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Did You Know There’s a Real Human Skeleton in ‘Dawn of the Dead’?

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.



  • Grimphantom

    For a 2nd i thought it was the common story that real skeletons are cheaper to get than getting one made but here really got some story to tell.

  • Demented Daniel

    Talk about a literal skeleton in the closet…

  • Khy

    How sad.

  • C-3PO’s

    I want my messed up skeleton in a horror movie someday. That’d be neat.

  • Geoff Peterson

    There has got tibia a story behind this one.

    • Weresmurf

      *thunderous applause*


        Weren’t you at AICN? Everybody migrated over to

        • Weresmurf

          Yeah I was lol. I was also one of their original IRC chatters too. When it comes to Harry Knowles… I’ve seen some shit. Others have seen WAY more, but I’ve seen some shit in chat, none of this surprises me.


            come over to that link – it’s like a giant reunion

      • Saturn

        It was quite a humerus pun, you really couldn’t ask femur.

        • Weresmurf

          *standing ovation, stadium collapses*

  • Ocelot006 .

    Did you know we all have a human skeleton inside of our bodies?

    • Mike tantatelli

      What!?!? GTFOH!!!

  • This is nothing rare for a horror film. A lot of them use real corpses because they can be cheaper to obtain than building fake ones.

  • drew

    All skeletons come from India!

    • Saturn

      Only the ones with perfect teeth.

      • Alanmac

        How many people you know die with a perfect set of choppers in their puss?

        • Saturn


  • Timothy KingCraze Richardson J

    Might sound weird to some but, I would love if they used my skeleton in a horror film… Specially one that will always be remembered like DOTD…that should be awesome…

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