July 30, 2019

"For as long as Smith can remember, his mother, Barbara, was secretive, especially when it came to the cardboard box in the freezer."

"Talking about the box was considered a 'no-no conversation,' he told KSDK, and each time he asked about it, Barbara rebuffed him. 'Now I know why,' he told the Post-Dispatch. Despite not taking a peek all those [37] years, Smith’s curiosity got the better of him over the weekend when he was sorting through his [deceased] mother’s belongings... 'Even as she was on her deathbed, she never told me what was in that box'... Smith said... that he only recently found out from a relative that his mother had given birth to twins, but one was stillborn and the other was given up for adoption... It just dawned on him that for his 'whole life' he had eaten food from a freezer that possibly stored his 'frozen sister.'... 'Who absolutely keeps their own child in a box for this long?... I just have so many thoughts. It’s just insane.'"

From "His mother kept a cardboard box in the freezer for decades. Inside, he found a ‘mummified’ baby" (the #1 most-read article at WaPo right now).

ADDED: Why take this story to the press?

64 comments:

rhhardin said...

Freeers are too dry. Use the vegetable crisper to avoid mummification.

campy said...

"Why take this story to the press?"

Fifteen minutes of fame.

CWJ said...

Inspired by Sam Shepard?

Kevin said...

Yet another artifact for the Smithsonian.

Rob said...

If I ever clean out my freezer, I may find a mummified stillborn baby or two myself.

Michael K said...

One of my medical school classmates had a jar of formaldehyde on his living room mantle with a fetus that he said was his brother.

He was at out 50th reunion. Nobody asked him about it. Probably few remembered.

Yancey Ward said...

Well, legally, he would have had to report the find to the proper authorities- is isn't legal to dispose of human remains of that kind otherwise. So, it is possible it was the police who informed the journalists at first. Would the story have been published without the input from the man himself? Don't know.

I have known women who have had stillbirths like that, and I give large leeway to their subsequent behaviors- it is a terrible thing to have to endure.

Skipper said...

Is this story even close to true?

Phil 314 said...

When did the WaPo become the National Inquirer?

Was it an alien baby?

Infinite Monkeys said...

Why did it go from being a local St. Louis story to being in the WaPo? Don't they have enough to report on with Trump's tweets?

Mike Sylwester said...

Democracy Dies in Darkness!

Biotrekker said...

'Who absolutely keeps their own child in a box for this long?... I just have so many thoughts. It’s just insane.'"


Who never looks into a forbidden cardboard box in the fridge for 37 years?

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Mike Sylwester - Indeed it does!

Yancey Ward said...

"Who never looks into a forbidden cardboard box in the fridge for 37 years?"

Yeah, I had the same thought, too. I know, as a kid, I would have looked inside the first opportunity after having been told not to.

The Vault Dweller said...

The son should respect the memory of his recently deceased mother better. I get the surprise and shock he feels, but to publicly speculate that maybe his mother did something to the baby and she was hiding a crime for all these years, is quite a poor way to treat your recently deceased mother.

I think if I were in that situation, I would take corpse out to the woods somewhere and bury it.

Unknown said...

What Yancey said.

pious agnostic said...

"What is your fascination with my forbidden freezer of mystery ..."

joshbraid said...

Grieving is hard. Most people avoid it given the chance. Shucks, our dominant culture is highly invested in helping people avoid grieving.

Grieving a dead child is more than hard. Sad for this mother to be stuck in her grief for so long. Good for the son to resolve the grief after all these years (he didn't look in the box because it would have exposed his mother's pain, don't cha know?).

Yancey Ward said...

"I think if I were in that situation, I would take corpse out to the woods somewhere and bury it."

I would have been tempted to do so, but I probably would have called the police instead. I agree with you, though- I would never have cooperated with a story for the newspaper.

chuck said...

> Why take this story to the press?

You saying he should have sold it on WhenHub/

tim maguire said...

