Meet the Founding Members of The Order

In its formative years The Order featured a collective of members that included academics, artists, industry professionals, and innovators who were exploring ways to reframe what was possible at the end of life.


Photo of Stephanie Smith

Stephanie Smith

Web Design

Stephanie was the woman responsible for building and designing the previous Order website. She is also a composer, recently of CalArt’s MFA program in Experimental Sound Practices. Her album “Night Travels” was composed using violin, voice, and a Doepfer Dark Energy synthesizer.

Photo of Landis Blair

Landis Blair

Artist + Editor

Landis Blair is an illustrator and author known for his addiction to crosshatching and his stories of nihilistic whimsy. He is the writer and illustrator of The Envious Siblings: and Other Morbid Nursery Rhymes, as well as the illustrator of Caitlin Doughty’s book, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, and the graphic novel The Hunting Accident, by David Carlson. Additionally, Blair is also the editor on the Ask a Mortician Youtube series.

Photo of Katrina Spade

Katrina Spade

Eco-Death Revolutionary

Katrina Spade is the founder and CEO of Recompose, a benefit corporation developing a new form of death care that transforms bodies into soil. Katrina is an Echoing Green Climate Fellow. She lives in Seattle with her girlfriend and their two kids.

Photo of Pia Interlandi

Pia Interlandi

Grave Garment Designer

Pia is an Australian fashion designer. Her project [A]Dressing Death: Garments for the Grave researched (alongside a specialist forensics team) the effects of clothing and textiles on decomposition. Pia now designs custom made bio-degradable burial garments with client family participation. She is also a certified funeral celebrant who worked in London with Clandon Wood Natural Burial Reserve.

Photo of Jae Rhim Lee

Jae Rhim Lee

Mushroom Decomposer

Jae Rhim is a visual artist, designer, and researcher. She created the Infinity Burial Project, training a unique strain of an edible mushroom to decompose and remediate toxins in human tissue. She also developed a decomposition ‘kit,’ and a membership society devoted to the promotion of death acceptance and the cultivation of decomposing organisms.

Photo of Paul Koudounaris

Paul Koudounaris

International Corpse Explorer

Paul is an author and photographer in Los Angeles. His PhD in Art History has taken him around the world to document charnel houses and ossuaries. His books of photography include The Empire of Death and Heavenly Bodies, which features the little known skeletons taken from the Roman Catacombs in the seventeenth century and decorated with jewels by teams of nuns. His other academic interests include Sicilian sex ghosts and demonically possessed cats.

Photo of Vanessa Ruiz

Vanessa Ruiz

Street Anatomist

Vanessa is trained medical illustrator, curator, and all out anatomy fanatic. She created Street Anatomy while getting her Master of Science in Biomedical Visualization. Street Anatomy brings anatomical illustration out of the medical world and into the art world, curating events and gallery shows.

Photo of Bess Lovejoy

Bess Lovejoy

Writer, Editor

Bess Lovejoy is the author of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and an editor at mental_floss. She often writes about burial grounds of marginalized people, repatriated bodies, the history of bodysnatching in the U.S., and celebrity entrails.

Photo of Sarah Wambold

Sarah Wambold

Conservation Burial Pioneer

Sarah Wambold is a writer and funeral director in Austin, TX. She was also caretaker at Eloise Wood, Central Texas’ only natural burial cemetery. Sarah’s work on The Order includes the essay series American Funeral Home Revolution and Real American Death Hero.

Photo of Jeff Jorgenson

Jeff Jorgenson

Green Mortuary Owner

Jeff worked for years in the corporate funeral industry in Seattle, doing everything from pre-need sales to cemetery management. Fed up with how the death industry maintained outdated traditions, he struck out on his own, founding the Pacific Northwest’s first eco-friendly funeral home, Elemental Cremation & Burial. Elemental specializes in carbon neutral cremation & green burials. You can find him in the Is It Legal? video series.

Photo of Judy Melinek

Judy Melinek

Forensic Pathologist

Dr. Judy Melinek is a board-certified forensic pathologist doing autopsies for the Alameda County Sheriff Coroner, and is CEO of PathologyExpert Inc., a medicolegal consult firm. Her memoir, Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, co-authored with her husband, writer T.J. Mitchell, is a New York Times Bestseller. They live, write and raise their three children in San Francisco.

