Just Because It's 'Green' Doesn't Mean It Smells Good

The “Return to Nature Funeral Home” sounds like an ideal place to find eternal peace if you’re a typical Colorado ex-hippie. But police were called to investigate after reports of a putrid smell coming from the property.


What police found would make your hair stand on end. A neglected building on the funeral home’s property was stuffed with 115 dead bodies in various stages of decomposition.

The owner, Jon Hallford, claimed he was doing “taxidermy” on the property.

Investigators are bringing in teams that usually handle airplane crashes, coroners from several other jurisdictions, and FBI agents to shed some light on what happened at the funeral home.

Associated Press:

Hallford acknowledged that he had a “problem” at the property, the Colorado Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration letter said. The document did not elaborate on the taxidermy and alleged improper storage of remains, but the facility’s registration has been expired since November.

No one had been arrested or charged. Text messages to the funeral home seeking comment went unanswered. No one at the business picked up the phone and there was no working voicemail.

Funeral home officials were cooperating as investigators sought to determine any criminal wrongdoing, Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said at a news conference where he called the scene inside the building “horrific.”


This is how the Return to Nature Funeral Home describes a “green funeral.”

Green / Natural Burial is a return to the traditional way of burial. No chemicals, metal or unnatural materials. Just you and the Earth, returning to nature. Interment of the bodies is done in a biodegradable casket, basket, shroud, or even nothing at all. No embalming fluid, no concrete vaults. As natural as possible.

Without embalming fluid, the corpse must be buried, cremated, or refrigerated within 48 hours or it will begin to stink. Colorado law requires funeral directors to refrigerate bodies after 24 hours. It looks like the Return to Nature Funeral Home forgot that small detail.

The bodies were inside a 2,500-square-foot (230-square-meter) building with the appearance and dimensions of a standard one-story home. The funeral performed burials without embalming chemicals or metal caskets, using biodegradable caskets, shrouds or “nothing at all,” according to its website.

The company charged $1,895 for a “natural burial,” not counting a casket or cemetery space, and until July offered cremations, too.

Under Colorado law, green burials are legal but state code requires that any body not buried within 24 hours must be properly refrigerated.


The idea of the owner performing “taxidermy” services on human remains — if that’s what he was doing — is about as creepy as it gets. And it’s not just the taxidermist; what in God’s name are customers of this “green” funeral home doing — getting their loved ones “stuffed” so they could be put on display?

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This story proves that just because something is “green” doesn’t mean it automatically smells good.


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