Southern Gothic.

Wilbur said...

And yet he was registered to vote. Dem county.

AllenS said...

OMG! I have skeletons in my closet!

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

I wouldn’t have looked but also felt weird about it those 37 years. That the mother never considered what effect just the existence of the dark-secret-in-the-freezer would have on her kids suggests that she was more than a little odd. I mean, more than frozen-baby odd.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Our first takes on this story

1. Man!!! they sure made freezers to last in the old days. Instead of the planned obsolescence we have now where the appliances die in 8 years. 37 years and still going!!! Wow! Actually we have a freezer that is older than 40 years and still works like a champ.

2. I bet she hasn't defrosted that freezer in 37 years. There were probably antique chuck roasts and crap just freezer burned to death. My husband had to help with his deceased Grandmother's chest freezer. They found 28 year old containers of frozen blackberries. Really? Blackberries?

Dave Begley said...

We know why WaPo published it: most read story on that rag.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Makes you think, though. There’s probably a lot of normal kids out there being raised by functional, yet batshit, parents.

Yancey Ward said...

Wow! Actually we have a freezer that is older than 40 years and still works like a champ.

My grandparents bought a Fridgedaire deep freezer for their basement that dates from the mid-1970s- it is still going. There are probably hand-picked blackberries in it somewhere, too.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

More importantly, is Salisbury steak pot pie a real thing? Sounds hearty and delicious.

Yancey Ward said...

It is possible my grandfather repaired it at some point- he was very handy that way, but still.

Ambrose said...

He never looked in the box? Hard to believe.

The Vault Dweller said...

raised by functional, yet batshit, parents.

I'm hesitant to call the mother crazy over this. It is certainly odd and creepy behavior, but odd and even sometimes creepy behavior is normal in the wake of terrible loss and grief. And there is no evidence that her keeping the body in the freezer had an significant negative impact on her or anyone else. I feel only sympathy for the mother in this situation to be honest. I think she had to deal with a terrible situation and tried to deal with it in what felt best to her at the time. But the Son I feel a little disgust at for going public with this kind of story.

Wince said...

His mother kept a cardboard box in the freezer for decades. Inside, he found a ‘mummified’ baby.

Mummy Dearest?

Wince said...

I wonder if the box had one of those little locks with the tiny key like my sister's diary?

Bob Smith said...

Anyway I blame Trump.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

To be serious.

Who knows the circumstances of her pregnancy; and what was obviously a home birth. Perhaps she wasn't married and belonged to a religious family/group where having illegitimate children is a horrible sin. It is likely that she gave birth alone and in shame.

Grief over the death of one child and guilt over giving away the other can make people do very strange things. Possibly not even a legal adoption. Cultural pressure. Guilt. Shame.

Things that seem weird and bizarre to us, may seem normal to someone in other cultural situations and in periods of extreme emotional and psychological stress.

That she kept the dead child, in memorial entombment...even in the freezer, means something. It was important to her, but shameful enough that she didn't want anyone to know. Better than the wood chipper, doncha think?

I doubt this was a purposeful, malicious, psychotic type of event. Maybe it was? Who are we to judge.

gspencer said...

Norman Bates used his attic.

stlcdr said...

My wife and I purchased a house with a big fire pile in the back yard.

We eventually got around to burning it, and found a variety of mundane non-burnable items - nails (from old timber), metal hanging file supports, bulbs, a watch, molten plastic items, some fake military dog tags.

We had a casual discussion about what we would do if we found human bones in the ashes. One of us would want to go to the police, one of us would want to just bury them somewhere else. Of course, it was hypothetical...I think.

chuck said...

> deep freezer for their basement that dates from the mid-1970s- it is still going.

Bet it uses Freon.

Static Ping said...

"Why take this story to the press?"

