Meet the Bone Man

Wednesday, November 19th 2008, 5:20 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

MOORE, Okla. -- A museum that's truly one of a kind is under construction in Moore. The displays have nothing to do with art or history and everything to do with skeletons.

Jay Villemarette is the owner of Skulls Unlimited International in Moore. Right now, his crews are assembling the skeletal remains of varies species, including a humpback whale, for display in his new museum.

Inside Skulls Unlimited
Villemarette has been collecting bones since he was a teenager, and now he gets to work with them every day, and has been for 22 years. But the process of cleaning bones and assembling skeletons is not for the faint of heart.

"We supply schools, colleges, and museums with osteological material. In simple terms, that's skulls and bones," Villemarette said. "We get our skulls from hunters, trappers, game farms, ranches, road kills, where ever we can find a legal but ethical supply."

Everywhere you look in his business there are bones, from elephant skulls, an entire giraffe, bears and apes to huge tortoise shells, even a few human skulls.

"Medical facilities will send us skulls and skeletons to clean as well of people," Villemarette said.

There are more than 5,000 specimens in all.

"Every skeleton we do for the most part is completely different from the last one. This is no exception," Jay Villemarette Jr. said of the 2,000 pound whale skeleton.

Villemarette's bone collecting hobby turned business rakes in about $2 million a year.

Before the bones are assembled and put on display, they have to be cleaned. Skulls get suctioned to remove any brains or extraneous tissue. Then the skull is dried and sent to a room to remove any remaining flesh.

"This is our bug room. This is where our bugs do all the work. What will happen is they will eat the meat off the skull. They will work 24 hours a day," Skulls Unlimited worker Dave Williams said.

There are tens of thousands of beetles in the room in containers cleaning off bones. They never leave their tanks because they get plenty to eat. Unfortunately the stench of rotting flesh is a bit overwhelming, but the workers don't seem to mind.

"It smells good. It smells like money to me, you know," Williams said.

The smell, the sucking and the bugs are more than some could stomach.

"We've had a couple of people who had started here and they quit the same day. Some people can handle it, some people can't. You just have to have the stomach for it," Williams said.

After the bugs are done, the bones are given a peroxide bath to give them the white color. Then they are finished off with buffing, gluing, assembly, whatever they need for finishing.

Eventually, the bones will be sent to customers or become part of the new museum. The humpback whale will be the centerpiece of the exhibits.

"There will be about 1,000 or so species within this museum when it's finally completed," Villemarette said.

The museum will open sometime in 2009, and will be the only museum of its kind in the nation.