This morning I read an article about how the casket that formerly held the body of Jiles Perry Richardson Jr. (AKA: The Big Bopper) was going to be up for sale on Ebay in the next few weeks. Richardson died on February 3, 1959 in the same plane crash that took the lives of Ritchie Valenz and Buddy Holly. The deadly crash into an Iowa cornfield led to February 3 being referred to as "The Day the Music Died"; a description of the event popularized in Don McClean's song "American Pie."
The Big Bopper was a musician/song writer and former radio disc jockey. He is also credited as being the person who coined the term "music video." His remains were exhumed in January of 2007 at the request of his son Jay Richardson. An autopsy was conducted to clarify the nature of The Big Bopper's death and dispel rumors of his having survived the initial crash or that a gun had been involved in his demise. The autopsy revealed that the late musician had died immediately from extreme trauma resulting from the crash. It was also noted that Richardson's earthly remains were very well preserved for having been buried for nearly 48 years.
When his remains were reburied, it was in a new casket built by the same company that had designed his original one. The Big Bopper's original casket has been on display since then in the Texas Musicians Museum in Hilsboro, Texas. The casket, however, is still the property of Richardson's family. They have decided to auction the casket on Ebay at some point in coming weeks. The casket is made of 16-gauge steel and is said to be in great shape considering the amount of time it has spent in the ground with a corpse inside of it. A lime stain and some minor rust are the only reported damage to the casket.
It is illegal for funeral homes to sell a used coffin or casket due to the fluids that can leak from the deceased. It is considered a biohazard and can cause serious illness. As far as I know, there are no laws blocking the Richardson family from selling The Big Bopper's casket though. I'm personally hoping that the casket finds its way into a museum, where it might be presented with some class. Even as a coffin owner myself (mine was never used to hold remains), I can't imagine wanting to own that held anyone's remains, even if they were famous. I'm also fairly certain that even if I did want such a thing, it would probably be the last straw for my wife (she insists I keep my own unused coffin out in the shed).
Reading about the upcoming sale of The Big Bopper's casket raised some questions for me. Is it ethical to sell a used casket or coffin to the open public? Is this a form of grave robbery (even though it was done by relatives and the remains received a new casket)? What would you like to see happen to the casket? Should it be put on display in a museum? Should it be destroyed? Should it be allowed to fall into the hands of a private collector (and who knows what they'd do with it)? Is this valid memorabilia or just plain sick?
Apparently the money the sale raises will go toward funding a music show about The Big Bopper. Is this justification enough for the auction?
Pay a visit to the memorial at the plane crash site or the Surf Ballroom where The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valenz and Buddy Holly last played.
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