Friday, June 18, 2010

The Skull in the Attic

June 23, 2008 found me resting on my bed, trying to get over a bad headache, most likely caused by the constant overhead noise the roofers had been making for days, taking off the 3 layers of old roof. We'd lived in the 98-year-old Tooele home for about 8 years, and February's big wind storm had finally ripped off enough shingles to inspire our homeowners insurance to buy us a new roof. First, though, the old roof had to come off. The bottom layer of roofing material was wood shakes, and beneath them were narrow slats, set about 3/4" apart.

My husband, Paul, came in where I was unsuccessfully trying to rest and said, with an odd look on his face, "They've found a skull in our attic."

I was not alarmed. The previous owner had been a dentist and had owned the home for some 64 years before we bought it. I thought the skull was probably some kind of dental school relic. I said as much to my husband.

"No," said Paul, "It has skin and hair on it, a tooth, and I think even an eyeball!"

"You're kidding," I said. It would not surprise me. One of the things that had attracted me to my husband in the first place was his humor.

"No, I'm not," he said, "Wanna come see it?"

"Yeah." Of course I did. I've never been squeamish and in spite of having a headache, I wanted to see this skull for myself.

I followed Paul outside and around the house to where the roofers had leaned a tall ladder against the side of our house. I climbed the ladder and peered between the slats. It was a bright, sunny day, and the area under the slats was dim, but sure enough, I could see the skull in there. It was resting amid debris from the roof demolition, on top of fluffy gray insulation material. Its lower jaw was missing, as were all but one of its teeth. The way the skin had shrunken around the eye sockets made it look like a laughing Asian man. Strands of black hair still clung to the sides and back of the skull.

The roofers were all on their cell phones, making various calls, one of which was to the police. The next few days were a police and media fiasco, but that's another story.

How did the skull get in the attic? It's anybody's guess, really. The police contacted surviving family members; the children of the old dentist. Nobody had any idea of the skull's existence. And, the skull was hidden so that it could not be detected from inside the attic. Cupboards lined the sides of the attic, with walls in the back that closed off a triangular shaped space where the slope of the roof met the eaves. The skull had been placed in that small, triangular space. The only way it would ever have been discovered was to have the roof taken completely off, or the cupboards demolished.

I have my theory of how and why the skull ended up in our attic, but I want to hear your creative ideas. I will post later what we learned about the skull and my theory about how it got there.

So, let's hear some feedback. How would a skull like this get into our attic?


  1. Okay, first of all I just have to say EEW!!! I'd have nightmares for weeks. And then there's the whole question about ghosts and wondering if the owner of that skull is still hanging around and the biggest question is...where's the rest of the body??? I'm totally baffled as to where it could have come from, though. But I am curious.

  2. Interesting. And right above your head. Who put in the walls and bookshelves? They are the ones who know the secret. There's the title of your first mystery novel: The Skull in the Attic.

  3. Oh - that is gruesome! I'd most certainly have to move after that. =)

    I have no clue how a skull could have gotten there. In my opinion, I would think it was placed there by whoever was building the house. Back then, you didn't need subcontractors and inspections. So it's quite possible the original owner/builder placed it there, expecting it to stay hidden for a very, very long time. Which it did.

    And personally, I'm hoping you come back to tell us that it really was some old science skeleton and your hubby was playing a trick on you. =)

  4. Danyelle, it couldn't have been placed there when the house was built, because there was no such thing as blow-in insulation in 1910.

  5. Good thing you're not squeamish. I think there must have been a murder involved. Creepy!

  6. I think there had to be a murder. Where is the rest of the body? I hope it is not in pieces in the rest of your roof. Was there a newspaper story of a person gone missing around the time the house was built or the cuppboards put in? You could get a novel or two and some non fiction articles out of this. Talk about getting the shivers.

  7. The police put yellow crime tape all over our front yard and wouldn't let any of us back into the house. All that night they searched the property inside and out with cadaver dogs, looking for the rest of the body. Nothing (thank goodness!!) was found.

  8. I've heard of some cultures that think it's good luck to build a house over a dead person. I can't think of where I read that, maybe it was a celtic thing? I wonder if this was their version of a good luck charm.

    Crazy! Hope you don't have anything else like that pop up!