Every now and then life offers a surprise; it may be a pleasant one, but it could also be rather disturbing. If you find a strange coffin with a glass door underneath your garage, it is likely that you would be very surprised—to say the least. And that was just what Ericka Karner found in May 2016 after remodelers hired to work on her property broke through the garage concrete floor and came across a rather disturbing find.
What they found was a small coffin made of bronze, lead, and glass. The casket seemed to be sealed perfectly, because the little girl’s body was preserved very well, despite the fact that she was buried for 145 years prior to being found under the garage—which is what the investigation later found out.
The girl was dressed in white lace and lying next to a rose; she had some lavender woven into her hair.
Soon after finding her, a research team started working on the case, hoping that they would be able to identify the little girl. After a year of investigation, they announced that the girl’s name is Edith Howard Cook, the first daughter of a family from high society.
Edith apparently passed away on 13th of October 1876—just a couple of months before reaching the age of 3. The probable cause of death is undernourishment due to an infection, according to the specialist working with the Garden of Innocence non-profit organization, based in Southern California. The organization did all the following research and even assisted the property owner to proceed with the reburial of the girl.
After Edith passed away, the family had another daughter. Her name was Ethel. The investigators found out that years later a Russian nobleman claimed that Ethel was the most beautiful woman in America.
It turned out that the casket was bought from the San Francisco-based company “N. Gray & Co.”. The advertisements of the firm from that time state that the products feature excellent protection from vermin and moisture, which obviously proved to be true. The girl’s body was preserved so well that she was easily recognizable even after more than 140 years inside.
The research team spent a lot of time trying to find descendants of the Cook family and they used a few hair strands from Edith’s head to extract DNA. After more than a thousand hours of work, the volunteers were able to find a probable relative in Marin County—Peter Cook. The man agreed to give a sample of his DNA, which proved to be a match to Edith’s sample, and in this way it was indisputably determined that Peter was her grand-nephew.
A woman named Jennifer Onstrott Warner, working at Fairy Tale Portrait in Newport Beach, decided to create a stunning portrait of Edith to honor the little girl.
The site in Lone Mountain where the casket was discovered used to be the old Odd Fellows cemetery, at which more than 30,000 people were buried. Around the 1920s, the majority of the graves were moved to Colma, and nobody could explain why the coffin with Edith’s remains was left behind. The officials believe that every last trace of the cemetery had been removed; clearly, though, that wasn’t the case.
After Ericka Karner had reported the find, the staff at the local medical examiner’s office told her that the body was her responsibility, because it was found within Ericka’s privately owned property. She must have been a bit confused, but as we already mentioned above, the Garden of Innocence organization helped Karner to deal with Edith’s remains in the best and most respectful way possible. The girl, who they referred to as Miranda Eve prior to her identification, was reburied at the Greenlawn Memorial Park in Colma.
About 140 people attended the funeral service to pay their respects to Edith. There was another service scheduled after the girl’s true identity was found. Knowing that researchers were busy trying to find who she really was, the Garden of Innocence left half of the tombstone blank after they buried Miranda Eve—with the intention of adding her real name later.