She’s been dubbed Dawn Doe, and she was finally laid to rest after 150 years.
One of the most popular horror movie legends is that real human skeletons were used in Poltergeist‘s pool scene; believe it or not, real skeletons were allegedly cheaper to purchase at the time than fake ones. It’s hard to say whether or not there’s any truth to the urban legend, but one horror film most definitely *did* feature a real human skeleton in it.
And that film was George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
The incredible true story of “Dawn Doe” was told to me back in 2014 by William Sanders, a fan who was at the time making Road Trip of the Dead – a found footage film about a group of friends who set out to make a documentary about Pittsburgh’s horror movie filming locations.
While doing research for the film, Sanders learned that it was Tom Savini who brought the skeleton in question to the set of Dawn of the Dead, under the assumption that it was merely a prop; he dressed it up and leaned it against a wall as a set decoration, prominently on display during an early scene in the apartment complex.
As the story goes, originally relayed by yours truly on Halloween Love, Savini borrowed the “prop” from the owner of a costume shop, who eventually sold it to another shop when his was going out of business. Using rubber, cotton and Rice Krispies cereal, Savini had added “mummified flesh” to the skeleton for its appearance in Dawn of the Dead; oddly enough, it was the faux flesh that made a police officer suspect that the Costume World skeleton was something more than a mere prop.
Authorities arrived at the shop and confiscated the skeleton, which the coroner identified as being the remains of a woman in her mid-thirties who had died of unknown causes 100 years prior. And no one had any idea how her skeleton ended up being passed around as a Halloween store prop.
The unnamed woman’s skeleton was at long last buried in an unmarked grave in 1983, and it was Dawn fan William Sanders who took it upon himself to raise the funds necessary to get her a proper grave marker back in 2014.
You can read the full story, which is quite incredible, over on Halloween Love.
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