Lifetime movies do not write themselves.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

“I'm hesitant to call the mother crazy over this. It is certainly odd and creepy behavior, but odd and even sometimes creepy behavior is normal in the wake of terrible loss and grief”

In the wake, yes. Over 37 years, no. This occurrence, whatever it was about, left a hard strata of abnormality in her. I’ve seen hoarders up close. In a way, the baby in the freezer is part of the same mindset. “I know this isn’t normal but I can’t let it go.”

Fernandinande said...

It's like an archeological expedition into 🎵 their own private permafrost 🎵.

Marcus Bressler said...

What makes you think it was the stillborn baby in the freezer and not the child who was "given away for adoption". Wouldn't the hospital dispose of the remains of the stillborn baby and is there any proof of the "adoption"? Inquiring minds want to know.

THEOLDMAN

(I hope not. But my "plot twist" mind goes that way)

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

Wouldn't the hospital dispose of the remains of the stillborn baby and is there any proof of the "adoption"?

You are assuming the birth was in a hospital. Most likely a home birth, which is not common today, but which used to be the norm in older times and especially in rural areas without easy access to hospitals. I have a friend who delivered his own baby.... a few months ago......in his truck, in the parking lot of a grocery store, on the way to the hospital which was about 80 miles away. Not enough time to get back to the hospital so...baby in the truck. Almost made it!

No proof of adoption, just family "lore" according to the story. Unofficial adoptions while not the norm today are also not completely unknown.

Teenage single mother has baby at home. She can't keep the baby. OR. Her parents won't allow her to keep the baby. What to do? Give the baby to a childless couple who don't want to (or can't) go through the rigorous adoption procedure. Maybe someone who just wants another child. "Here...take this baby that no one wants or that I am being forced to give up....thanks."

Ann Althouse said...

"Well, legally, he would have had to report the find to the proper authorities- is isn't legal to dispose of human remains of that kind otherwise. So, it is possible it was the police who informed the journalists at first. Would the story have been published without the input from the man himself? Don't know."

He's still talking to the press, revealing his step-by-step opening of the box and a whole series of thoughts that passed through his head. It's pretty disrespectful to the dead mother! If you knew your mother had a stillborn child and found the remains of a baby in her house after she died, would you go speculating to the press about how maybe the baby had been born alive and she could have had a dark secret -- maybe she murdered it?!!

Ralph L said...

When my last cat died in 1998, I had impaled my foot on a 5" square nail a few days before, so I had to put him in the freezer in a plastic bag and shoe box for a week or two.

The two old maid sisters who rented my house from 1940-70 would put bowls of snow in their deep freeze to make snow cream in the summer.

Ralph L said...

After I'd enjoyed a fair number of Faulkner short stories in my 20s, I bugged me that we'd been forced to read the yukky "A Rose for Emily" in HS. But having to read a story in school is usually the best way to ruin any writer.

SeanF said...

Dust Bunny Queen: Our first takes on this story

1. Man!!! they sure made freezers to last in the old days. Instead of the planned obsolescence we have now where the appliances die in 8 years. 37 years and still going!!! Wow! Actually we have a freezer that is older than 40 years and still works like a champ.

2. I bet she hasn't defrosted that freezer in 37 years. There were probably antique chuck roasts and crap just freezer burned to death. My husband had to help with his deceased Grandmother's chest freezer. They found 28 year old containers of frozen blackberries. Really? Blackberries?


The article makes clear in the second sentence that it wasn't the same freezer for the entire 37 years. "...the small cardboard box that had taken up space in every freezer in every home..."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Yeah. I didn't read this article. My first takes were on 'hearing' the headline on some tv blurb/show in passing.

Multiple freezers over 37 years and still keep moving the frozen dead baby.... makes the story even weirder. I guess she just couldn't "let go" or get over the incident. Poor woman.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Fund raiser for Planned Parenthood and sequestration of carbon-based clump of cells.

J said...

