Police nab Council Bluffs coffin up for sale -- bones and all


If you ever find yourself buying a coffin, might be best to take a look inside first.

An Iowa man's online classified ad offering an oak coffin for sale happened to have a full skeleton inside, so police interrupted the deal and seized the bones.

The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil reports that the coffin belonged to the now-defunct Council Bluffs chapter of the International Order of Odd Fellows, which promotes anonymous giving to the poor.

Dave Burgstrum placed the ad on the Craigslist website to sell the coffin for $12,000 because he's trying to raise money to pay the property taxes on the fraternal organization's hall, according to the Associated Press.

But police caught sight of the bones in the ad. Council Bluffs Police detective Michael Roberts says human remains can't be sold without proper identification.

"If they had papers of origination, then they would be OK to own," Roberts tells the Daily Nonpareil.

Dave Burgstrum says a lodge historian told him a number of years ago that the skeleton was donated to the lodge by a doctor, according to the Council Bluffs paper. As the story goes, the doctor retired in the 1880s and had used the skeleton to show patients their anatomy. Why the lodge took the bones or why they were in the coffin remains a mystery.

“They were just there as long as anyone could remember,” according to Bergstrom. Hey, no biggie!

The skeleton was sent to the Iowa State Medical Examiner, who says it's unlikely the skeleton will be identified, but the race and gender can be determined. And if the skeleton is Native American, federal law requires that it be returned to the tribe, according to the AP.

But Burgstrum just wants the cash, saying an antique dealer estimated it’s worth between $12,000 and $15,000.

“I’m ready to wheel and deal on it,” he tells the local paper. “I’d like to get those taxes paid.”

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