For years, the identity and origin of the grave plot next to one of America's most notorious murderers confounded historians while also making them giggle under their breath. But now, all these years later, The New York Times revealed Nick Beef's true identity.
The Nick Beef mystery started at some point in 1997, no one was sure when, after a grave marker appeared on the previously-vacant spot at the Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery, in Fort Worth, Texas, next to Lee Harvey Oswald. The graveyard wouldn't reveal anything because of privacy concerns, except that there was no internment card for any Nick Beef on file. The theories surrounding Beef's origin were wild. Historians and journalists tried to track down the infamous Beef, a comedian in New York City according to one widely accepted theory, to no avail. Others guessed it was put there on purpose for people looking to visit Oswald's grave too embarrassed to mention it out loud. Nick Beef had a backstory crafted the old fashioned way: through whispers and stories told from person to person, and occasionally on this new, cool thing called the Internet.
The Times decided to reveal the truth, finally, in a scoop Saturday morning. The real Nick Beef is actually a guy named Patric Abedin, a 56-year-old "nonperforming performance artist" in New York City. He lived in Fort Worth in 1963, and had a brush with Kennedy during an appearance at an Air Force base where his father worked the day before the President was shot. Abedin purchased the plot when he was 18 years old. It was a connection, however morbid, to the President he saw who was killed a day later. But Abedin didn't do anything with it until a spur-of-the-moment decision that will make him live in infamy forever:
In late 1996, Mr. Beef’s mother died, and he returned to Texas to follow the detailed instructions she had left for her own funeral. During his stay, he visited his real estate in Rose Hill and decided, on the spot, to buy a gravestone the exact dimensions as Oswald’s. When the cemetery official asked what he wanted on it, he thought about protecting his two children.
“Well, here we go,” he recalls thinking.
It's an interesting end to a hilarious story that has evaded the truth for years. Abedin paid a little over $1,000 for the plot and the headstone, contrary to popular belief. There's a website, seemingly run by Abedin, that you can check out.
Oh, and the name? He thought of it while eating with a friend, who would call himself Hash Brown, during a road trip.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.