A dear friend of mine passed away this week and his untimely death has me pondering the existence of an afterlife; is there any part of us that survives death?
Although I am a skeptic by nature there is
one true crime story that would seem to indicate that our consciousness does indeed linger on the corporeal plane long after our earthly vessels have perished.
On February 21st, 1977, the body of Terasita Basa, age 48, was found wedged beneath a burning mattress in her apartment located at 2740 North Pine Grove in Chicago; a kitchen knife
was buried up to the hilt in the middle of her chest. Although Teresita, a native of the Philippines,
had been stripped naked and posed in a sexually degrading manner there was no evidence of sexual assault;
Teresita had died a virgin.
As is usual in such cases, the police questioned Teresita’s friends and associates but
gleaned nothing helpful to their investigation. Who would want to harm such a sweet, straight-laced,
convent-educated woman? Despite the best efforts of Chicago
law enforcement the case began to grow cold.
A few months later, in nearby Evanston Illinois, Dr. Jose Chua noticed his wife Remibias acting oddly.
Remibias had worked with Teresita at Edgewater hospital in Chicago; although both women were respiratory
therapists they had worked separate shifts, and would more accurately be described as acquaintances
rather than friends. In a trance-like state Remibias began to speak to Dr. Chua in Tagalog, a native
language she shared with Teresita. In a strange, otherworldly voice Remibias
informed the incredulous Dr. Chua that she was Teresita Basa, reaching out from beyond the grave.
The alleged voice of Teresita Basa proceeded to inform Dr. Chua that her murder had been committed
by Allan Showery, a respiratory technician who also worked at Edgewater hospital. The spectral voice
demanded that Dr. Chua inform the police of this fact; when Remibias returned
to her normal state of consciousness a short time later she had absolutely no memory of the incident.
Dr. Chua was a man of science, not metaphysics; embarrassed to relay such a ludicrous story to law
enforcement, he failed to contact the police as the voice of Teresita Basa
had instructed. His wife’s trance-like state then returned on two subsequent occasions,
providing details of Teresita’s murder and again urging
Dr. Chua to relay the information to the proper authorities.
Finally Dr. Chua had had enough; he went to the Evanston police station and spewed forth the entire
outlandish tale—the trances, the voice from the grave, and the minute details of the crime, many
of which had hitherto been known only to law enforcement. Allan
Showery had stopped by Teresita’s apartment ostensibly to fix her television
set, the doctor told the detectives, but instead he had robbed her, murdered her,
and then staged her nude corpse to suggest a sexually motivated crime. To corroborate his claims Dr. Chua told the police
that two of the pieces of jewelry stolen from Teresita’s apartment—a pearl ring and a jade pendant—were currently
in the possession of Showery’s girlfriend.
(In some accounts the voice of Teresita Basa had also provided the phone number
of relatives in the Philippines who could identify the jewelry as having belonged to Teresita,
but this detail is unconfirmed.)
The detectives were initially skeptical of Dr. Chua’s story, obviously, but he had provided
such a detailed account of the crime that his information could not be ignored. The police
began to investigate Allan Showery; they learned that he had a
record of arrests for petty theft, burglary and rape, although none of these cases had resulted
in a conviction. Detectives also learned that Allen Showery
was in dire financial straits, and that he and Teresita Basa had been friends. On the strength of
this evidence the police contacted Showery’s girlfriend, who did, as the spectral voice had claimed,
have Teresita’s pearl ring and jade pendant; Showery had given the
jewelry to his girlfriend shortly after Teresita’s murder as “a belated Christmas gift.”
Upon his arrest Allan Showery confessed to the crime; the details he provided exactly matched those that the
voice from the grave had remitted to Dr. Chua. Although his first trial
ended in a mistrial Showery eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter; for the cold-blooded murder of a
kind-hearted, diminutive, virtuous woman he was sentenced to a
mere 14 years in prison. The voice of Teresita Basa has never been heard from again.
What really transpired in the curious case of Teresita Basa? Had Remibias subconsciously suspected Allan
Showery’s guilt and then endeavored to make this information known in the most dramatic way possible? But
if that were the case then how could she possibly have correctly guessed the ruse Showery had used to gain
entry into Teresita’s apartment? And how could she have known which
pieces of jewelry Showery had bestowed upon his oblivious girlfriend? If there’s a rational explanation
for the events surrounding the murder of Teresita Basa I can’t provide it.
Is it possible that the dead do linger, are aware of the goings-on on our earthly plane?
Obviously, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about death. The deaths
that intrigue me are violent and unexpected, most of them steeped in layers of bafflement and mystery.
Quotidian deaths, the humdrum variety that coroners deem “natural,” rarely enter into my consciousness.
My friend’s death earlier this week was my first experience with the
death of a loved one that occurred not as a result of misadventure or old age but by
sickness—a disease lengthy and slow, as painful as torture and as deadly as any serial killer.
I never realized this, but when the violence and mystery are stripped from death all that’s left is sadness.
If a shred of my friend’s consciousness has survived a la Teresita Basa
I hope he knows how desperately he is loved and missed. Kevin, this post is for you.