Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The mortal remains of Charlie Chaplin were abducted and held for ransom.
Origins: Even in death Charlie Chaplin had little peace. Such was the price of his celebrity that his remains were dug up and ransomed back to the family.
Chaplin died on
According to a 1978 news report on the crime:
As police tell the story, the Chaplin family began receiving ransom demands by phone several weeks after the coffin was taken. The caller had a Slavic accent.Barbara "I'd suggest burying it a lot deeper" Mikkelson
Although the family had received many false calls asking for exorbitant sums, this time the demand was backed up with a photograph, sent by the alleged coffin just before its reburial in the cornpatch.
Chaplin's widow, Oona, refused to consider ransom. But in order to cooperate with police, the family, through its lawyer, Jean-Felix Paschoud, bargained with the alleged grave robbers over a tapped telephone. By the time the demand had dropped from $600,000 to $250,000, the police had figured out that the ransom calls were coming from a public pay telephone.
Two earlier traps set for the alleged grave robbers did not succeed but a dragnet of
The two accused men face seven-and-a-half years in prison for extortion and for "disturbing the peace of the dead."
Chaplin's family has not disclosed what it plans to do with his recovered coffin.
Last updated: 9 August 2007
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