Former Exec: Ted Williams' Corpse Beheaded

ByBill Redeker via logo

S C O T T S D A L E, Ariz., Sept. 3, 2003 -- The frozen corpse of baseball legend Ted Williams is being stored at an Arizona cryonics facility, with his severed head kept in something like a lobster pot, a former executive at the cryonics company said.

Larry Johnson said he resigned last month as chief operating officer of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation because he was outraged at how Williams' remains were being treated.

"He was an American hero, true blue," Johnson said. "Now he lays frozen in Scottsdale, Arizona. His body has been just desecrated and destroyed. It's senseless."

Williams' torso and limbs are kept in one of the facility's stainless steel tanks, and his head is stored in a "lobster pot" that is kept in a freezer chest, Johnson said.

"His head is in a silver pot, it's like a lobster pot. It's inside the other vessel called a neurovault," Johnson told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America in his first television interview. "This, to me, was sickening."

The famed Boston Red Sox slugger, a former U.S. fighter pilot, died in July 5, 2002, at the age of 83. His remains came to Alcor after a dispute among his children.

Body Allegedly Damaged by Freezing Process

The philosophy behind cryonics is that the body is frozen so that it will be preserved — and can thus be resuscitated at some point in the future, when a cure for the ailment that killed the person is found.

But Williams' body has sustained some damage, according to Johnson. He said Williams' brain was cracked in at least 10 places in the course of the freezing process.

"They were having temperature swings," Johnson said. "At low temperatures like that it's very drastic. That can cause cracking."

Alcor will neither confirm nor deny that it has Williams' body; it says its company policy is to keep the identities of clients confidential.

However, Alcor says it intends to sue Johnson, and contends the former employee may have had a financial motive for disparaging the company.

Alcor Director Carlos Mondragon took ABCNEWS on a tour of the Scottsdale facility where whole bodies or just heads are stored — depending on the individual's preference — in stainless steel containers and tanks. The containers are filled with liquid nitrogen kept at a temperature of 320 degrees below zero.

"In all of them, altogether there are 58 [sets of remains]," Mondragon said. "Eighteen or 19 are whole bodies. The rest are just 'neuro' patients. Only their brains are in cryonic suspension."

Missing DNA?

While not commenting directly on Johnson's allegations about Williams, Mondragon said that cracking of the brain is not unusual, even with the latest technology.

"On average, we're getting 10 or 12 cracks," Mondragon said. "In the past, without that technology, it was thousands."

Johnson also claims that eight samples of fluid from Williams' body are missing, and that those samples contain the famous player's DNA, which can be used for cloning.

But Mondragon said that simply isn't true.

"That one is flat-out incorrect because we don't store DNA," he said. "We store our patients' brains or their entire bodies."

Dispute Over Williams’ Bill?

Williams' son, John Henry, and daughter Claudia won a family dispute over what should happen to the baseball legend's remains. They contended he wanted his corpse frozen, although another daughter, Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell, said her father wanted to be cremated.

Now, according to Johnson, John Henry Williams owes Alcor $111,000 for its services.

Good Morning America was unable to reach John Henry Williams for comment.

What Did Williams Want?

More than a year after his death, questions continue to surface about whether Ted Williams really wanted his remains to be preserved through cryonics.

ABCNEWS obtained a copy of the consent form allowing Alcor to freeze the baseball great's body. John Henry Williams did sign it, but apparently did so after his father died. Ted Williams never signed it.

The lack of a signature begs the question: Did Ted Williams really want to be frozen after his death?

"Well, if Mr. Williams is in fact in cryonic suspension, either here or elsewhere, and if this experiment turns out to work, you'll be able to ask him," Mondragon said.