In a quiet Dover funeral home, nine mysterious unclaimed containers full of ashes have been found. The unclaimed containers hold the remains of victims of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, when more than 900 people died in a mass murder-suicide. It was the largest single-day loss of American civilians before September 11, 2001.
In total, 38 containers of ashes were found in the Minus Funeral Home, which has become bank owned. Thirty-three of the containers were marked and identified, all dating between the 1970s and 1990s. Dover police confirmed the connection of nine of containers to Jonestown along with the Delaware Department of Safety and the Homeland Security Division of Forensic Science, using various documents and death certificates found in the funeral home.
"It was definitely a shock when we found out exactly what we had," Dover police spokesperson Mark Hoffman told reporters, "Obviously it's an intriguing story and a tragic story, and to think this was found right here in our jurisdiction, about six blocks from the police department, makes it very compelling to us."
Authorities will now work to identify the remaining containers and notify surviving relatives. After the massacre in Guyana, all 911 bodies were brought to Dover Air Force Base, which is the largest military morgue in the United States. It remains unclear how the containers were left abandoned in the funeral home for over thirty years.
"We don't know why they were unclaimed," said Kimberly Chandler, a spokesperson for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. "What we intend to do is identify family members, reach out to them and make them aware that the cremains are available to them."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.