If you are a fan of Karen and Georgia’s “My Favorite Murder” podcast, you’ve probably heard them read hometown stories submitted by listeners in their minisodes. As it happens, they’ve covered one tale that took place on the Wellesley College campus. You may have missed it; I’ll fill you in.
Imagine you are a Wellesley town resident walking your dog through the green, breezy paths of the College. June has arrived, bringing breaths of fresh air and an invitation to laze around outdoors. Massachusetts has finally recovered from the barren cold. It’s beautiful and woodsy now, and full of life; the Wellesley College 2006 Reunion is in full swing. As you pass the gardens, you can hear chatter coming from nearby.
Your dog, tugging on its leash, prods at a floating mass at the surface of the pond. “What’s that, boy?” you ask, peering at his discovery. Upon examination, it appears to be something dead and ravaged. The dog backs away; you recognize the object immediately. That is a human placenta.
The placenta is an organ which develops in a mother’s uterus to feed its guest, the fetus. Different cultures assign varying significances to it. It can be eaten later in life or pickled for its nutrients. However, in the United States it is illegal to publicly dispose of it, or any human tissue.
You report your finding to the local police, and it’s out of your hands. But a campus-wide panic sets in, as the logic follows: if we have the placenta right here, then where’s the baby? And what about the mother?
Worry spreads. The police take charge of the investigation, draining the entire pond and enforcing a campus-wide lockdown. The former proved to be expensive yet yielded no results, according to the Boston Herald.
Professor Thomas Hodge of the Russian department was at Wellesley in 2006 and remembers what the ordeal was really like: “At first no one had the slightest clue how the placenta got there, though I seem to recall there was speculation that perhaps a student had given birth and wanted to hide the evidence.”
Another rumor held that a visiting professor at the College had stored their child’s placenta and thrown it in the pond, according to theorists — Wellesley alumni — on Twitter.
As one sarcastic commenter under the “Boston Herald” article speculated, “I think they were testing it as fish bait.”
Time passed and the search continued. Eventually Wellesley town authorities tracked down the mother, whose identity has not been shared with the public. Deputy Police Chief William Brooks, in charge of the investigation, was reluctant to reveal information about the woman who discarded the placenta. But we now know some truths.
Firstly, it was a couple who had disposed of the placenta together. Their baby had been born many months before the incident, and was in perfect health. They had kept the placenta in their freezer for storage, but eventually decided to remove it and place it in the pond. Until the police found them, the couple remained blissfully unaware of the panic they had inadvertently created.
Nobody ever discovered why they chose this pond to get rid of their extraneous placenta, but I can imagine that the water was symbolic of life for them.
As Professor Hodge put it, “It was a needlessly alarming way to dispose of human tissue.”
No charges were ever filed. And just think: if the child was born in Spring of 2006, they could be a Wellesley student in just a few years!