Lyford, Civil War Embalmer On the battlefields of the divided Union, Dr. Benjamin Lyford was part of a new generation of death professionals, developing new (and secret) techniques for embalming in order to send bodies of fallen soldiers home for burial. Later, he brought his practice here to San Francisco – and across the water in Tiburon, he sought to create “Hygeia”, a health-obsessed Utopian village designed to keep death at bay. Remnants of his legacy speak to the lasting impact of the atrocities of war, the cult of health that sprung up in post-Civil War America, and our evolving relationship with the preservation of the dead.

Megan RosenbloomBooks of the Dead: Death Imagery from the Library Vaults While researching her book in libraries across the U.S. and abroad, Megan has collected examples of interesting death images and objects safely kept in the best research libraries’ special collections. Take a tour of some beautiful and macabre illustrations, photos, and objects that the public rarely get to see.

Paul KoudounarisSex in the Netherworld: Postmortem Erotic Spiritual Encounters Does eroticism survive the grave? The idea that the dead might return to satisfy their carnal desires has historically been considered so uncomfortable that such reports have been hidden way or lampooned as wild delusions. But in fact, such accounts are voluminous, and Dr. Paul Koudounaris will discuss the murky and fascinating history of ghostly sexual encounters.

Sarah Troop Nourishing Death: How the World Honors Death With Food Since ancient eras human beings have incorporated food into their observances of death in diverse and often macabre ways.  We will explore some of these rituals, practices and traditions of the past and present.

Caitlin DoughtySmoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory A gritty behind-the-scenes look at the death industry accompanied by reading from her newly-published memoir: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory.


1 Response to Death Salon SF (2014)

  1. Death Salon SF (2014) | Death Salon
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