A decision to do some home improvements led to a shocking discovery for two homeowners and started a year-long odyssey for an entire team of researchers across the country who came in to help solve the mystery the couple had unearthed.
Read on to see what the discovery was that would bring so many people together to work so diligently to find answers.
10. The City Of The Dead
In the 1890s, the city of San Francisco decided that the dead were taking up too much valuable living space and voted to halt all burials and closed all cemeteries within the city limits. This decision resulted in some 300,000 existing graves being exhumed and moved to a city below San Francisco called Colma, nicknamed “The city of the dead.”
9. A Stunning Discovery
Now we move the story forward 125 years to May 2016, when homeowners John and Ericka Karner of San Francisco decided it was time to do some remodeling to their home. Their contractor began construction by digging up the slab floor in the garage and made a stunning discovery underneath.
8. Things Are Getting Strange
He had come across a strange -ooking metal box. On closer examination, it was found to be a small ornate casket, what was once known as a Metallic Burial Case, and it had the body of a little girl inside. Once the coroner was called and the casket was opened, things got even weirder.
7. Who Could It Be?
Because the coffin was air-tight, the child was perfectly preserved. She was dressed in a lacey white christening dress with purple flowers threaded through her hair. A cross of the same purple flowers lay on her chest and threaded up her arm. Who was this child, and how did she end up under the Karner’s garage?
6. What Should They Do?
Despite the near-perfect condition of the body, the coroner determined that the girl was actually laid to rest sometime between 1870 and 1890. The Karner’s house had been built on the former site of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, where the small coffin had likely been overlooked during the mass exhumation. What would happen to the little girl now?
5. They’re Here To Help
The Karners reached out to the nonprofit organization Garden of Innocence, which provides burials and services for children who have no one else to care for them. They immediately agreed to take care of the child and started the wheels turning to take custody of the body. What they did next is amazing.
4. Going Above And Beyond
Garden of Innocence began to plan a burial service for the little girl, now nicknamed Miranda Eve. A new casket was lovingly custom built out of wood to place the original casket inside, so as not to disturb Miranda. Before they buried her though, they did something that went both above and beyond.
3. Burying Miranda
Before burying little Miranda in a June 2016 service attended by about 140 people, 20 strands of Miranda’s hair were pulled and sent to Professor of Anthropology Jelmer Eerkens at UC Davis for DNA testing. The volunteers at Garden Of Innocence were determined to find out Miranda’s true identity.
2. The Search Begins
After she was buried, the search for Miranda’s true identity began. A volunteer team of professors, scientists, librarians, private investigators, and genealogists began searching burial records, plot maps, surveyors maps, cemetery maps, county records, and old photos, searching for clues to find out the little girl’s true name.
1. Will The Mystery Be Solved?
Finally, after searching nearly 30,000 digitized burial records for the funeral home that sold the patented casket Miranda was buried in, one of the volunteers, Elissa Davey, came across a child’s name that matched Miranda’s criteria perfectly. They were even able to track down a living descendant. Would the DNA be a match?
The mystery was finally solved. Miranda Eve’s true name was was Edith Howard Cook and she died on Oct. 13, 1876, at the age of 2 years, 10 months and 15 days. She was the second-born child and first-born daughter of socialites Horatio Nelson and Edith Scooffy Cook. The funeral home records showed that Edith died from “marasmus,” a form of severe undernourishment most likely caused by an infectious disease.
When she was buried last year, workers left half of Miranda’s tombstone blank, hoping to later engrave it with her real name. Soon, Garden of Innocence volunteers will engrave it with her true name and plan to hold a memorial service in June to unveil the updated marker.