Mystery bones found in cellar

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2005

GREENSBORO–An unusual and disturbing discovery made Wednesday in the cellar of a Greensboro building has been turned over to the Hale County Sheriff’s Department for a possible investigation.

The cellar in question lies underneath the downtown building at 1207 Main St., owned by Victor Shamburger and currently leased by Alabama Home Respiratory Care. Shamburger’s good friend and cousin Col. Charles Ramsey owns the building next-door leased to Sledge Hardware, and Wednesday he joined his daughter and other guests in exploring the cellars of the two buildings.

In an interview Thursday, Ramsey said they hoped to find antique bottles that might have been left behind from the drug store that once inhabited the building. But as Ramsey and others climbed the steps out of the cellar, one individual made a shocking discovery.

“He’d stuck out his hand,” Ramsey said, “and said ‘Hey…there’s a bone here!'”

The bone, as it turned out, was only one of many that had been wrapped in newspaper and abandoned in the cellar. Ramsey’s daughter, a nurse practitioner, was able to make a startling pronouncement.

“‘Daddy,’ she said, ‘I think these are human bones'” Ramsey said. “It was an arm and a hand with all its fingers, cut off clear-cut just above the elbow…not all of it was intact. It had been ages. Nevertheless, you could tell that’s what it was.”

At the behest of Alabama Home Respiratory Care, the Sheriff’s Department was alerted. According to Hale Sheriff Larry Johnson, two Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene removed the bones and paper as evidence. A thorough search of the cellar turned up nothing else unusual.

Ramsey said the bones likely date back to 1940 or ’41 based on dates found in articles printed on the newspaper, but since the heading was missing from the newsprint no specific date could be pinpointed.

Johnson said Thursday that before answering the where’s and why’s of how the bones got there, the Sheriff’s Department would have to make double sure those answers were even worth searching for.

“The first thing we’re doing is trying to get the bones identified as human bones,” he said. “We’re going to take the bones to a local doctor and see if he could identify them as human. Possibly we could take them to a professor of archeology at the University of Alabama… We’ve got a couple of avenues we’re going to explore.”

Johnson had not personally seen the bones and could not comment on whether they appeared to be from an arm or not.

If the bones are indeed verified as human, Johnson said the Sheriff’s Department would do what it could to explain their presence in the building’s cellar, but wasn’t optimistic.

“We’ll just have to investigate,” he said. “It’ll be hard to do anything, though. We’ll try to figure out how long they’ve been there, and how they might have gotten there.”

Ramsey feels that all the “hullabaloo” of an investigation isn’t necessary, and has his own theory as to how the bones arrived in the building’s cellar. One of the druggists at the old-time pharmacy, a man by the name of Stollenwerck, had also been something of a physician himself, Ramsey explains.

“We finally figured,” he says, “that a man got his arm cut off, maybe by a piece of farm machinery, and they brought it to Stollenwerck. But there was only so much you could do in those days, so they set the arm down in the cellar and never went back for it.”