Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Slept in Lee Harvey Oswald's Coffin

Booktryst's publisher/editor goes where only one man has gone before - and brings something to read.

by Stephen J. Gertz

The original pine casket that held the body of Lee Harvey Oswald from his burial on  November 25, 1963 until his exhumation on October 4, 1981 will be auctioned on Thursday, December 16, 2010 by Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

On Saturday, December 11, 2010, I took a nap in it.

This might, were I a collector of profound means, be considered a Special, Private Preview Showing. But since I am not a collector of profound or even shallow means nor have any intention of bidding on Oswald's temporarily permanent original resting box, a reasonable person might ask, What the JFK?

Though I felt it might be an interesting way to get into the holiday spirit,  a pre-Christmas gift to myself, me stuffed into Oswald's post-mortum pine stocking, the motivation was simply, as Hilary said of Everest, "Because it was there."

It was there, before me, after I accepted an invitation to view it and had the nerve to ask if I could get an insider's look. The possibility was irresistible. The request graciously accepted, I prepared for bedtime; I took out a book to read, a rare book.

Understand, I'm the Warren Beatty of readers: I slept with 12,775 books. It's a compulsion; I can't help myself. I had hoped in advance to get horizontal in the thing, knew in that particular plane that anything goes, and had prepared accordingly.

I can personally attest that Lee Harvey Oswald's coffin is just like old-new: as deteriorated today as it was when first exhumed with him in it in 1981. Old-new, with a dash  of mildew.

And what book did I bring to read?

MATTHEWS, Jim. Four Dark Days in History:
November 22, 23, 24, 25, 1963; Who Killed Kennedy?
Los Angeles: Special Publications [Marvin Miller], [Dec.] 1963.

Four Dark Days in History was published by Marvin Miller within two weeks of the Kennedy assassination. The book was amongst the very first, if not the first of the cheapo event exploitation quickie books that would follow; it was certainly the first post-assassination publication. At only a dollar it sold thirty million copies, earned Miller the first of his small fortunes and a footnote in history: It was the only publication that possessed the Mary Moorman photo of the grassy knoll clearly defining a person standing behind it, thus confounding the lone-assassin theorists. The original photo had disappeared by the time the Warren Commission convened, and it depended upon this book to view the photograph. Ten years later, in 1973, after earning his second and substantially greater fortune, Miller would earn another footnote in U.S. history when he was immortalized by the U.S. Supreme Court's Miller obscenity decision; having become one of the nation's foremost pornographers, he slipped on an obscenity-through-the-mails banana peel and was vigorously prosecuted. The book has become impossible to find in anything better than very good condition.

How did Oswald get out of his casket? Amidst conspiracy theories that a look-alike Russian agent was actually buried in place of Oswald, a fierce legal battle erupted between Robert and Marina Oswald with the former trying to stop the exhumation and the latter pushing it forward. Marina's side prevailed, forcing an exhumation to determine who was actually buried in Oswald's grave. No surprise: it was Oswald.

The author w/LHO's casket.

As for my internment into and exhumation out of Oswald's ossuary, it lasted only a moment; a cat-nap at best. It is fragile, funky, and foul inside and I had no time to consider where I was and how I felt beyond feeling that this was the perfect rotten crate to hold rotten Oswald into eternity and I wanted out, asap.

The coffin measures 80" long x 24" deep, with the thickness of the sides of the casket approximately one inch. It is accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity by Funeral Director Allen Baumgardner, who assisted at the original embalming of Lee Harvey Oswald and later purchased the Miller Funeral Home, the mortuary that handled LHO, along with all of its property.

As of this writing the high bid is at $19,184.


  1. Awesome! You are one cheeky, crazy fella.

  2. Thats all that was left,, No Vault , Wood Coffin and 18 year later..


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