Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler:
“Coroner’s assistants would untangle bodies two at a time,” wrote the Times-Picayune. They took breaks to retch out nearby windows. Prying the stack of seventeen corpses in the corner, and deciding which piece went where, was a horrific task—in fact, a guessing game. Firemen and policemen pitched in to help the coroner and his team. They began by clearing the front door and bathroom of bodies and proceeded through the bar area toward Chartres Street, gathering and reassembling body parts on top of the bar. Each carcass, completed as best they could, was then photographed and searched for identifying artifacts—jewelry, trinkets, or pieces of wallet. Each was then zipped in a bag. A fire engine with a sixty-five-foot arm raised and lowered a metal basket, and black rubber sacks descended, one by one. Three Catholic priests turned up on the street in time to offer “conditional absolution” over the bags as they were lowered. They made a sign of the cross in the air more than twenty times.