Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Of a little girl lost for 120 years~~~~

Hello Darklings,

Well the strange, the unusual, the macabre still continues here in our area, a sad story but with at least some sort of happy ending occurred nearly 3 weeks ago, over in San Francisco, I’ve combined the various reports to bring to you as complete as possible the events.   This is a true story, and currently in San Francisco there are only the small cemetery at Mission Delores and the Columbarium, all the cemeteries were moved mostly to Colma with a few reburials in other locations, this was because property was becoming very important to the living.

But once in a while a reminder of what was under one’s house surfaces.  As what happened on May 9, 2016 to one lady when a  Childs casket was found under her house.

Sometimes we don’t even know what might be directly under our feet when something bizarre, even horrifying happens you begin to wonder if you might be “trapped” in that movie “Poltergeist”, where the head stones were removed but not the bodies.

That was the case for Ericka Karner when she was called long distance to her Idaho home by her contractor who said “Do you have any idea what this is? We think it’s a casket,’”  

Ms. Karner was having renovations done to her childhood home near Rossi Park in San Francisco when contractors stumbled onto a very unusual sight under the garage.

It was the coffin of a little girl, found buried beneath her family’s San Francisco home.

The child has long blond hair, she is holding a red rose and she has been dead between 120 to 145 years.

Nobody knows her name or how she died. She laid under the San Francisco home’s concrete garage floor for decades until over two weeks ago, when workers doing the remodeling struck her lead-and-bronze coffin with their shovels.

And so begins a tale of death, love, San Francisco history and the staying power of a coffin maker who knew what he was doing.

It occurred on May 9, when workers at the home in the Lone Mountain neighborhood in the Richmond District discovered the casket and called the authorities and Ms. Karner.

The unidentified girl, who appeared to be about 3, is believed to be one of about 30,000 people who were buried at the old Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Francisco. The bodies were moved to a common burial plot in Colma around 1920, after all the city’s graveyards were ordered to make way for the living.

Somehow, the workers in charge ages ago, of moving the Odd Fellows occupants left this girl behind.   There are no identifying marks, so the current folks involved decided to nickname her “Miranda.”

Officials believe Miranda was left behind when the Odd Fellows cemetery moved away. The Columbarium near Geary and Arguello is all that’s left of that burial ground.

It appears that she was from a family of means, as indicated by the high-end coffin and by the fancy sealing job by the undertaker that preserved her skin and hair and her burial flowers. She looks, through the two glass windows of the coffin, like a young girl and not like the 145-year-old remains of one.

Clutched in her right hand is a rose. Weaved in her curly blond hair are lavender flowers. Placed over her heart is a cross made of more lavender. Lying beside her are eucalyptus leaves.

“She’s wearing a long white dress,” said Elissa Davey, the founder of the Garden of Innocence charity which, for two decades, has buried the bodies of unidentified children in California. Davey estimates that the girl died about 145 years ago because the cemetery was active from 1860 to 1890.

The owner of the home, Ericka Karner, quickly found herself in a bind. The medical examiner’s office told her the body was her responsibility, even though the error that left the coffin beneath her garage was not. The body was now on private property, and the private property was hers.

That nearly century-old mistake presented a big problem in the present for Karner, who told (TV Station reporters) KPIX that she was left without an option by the city for what she could do to provide Miranda a final resting place. The city wouldn't claim the remains, because Miranda was properly buried, but it also wouldn't let her rebury the casket, because Karner could not present a death certificate. The result was that Miranda just remained in limbo in the backyard.

"It put us in this position of having this individual in our backyard and feeling awful as a mom knowing this is a small child," she said.

Karner said she called one Colma undertaker and was quoted a price of $7,000. She called an East Bay archaeological company that handles historic artifacts and was quoted a price of $22,000.

“It didn’t seem right,” said Karner, who markets cookies for a living and whose family has lived in the home since 1976. “I understand if a tree is on your property, that’s your responsibility. But this is different. The city decided to move all these bodies 100 years ago, and they should stand behind their decision.”

But Karner said she wanted to do the right thing, seeing as how the girl “was part of our family now.” And since the medical examiner had broken open the meticulously sealed casket to examine the body, Karner said, “time was beginning to be a factor, you might say.”

In desperation, with the coffin lying above ground in her back yard, she called authorities at City Hall. They put her in touch with Davey.

Luckily, Miranda's story is finding its resolution. Garden of Innocence, an organization that facilitates "dignified burials for abandoned and unidentified children," has offered to rebury her casket this summer.

“That girl was somebody’s child,” Davey said. “You have to do the right thing.”

Davey contacted the Odd Fellows, who agreed to supply the necessary funds. And then Davey, who works out of her office near San Diego, arranged for the body to be picked up and stored, temporarily, in a mortuary refrigerator in Fresno.

“We had to pick her up,” said Davey, founder of Garden of Innocence, whose organization has arranged for the burials of 327 unidentified children at 11 cemeteries and other plots of land throughout California. “If people find out she’s lying at a construction site with no one around at night, you can bet somebody is going to steal her. People into the macabre. Into witchcraft. I wanted her out of there.”

Davey hired her niece to construct a second coffin, made of maple, large enough to hold the body and the original coffin.

“I don’t want her disturbed anymore,” Davey said. “She’s been disturbed enough.”

 Davey will come to San Francisco for a meeting with representatives of the Odd Fellows to arrange for a reburial for the girl, who has tentatively been given the name of Miranda.

“She’ll go home with the love of the community,” said Davey. “That’s all we want.”

(Reported  By Joe Vazquez, Steve Rubenstein, Alyssa Pereira.  Photo by Elissa Davey)

{By now ‘Miranda’s’ remains have already been removed and taken to a safe place, every effort by Davey to find out who the child is will be made, but considering that a number of records were destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, if she died prior to 1906 there is little hope, but after 1907 there may be records.  Hopefully Ms. Davey will have luck in finding “Miranda’s” real name}

Later Darklings

                       As the coffin was found under the garage floor.

                       As it now currently looks prior to reburial.  


  1. I grew up within walking distance of where she was found. I'm so glad the house owner was able to find such wonderful people to help take care of this little girl. And I hope someone drops a house on that $&*#&$ medical examiner and those who dumped the responsibility on her for someone else's error.

    Rest in peace, Miranda.

    1. I agree Lucretia, it seems that we're the ones who have to clean up someone else mistakes.

      That is why I'm so glad "Garden of Innocence" was able to negotiate Miranda's re-burial.

  2. That is so sad that the authorities just pushed the responsibility onto the home owner. I am glad that a descent resolution has been found.

    I have to say that the casket is very interesting looking though. Amazing that the body and the casket itself have remained in such good condition.