An online sale at RR Auction this week will include a piece of particularly macabre memorabilia: the original toe-tag from the body of Lee Harvey Oswald.
The tag, which also includes a lock of the presidential assassin’s hair, is expected to sell for more than $50,000.
Lee Harvey Oswald was a Marxist former U.S Marine who defected to the Soviet Union in 1959, before returning to the U.S and killing President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Oswald died two days later on November 24, when he was shot by organized crime associate Jack Ruby whilst being transferred from Dallas Police Headquarters to the nearby county jail.
Oswald was surrounded by police and reporters at the time, and his death was broadcast live on national television to millions of homes across the U.S.
Having been shot at close range in the abdomen, Oswald was rushed to the Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead by Dr. Tom Shires, whose handwriting appears on the tag.
The tag was later removed from the body by Jay Phillips, a 22-year-old Emergency Ambulance driver who worked at the Miller Funeral Home in Fort Worth, Texas.
He later recalled his experience in a letter to his parents, which is included with the tag. It reads, in part:
"We rolled our cot down to the morgue and we were followed by dozens of cameramen. We went into the morgue and got Oswald out of the cooler and on to the cot. As we left we were filmed by every major news agency you could imagine…We then went to the funeral home and we were guarded by the police till we got rid of him…The tag is the toe tag I took off the body."
The tag is one of two which were used to identify Oswald’s body in the morgue. The second is currently owned by Ripley Entertainment, and is on display at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium in San Antonio.
Considering the media circus which surrounded his death, it’s unsurprising that Oswald didn’t rest in peace for long.
In 1981 a popular book was published which suggested he had been replaced by a Soviet agent, who was now buried in his place.
To put a stop to the conspiracy theories, Oswald’s sister Maria won a court battle to have his body exhumed, and it was positively identified using his dental records.
However, when Owald’s corpse was reburied in a new coffin, Fort Worth funeral director Allen Baumgardner secretly kept the original.
Almost 30 years later he placed the rotting wooden coffin up for auction, where it sold for $87,500 – but the sale was halted by Oswald’s brother Robert, who successfully sued for its return in 2015.