Many people have urns of cremated remains of loved ones in their homes. If it was a shameful/secret circumstance of home birth, maybe the freezer was the only option that would keep it secret. Yeah she could have dealt with it eventually but this story is just lurid click bait. People keep baby teeth and umbilical cords from their kids, which is kinda gross too but pretty normalized.

Brian said...

The bluster, vulgarity, innuendo and refusal to admit he’s wrong....

Guess we know where the "Hillary fact check website idea came from"

CLINTON: I kind of assumed that there would be a lot of these charges and claims, and so...

TRUMP: Facts.

CLINTON: So we have taken the home page of my website, HillaryClinton.com, and we've turned it into a fact-checker. So if you want to see in real-time what the facts are, please go and take a look. Because what I have proposed...


[I]magine if you didn’t care whether you got the job.

That's why he won, unlike Tracy Flick.

Biff said...

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...This occurrence, whatever it was about, left a hard strata of abnormality in her. I’ve seen hoarders up close. In a way, the baby in the freezer is part of the same mindset. “I know this isn’t normal but I can’t let it go.”

My mom was a severe hoarder, and I've been involved with support groups for children and families of hoarders. Let's just say that we're not surprised when someone reveals freezer discoveries, and the discoveries aren't limited to stillborn babies.

Yancey Ward said...

"Mom, where did you bury Scruffie?"

"I don't remember."

The Vault Dweller said...

I’ve seen hoarders up close. In a way, the baby in the freezer is part of the same mindset. “I know this isn’t normal but I can’t let it go.”

I know this isn't normal but I can't let it go is different when applied to a 25 year collection of National Geographic, than when applied to a dead child. Again I'm not saying it is normal behavior by any means. But in order for me to label a person or behavior crazy it has to at least moderately harm their lifestyle or the lifestyle of those around them. A small cardboard box kept in the back corner of the freezer doesn't strike me as reaching that level of harm. I mean think of are our numeral funerary practices. We take a dead corpse, sometimes, drain it of all it's bodily fluids and then fill it with preservative fluids. Encase it in an expensive piece of wood, metal, and plastic. Then bury it in the earth at marked location, that sometime people visit in the future to talk to the deceased person? Does this behavior make any more sense than what the mother in this story did? I don't think so, but this type of behavior is normal so it carries with it the imprimatur of social approval.

Anthony said...

I used to hear that my Mom, for a time, kept a miscarriage in a jar in the refrigerator for a short time. I have two comments on this:

1) Probably misheard? Maybe they had it at the hospital or something?

2) I wouldn't have been here had it survived. Little jerk. . . . .

Rabel said...

And the guy still has not emptied the freezer that held the dead baby.

Just can't give up those Twix Ice Cream Bars.

jim said...

I want the movie rights!

mockturtle said...

Biotrekker muses: Who never looks into a forbidden cardboard box in the fridge for 37 years?

My take, as well. There are times, though, when curiosity led me where I hadn't really wanted to go. This would have been one of those times.

RobinGoodfellow said...


Blogger Marcus said...
What makes you think it was the stillborn baby in the freezer and not the child who was "given away for adoption". Wouldn't the hospital dispose of the remains of the stillborn baby and is there any proof of the "adoption"? Inquiring minds want to know.

THEOLDMAN

(I hope not. But my "plot twist" mind goes that way)


Wow! What a great twist to the story that would be.

Rosalyn C. said...

Interesting theme today of shameful choices made in the past which then had to be kept secret in perpetuity. Quite a burden.

Maybe the guy was in shock not only about finding a corpse but the sudden knowledge of lost siblings. Maybe he doesn't have any emotional support system, just like his mother, and going public seemed like a way to rid himself of the trauma. Call it depending on the kindness of strangers.

Tom T. said...

The fact that he took the story to the press in this way suggests to me that his relationship with his mother was dysfunctional during her life. Perhaps she was always closed off and, well, cold to him, and now he thinks he's discovered why. And he's really angry.