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The Man In The Glass Coffin?!

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 1, 2022 3:03 am

The Man In The Glass Coffin?!

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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November 1, 2022 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin is still in a glass coffin... but so is an American man along the shores of Lake Michigan. Chris Siriano tells this curious story about the coffin and the robbery of it.

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See rules at What up? It's Dromos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture, and everything in between from someone who's never quite fitting.

Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. This brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. The thrill of forging your own path is powerful. Nissan is bringing that thrill to our community in collaboration with the Black Effect Podcast Network to create The Thrill of Possibility, a community impact program and summit curated to support HBCU students in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, or STEAM, and introduce them to exclusive opportunities. Nissan is committed to creating opportunity for the whole community and ensuring that Black Excellence is a part of the new future of automotive.

For more information about this program and how to apply, visit slash Nissan. And we return to our American stories and our Halloween special. Up next, a story about a man in a hermetically sealed see-through coffin in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Here's our own Monty Montgomery with a story of a glass coffin, a robbery, and a local legend. The year is 1927, the place Benton Harbor, Michigan, home of the House of David, a religious colony led by Benjamin Purnell who preached that if you followed his message and gave all your worldly possessions to him, you would never die. Unfortunately for Ben though, he contracted tuberculosis, which he died from. Here's Chris Seriano with what happened next.

He didn't teach ever that he was going to die. So here he died and it was pandemonium. It was mass chaos at the House of David. So Benjamin, they kept wrapped in damp, warm towels for eight days, thinking that he was going to rise again.

Finally, the Bering County coroner said, listen, it's been eight days. You either bury the guy or we're going to bury him. But luckily for the House of David, they had the Soviets to look towards for inspiration. Well, during that process of having him wrapped like that, they found out the process that linen in Russia had been used to embalm and put his body in a hermetically sealed glass coffin.

That's what they did. And there, Ben Purnell sat for the next 60 some years in his hermetically sealed glass coffin while his massive mansion decayed around him as the House of David dwindled in numbers due to their belief in celibacy. But in 1988, twice the House of David diamond house got broke into. But the first time that they ran quickly, the second time was not a good day. These kids, these four kids, had studied the movement of the House of David people. They had sat out in the woods. They were locals. They were in their backyard, basically. They figured out when the House of David people moved back and forth around the diamond house.

They came back on a particular day that they knew that there wasn't much movement. Some one of the weekend days, they cut a hole in the roof of the diamond house mansion where they dropped down and they spent the entire day stealing things. So vases, urns, statues, oil paintings from all over the world. These things came from the richest of rich people that joined. Those things disappeared. Well, one of the worst things that happened was they weren't satisfied with just items that were in the rest of the mansion.

They wanted to see Ben because he's that's a big, big, big part of our local history is him and his body being in there. And they found out that he was in his parlor. There's a stone wall that separates the catwalk from the diamond house annex into his area. And it's got a big steel bank vault door on it. So there's no way you're getting to that door. And then there's wired electric wires like shock wires from the door.

So even if you touch the door, you're probably going to go to heaven real quick or somewhere, right? So they went back. One of them was a contractor. They went back to his house, got a big ramming bar, and they rammed a hole through the stone wall. And they made it big enough where they could pull the rest of the rocks out and they could get their bodies through the hole. And they got into his parlor where his tomb is at.

And I interviewed those people. They told me, Chris, when we got in there, it was like a Pharaoh's tomb. So around Ben's glass sealed coffin, which was up at an angle, were piles and piles of rings and diamonds and rubies and necklaces and vases. And it was like, what happened to the stuff when people came there? The beautiful things that they came there with. They couldn't have those anymore, right? They didn't know.

They just had to give them away. Well, they were saved. A majority of them were saved in the diamond house.

So when he was buried, he was buried like a Pharaoh and like an emperor. So they took some things off of that. But the sad thing was, is Ben had a 22 karat diamond ring on his finger and a big, huge diamond filled and ruby filled white gold custom made necklace from House of David Jewelers. They wanted those things bad. And they took the pry bar, the ramming bar, and pried the glass dome off of his coffin, which is hermetically sealed.

It can't be sealed again. So they broke the ring off of his finger, broke his finger in the meantime and ripped the medallion off of his neck. And the 22 karat diamond on his finger was one of the biggest in the world at the time. So they got away.

They got away with that break-in. And it was advertised all over, everywhere, all over the country. It was a big deal. Finally, I interviewed the state police officer at my museum one day. And he said, Chris, I'm the one that made the arrest. And I said, tell me about it. And he said, we had pictures. The House of David had, people had pictures of all these things that were in the diamond house. And he said, me and my partner are driving through Benton Heights, which is a rough part of Dodge in this area. And we look over and in front of this trailer is this little nickel-plated parlor stove with flowers growing out of it. That was it, right? So they walked up to the door, knocked on the door, and a lady answered and said, man, we love that stove that you have out there.

Can you tell us where you, where we can get something like that? And she said, well, my ex gave it to me for some gift, but he doesn't live here anymore. But here's his name and phone number. Bam! He gets busted.

He's got loose lips. They all go, they all go down, right? So come to find out, and both the people that did the job, did the stealing and the police officer told me that what happened was because there was such a massive amount of things, because it was so so written about in the media, they were afraid to sell up everything. So they took everything and divided it equally amongst them.

And then they would take it and hide it. One hit it, like in the upstairs of his barn. The other guy hit it in a storage area in his basement.

The lady hit it, Claussen lady, hit it underneath her wrap around her mobile home. None of them sold anything. So they got all that stuff back, except the 22 karat diamond ring, which McCoy brothers appraised at like two and a half million dollars, and the giant medallion, which was appraised at over a half a million dollars. They found out that those kids took those to the south side of Chicago and sold them to a jewelry dealer there, like a swap guy for 12,000 cash. And then he, back then, you didn't have to have anybody's driver's license. You didn't have to ask questions. You just bought stuff and sold stuff. So he had taken the diamond and out and sold it to a diamond buying place in London for like 60,000. Supposedly they chopped it up and sold it off differently, so it wouldn't be detected.

But that's all gone now. The scariest thing was the girl that told me the story. She came in my museum twice, two days in a row, spent hours without saying one word. And finally I went up to her. My mom and I were there and I said, you seem really fascinated by this story.

Can you tell me why? And she said, do you want to know? And I said, yeah, I do want to know. And she said, I'm the one that broke in the diamond house. And I was like, oh my gosh.

I mean, this is all my stuff is right here in front of her. And she was capable of getting into this place. So she went on to tell me the whole story, all the details. It was so good. I should have filmed her, but she was a mammoth girl. She kind of killed me. But in the end, she said, Chris, you know what? I would do it again right now. She says the best high I ever had in my life.

I'm thinking I can't buy a good enough security system at this point. And it's a big country. My mom used to always tell me as a kid, explaining the unexplainable to me and the fun and the weird. And my goodness, this is both fun and weird. And as hard as these guys and this one sort of cult leader tried to talk about his eternal life and everyone else's well, little something happened.

He died and everybody else was going to die too. The story of a strange almost little cult in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The House of David here on Our American Story. Do you want to win two tickets to the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar? Frito-Lay is giving you the chance to make history by joining their pass the ball challenge. Add your picture to the Golden World Soccer Ball, then pass the ball to fellow fans to score additional entries. Scan the QR code on specially marked bags of lays, Cheetos or Doritos or visit and pass the ball now. No purchase necessary. Open to legal residence of 50 USDC 18 plus grand prize entry deadline.

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