Ashes to ashes: Does “cremainlining” really exist?
I’m starting today’s blog with a news story from May 13th 1993 that occurred in Boynton Beach (Florida, US) and can be found on the Snopes.com website:
“When Nathan Radlich’s house was burgled, thieves left his TV, his VCR, and even left his watch. What they did take was ‘generic white cardboard box filled with greyish-white powder’. (That at least is the way the police described it.) A spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale police said ‘that it looked similar to cocaine and they’d probably thought they’d hit the big time.’ Then Nathan stood in front of the TV cameras and pleaded with the burglars: ‘Please return the cremated remains of my sister, Gertrude. She died three years ago. Well, the next morning, the bullet-riddled corpse of a drug dealer known as Hoochie Pevens was found on Nathan’s doorstep. The cardboard box was there too; about half of Gertrude’s ashes remained. And there was this note. It said: ‘Hoochie sold us the bogus blow, so we wasted Hoochie. Sorry we snorted your sister. No hard feelings. Have a nice day’”
This story is arguably the first instance of “cremainlining” (the snorting of someone’s cremated ashes). However, the myth-busting website Snopes says that the part about ‘cremainlining’ is simply not true. In fact, Barbara Mikkelson, author of the online article for Snopes said that no dead body turned up on Radlich’s doorstep, and no note was left by the people who bought the “drugs”. Mikkelson also says that even the reference to Radlich appealing on television for the return of his sister’s ashes was made up just to tell a better story. Fast forward to London (UK) seven years later when this gem of a story did the rounds in British newspapers such as The Sun.
“Cocaine-crazy thieves tried to snort powder they found in an English housewife’s living room, not realizing it was the ashes of her dead dog, according to a British press report…The burglars thought they had hit the jackpot when they saw the powder marked “Charlie” – slang for cocaine – in a dainty ceramic pot on pet-lover Dee Blyth’s mantelpiece, said the report in The Sun. But they were unaware the pot was an urn and the “drugs” really the remains of her beloved Newfoundland Charlie, who died in 1997. A policeman called to investigate the break-in at Chadwell Heath fell about laughing when he saw the burglars had arranged the ashes in cocaine-style lines. “I’d love to see their faces when these thieves realize,” said Blyth. “It was horrible knowing they were in my house, but the idea of them trying to get high on a dead dog certainly made me feel a bit better. ‘I didn’t realize the significance until the policeman started laughing’”
While the burglary did indeed take place, there is actually no evidence that the thieves engaged in any unintentional cremainlining. More recently, in April 2007, Keith Richards, the guitarist in The Rolling Stones, was interviewed by the New Musical Express (NME) about his lifelong drug exploits. In that interview he was asked what the strangest thing he had ever tried to snort. He replied by saying he had snorted his father Bert’s cremated ashes mixed with cocaine. He told the NME: “My dad wouldn’t have cared” and then added that the snorted mixture “went down pretty well, and I’m still alive”. However, in his 2010 autobiography (“Life”), Richards reveals the truth behind the whole story (pp.611-612) which was a lot less ‘rock ‘n’ roll’:
“After having Dad’s ashes in a big black box for six years, because I really couldn’t bring myself to scatter him around, I finally planted a sturdy English oak to spread him around. And as I took the lid of the box, a fine spray of his ashes blew out onto the table. I couldn’t just brush him off, so I wiped my finger over it and snorted the residue”.
On the 15th December 2010, five teenage burglars in the US broke into a woman’s house in Silver Springs (Florida, US) and all snorted what they thought was cocaine or heroin but were in fact the ashes of a dead man and two Great Dane dogs. They stole jewelry, electronic equipment, and two urns (one containg the dead man’s ashes, and the other the cremated remains of the two dogs). Waldo Soroa (aged 19 years), Matrix Andaluz (18), Jose David Diaz Marrero (19), and two juveniles who could not be named were eventually arrested on charges of burglary and grand theft.
Earlier this year, it was alleged that a 51-year old man in Florida (why does Florida seem to be the epicentre of many of these cremainlining stories?) – Joseph Pointer – stole a dead woman’s ashes and told the dead woman’s mother that he was going to snort the remains. Pointer was living with a woman called Angela Speakman who shared the cremated remains of her sister (who in 2008 had been killed in a car accident) with her parents. On moving out of the house he shared with Speakman, Pointer stole the ashes. He then drove past Angela’s mother’s house allegedly shouting “I’ve got your dead daughter’s ashes and I’m going to snort them”. Pointer was arrested before he could snort the ashes but was charged with grand theft and jailed.
Just to finish with, I did mention in a previous blog I wrote on people’s fascination with death, the story of the woman who was “addicted to eating the ashes of her late husband” from the US television documentary series My Strange Addiction. The woman in question lost her husband following a fatal asthma attack and allegedly developed “a strong compulsion” to keep his ashes by her side at all times that then developed into eating the ashes. She says the ashes eating began when she was first transferring her husband’s cremated remains from a box into an ornamental urn. She accidentally got some of the ashes on her finger and “not wanting to just brush them off, licked them off, starting a habit that has become compulsive”. At the time of the television programme being recorded (and despite the ashes tasting horrible) she had been eating the ashes for two months and had consumed approximately six pounds of the ashes. In this particular case, the behaviour appears to be an unusual type of pica (i.e., the behaviour in which individuals eat non-nutritive items or substances) and which in some cases has been shown to be compulsive. Other online commentators have speculated that the eating of her husband’s ashes is a way of symbolically holding onto her husband in the easiest way possible.
So what are we to conclude? Certainly ashes have been ingested by a few loved ones, and there appears to be some evidence that a few thieves may have snorted cremated human remains mistakenly thinking it was cocaine during a burglary (a case of ‘crim0-cremainlining’ perhaps?). However, there doesn’t seem to be a single case of anyone doing it because they got any pleasure or enjoyment out of it.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Daily Mail (2011). Dumb, dumber and dumbest: Burglars snort ashes of a man and two dogs after they mistook them for cocaine, January 20. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1348820/Burglars-snort-ashes-man-2-dogs-mistaking-cocaine.html
Geekosystem (2011). Woman is addicted to eating the ashes of her late husband. August 9. Located at: http://www.geekosystem.com/woman-eats-husbands-ashes/
Herzberg, R. (2012). Man steals dead woman’s ashes and threatens to snort them. The Dream Demon, April 17. Located at: http://www.dreamindemon.com/2012/04/17/joseph-pointer-steals-dead-womans-ashes-threatens-snort/
Mikkelson, B. (2012). Cremainlining. Snopes, July 2011, Located at: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/cannibal/cocaine.asp
MSNBC News (2007). Keith Richards says he snorted father’s ashes, April 4. Located at: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/17933669/ns/today-entertainment/t/keith-richards-says-he-snorted-fathers-ashes/
Richards, K. (2010). Life. London: Orion Books.
Zipadeeday (2000). Thieves snort the line of a dog, November 6. Located at: http://www.zipadeeday.com/story/17/thieves-snort-a-line-of-dog/