Ted Williams lived a robust life that was unquestioned in its greatness, be it as the sweet-swinging Hall of Fame outfielder for the Boston Red Sox or the heroic fighter pilot serving his country in two wars. In death, however, Williams has been shrouded in unthinkable controversy. In the 13 months since his passing, his body has been suspended in liquid nitrogen at Alcor Life Extension Foundation of Scottsdale, Ariz., a cryonics company. According to Alcor internal documents, e-mails, photographs and tape recordings obtained by SI with the cooperation of the company's most recent chief operating officer, Larry Johnson, Williams's postmortem days have been bizarre and complicated beyond imagination.
Williams's body is not resting upside down in a liquid-nitrogen tank at Alcor, as has been reported. Instead his head is stored in a liquid-nitrogen-filled steel can that resembles a lobster pot. The silver neuro-can, as it's know at Alcor, is marked in black with Williams's patient I.D. number, A-1949. His head has been shaved, drilled with holes, accidentally cracked as many as 10 times and moved among three receptacles.
The beheaded body of Williams is in the same room, resting upright in one of nine liquid-nitrogen-filled, nine-foot-tall cylindrical steel tanks that Alcor staffers refer to as Dewars, a wink at scotch-making barrels. Williams is in tank number 6. One Alcor board member has talked with ghoulish humor about using the body as "a bargaining chip" to collect $111,000 that John Henry Williams, Ted's son, still owes from the original $136,000 bill to put Williams into cryonic suspension, a deep-freezing process done in hopes that scientific advances someday will restore the dead to life.
SI's investigation cast deeper into doubt whether Williams ever intended to be placed in such a facility, the source of a bitter family feud that divided his three children. About a year before he died, for instance, Williams did not meet with Alcor employees when they visited his Hernando, Fla., home. According to a taped conversation between Johnson and Todd Soard, an Alcor representative who was there, a "disoriented" Williams was heard hollering from a back room while John Henry met with them. Moreover, Williams's seven-page Consent for Cryonic Suspension, a copy or which was obtained by SI, was submitted to Alcor after he had died, with the line for his signature blank (page 69).
The investigation also revealed evidence of careless and negligent business practices by Alcor (box, 70), behavior that prompted Johnson to cooperate with SI. Johnson resigned from his position this week in advance of the publication of this article. In an open letter that he showed SI and planned to post on his new website, freeted.com, which he expected to have up and running this week, Johnson explained that he felt obligated to speak out after learning of "facts relating to Alcor that are disturbing and egregious, both in the area of Ted Williams's confinement and other more broad-based activities surrounding this company that border on being horrific."
Alcor CEO Jerry Lemler, M.D., citing a policy of confidentiality, refused to answer any questions from SI about Williams. "We do not acknowledge that Ted Williams is a patient," he said.
John Henry, when asked by SI about his father's condition at Alcor in the past year, refused to answer questions. "I've got no comment. It's nobody's business," said Williams, 34, last Friday in Baton Rouge, where he is batting .257 as a righthanded-hitting first baseman for the independent Baton Rouge River Bats.
The only publically known documentation that indicates that Ted Williams wanted to be cryonically preserved is a piece of scrap paper, stained with motor oil and dated Nov. 2, 2000, bearing the signatures of John Henry, his sister, Claudia, and Ted and stating their desire to be put in "Bio-Stasis after we die" on the chance the three of them could "be together in the future." Williams's first-born child, Bobby-Jo Ferrell, as well as his health-care assistants, Frank Brothers and George Carter, claim the paper is a fraud. Almost three years since the pact to "be together," neither John Henry nor Claudia has signed a consent-for-suspension agreement with Alcor, according to minutes of the company's June 8, 2003, board meeting.
In the spring of 2001 John Henry walked into the Alcor building in an industrial park near the Scottsdale airport full of energy and optimism about cryonics and Alcor. His father, already weakened by two previous strokes, was in San Diego recuperating from open heart surgery. Lemler welcomed John Henry and gave him the full tour.
According to a follow-up letter from Lemler dated June 12, during the visit John Henry peppered Lemler with ideas and suggestions for upgrading Alcor—everything from improving security in the main storage area to having people answer the phones before the third ring to rearranging and tidying up the wall hangings. Lemler, known around Alcor as Dr. Feel-good for his mellow manner, signed his letter with the closing, "Sooner AND Later."