What Happened to John Lennon’s Ashes After He Died?


John Lennon is arguably one of the most famous members of The Beatles. Though the group disbanded, the members had tremendous respect for one another, and they were shocked to learn of Lennon’s untimely death. Band members expressed what the entire world felt at the time—deep loss and sadness. 

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The events that occured after Lennon’s death largely remain a mystery. Why he was cremated and where his grave is located are two of the more commonly searched-for questions. Answers, however, are hard to find. Keep reading as we try to pull back the curtain and reveal the mystery.

How Did John Lennon Die?

If you’re a Beatles fan, you probably know the answer to this question already. However, if you only know that Lennon passed away and you’ve never learned of the surrounding circumstances, it’s important to understand what happened. Once some light has been shed on how he died, other questions such as why he was cremated might make a bit more sense.

Lennon’s final day was filled with typical rock star to-dos. Since he and Yoko Ono had just released an album, they spent most of the day working to promote it. They had a formal picture taken for Rolling Stones Magazine and then taped an interview with a radio station. 

When Lennon and Ono left their apartment building mid-day, a young fan was waiting outside with a copy of their newly-released album. After Lennon signed it, the fan, Mark David Chapman, walked away but stayed around the building. Unbeknownst to Lennon, he had just met his killer. 

Later that night, when Lennon and Ono returned, Chapman was waiting. As the couple strode past him, he fired his gun and hit Lennon in the back multiple times. The doorman knocked his gun away and Chapman calmly waited for police to arrest him.

Because time was short and the wounds were so extensive, a police car transported Lennon to Roosevelt Hospital. According to the director of emergency services at the hospital, Dr. Lynn, resuscitation attempts were made with no results. Blood loss and damage from the gunshot wounds were too extensive, and Lennon was pronounced dead at 11:07 pm.

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Why Was John Lennon Cremated?

Most things surrounding John Lennon’s cremation and end-of-life services are shrouded in mystery. Though there are plenty of articles and books written about the famous Beatle, there are no definite answers regarding why cremation was chosen as the method of final disposition. 

Most music historians believe that John disliked cremation, a sentiment that would make sense given his Anglican English upbringing. He was, however, married to Ono who held to Shinto beliefs. During his marriage, his views about cremation certainly could have changed, and Ono would have been one of the few people to know about this.

There are plenty of theories regarding why cremation was chosen over burial. Some people believe that Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, likely didn’t want thousands upon thousands of fans showing up during a funeral service and chose to cremate him privately. 

Another theory is that Yoko Ono chose cremation because she was Shinto. For those of the Shinto faith, cremation is an important part of the death ritual. Ono likely would not have wanted to depart from Shinto tradition to bury Lennon’s body.

Finally, a third theory holds that John’s wounds were too extensive for any kind of an open casket funeral, so Ono decided to cremate him.

Ultimately, we don’t know why John Lennon was cremated, only that he was and that it occurred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York shortly after his untimely death.

Who Scattered John Lennon’s Ashes?

The answer to this question is another mystery for Lennon’s fans. Though everyone assumes Yoko Ono scattered his ashes, no one knows whether she or someone else did the scattering, or whether they were scattered at all.

Where Were John Lennon’s Ashes Scattered?

A final mystery comes with this question and unfortunately, there is no definite answer. Ultimately, no one knows. Yoko Ono didn’t breathe a word about where she scattered the ashes or if she scattered them at all. Some fan theories say that she still has his ashes under her bed at the Dakota—the nine-room apartment she shared with John. Other people believe Ono scattered them in the area of Central Park that can be seen from the window of their apartment.

Though we don’t know where John Lennon’s ashes were scattered, that certainly doesn’t have to be the case with your own ashes or those of a loved one. There are many places to scatter ashes to honor the life and legacy of a loved one. You could choose a national or public park, the beach, or a favorite vacation spot. If your loved one was a fan of the Beatles and you think Central Park is where John Lennon’s ashes were scattered, you can even scatter them there so your loved one can join the famous rock star.

