By Lois Henry
You never know what might pop up in the mail.
Especially on a Friday. At the tail end of a full moon.
Lois Henry appears on "First Look with Scott Cox" every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. The show is also broadcast live on www.bakersfield.com. You can get your two cents in by calling 842-KERN.
Remember the story about the person who claimed to be selling a wallet made of human skin supposedly from a victim of the Holocaust? The ad was on Craigslist around mid-April then quickly disappeared.
Well, a man named Dan Glass sent a letter to the paper saying he was the seller of the wallet and if we would bail him out of jail, he'd give us the full story.
How could I resist?
I did not give him bail money, which he was OK with since he's getting out in three weeks anyway.
Tell me about the wallet, I said, into the tinny phone in the visitation room at the maximum-medium section of Lerdo jail Friday afternoon.
Glass, 32, nodded his shaved head and launched into his story.
The wallet is real, he said, meaning it's really a wallet made of human skin.
His father's oldest brother, Dan Glass ("I was named for him") was in the Army during World War II.
"A soldier gave it to him," Glass said. "He brought back all kinds of things, pistols, money, and gave them to his brothers."
Glass' father, Tony Glass, got the wallet and, in turn, gave it to young Dan Glass when he was about 8 years old. He's kept it ever since. Both Tony and the elder Dan Glass are now dead.
The Craigslist ad said the wallet -- asking price $12,000 -- was taken by a soldier from Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp, according to a story in The Mountain Enterprise in Frazier Park. Someone there saw the ad (photos and all) before it was taken down April 20.
Glass said he didn't take the ad down. He'd put it up just a few days before his most recent arrest and maybe it expired, he guessed.
Glass's mom, Cathy Glass and his sister, Kelly Glass, both confirmed the existence of the wallet and Uncle Dan's story about it.
"(Uncle Dan) didn't talk much about the war, but when he did his stories were ... interesting," Kelly Glass said.
A quick search of military records on Ancestry.com showed there was a Dan Glass who served in the Army from 1942-1945 who was about the same age as Uncle Dan would have been. But without more information, it was impossible to know if it was the same man.
Aaron Breitbart, a senior researcher with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, part of the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, was highly skeptical of the story of the wallet.
"There weren't too many of these things made, much less carried around by German soldiers," he said. There were horror stories of lampshades and other items made from the remains of Jewish murder victims. How many such things were made or exist today is unknown.
In any event, Breitbart said modern criminal labs should be able to quickly determine if the skin is human and, if it is, possibly even trace the DNA to show Jewish heritage.
"Sometimes a story is crazy enough to be true," he said. "But on the basis of what I'm hearing, I have serious doubts."
On the off chance that the wallet is from a Jewish person killed in a Nazi death camp, he said the proper thing would be to bury it.
Dan Glass insisted the wallet is what he claims.
"It's really old and falling apart," he said (Ugh! As if I didn't already have the heebie jeebies).
"My mother never wanted it in the house, she hated it. When I moved out when I was 17, I took it with me. I've had it ever since."
Why would he want to sell such a family ... uh ... heirloom?
At the time, he said, he needed the money.
Indeed. In April, Glass had just picked up a misdemeanor for driving on a suspended license and was wanted on a felony warrant for failing to appear on an earlier case in which he'd pled guilty to bringing a controlled substance into the jail.
He has a collection of misdemeanor and felony arrests, mostly for drug and alcohol related offenses, going back to 2004.
Bringing dope into the jail, he said, was "an accident."
"I didn't even know I had the stuff in my pocket."
I asked where the wallet is now and he would only say it was "under wraps."
He promised to show it to me after he's released to a sober living house June 11.
What are his plans for the wallet?
"I was hoping to find a collector to buy it," he said.
I suggested instead that he give it to a Jewish organization or synagogue.
"If it's truly from a human being," I said, "shouldn't it be buried? Honored? Like any of us would want for our loved ones?"
Yeah, Glass said. Maybe.
"I'll think about that."
"I think you should think really hard about that," I said.
As it turns out, Glass may not have a say in the matter and the mystery of the wallet may never be solved.
Glass' mother told me it's gone.
"Some little gal came an' took all Dan's stuff," she said Friday. "His truck, his clothes, it's all gone."
"Yup, that too."