A woman browsing the Halloween section of an antique store made a grim discovery when she realised one of the decorations wasn't a decoration at all.
The customer was shopping at the Paradise Vintage Market in North Forty Myers on Saturday (November 4) when she came across a skull for sale. But the woman, who happened to be an anthropologist, quickly realised it wasn't just a spooky ornament — it was a real human skull.
She called the Lee County Sheriff's Office (LCSO) to alert them and responding detectives recovered the skull and took it for testing. Based on its preliminary inspection, the District 21 Medical Examiner's Office suspects it is real human remains, according to LCSO Captain Anita Iriarte.
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He told Newsweek: "This is definitely different. We don't usually get a call from an antique store that there's a human skull out on the floor." The captain added: "What's been described is that the antique shop was having a fossil day, so this female, an anthropologist, was shopping and noticed the skull and then was like, 'This is definitely not a Halloween decoration.'"
Not only did the anthropologist think the skull was real, but she also suspected it might be from a Native American person, according to an incident report from the Sheriff's Office. After examining the skull in the store, the shopper told deputies “she knew it was from a Native American, which is illegal for someone to sell,” the report states.
The 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a federal law, puts restrictions on the sale of Native American remains and demands they be returned to lineal descendants or Indian Tribes.
The antique store's owner, Beth Meyer, said she found the skull in a storage unit she bought back in September 2022 and revealed she knew it was human all along because she often deals with fossils, bones and plaster casts, The Washington Post reports.
But she claimed she had no idea she was buying a human skull when she purchased the storage unit and instead believes she was just buying rocks. "There was just a lot of weird stuff and books but no rocks. I was disappointed," she said.
Beth remembered she had the skull in September and decided to display it in the store because she thought "it would be interesting to have out for Halloween". She priced it at a hefty $4,000 and explained the high price was because she "figured no one would buy it".
But while she recognised the skull as human, she said she didn't know it could be Native American. "If it is Native American, it will be returned to one of the local tribes and we will have a ceremony," she told Newsweek.
The skull is now undergoing further testing by the District 21 Medical Examiner’s Office in an attempt to determine more details including how old it is and where it came from. But despite the odd incident, Captain Iriate said the Sheriff's Office doesn't believe a crime has been committed.
They even announced the discovery in a lighthearted Facebook post, writing: "In a twist of not-so-humerus events: today, Lee County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit detectives were notified of a skull located at a thrift store in North Fort Myers." The Sheriff's Office added that the case is "not suspicious in nature".
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