Saponification is an exothermic (gives off heat) chemical reaction that occurs when fats or oils (fatty acids) come into contact with lye (a base). Saponification literally means "turning into soap" from the root word, "sapo," which is Latin for soap.
A human body can be turned into soap quite easily. In the movie “Fight Club”, the character Tyler Durden showed it could be a profitable business as well. Gain access to liposuction body fat and you can make the creamiest bar of gourmet soap.
A rare and curious version of saponification can occur when a human body is stored in a high pressure vessel with no bacterial contamination, at a very low temperature.
That's exactly what happened to an unnamed deckhand of a freighter that sank on Lake Superior. As a kid growing up in Michigan, we heard ghoulish tales of “Grandpa” the ghost of the freighter SS Kamloops sunk in a storm on Lake Superior, just off Twelve O’Clock Point on the north coast of Isle Royale .
I always remembered this tale as the Kamloops sunk exactly 30 years before I was born. She sunk on December 6th, 1927
Divers who explored the ship couldn’t believe how well-preserved it was. The holds of the Kamloops were filled with farm machinery once destined for the Canadian plains, but even the food was in incredible condition. Since Lake Superior only ever reaches a few degrees above freezing at its depths, the icy water acted a kind of natural refrigerator. Coupled with a relative lack of life at the bottom of the lake, even things like clothing and leather shoes, still stored neatly in crew cabins, were perfectly preserved, lending a dreamlike eeriness to the exploration of the sunken ship.
Considering the depth and temperature of the waters,visiting the Kamloops was reserved for only the most experienced divers, which meant that relatively few explorers got to wander through sunken bowels of the Kamloops. The ones who did, though, began to resurface with frightening tales. It would seem that at least one of the ship’s crew decided to stick around, and so many divers had “met” him that they even gave him a nickname: Grandpa.
As exploration of the Kamloops grew, whispers of Grandpa began to make the rounds in diving circles. Some divers reported seeing the pale white ghost kicked back in one of the crew bunks, quietly and calmly watching the explorers make their way through the sunken ship. Others claimed he would wander the boat, oblivious to the fact that it was sitting at the bottom of Lake Superior, going about his business as if he were still alive. Then there were others who reported something even more frightening: that Grandpa would follow them as they made their way through the ship, and that he wasn’t just a ghost… he was physical. Grandpa, they claimed, would actually reach out and touch them.
It turns out that the frigid waters of Lake Superior had not just refrigerated farm equipment and foodstuffs, it had perfectly preserved one of the 13 crewmen who never made it ashore. His body stiff and his skin white as snow, the nameless member of the Kamloops crew had floated inside the ship for fifty years, alone until the divers began to occasionally filter in. Some had taken to calling him “Old Whitey”, but those who’d heard the stories of ghostly encounters knew the truth: this was Grandpa’s body.
The story brought a smile on a mans face, sitting on his porch in Royal Oak. Tony Pro read the Detroit Free Press article published Feb. 22nd 1970. What a gruesome and twisted way to kill a man. And he had a man in mind, the jailed leader of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one little pain in the ass, James Riddle Hoffa.
You see Tony Pro was also known by his birth name, Anthony Provenzano, leader of the New Jersey Mafia and underworld overseer of the Teamsters. We would visit the home frequently. Tony Po's son had a gocart and we would tear uo the back alleys!
On July 30, 1975 Hoffa disappeared from the parking lot of Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, a suburb of Detroit. He had told others he was going there to meet with two Mafia leaders: Anthony Giacalone and Anthony Provenzano.
Apparently, my father Allen Francis Calder was involved in this meeting as well. He was muscle for both Hoffa and Provenzano at various points in the 60’s and 70’s. My Fathers participation was noted in the book, ‘The Hoffa Wars” by noted writer and Hoffa historian, Dan Moldea.
As my father told my mother and I, this is what he said happened to James Riddle Hoffa:
Taken from the Red Fox restaurant and transported to the local Pontiac Airport. There Jimmy Hoffa was placed in a weighted 55 gallon drum with holes in it.
All the regional airports have a fleet of small cargo planes that are operated by the Teamsters to crisscross the midwest , shuttling parts to factories all over the midwest. It was in one of these planes that this drum was loaded. The flight was scheduled to take parts to Ontario Canada, where it would pass over the deepest part of Lake Superior. At that time, the drum and the still alive Hoffa would exit the plane.
Tony Pro's disposed of the 'little pain in the ass'.
The story of 'Old Whitey' was repeated on the news when the Edmund fitzgerald sunk on November 10th, 1975. The story was about recovering the crewmen and such. Later in 1976, my mother related this Nov. 1975 story to the FBI as the motivation for Tony Pro, not the original 1970 story.
The FBI dismissed my Mothers evidence as Hoffa disappeared 6 month before the Fitgerald sank.
James Riddle Hoffa is still in a 55 gallon drum, in Lake Superior and is properly saponified.