Story by Terry Weber
My husband and I were hiking in the Ravenswood Park area and saw this:
Yes, it appears to be part of a human skeleton, nailed to a tree. It was about 15 to 20 feet off the ground–too high for us to touch or get a closer look.
We discussed it, saying it was creepy, and hoped it was not real. We considered all the “rational” reasons part of a skeleton could be nailed to a tree: It was fake and just a prank from someone who wanted to cause a stir and obviously needs attention. Or, it was a leftover “decoration” that no one took down from a Halloween Haunted Woods event. Or, real or fake, it was a symbol, warning, or trail marker left by an unusual religious group. And last, we thought it might be part of a crime scene. Okay, maybe we have watched too many crime or zombie-apocalypse TV shows. But, we felt that there was a 1% chance it could be real.
With the 1% chance of it being real, I decided to tell the Gloucester Police. Even though I felt silly, I emailed Chief Campanello with a picture of the skeleton so he could decide if, or how, to proceed. The Chief was in Washington DC when I made the report, and he referred the situation to two of his officers. He said based on my picture it was worth looking at, but agreed it was probably just a prank.
Next thing I knew, I was meeting Lt. Joe Fitzgerald and Officer Troy Simoes at the entrance to Ravenswood Park. After looking at the map, we entered the woods from an entrance I was not familiar with, resulting in a navigation challenge while I tried to figure out where the bone was located from a new direction. We took two ATV’s that handled the wider parts of the trail well, but the trail soon became smaller and rockier. I may have screamed and cursed a few times when Lt. Fitzgerald apparently thought he was a NASCAR driver, plowing over rocks and plunging down hills at breakneck speeds. J Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I hardly cried at all.
After about 15 minutes of searching for the right spot on the trail, we had to get off the ATV’s and start walking. I told the officers that the skeleton would be nailed to a tree on our right. A few minutes later, Officer Simoes said “I see it!” and he pointed to the left. I looked up, confused, as I thought the skeleton would be on the right. It was a different skeleton, on a completely different tree! But, like the other one, it appeared to be the foot and lower leg of a human.
Upon closer inspection (this bone was lower than the one my husband and I found), both officers concluded it was a fake. They could see little seams, and said that a nail would not cause such a neat indentation in the bone. I was relieved there was no crime victim, as were the officers. We also agreed even though the skeletons were fake, they were unsightly and not a great thing for small children to see.
I apologized and thanked both officers for their time, but they said it’s always better to check something out than to ignore it. Plus, there are certainly worse ways to spend your time, riding on an ATV ride through the woods on a beautiful spring day!
After discussing my story with a few people, I heard through the grapevine that other hikers who have lived here longer than me knew about the bones. There may be many more nailed to trees, but no one had ever notified the police (at least not in recent history).
The experience left me with a few questions: Real or fake, why are the bones nailed to trees? How long have they been there? Who put them there? Have you ever noticed them? And, should they come down? Share your thoughts and stories!
Special thanks to Chief Campanello, Lt. Fitzgerald and Officer Simoes. And yes, Officer Simoes is related to GMG’s own Manny Simoes.