Sometimes “fake” skeleton decorations in creepy tourist attractions turn out to be real human remains

Kate's partial skeleton on display in the London Dungeon in 2011.

Photo via IBC. Kate’s partial skeleton on display in the London Dungeon in 2011.

The London Dungeon, opened since 1975, is a tourist attraction and interactive experience that recreates morbid historical events using gallows humor. To maintain the gruesome ambience, the London Dungeon is decorated with skeletons and torture devices. It turns out that the partial skeleton, nicknamed Kate, hanging in a gibbet cage in the “Creepy Crypt” exhibit was actually real and may have been on display since The London Dungeon opened. This fact may have gone unconfirmed if not for pesky bureaucrats from The Human Tissue Authority.

“The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) is a UK watchdog group set up by the Human Tissue Act of 2004 to regulate organizations that store human remains, even tourist attractions with grisly decorations. When one of their members visited the London Dungeon in 2011 they suspected some of the skeletons looked too authentic so they reached out to the management. If the skeleton was found to be authentic and less than 100 years old it would have to be licensed by the HTA for £2,000 a year.

Catherine Pritchard, from London Dungeon told the MailOnline, “’We have long suspected they might be real. We decided we’d better find out after learning from the Human Tissues Authority that we could be breaking the law if they were genuine, and were less than 100 years old.”

Photo from Solent via Telegraph of Kate's skeleton being examined

Photo from Solent via Telegraph of Kate’s skeleton being examined

Bill Edwards, from London’s Guy’s Hospital’s Medical Museum, took a scraping from Kate’s remains, consisting of a rib-cage and vertebral column, and confirmed they were indeed real. Based on the way some of the bones were put together, he estimated that the skeleton was wired together in the 1950’s, and may date to the early days of anatomical research when bodies were regularly smuggled in from the Far East for dissection.

As of 2011, The London Dungeon arranged for another skeleton, nicknamed Twiggy, to be tested too, and they expected similar results, though I haven’t found any news confirming that. Both skeletons were removed from public display.

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4 replies

  1. Reblogged this on crypticpunk and commented:
    This is a strange article, but the strangest part is there is a organization in the UK that licenses the display of human remains for 2000 pounds a year.

  2. This reminds me of an anecdote in Witnesses From the Grave, a biography of forensic anthropology legend Clyde Snow. During the filming of an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, on location in a Long Beach fun house, what was supposed to be a dummy of a corpse hanging from the ceiling turned out to be a real mummified body. It was eventually revealed that it was the body of a minor outlaw who had been killed in a shootout in 1911, whose body was preserved with liberal amounts of arsenic and put on display as a curiosity.

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