By Dan MacLeod and Gersh Kuntzman
Alas, poor Yorick — no one knew him well, apparently.
Neighbors and other gawkers had no explanation on Monday for the mysterious skull, teeth and vertebrae that were discovered over the Memorial Day weekend in the backyard of a Greenpoint home.
Police showed up at 119 Kent Street between Franklin Street and Manhattan Avenue on Saturday at around noon, at least one day after a work crew unearthed the bones while making room for a patio.
“[Police] said it was a woman’s skull. It’s strange, but it’s not the strangest thing in my life,” said Sean Green, the building’s owner. “It looks pretty old, it’s ancient. You know, this house goes back to 1867. You never know when that skull was buried back there.”
By Sunday, it was the talk of the neighborhood.
“Nothing surprises me anymore,” said Miriam Wright, who lives one block away. “This place is so old. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll always find something.”
The Kent Street house is, indeed, old — and its age may have something to do with the macabre discovery.
The house, which has a plaque on it that says it was built in 1856, was the home of Dr. Moses Seley from 1905 until his death at age 89 in 1967, according to his obituary in The New York Times.
It is widely believed that doctors in an earlier age would use bones for medical research and merely bury them.
Other neighbors speculated that the remains were from burials at the Church of the Ascension, which is next door to the three-story house.
In any event, few people seemed concerned.
“Back 100 years ago, times were rougher,” said Ulona Inac, who works on the block. “If it was something like 10 years old, that’s scary.”
The NYPD said there was no sign of foul play at the scene, but detectives are investigating it as a crime scene. A police spokesman referred questions to the medical examiner, who could not be reached on Monday.
This isn’t the first time a gruesome find was made in the area. In 1872, the son of a blacksmith came upon a headless skeleton while setting a rat trap underneath an adjoining butcher shop at 57 Greenpoint Ave., and in 1901, a maid found a skeleton in the basement of 101 Java St.
In case you were wondering (we were) the house does not appear to be haunted.
“There was never a bump in the night or visits from any ghosts,” said Vance.