Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, the incorrupt nun of Missouri, showed little sign of decomposition when she was exhumed from her grave 4 years after her death.
The cost of spending the afterlife on top of Hollywood’s most iconic “blonde bombshell,” Hugh Hefner’s eternity, and other strange stories from Marilyn Monroe’s grave.
The grave of Marilyn Monroe. Photo by Courtney “Coco” Mault/Flickr
Marilyn Monroe, one of the greatest legends from the Golden Age of Hollywood, was just 36 years old when she was found dead in the early hours of August 5, 1962. Her psychiatrist broke into her bedroom window and discovered her lying nude in her bed with her phone in her hand and a lethal amount of barbiturates in her bloodstream.
To this day, Marilyn’s death is the source of debate. Was it an accidental overdose? Was it suicide? Or was she murdered because she had learned the truth about government UFO cover ups during an alleged affair with John F. Kennedy?
No evidence of foul play was found during her autopsy, but that hasn’t put an end to suspicions.
Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy
Every year, thousands of fans and tourists visit Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in the Westwood Village area of Los Angeles where Marilyn is buried to pay homage to the starlet of the silver screen. She is interred in crypt no. 24 in the cemetery’s Corridor of Memories.
Visitors leave flowers, coins and red lipstick prints on the granite vault, and touch the bronze plaque inscribed with Marilyn’s name. This causes oxidation over time, so the marker has to be replaced periodically.
Once removed, the tarnished plaques usually end up going to the highest bidder. Marilyn’s original marker, which was replaced sometime in the 1970s, was sold by Julien’s Auctions to an unknown overseas bidder in June 2015 for $212,500.
Another marker used on Marilyn’s grave during the 1990s hit the auction block in 2017. It was obtained by a Westwood cemetery employee after it was replaced.
Grave marker of Marilyn Monroe c.1990s
Marilyn Monroe memorabilia regularly fetches high prices, including screen-worn dresses, autographed copies of Playboy, chest and pelvis x-rays, and more. But apparently even being in the vicinity of her mortal remains comes with a hefty price tag.
In 2014, a seller was looking to unload a plot near Marilyn’s on eBay for $659,000, discounted from his original asking price of $699,000.
Even stranger is the case of Richard Poncher, who bought the vault directly above Marilyn’s from her then-husband Joe DiMaggio during the celebrity couple’s 1954 divorce. On his deathbed in 1986, Richard told his wife Elsie, “If I croak, if you don’t put me upside down over Marilyn, I’ll haunt you the rest of my life.”
Whether or not Richard was actually interred face down seems to be up for debate, but the book Biggest Secrets by William Poundstone relates a story that Poncher’s close friends waited until everyone had left the funeral, then flipped him over before the crypt was sealed to honor his wishes.
In 2009, Elsie decided that paying off the $1.6 million mortgage on their Beverly Hills home was more important than her husband’s pervy afterlife. She kicked him out and sold his coveted tomb.
The description read, “Here is a once in a lifetime and into eternity opportunity to spend your eternal days directly above Marilyn Monroe.”
The crypt sold to an anonymous bidder for $4.6 million.
The grave of Richard Poncher above Marilyn Monroe
Eternity with Marilyn
The vault beside Marilyn had been empty for decades until Hugh Hefner died in 2017.
Hef had hoped to spend his afterlife on top of Marilyn, as well, but since Poncher had beat him to it, he settled for the next available niche. In 1992, he purchased the crypt next to Marilyn for $75,000.
Hugh had never even met the “ultimate blonde,” as he called her, though she unwittingly helped launch Playboy magazine when he published nude photos from Marilyn’s early modeling career without her permission in the very first centerfold spread in December, 1953.
Hefner was a Chicago native, and Marilyn was dead long before he made it out west to California.
In a 2012 interview he said, “I will be laid to rest in a vault next to hers. It has a completion notion to it. I will be spending the rest of my eternity with Marilyn.”
Other notable residents of Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery include Psycho author Robert Bloch, Psycho star Janet Leigh, Heather O’Rourke, the doomed child actor from the Poltergeist films, Natalie Wood, Ray Bradbury, Bettie Page and Frank Zappa.