Friday, October 2, 2009
Book: Williams' head abused at facility
ESPN.com news services
PHOENIX -- A new book by a former employee of Alcor, the company that froze Ted Williams' remains, alleges the Baseball Hall of Famer's body was mistreated by the company.
Larry Johnson says in the book "Frozen: My Journey Into the World of Cryonics, Deception and Death" that he watched an Alcor official swing a monkey wrench at Williams' frozen severed head to try to remove a tuna can stuck to it. The first swing accidentally struck the head, Johnson contends, and the second knocked the tuna can loose.
Alcor Life Extension Foundation of Scottsdale, Ariz., issued a statement on its Web site denying the allegations and promising legal action.
"Alcor denies allegations reported in the press that there was mistreatment of the remains of Ted Williams at Alcor," the company said. "Alcor will be litigating this and any other false allegations to the maximum extent of the law."
Johnson says he worked for Alcor for eight months in 2003, first as clinical director then as chief operating officer. He included several photographs in the book, including one of an upside-down severed head, not Williams', that had what appeared to be a tuna can attached to it.
Johnson says Alcor used the cans, from a cat that lived on the premises, as pedestals for the heads.
Williams' head was being transferred from one container to another when the monkey wrench incident took place, Johnson said in the book. When the head was removed from the first container, Johnson described it.
"The disembodied face set in that awful, frozen scream looked nothing like any picture of Ted Williams I've ever seen," he wrote.
Johnson said that an Alcor employee tried in vain to remove the tuna can.
"Then he grabbed a monkey wrench, heaved a mighty swing, missing the tuna can completely but hitting the head dead center," Johnson wrote. "Tiny pieces of frozen head sprayed around the room."
The next swing, Johnson wrote, knocked the can loose.
Johnson also contends that there was a significant crack in Williams' head. He also repeated an allegation he had made earlier that samples of Williams' DNA are missing from the facility.
Johnson is scheduled for a Tuesday appearance on the ABC news show "Nightline."
Johnson, who says he wired himself surreptitiously the last few months of his employment, was the source for a story in Sports Illustrated in August 2003 that said Williams' head had been severed and damaged.
At that time, Alcor officials said there never was mistreatment of any of those frozen at the facility. The company said that severing heads is a common practice in its preservation, and that cracking has been noted as a problem in the procedure and is not the result of any mishandling.
Ted Williams died in July 2002. At the direction of his son, John Henry Williams, the baseball player's remains were flown from Florida to Arizona.
Johnson had not yet gone to work for Alcor, but he recreated the scene based, he said, on "conversations with the Alcorians who were in the room and performed the procedures, the files I have read, and the discussions I've had with other people involved, including members of Ted's family."
Johnson paints a macabre scene in a room packed with people, many of whom posed for pictures with Williams' body, both before and after the head was cut off. The book contends the head was "hanging by a thread" when an official entered the room and shouted that it was supposed to be a full-body freezing.
Williams' head and body were frozen separately, Johnson wrote.
The process, known as cryonics, is conducted with the hope that someday scientists will be able to bring the subjects back to life. The heads and bodies, along with those of cats, dogs and other pets, are stored in stainless steel containers at extremely cold temperatures.
John Henry Williams died of leukemia at age 35 in 2004 after a bitter court fight against Williams' daughter, Bobby-Jo, who contended the wishes expressed in her father's will should have been followed. In the will, Ted Williams said he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at sea.
She eventually abandoned the legal battle, citing lack of funds.
Johnson says in his book that he believes the small piece of paper used as evidence that Williams wanted to be frozen was fraudulent. The paper is signed by Ted Williams, John Henry and Williams' other daughter, Claudia.
Scott Baldyga is the book's co-author.
A phone message left at Ted Williams Family Enterprises in Florida was not returned. A phone message for comment from Bobby-Jo Williams' attorney also was not immediately returned.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.