It is unnervingly common to hear of human remains being found inside a chimney, but this example is even stranger than most. The “Wisconsin State Journal,” September 15, 1989:
The Madison Police Department's case of the mystery bones has taken another strange twist: The human skeleton found on Sept 3 at the base of a music store chimney was that of a man but dressed like a woman.
An analysis of the clothing with the bones shows the person found in the chimney had been wearing a sleeveless paisley dress, low-heeled shoes and a sweater, said Madison police detective James Grann. After piecing the clothing together Wednesday at the state crime laboratory, detectives speculated the mystery person may have been a woman, even though the bone structure originally indicated the person was a man. But UW-Madison anthropology professor Kenneth Bennett, who was called by detectives to re-examine the bones Thursday morning, stands by bis original determination.
"Everything I said before stands," said Bennett, who determined the sex through examination of pelvic and other bones. "I don’t have any explanation [for the clothing]. There's all kinds of funny people out there nowadays. But the skeletal remains were male. There's no doubt about it."
Last week, Bennett and forensic pathologists determined the bones belonged to a white man who stood 5-feet-5, was between 20 and 22 years old and had a pronounced overbite. According to investigators, the bones had been in the chimney of 5225 University Ave. from two months to two years before they were found by the building owner.
On Thursday, detectives released photographs and descriptions of the clothing, hoping somebody would recognize them and alert police. Grann said the person in the chimney was wearing a dress with a matching belt, a long-sleeved, button-down shirt that may have been made of Oxford-type cloth and a medium-sized White Stag brand shaggy-pile sweater. The person was wearing low-heeled, pointed shoes. He was wearing one pair of socks and carrying another pair, Grann said, but he was not wearing underwear. Detectives also found a German iron cross medallion, a butter knife and a pocket comb.
Authorities said the person may have been a male cross-dresser or someone for some reason disguising himself as a woman. "We don’t have any pants or evidence of pants," Grann said. "We have a male's bones and a dress."
The bones were found by Steve Liethen, owner of Good 'n Loud Music, while he was inspecting a water leak from the bottom of a store chimney Sept 3. He shined a flashlight into a pipe at the base of the chimney and saw the skull.
Detectives have speculated the man was a burglar who got stuck in the chimney and died, or a murder victim who was stuffed into the chimney. Madison police said the man was from 18 to 30 years old. Anyone who recognizes the items pictured or has information about missing people is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 266-6014.
A facial reconstruction was made from the skull, but that did not lead to the body’s identification. In 2012, a woman named Laura Zimmerman contacted police because she thought the reconstruction resembled a young man (whose name she couldn’t recall) who worked as a page in the State Capitol in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, that tip apparently led nowhere.
As far as I have been able to tell, to date, the identity of this ill-fated person--not to mention the mystery of how he came to be stuffed down a chimney--remains unsolved.