Ash-laden cookies not an amusing prank

In more than 20 years of reporting the news and even more years of reading it, I’ve seen my fair share of weird and disgusting stories. However, I’ve never uncovered a story about teenagers taking human ashes and using them as the secret ingredient for cookies—until now.

This is probably not the sort of thing you want to read while having breakfast. I certainly didn’t want to hear about it on television as I was having mine, yet there it was, with the talking heads sharing the news that two students from a charter school in Davis, California, baked the ashes into cookies and shared them with at least nine of their classmates.

Yes, that is gross to the extreme, but what really made me irate was when the Huffington Post reported that the teens who decided to cross their Julia Child skills with those of Hannibal Lecter will not face criminal charges because, according to the community’s police, the worst that they could be charged with is being a public nuisance. Investigators are not even bothering to testing the cookies to determine if the allegations are true, according to the Huffington Post.

Hmm. Force feeding human remains — even when they’re the consistency of most kitchen spices — is not considered to be a crime in California. Remind me not to die there and be cremated.

Granted, society seems to be getting bizarre with its attempts to expand people’s taste — the detergent pods dare seems to be one of them — but what makes people think that teenagers who thought it would be funny to feed their classmates Grandma’s ashes aren’t potentially on the road to much more serious and sadistic behavior?

The fact that the students who ate the cookies didn’t suffer any physical ailments does not mean that this wasn’t a twisted crime. If they’d been tainted with drain cleaner or rat poison, we’d be calling these teens psychopaths and menaces to society and demanding that they be locked up.

Look back to 2006. Texas teen Katherine Smith, an understudy in a school play, had put bleach into the soda of the show’s leading lady. Smith wasn’t charged with being a public nuisance; she was charged — and pled guilty — to attempted assault/bodily injury. It was only “attempted” because the star of the show smelled something funky with her soda and didn’t drink it.

Doing some research online, I found that there usually aren’t any toxic materials in cremated remains, and any metal fragments from things like tooth fillings and the like are removed by the morticians prior to the ashes being given to the family. So, unless the family of the teens in California consulted a do-it-yourself guide to Viking funerals, there were not any toxic materials in the ashes the unsuspecting students consumed.

However, the research also found that cremated remains toxic levels of sodium.

Health issues aside, there’s also the psychological concerns. The unnamed teens essentially turned their classmates into cannibals, because they made them eat human remains. The cremated ashes used to be a person, an individual with meat and bone that used to walk among us. How many of us would even consider looking at friends and neighbors and wondering how tasty they would be doused in barbecue sauce? If we feel that way about eating human flesh, that feeling extends to the cremated remains, as well. The very idea makes us squirm and say, “Ewww!”

Cookies are supposed to be a guilty pleasure, and you’re supposed to worry about getting fat from them, not wonder what someone threw in the mix. These teens should have been charged with a crime, even if it was considered being a public nuisance. We hold corporations accountable whenever foreign items end up in the food and drink we consume. Why should these teens be any different?

Lee Pulaski is the city editor of The Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at