Could ghastly revelations end Williams experiment?

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Gordon Edes
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Jack Polidoro has seen the before-and-after pictures of Ted Williams in an Arizona cryonics laboratory, more than two dozen photos in all. The revelations contained in the new book, "Frozen," confirmed what he already knew, although he was shocked to hear allegations by the former chief operating officer of that lab, Larry Johnson, that the Hall of Famer's frozen head was batted around by workers.

"Those photos are the most ghastly things I've ever seen done to a body or head,'' Polidoro said. "They used nonsurgical tools, including one with a wooden handle, like a ball-peen hammer you'd pick up in the local hardware store, to separate his head from his body.

"This thing is going to blow up now. I think it will be good for Ted. Maybe we can finally get him out of there.''

Polidoro's original connection to the Williams saga is a bit eerie. Years before Williams died and his remains were taken – supposedly at his own request scrawled on a scrap of paper – to be frozen at the Alcor Laboratory in Scottsdale, Ariz., Polidoro, a self-published author who holds a Ph.D. in veterinary science, had imagined a similar scenario. He turned it into a novel, "Project Samuel," in which his protagonist attempts to clone Williams from DNA he'd collected.

Truth trumped fiction in Williams' case, in a way that Polidoro finds both mortifying and incomprehensible. During the last Presidential campaign, he said, he buttonholed Sen. John McCain at a campaign appearance in New Hampshire.

"McCain practically lives next door to Alcor,'' Polidoro said. "I asked him, 'What can you do to get Ted Williams out?' He said, 'Terrible thing, terrible thing.'

"I said, 'You live there, you were his friend.' He said, 'Well, it's a family matter.' I asked him, 'Why hadn't the will he'd signed in 1996 been honored, the one in which he said he wished for his ashes to be dispersed over the Florida Keys?' He didn't have an answer.''

Polidoro said he used some of the material Johnson shared with him in another novel, "Brain Freeze,'' in which a fictional Negro League star is frozen in the same manner. But Polidoro says that Johnson did not reveal to him some of "Frozen's" most stunning revelations. Johnson wrote that two workers used a monkey wrench to try to wrest Williams' frozen head from its pedestal, a Bumble Bee tuna can.

“Little gray chunks of Ted’s head flew off, peppering the walls, skittering across the floor and sliding under the machinery,” Johnson wrote in “Frozen: My Journey Into the World of Cryonics, Deception and Death.”

Polidoro said the can was attached to the head to monitor for cracking sounds in the brain during the freezing process. Microphones are placed in the brain tissue and can be heard through the can.

"They must have been trying to remove [the can] for some reason after it was frozen to the skin, and used a monkey wrench," Polidoro said. "I have pictures of the final process with this can on the head of people. It is, or resembles, a tuna can with wires coming out of it. Absurd procedure."

Cryonic suspension is a procedure involving the deep freezing of a corpse that is then kept in liquid nitrogen, the operative principle being that future scientific advances might restore the dead to life. Williams' son, John Henry, and his daughter, Claudia, both signed the scrap of paper on which Williams supposedly expressed his wish to be frozen cryonically, and indicated they also wanted to be "put in Bio-Stasis after we die" in the hope they would one day be reunited.

Another daughter, Bobbie-Jo Williams Ferrell, bitterly opposed her siblings, insisting her father wanted to be cremated. Another close Williams friend, Arthur "Buzz" Hamon, who was the director of the Ted Williams' Hitters Museum in Hernando, Fla., infiltrated the highly secretive Alcor facility under the pretext of being a prospective client. "He asked about Williams and was shown the big stainless steel tube in which his body was kept,'' said Polidoro, who kept in e-mail contact with Hamon until his death in 2004. "They asked him what he was doing, and he said, 'Saying goodbye to a friend.' They took him out of there after that.''

Williams head is kept in a container said to resemble a lobster pot, marked in black with A-1949, the patient's ID number.

John Henry Williams was stricken with leukemia and died in 2004. Polidoro said he is unaware of anyone witnessing the son's body taken to Alcor, but that "Johnson told me he was there."

Polidoro has said he has been in touch with Johnson periodically, and knew where Johnson was in hiding, reportedly out of fear that his former employer might harm him. Johnson is scheduled to appear on ABC's "Nightline" Tuesday night.

Polidoro says he also has maintained regular contact with Ferrell, who moved from Florida to an undisclosed location.

"This thing drove her into the ground,'' he said. "She's sick to death over everything. I don't think she'll be too happy about the new book. Too graphic.

"But in the end, this could help Ted.''