It can be hard for family members to know what to do with cremation ashes. There are no right or wrong answers. You could certainly keep them with you like some fans think Ono did with her husband’s ashes. You can also share them among family members, bury them in a grave, or plant them with a tree.

No matter what you decide to do with your loved one’s ashes, simply try your best to honor them and make a decision you know they’d be happy with.

Is There a Memorial or Grave You Can Visit?

Though we may not know about the whereabouts of John Lennon’s ashes, numerous memorials have been erected around the world in his honor. He may not have a famous grave, but you can still pay tribute to the late singer by visiting one of these places.

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Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New York City

The most popular memorial was established at the request of Yoko Ono. Directly across from the Dakota, a portion of Central Park was renamed Strawberry Fields and dedicated to John Lennon’s memory by the city of New York. Countries around the world donated trees to be planted in the area as a show of solidarity. Italy donated the mosaic centerpiece with the word Imagine emblazoned in the middle.

Imagine Peace Tower, Viðey, off the coast of Reykjavík, Iceland

Yoko Ono also established this memorial which consists of a white pillar that has the words “Imagine Peace” etched in 24 languages. There are over one million written wishes buried underneath the tower that Ono collected as part of the installation. 

Each year the tower lights up and projects a vertical beam of light into the sky from October 9 to December 8. Why these dates? October 9 is Lennon’s birthday, and December 8 was the day he was shot.

John Lennon Peace Monument, Liverpool, England

This monument, also known as the European Peace Monument, was dedicated on what would have been Lennon’s seventieth birthday. The monument is an 18-foot sculpture of hand-painted metal that features a musical score, a guitar, and doves. The top-most bird holds a white glass feather in its mouth, a symbol of John Lennon.

John Lennon Statue, Cavern Club, Liverpool, England

Take a walk to the Cavern Club and you’ll see a serene Lennon leaning up against the brick out front. There’s a neon sign above the statue that reads “John Lennon” with the words “Rock N Roll” underneath his name.

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Parque John Lennon, Havana, Cuba

If you’re in Cuba, you’ll want to visit Parque John Lennon where you’ll see a statue of a thoughtful Lennon sitting on a bench. The site receives visits all year long from tourists, Beatles fans, and those wishing to pay respects to the late musician.

The Lennon Wall, Prague, Czech Republic

When The Lennon Wall was first created, it was both a monument to John Lennon and a peaceful protest against communism. When John Lennon died, the then-Czechoslovakia was under communist rule. Communist law banned any form of western imagery. However, when news spread of Lennon’s death, graffiti artists made the wall their canvas to pay respects to the great musician.

At one point in November 2014, the wall was painted white, erasing years of artistic tributes. The words “Wall is over!” were left in black. New art showed up on the wall immediately after, however, and one artist changed the words to read, “War is over.”

The Lennon Wall, Hong Kong

This wall isn’t so much a tribute to the late musician as it is a tribute to the musician’s ideals such as his desire for peace and a better world. The wall began as a peaceful protest when hundreds of people began placing their frustrations with the government and wishes for a better life on post-it notes and stuck them to the wall. 

Statue at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Liverpool, England

If you need an airport to fly into, you can pay tribute to Lennon by flying into the Liverpool John Lennon Airport and seeing his statue while you’re there. The airport was renamed to honor Lennon 2001 and a bronze statue of the musician was unveiled.

Honoring the Late Musician

Even though we don’t know much about the location of Lennon’s ashes, there are still many ways to honor the musician. Just because you can’t visit a physical gravesite doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to pay tribute to someone’s memory. In Lennon’s case, there are statues and memorials around the world you can visit, starting with Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

  1. Goddard, Jacqui. “Doctor Reveals Murdered Beatle’s Final Moments.” News, Daily Mail, 3 December 2010. Dailymail.co.uk

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