Cruger, Mississippi, is home to barely 400 residents. It lies within the confines of the large area of fertile agricultural lands known as the Mississippi Delta, and places nearby have unusual names, like Alligator Bayou, Mosquito Lake, or Mossy Island.
Located near Cruger is Egypt Plantation, an active farming area of almost 2,000 acres in which heavy equipment during farming season are used.
In summer of 1969, while farmhands were digging on Egypt Plantation, the backhoe operator felt a crunch: just about a meter beneath the topsoil, he had hit a very, very old coffin, made of cast-iron and glass.
The body inside was visible: she was a young woman wearing a red velvet dress, white gloves, and square-toed boots from sometime in the previous century.
However, she wasn’t decomposed, as one might expect for a body in such antiquated dress. The coffin in fact had been filled with preservative alcohol and sealed, and the corpse inside looked almost like the day she died, with her hair a bright auburn and her skin pale white.
Of course, the glass had shattered when the backhoe hit it, and the alcohol seeped into the ground around it, exposing the woman to the elements after an undefinite time of rest.
This is a partial account of the event as it appeared in Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger on August 29, 1969:
“The method of preservation used for the Lady In Red was common prior to the Civil War, when custom-made caskets, shaped to the body, were ordered as one would order a dress. The glass that sealed the coffin was placed over the body, and alcohol was poured inside until it was level full, and then sealed with a cast iron tip. When the back hoe machine hit the coffin, alcohol spilled from the casket and spots of the liquid were seen on the folds of the woman’s dress.”
There is no information to suggest a cemetery was located in the immediate area, and lot of stories and hypotesis surrounds the Lady in Red: no one is sure about who was or why she was buried in a shallow, unmarked grave. Some speculate that the coffin might have fallen off a wagon and never reached its final burial site, while others imagine that she was a passenger on a paddleboat who died while traveling the nearby Yazoo River.
Local historians have attempted to discover the woman’s identity, but without any results. Evidences from her clothing and the coffin she was found in indicate she died before the Civil War, and in fact this type of burial was common in that period.
She was reburied in Lexington’s Odd Fellows Cemetery with a marker dating her estimated birthdate as 1835 and her death date as 1969, the year she was discovered.
Of course, her real identity may never be discovered….