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Arts and Entertainment

Coroner's Office Isn't Sure Their Gift Shop Is in Good Taste Anymore

You never know when you're going to need one of these (Photo via Dan Callister/Getty Images)
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It might be curtains for Skeletons in the Closet, the macabre gift shop inside L.A. County's Medical Examiner-Coroner's office. If you've ever stopped by Skeletons in the Closet, you know that it's a strange, little shop that sells morbid curiosities. You can get a toe tag or a body bag, or a beach towel with a chalk outline. My daily coffee mug is from this shop, emblazoned with the office's official seal. It's the sort of death-related gallows humor that some people love and others shy away from. And now, the office's new managers are wondering if perhaps the shop should close to turn into something a little less, well, irreverent, according to L.A. Daily News.

Skeletons in the Closet opened in 1993, after a clerk made a jokey T-shirt for a doctor at the nearby hospital. Craig Harvey, a spokesman for the coroner's office, said that they were hoping to play into the dark side of Los Angeles' past. "[The office] has played an important role in the history of what makes Los Angeles, Los Angeles—the noir, the Raymond Chandler novels," he said.

The problem that some have with the shop is its location, just off the lobby of the coroner's office. You step into the building at 1104 N. Mission Road, and you find a door in the lobby labeled 'Gift Shop.' You might be headed there to get a jokey body bag; the person next to you might be coming to collect the belongings of a loved one who has just died. The question is whether such a shop is appropriate, so close to where people come to deal with actual death.

Officials have other ideas in mind, like perhaps turning the shop into some kind of museum or a "forensic education center," or maybe moving it somewhere else.

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Edna Pereyda has been working at the shop for about 10 years. She said she makes about $2,000 to $3,000 a week from both real-life visitors and online shoppers, with her biggest seasons being Christmas and Halloween, of course. That said, the shop is operating at a financial loss of about $55,000 each year.

Harvey said that while the story is a plus for the office when it comes to PR "so people have some idea of what this county office does for them," the store should change its focus if it can't succeed.

Richard Schave, an L.A. historian who leads spooky tours via Estouric, thinks the beach towels with the body outline are in "poor taste," and would prefer "even the most basic branding based some history of the place."

L.A.'s less sunny past is something of an industry all of its own. There are numerous crime and ghost tours (including Schave's), Hollywood's Museum of Death and games you can play where you have to solve your way out of a serial killer's basement. None of these things are so close to any official symbol of death as Skeletons in the Closet.

For now, you can visit the shop at 1104 N. Mission Road Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. There's also a similar gift shop in Las Vegas.