California construction workers made a chilling discovery earlier this month, as they dug beneath a garage they were renovating in the Richmond district of San Francisco: a 145-year-old coffin, containing the perfectly preserved remains of a toddler.
The homeowner, Ericka Karner, who has been staying with her family in Idaho during the renovation, said she received a call from one of the workers telling her they had uncovered a three-and-a-half-foot lead and bronze casket, which had two windows on its front.
Inside was the body of a blonde girl of about three, whose skin, teeth and hair were largely intact, clothed in a white dress and holding a rose. “I was shocked on one hand, obviously,” Karner told the Los Angeles Times. “But I wasn’t necessarily super surprised, because I knew the history of the area.”
As San Francisco grew during the early 20th Century, many local cemeteries were removed to make way for housing. Between 1920 and 1940, more than 150,000 people’s remains were relocated to Colma, a small town just south of the city that today is home to at least 1.5 million graves. Ms Karner’s home was built in 1936.
After the grim discovery was made, Ms Karner called cemeteries in Colma and was told she would have to pay $7,000 (£4,800) to inter the girl’s body there. Instead, she turned to the charity Garden of Innocence, which intends to solicit donations for a proper burial in Colma next month.
The casket did not have any identifying markings, meaning the girl remains anonymous. Ms Karner has nonetheless named her “Miranda”, and the name will now appear on her headstone.