Photo of Elizabeth Harper

Elizabeth Harper

Chronicler of Dead Saints

Elizabeth is a writer and independent scholar focused on folk Catholicism and Catholic death rituals. She’s lectured on the Italian Cult of the Dead as part of the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Catholic Studies lecture series and contributed to Virginia Commonwealth University’s World Religion and Spirituality project. Her essays and photos have been published on Lapham’s Roundtable, Slate, Atlas Obscura, and Killing the Buddha. Her blog, All the Saints You Should Know, has been profiled in Los Angeles Magazine and VICE Italia. She is currently a scholar in residence at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York.

Photo of Megan Rosenbloom

Megan Rosenbloom

Death Salon Director

Megan is a medical librarian at the University of Southern California managing the history and medicine and rare books collections. In 2013 she co-founded Death Salon, the practical arm of The Order of the Good Death, which Megan directs, aims to open up intellectual conversations on death and culture by holding public events in the spirit of the 18th-century salon. Email: Megan(at)deathsalon.org

John Troyer

John Troyer

Director, Center for Death + Society

John Troyer is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath. His research focuses on contemporary memorialisation practices, concepts of spatial historiography, and the dead body’s relationship with technology. He is a co-founder of the Death Reference Desk website and a frequent commentator for the BBC.

Photo of Nancy Caciola

Nancy Caciola

Professor, Medieval Death

Nancy is a medieval historian and Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego. Her first book, Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages, concerns saints, demoniacs, and spirit possession in medieval culture. Her most recent book is Afterlives: The Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages, is an examination of medieval beliefs about death, afterlife, and ghosts. Both are available from Cornell University Press.

Photo of Ariel Hart

Ariel Hart

Animator

Ariel is an animator and illustrator in LA, working for clients as diverse as Justin Timberlake and Nike. She has a masters in experimental animation from CalArts and is the movin’ picture lady (i.e corpses in space) for the Ask a Mortician series.

Photo of Joanna Ebenstein

Joanna Ebenstein

Founder, Morbid Anatomy

Joanna Ebenstein is a Brooklyn-based artist, curator, writer, designer, and independent scholar. She is the creator of the Morbid Anatomy blog, library and event series, and was cofounder (with Tracy Hurley Martin) and creative director of the recently shuttered Morbid Anatomy Museum. She is author of The Anatomical Venus; co-editor (with Colin Dickey) of The Morbid Anatomy Anthology, and is currently working on a book about art and death to be released this October with Thames and Hudson. Ebenstein’s writing and photography have been published and exhibited internationally, and she speaks regularly around the world on topics at the intersections of art and medicine, death and culture. She has also acted as consultant for The Wellcome Collection and The New York Academy of Medicine.

Photo of Chanel Reynolds

Chanel Reynolds

End-of-Life Activist

Chanel is the founder of Get Your Shit Together. After becoming a widow and single mother when her husband was killed in an accident in 2009, Chanel turned tragedy into action, creating a hub to give others the power to create wills, living wills, insurance and basic financial planning, thus removing mountains of what she calls ‘optional suffering’ at death.

Photo of Greg Lungren

Greg Lundgren

Architectural Monument Designer

Greg is a Seattle-based artist, designer and curator with a diverse background in architectural design, sculpture, furniture and installation art. Greg Lundgren Monuments challenges ideas of memorialization—designing custom cast glass and granite monuments, modern urns and caskets, and producing original, thought provoking group exhibitions in their Seattle boutique. Greg has authored two illustrated children’s books addressing death and the cemetery.

Photo of Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

Funeral + Cemetery Law Expert

Tanya is a Professor at Wake Forest University School of Law. She is a licensed attorney in the State of Indiana and a licensed funeral director in the State of California. She teaches the only course in a U.S. law school on funeral and cemetery law. Tanya is the author of The Law of Human Remains (2015), the first treatise on the subject in 70 years, and the co-author of Cemetery Law: The Common Law of Burying Grounds in the United States (2015), the first casebook in the subject. She is the founder and primary author of The Funeral Law Blog.

Photo of Kelly Christian

Kelly Christian

Postmortem Photography Researcher

Kelly is a Chicago-based researcher, writer, and artist. Her most recent work explores the social history of death in American culture, as well as postmortem and memorial photography. Kelly photographed military funerals in Maine during the height of the Iraq War, and has created her own new media-Daguerreotypes. She has presented her work at conferences and galleries across the country. She is currently a Staff Writer at Dilettante Army, has written for the blog, National Museum of Civil War Medicine, as well as other publications.

