1. Entertainment

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

Dumb Burglars Snort Stolen Cremains

Netlore Archive: As allegedly reported in a Florida newspaper, dumb criminals confuse woman's cremated remains for cocaine, and snort them.

Description: Urban legend
Circulating since: 1996
Status: Partly true (see details below)

Email text contributed by Jane B., July 10, 2006:

A news article from a Florida Newspaper:

When Nathan Radlich's house was burgled, thieves left his TV, his VCR, and even left his watch. What they did take was "generic white cardboard box filled with grayish-white powder." (That at least is the way the police described it.) A spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale police said, "that it looked similar to cocaine, and they'd probably thought they'd hit the big time."

Then Nathan stood in front of the TV cameras and pleaded with the burglars, "Please return the cremated remains of my sister, Gertrude. She died three years ago."

Well, the next morning the bullet-riddled corpse of a drug dealer known as Hoochie Pevens was found on Nathan's doorstep. The cardboard box was there too with about half of Gertrude's ashes remaining, and there was this note which read, "Hoochie sold us the bogus blow, so we wasted Hoochie. Sorry we snorted your sister. No hard feelings. Have a nice day."

Analysis: One reason there are so many urban legends is that folks can't resist trying to make a good story better by embellishing the facts. Truth becomes fiction.

Nathan Radlich is a real person. In May 1993, his house in Boynton Beach, Florida was burgled, and the thieves really did make off with the cremains of Radlich's sister, Gertrude, leaving his TV, VCR, and watch untouched. Police did, in fact, speculate that the burglars mistook the ashes, which Radlich kept in a cardboard box in his fishing tackle box, for crack cocaine. The rest is fiction.

As reported at the time in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Radlich never actually found out what happened to Gertrude's cremains. There was no bullet-riddled corpse left on his doorstep, no handwritten apology for "snorting" his sister. "The remains were probably strewn on the street when they found out it wasn't drugs," Radlich was quoted as saying — which is way less exciting than the ginned-up version of events, but at least it has the virtue of being true.

Accidental cannibalism

The theme of inadvertently inhaling or ingesting human cremains links this tale to another urban legend called "The Accidental Cannibals," which was featured in Jan Harold Brunvand's 1993 collection, The Baby Train & Other Lusty Urban Legends. The premise is equally simple and straightforward: someone mistakes cremains for a food ingredient — e.g., flour, cake mix, deydrated soup, spices, or cocoa powder — and either eats them or mixes them into a dish that is eaten by someone else.

Brunvand quotes a real-life mortician who pooh-poohs the idea, objecting that cremains "are so similar to coarse sand or finely ground seashells that I believe no one could mistake them for soup or baking ingredients."

Related story:

Did Keith Richards Snort His Father's Ashes?
Urban Legends, 4 April 2007

Sources and further reading:

Woman's Ashes Take a Powder
Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale), 4 June 1993

Last updated: 01/19/11

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.