Wild, Wacky and Wonderful…Gloucester!

Story by Terry Weber

My husband and I were hiking in the Ravenswood Park area and saw this:
photo 1 first bone
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.

photo 2 2nd boneUpon 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.

17 thoughts on “Wild, Wacky and Wonderful…Gloucester!

  1. Kim, thank you for posting my story. And for the headaches I am sure you endured formatting it. 🙂
    If anyone out there know who put these “skeletons” up and why, or anything related, please share! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Was this near Fernwood Lake? I remember it from a few years ago, when it was a full skeleton. There was also other Halloween decorations in the area.


    1. Both of the skeletons were near Fernwood Lake but not right next to it. They are the only two I know of, BUT there are rumors there may be more. I am glad I did not see a full skeleton even if it was fake. 🙂


  3. It’s clear from your pictures of both specimens that the various “bones” are connected artificially, recreating a leg and foot. These look like parts of a teaching skeleton. In addition, “seams” mean they are plastic rather than real bone. A prank for sure, but a pretty expensive one unless they are stolen objects.


      1. I’m a retired orthopedic surgeon now, but I learned to recognize a true skeleton way back in medical school. The prankster in me helped, too: I had some real arm and hand bones (rigged up like those legs you saw) that wowed the Halloween trick or treaters when it handed them their candy at my front door.


  4. I hike in the Gloucester woods frequently and have never noticed the bones. I think they should be taken down. I go to the woods for peace, to enjoy nature, and get away from the normal BS of life. I don’t think some wacko’s prank should be left up, and if it’s Halloween trash, it should not be nailed to trees. If the original bone was twenty feet from the ground, it took some effort to get it up there. Is this on Ravenswood property or the watershed property owned by Gloucester?


    1. The ones I know about technically appear to be on the watershed property. But, I would have to check that out to be certain. I agree with you that they are not pleasant to look at!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve never seen them, although I spend most of my time at Ravenswood watching my feet so that I don’t trip and break another of my non-skeletal bones. I’d say leave them so people can check them out – you’ve certainly motivated me to take a stroll over there this morning! Thanks – I needed a little encouragement to get away from Technology for a while!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A Blair Witch Project like situation. Nevertheless, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Terry, good job making the Gloucester police aware of this just in case they get someone more hysterical reporting a similar finding!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow…what a great story including the pics and video. I’ve never seen them, but have only walked Ravenswood a few times. I think they should be taken down, totally creepy. But, I do admit the curiousity factor will cause many people to seek these out, and enjoy some nature, so maybe removed after a period of time? Not sure who would do the removing though.


    1. Hi Jenn! Nice to reconnect with you here. It was actually one of my more fun stories to write about, after making sure they were not real. 🙂 I like your perspective, maybe a walk in the woods would be good for some people. Ravenswood, bones and all, is one my favorite places, anywhere.


  8. Kim,

    You did the right thing by sending to GPD-this may have been a Halloween prank or something? The Sheriffs Department out west were searching the woods for a missing person and found another body in the process. They did fined the lady missing too unfortunately both were deceased. Closure for both families and heartbreak that follows. The biggest search was a result of a person on a walk and dog finding a human bone. This is a hard area to talk about!
    Dave 😦


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