Skulls and Bones

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

On occasion, a peculiar phenomenon has been noticed in the New Haven Green: the appearance of human bones.

Such a sight should not be unexpected. The Green was, after all, built on top of a graveyard––or rather, as a graveyard. The presence of a church designated the Green a hallowed space, so residents disposed of their dearly departed beneath the lawn.

Wealthy residents had a habit of using grave markers, though. After a century or so, these began overpopulating the city’s central hub. It was unseemly. To solve this, some headstones were moved, and others were knocked down and covered with dirt.

All the bodies remained. To move all 5,000 of them would have been impractical.

For a century or so, this arrangement worked fine. Yalies and city residents went about their lives as normal, undisturbed by the slumbering corpses a few feet below them. But erosion has a way of ruining things.

When a dog scampering on the Green returned to its owner gnawing on a human scapula, city officials feigned concern. When a toddler returned to her parents with a skull, they began paying more attention.

The brief investigation returned an unsurprising conclusion: the city’s former residents were now only inches below the Green’s surface. Locals should not be alarmed at the appearance of skeletons, officials said. This would be the new status quo.

And they were right. Since then, a few bones have appeared every week. Natural buoyancy and accelerated erosion tend to result in a smattering of unearthed remains after major rainstorms. During Hurricane Sandy, an entire skeleton appeared, much to the excitement of national media. To locals, this was nothing out of the ordinary.

City officials always receive a spike of reports each fall when a fresh batch of first-year Yale students arrives. This has no effect on the speed at which bones are removed. Eventually, the newcomers learn to turn a blind eye. It’s just one of those things you pick up on quickly. 

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