A story circulating online states that President Obama has ordered $1 billion in “disposable FEMA coffins” and photographic evidence is offered as proof.
The story is unfounded, and these claims have been in circulation longer than President Obama has been in office. Today we take a closer look at some of the allegations.
Photos of “Disposable FEMA Coffins”
The images below have been featured with speculative articles by some writers (most notably Alex Jones of InfoWars) that these “disposable coffins” were ordered by the government, which must have some diabolical plans to use them in the near future.
The images above do not show “disposable coffins” but casket liners, which encase a casket to protect it from the elements, and to prevent the collapse of the surrounding ground. Michael Lacey, Vice President of Operations for Vantage Products Corporation – the manufacturer of these casket liners – responded to these allegations back in 2008. He described the liner seen in the photos as Vantage’s Standard Air Seal, the company’s most popular – and least expensive – model.
Some older versions of this theory state that the “stockpile” of burial vaults were manufactured by Wyoming-based Polyguard & Co., which is incorrect, as Vanguard has since publicly responded to allegations about the casket liners.
Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura
The casket liners were featured on the second season of truTV’s series Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura during an episode entitled “Police State” which aired on November 12, 2010. Ventura is accompanied in this episode by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in their visit to the stockyard in Madison, Georgia where the Vantage plastic casket liners were stored at the time. Their discussion reflects either a lack of understanding – or a refusal to believe – what they were seeing.
Jones describes the scene as “hundreds of thousands of plastic coffins.”
Ventura replies, “So each one of those is a separate coffin stacked on top. There’s probably what, 20 to 25 per stack? And how many stacks? Literally hundreds of them.”
Jones adds, “And you can fit four dead bodies per plastic coffin. It’s basically a giant body bag.”
Ventura continues his ominous narrative:
Tens of thousands of coffins. Officially, they’re plastic grave liners. Seven feet long, three feet deep, with lids. The company that makes them says they’re just being stored for people’s pre-needs. Well, who in the hell has a pre-need for this many coffins? Unless they’re planning a massacre.
Lacey pointed out that there are approximately 900,000 ground burials in the U.S. each year. As one of a small handful of companies which make such casket liners, Vantage’s inventory of 50,000 of their most popular model should seem reasonable.
President Obama Involvement
The claims of “disposable FEMA coffins” often allege that President Obama has “quietly ordered” the purchase of these “FEMA coffins.”
The story, however, can be traced back to at least 2006 (see an early discussion here) while President Bush was still in office. In 2014, we see virtually the same story being recycled, but with President Obama’s name now attached.
Aside from the inability to reconcile the age of the story with the length of Obama’s presidency, the writers making these allegations offer no evidence whatsoever that either President Bush or President Obama ever ordered 500,000 – or 5 million – “disposable coffins” or casket liners. That number far exceeds the inventory of the manufacturers of these products.
5 Million Coffins
The numbers $1 billion and “5 million coffins” have been used recently with this “FEMA coffin” narrative. Regarding the claims of 5 million coffins, Lacey stated that at that time there were approximately 50,000 casket liners stored at the site, and estimated that the original number was probably 70,000 to 80,000. He has been quoted as saying, “It’s nowhere near the quantity they talk about on the Internet.” Note that at that original allegations claimed that 500,000 coffins were ordered.
Owned by the Government
Answering claims that the government, specifically the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), laid claim to these “coffins,” Lacey once again put the questions to rest, “They’re not owned by any one individual, company or the government.”
One writer, perhaps influenced by Jones’ statements, claimed that these containers were too large to hold one person, and cited Patent 5,425,163 as proof that these are “cremation containers for multiple bodies.” If we take a look at the patent, however, the phrase “multiple bodies” does not exist. Further, that patent appears to describe a completely different product altogether, as it is a cremation container, not a casket liner already established above. The liners featured in the photos above more closely resemble this patent for “funeral vaults.”
The claim of FEMA coffins dates back at least 9 years, and has evolved over that time. Consider:
- Originally it was President Bush who was said to be secretly ordering these “coffins.” Now it is President Obama.
- The number allegedly ordered has been claimed to be 500,000 – then 5 million, and even 150 million. The actual number of liners seen in the video is around 50,000.
- Early speculation referred to liners as plastic, disposable coffins, but this description has since changed. Now it is suggested that these liners are being purchased because they can be used as coffins, not that they are coffins.
- In 2009, the “coffins” were sometimes cited as an ominous sign of the H1N1 virus, but that claim has since disappeared.
- During the Ebola crisis in fall of 2014, the urban legend reemerged with claims that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) may be stockpiling “hermetically sealed coffins” in anticipation of an outbreak of the Ebola virus in the United States.
Google Trends History
The Google Trends graph below shows search interest in the term “FEMA coffins” over time. The graph also displays the enduring nature of this urban legend, as a peak surge occurred recently in October of 2014 with implications that the CDC was amassing “hermetically sealed caskets” for a potential American Ebola epidemic.
The so-called “FEMA coffins” are nothing more than casket liners stored by the company who makes them. There is no evidence that President Obama (or President Bush) secretly ordered large quantities of these items.
Updated March 14, 2015
Originally published January 2014