Dave Burgstrum of Council Bluffs, who posted the ad for the "oak coffin on a stand" online, said the item belonged to a fraternal organization known as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the bones were purportedly donated to the organization by a doctor who retired in the 1880s, The Council Bluffs (Iowa) Daily Nonpareil reported Monday.
Burgstrum said he does not know why the skeleton was kept by the group and stored in the oak coffin, but the item was among the memorabilia he was left in charge of when the state organization pulled the local chapter's charter due to low membership about seven years ago.
Burgstrum said he wanted to sell the coffin for about $12,000 to help pay property taxes owed on the local meeting hall.
However, the advertisement caught the eye of the Council Bluffs Police Department, which said the skeleton cannot be sold as property without an identifying tag.
Karen Foreman, chief investigator for the Pottawattamie County Medical Examiner's Office, said the bones are being sent to the Iowa State Medical Examiner's Laboratory in Ankeny for potential identification. She said identifying the bones is unlikely, but the gender and ethnicity is likely to be determined.
Foreman said the bones will be turned over to an American Indian organization if they are found to be of American Indian origin.
Burgstrum said he doesn't mind losing the bones.
"What do you do with them? You can't throw them in the trash or bury them," he said. "[The medical examiner] can keep them and I'll be done with them."
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