LEFLORE COUNTY (KFSM) - A LeFlore County family found a coffin with a real human skeleton inside of it in their barn near Panama on Friday (Jan. 30), deputies said.
Authorities were called to the property to examine the human remains, and the skeleton was sent to a medical examiner's office in Tulsa for identification.
Deputy Rebecca Hendrix with the LeFlore County Sheriff's Office said the skeleton is at least 100 years old, and she tracked down the original property owner, Pete Butler.
He told her that the skeleton was one of two he originally located in a run-down building that once belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Poteau, Okla. The lodge closed in the 1960s, and they are who had the skeletons originally.
Hendrix said this is not unusual.
"All across the U.S., actually, when Odd Fellow Lodges have shut down, skeletons have been found in a lot of them."
Hendrix told 5NEWS her great-grandfather was member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which is a fraternal organization that focuses on charitable works. She said they were active in LeFlore County in the early 1900s.
She said members of the Odd Fellows use skeletons in their initiation ceremonies.
"The subjects were blindfolded and brought in and went through this ceremony. When the blindfold was taken off, they were face-to-face with a skeleton," she said. "The skeleton is to symbolize mortality. That it doesn't matter what color you are, what race you are, how many material possessions you have -- death is inevitable, and it's going to come no matter what you have."
Butler said he only knows where one of the skeletons is.
"Someone 15-20 years ago wanted to use that as a Halloween prank, so I let them have that casket and I can't remember who it was. But it had to be one of my friends, but I don't know who," Butler said.
He said he put the other skeleton in his barn, and forgot about it -- until the new owner of the property, Gwyn Priddy, asked him about it. Priddy's nephew found the bones and immediately told his aunt.
Fused with wires, the skeleton already had an autopsy performed on it, Hendrix said.
Once the skeleton is back in the possession of the LeFlore County Sheriff's Office, Hendrix told 5NEWS she wants to raise funds for a proper burial. She's also attempting to track down the second skeleton for the same reason.
Hendrix said she thought the skeleton was either a body donated for science, or it could be an actual member of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows who donated his or her body to be used in ceremonies.
There are three existing Odd Fellows lodges in Oklahoma, according to Hendrix. They are in Muskogee, Perry and Edmond.
It is not illegal to keep a real human skeleton. In fact, Hendrix said, it is available for people to purchase a human skeleton of their own if they want.