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Unwanted Gifts: The Woman Who Could Smell Death

What if you could smell death?

What if you could smell death?

Something in the Air

This unusual account was sent to me by a woman named Lisa Clarke* who claimed that she had grown up hearing stories of how her Aunt Laura had been able to sense when death was lurking nearby. Upon learning the details, it was apparent that her chilling memories were worth sharing.

Lisa recalls that her aunt had always been hypersensitive to anything that gave off a scent. She would be the first to notice if someone was wearing a particularly pleasant body lotion or perfume. By the same token, Laura would quickly become overwhelmed by the presence of unpleasant odors that didn't seem to bother anyone else. Her heightened sense of smell, while a nuisance, was certainly not earth-shattering—that is, until she realized that she could recognize the stench of approaching death.

According to her family, Laura had first become aware of this frightening ability when she was a teenager. It all began when she and her mother paid a visit to a family friend who was hospitalized for observation after being involved in a minor traffic accident. The then fifteen-year-old had sat quietly in a corner while the woman and her mother exchanged pleasantries.

When the time came to leave, Laura couldn't get out of the room fast enough. On the drive home, she brought up the subject of the horrible smell that had hung in the air around the woman's hospital bed. Her mother was a bit puzzled by the complaint since she hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary. Several days later, they would learn that the woman had died suddenly from a ruptured artery in her abdomen.

Laura would later relate that the putrid odor that seemed to be clinging to the woman had reminded her of the stench that had polluted the family's garage in the months after her father had laid out rat poison. As impossible as it seemed, she had smelled decomposition on the woman while she was still living.

An Unmistakable Truth

That incident would prove to be the first of many that would plague Laura throughout her life. It was Lisa's understanding that this unwanted gift (if one could call it that) was the bane of her aunt's existence. Although she tried everything she could think of to rid herself of this mental affliction, nothing seemed to work.

Over the years, she knew before anyone else when someone, or something's, days were coming to an end. Her niece recalled an unsettling event that occurred when the family had gathered for her cousin's wedding. After being introduced to the groom's father, Laura excused herself from the proceedings and fled to the bathroom.

When questioned later if she was feeling alright, she had revealed to her sister, Lisa's mother, that the man had given off such a strong stench of death that she feared he was not long for this world. Less than a week later, the family received news that he had passed in his sleep from natural causes.

Being constantly made aware of the fragility of life while others were oblivious was a cross that Laura bore grudgingly. She would pet an animal or walk too close to someone in the supermarket and be overcome by a gut-churning smell that no one else seemed to notice. Although she couldn't be sure what became of these unfortunate souls following their brief encounters, she knew from past experience that they didn't have long to live.

Early on, she had seen an ear, nose, and throat specialist in hopes of getting to the bottom of her malady. Since she hadn't felt comfortable telling the doctor that she could detect the odor of death, she had simply stated that she was overly sensitive to certain smells. To her dismay, a thorough exam showed nothing that would account for what she was experiencing.

In spite of the fact that Laura knew that the problem was in her nose and not her mind, she consulted a mental health professional. No longer afraid of exposing herself to outsiders, she had told the therapist everything. Various treatments followed to no avail. The normal life she longed for was not to be.

With nowhere left to turn, she began shutting herself off from society. Presumably, she had come to the conclusion that avoiding living things as much as possible was the only way to prevent her from knowing ahead of time when death was looming.

Some claim that death has a distinctive odor that can attach itself to a person as their time in this world begins to run out

Some claim that death has a distinctive odor that can attach itself to a person as their time in this world begins to run out

The Hands of Fate

Lisa recalls that her aunt seldom left her home and when she did, she tried her best to give people a wide berth. She had long ago adopted a "what you don't know won't hurt you" attitude. There were, however, exceptions.

When Laura's mother was taken ill, she came out of hiding to offer assistance. After one particularly grueling visit, she told her sister that the stench in the room had been unbearable. Having been down that road before, she knew that the stronger the smell, the less time the person had left. She had commented that their mother would be lucky to make it through the night. As usual, her prediction was accurate. Within hours, the family matriarch would draw her final breath.

Although Laura wasn't the cause of the many deaths she foretold, she often felt somehow responsible. She longed to be like everyone else, blissfully unaware of the inner workings of fate. Unfortunately, that was a kindness she had not been afforded.

While Lisa was away at college, she received word that her aunt had been found deceased in her home. A half-empty bottle of prescription medication she had been taking to ease anxiety was found nearby leading the coroner to rule her death a suicide.

How Laura knew by someone's scent that their days were numbered, even when the subjects themselves were blissfully unaware, is a question that her family and friends have never been able to answer. Although it was a phenomenon with which none of them were previously familiar, they did not doubt that she had indeed possessed this morbid perception. They had witnessed it play out time and again.

Today, Lisa remembers her aunt as an empathetic soul who cared deeply for those around her. Perhaps, in some strange way, it was this sensitivity that made her so acutely aware of the suffering of others. It is to be noted that, according to her family, Laura only sensed natural death on the horizon. As far as they know, accidental loss of life was something she was not able to detect in advance.

Laura's grim awareness of the impending demise of others was something not many would envy. For her, it was a nightmare from which she could not wake. It was not lost on those who observed her sad decline that she had looked to death, the very thing that had haunted her throughout her life, as the only means of escape.

*Name has been changed to protect the family's privacy.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.