The mystery surrounding the skeletal remains found in a home in Wayne Township may have been solved.
Crawford County Coroner Patrick McHenry said Friday that after speaking with several coroners at a recent state conference, he may have a good idea of how the skeletons came to be in a stairwell at the home.
They could have been used by an Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge for its rituals.
McHenry said several coroners told of finding similar skeletons in buildings which once housed Odd Fellows lodges. The Odd Fellows used skeletons in their rituals. However, there was nothing sinister or illegal about the use. A hundred years ago many people donated bodies to science for research. After the scientific community cleaned the bodies and completed the research on them, the remains were sold.
The Odd Fellows purchased the skeletons for their use, wanting to use real skeletons rather than fake ones.
That practice now has ended and only plastic skeletons are used, according to McHenry.
At any rate, McHenry said coroners from Erie and Tioga counties told him of similar findings in years past. Upon investigation, all learned that the buildings in which the skeletons were found once housed Odd Fellow lodges. Apparently when the lodges moved or were disbanded, the skeletons were forgotten.
That may be the case of the Wayne Township skeletons.
Don Stallard of Conneaut Lake confirmed the use of skeletons in Odd Fellows initiation rituals, saying when the Conneaut Lake IOOF Lodge disbanded several years ago, it had two skeletons. He explained that in the Odd Fellows’ ritual the skeleton represented that once you were an Odd Fellow you remained one until you died. One of the lake’s lodge skeletons had been purchased and the second had been given to it by the Hartstown Lodge.
Leland Dorchester of Coch-ranton said the home where the skeletons were found housed the Deckards IOOF Lodge until the late 1960s. He agrees skeletons were used in rituals, declining to reveal the meaning of the ritual and the use of the skeleton.
He said the skeletons were real and were purchased from medical schools or other such types of institutions.
McHenry is going to do more research, but believes the Odd Fellows connection is a plausible explanation.
In the meantime, tests are being done to be certain the bodies suffered no trauma or unnatural death.
McHenry also will attempt to determine the identity of the skeletons.
Should he not be able to identify the remains, he plans to seek a court order to have them given to Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat at Mercyhurst College in Erie for clinical research by students doing anthropology or archaeology studies.
The skeletons were found recently in Wayne Township when the grandson of a couple began to remodeling their home. He found the remains behind a closed-off stairwell that hadn’t been used or opened since the couple moved into the home in the 1960s.
Jane Smith can be reached at 724-6370.