Sooner or later, just about everybody takes a ride in one. Most prefer later -- and the longer the wait the better -- but for a ghoulish few, driving a hearse is as natural as dying.
Alex Rivera has owned as many as eight hearses at one time.
"Now I'm down to two," the Wilmington resident said.
During the rest of the year, Rivera may be the neighborhood oddball with the weird car, but come Halloween he's the neighborhood oddball with the coolest car on the block.
"I just use it on special occasions," said the 36-year-old sales manager. "It's a Sunday car."
There are hundreds of people like Rivera, hearse lovers all. Pamela King of Carson not only drives a death cab, but hers comes with a coffin in the back that once contained a real human being (the guy's family swapped him into another one, she said).
King paid $2,500 for her 1972 converted Cadillac on eBay, which this week listed no fewer than 450 hearses and hearse-related products, including key chains, bumper stickers and, in case one gets a dent, body parts.
"My mom calls it the deathmobile," said the 39-year-old King, whose other car is a Honda. "She refused to go in it. But it's very comfortable. It feels like an ocean liner."
Their cars are slightly dented -- the result of driving a car with all that extra room for reclining passengers. Rollers embedded in the floor make it easier to slide caskets in and out. Drapes line the inside windows.
It's all very formal and respectful, but the pair have both added after-market gear to their cars. Among other memento mori, King drives around with a rotting skeleton in the plastic passenger seat -- a vinyl resting place, you could call it. And she has placed several bumper stickers around the coach's outside. One says, "My loved one was corpse of the month."
Rivera was more ambitious. His 1964 Cadillac -- hearses tend to be either Caddies or Lincolns -- not only bounces up and down on its shock absorbers but spews fire from its tailpipe.
"Some people won't come into my home," he said.