Issue #18 Sept. 29th - Oct. 12th, 2006

Skulls Unlimited
By: Amanda Joy
Photos By: Ki

I really enjoy meeting new people. I like uncovering their quirks and passions. Admittedly, I sometimes dig a little deeper than I should, but that is where the interesting stuff is found. I recently met local artist, Eric Humphries, at a Blue Moon event and I quickly commenced with my barrage of questions, one of which was the amazingly overused and undeniably trite “So, what do you do?” I was not expecting his reply: “I’m the production manager for Skulls Unlimited.” It seemed by the look on his face that he was accustomed to the type of befuddled look on my face and that he secretly enjoyed creating confusion in the minds of people who asked that particular question.

After a moment he continued with an eloquent response, explaining that Skulls Unlimited is the leading supplier of real and resin cast skulls and skeletons that are sold to museums, schools and nature centers. He shared a few funny and somewhat disturbing experiences he’s had over the years with working for Skulls Unlimited and was sure to stress that all specimens are obtained legally and ethically. I couldn’t help but wonder what the phone call was like that asked a duck farm to supply as many duck heads as they could ship…or what kind of person would want a cane made out of their own femur. At this point I’m hooked. My morbid curiosity had talked me into writing an article.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to write about when I sat down for my preliminary interview with Eric, but as I was taking notes I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. In order to really understand what Skulls Unlimited is all about, Eric suggested that I take a tour of the facility, where I would see someone stripping a specimen of its tissues, having the brain sucked out of its skull and beetles eating away at whatever is left. I had six days to build up a healthy dose of dread for the upcoming tour, but I was somewhat relieved to know that I would have some NONzine support from Adrian Fallwell (acting videographer), as well as photographer, Ki.

The tour was as smelly and gross as I imagined, but it had a profound effect on me. I touched the cleaned and clear-coated skeletons of faraway creatures that I’d probably never see in life. At one point I was face to face with dozens of human skulls. At first I saw them with an artist’s eye. Then it hit me that these skulls were once living people who had families and feelings and livelihoods… and now they are sitting on a shelf in Oklahoma City. They all had stories and I wanted to know what they were. Owner Jay Villamarette later told me that many of the human skulls purportedly came from people who died along the Silk Road in China... which is a story in itself.

I asked Jay what “it” was that got him started in this line of work. He told me that when he was seven years old, he found a dog skull in the woods and his father was quick to encourage his newfound passion. I was surprised to discover that, as a teenager, Jay sometimes accompanied my grandfather to check trap lines, collect carcasses and skin coyotes. In the mid-eighties he birthed the business with the help of his wife in their kitchen. Twenty years later, Jay’s passion has grown into an international enterprise, which has furnished some prestigious institutions, such as the Smithsonian and the Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia.

Sometime in 2007, Skulls Unlimited will be opening the Museum of Osteology next door to their facility, which will feature a wide assortment of skeletalized creatures ranging from the smallest of rodents to a 40-foot long whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling.

For more information on Skulls Unlimited International visit or, where you can view some rather funny employee profiles and see behind-the-scenes photos from their recent showcase on the Discovery Channel’s show, “Dirty Jobs”, or stop by their show room at 10313 S. Sunnylane rd. in Oklahoma City, OK.

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©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.