Cassandra Yonder

Cassandra Yonder

Death Midwife

Cassandra lives on a self-sustaining homestead in Nova Scotia, Canada. She is a practicing Death Midwife, focusing on home funerals and alternative body dispositions. Cassandra is a Canadian representative to the National Home Funeral Alliance.

Photo of Barbara Chung

Barbara Chung

Smell of Death Research

Barbara is a practising architect based in Melbourne, Australia. Her final design thesis during her studies was about how the stigma behind death should be reversed and seen as something that is sensorial and sublime by linking olfactory triggers within architecture. Barbara’s project ‘The Anamnesis of Being’  – A Mortuary Bathhouse, was shortlisted by the international Design for Death competition run by Designboom.

Photo of Colin Dickey

Colin Dickey

Author of the Macabre

Colin Dickey is the author of Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places (Viking), plus two previous books of nonfiction: Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius, and Afterlives of the Saints: Stories from the Ends of Faith. He is also the co-editor (with Joanna Ebenstein) of The Morbid Anatomy Anthology. He teaches writing at National University.

Photo of Melissa Cooper

Melissa Cooper

Forensic Artist

Melissa is a California-based forensic artist. She performs skull reconstructions, post-mortem illustrations, age progressions and composite sketches for organizations ranging from law enforcement agencies to museums. Melissa has a background in taxidermy and anthropology and curates and shares macabre wonders a’plenty on the Order’s social media.

Photo of Nora Menkin

Nora Menkin

Co-Op + Nonprofit Funeral Homes

Nora Menkin is the Managing Funeral Director of the Co-Op Funeral Home of People’s Memorial in Seattle, one of the only not-for-profit funeral homes in the country. She has a background in home funerals and Jewish traditions, and a passion for natural burial and modern funeral practices.

Photo of Angela Kirkpatrick

Angela Kirkpatrick

Post-Mortem Jewelry Designer

Angela is a post-mortem jewelry designer and silver smith who resides in the Pacific Northwest. She incorporates cremated remains, hair, and teeth into custom modern jewelry designs inspired by Victorian Memento mori jewelry.

Photo of Jim Doran

Jim Doran

Diorama Maker

Jim is a metaphysicist, artist, and diorama maker in Baltimore. His wee pen and ink drawings in seemingly mundane places (Carmex jars, Altoid tins) show death and the macabre peeking through our everyday lives.

Photo of Rachel James

Rachel James

Writer, Editor

Rachel is a writer, editor, and public speaker located in California’s Gold Country. She is a founding partner of Odd Salon, a popular, often sold-out cocktail-hour series of lectures that regularly deliver on the promise that you will “Learn Something Weird.” She contributes regularly to projects such as Atlas Obscura, the definitive guidebook to the world’s most wondrous (and delightfully morbid) places. Rachel also founded Posy-Filled Pockets, best described as a “death positive variety show”.

Photo of John Carbone

John Carbone

Forensic Psychiatrist

John has over 24 years experience as a practicing mental health provider, specializing in general and forensic psychiatry. He is the Chief of Psychiatry and Director of Mental Health Services North Carolina Department of Correction for the Division of Prisons. This position involves clinical and administrative oversight of the largest single mental health provider in the state, serving over 40,000 incarcerated offenders, including those on death row.

Photo of Sarah Fornace

Sarah Fornace

Dark Puppetry

Sarah is a Chicago based performer. She is co-founder of the live-scored cinematic shadow puppet troupe Manual Cinema, which creates dark spectacles such as Ada/Ava, a show about the death and mourning of two identical twins. Sarah is a trained narrative theorist, breaking, filtering, and re-ordering your mortician’s theories for over six years.

Photo of Annabel De Vetten

Annabel de Vetten

Morbid Cake Maker

Formerly trained as a sculptor, a taxidermist, and painter, Annabel de Vetten, turned her creativity towards food art in 2011 and created Conjuror’s Kitchen. Drawing inspiration from her love of anatomy, alternative art and ossuaries and the horror genre, her cakes, chocolates and other edibles are delightfully disturbing. She has also created ‘Death in Chocolate’, a range of edible bird, small mammal, and human skulls, which she ships all over the world. Annabel’s work has been featured in ViceRipley’s Believe It Or Not and Archie McPhee.