When Scott Michaels purchased the domain FindADeath.com in 1997, he had no sense of the phenomenon he was starting. He was just a regular guy who happened to be really interested in dead people, and he devoted his site to documenting the last days, autopsy reports, death certificates, and grave sites of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Michaels quickly found a fanbase hungry for details of celebrity deaths beyond what mainstream news media could (or would) provide. The bloody crime-scene photographs. Open-casket shots. Glimpses from the coroner’s table.
Over the last 18 years, Michaels has found kinship among his followers: a group of people who stare at car accidents—literally and metaphorically—the way he does. In 1999, he addressed them in a post: “Hi, Death Hags,” he began. The name stuck (and he later copyrighted it). They were the Death Hags, and they were not ashamed.
Today, Michaels’s Death Hags are more numerous than they ever have been. There are more than 10,000 registered members of the FindADeath.com forums—which boast over 1.4 million posts—and another 2,000 fans on Facebook.
With the Death Hags, Michaels found a community. He gets Christmas cards each year from people he knows only through the Internet. And now, he says, his dark interest feels less odd. Everyone has an interest in death, he says—the Death Hags just aren’t afraid to admit it. “Everyone was buying their tabloids and tucking them into their Wall Street Journal,” he says. “[The Death Hags] shouted out loud.”