When Jay Villemarette’s job as an auto mechanic ended, he turned his longtime obsession with skulls into a family business. What started in 1986 with Villemarette boiling skulls on his kitchen stove in Oklahoma has developed into Skulls Unlimited International, a global leader in skull selling and cleaning.
In 2010, Skulls Unlimited opened some of its extensive collection to the public with the Museum of Osteology. A 40 foot long humpback whale skeleton that weighs nearly 2,500 pounds hangs over the 7,000 square foot museum in south Oklahoma City. In the cases around the wall are hundreds of skulls and skeletons from around the world, including a Komodo dragon that was a gift from Indonesia to George W. Bush and a rare Javan rhinoceros that was found in a shop in Paris. There is also a two-faced calf, a kinkajou, a saiga, a potoroo, and more familiar animals like an elephant, a gorilla, and a giraffe.
The Museum of Osteology is adjacent to Skulls Unlimited, which runs a thriving business of skull sales and cleaning. All of their specimens come from legal and ethical sources, usually from hunting, trapping, roadkill, natural deaths, food source byproducts, and zoos.
The business now employs a more efficient method than stove boiling for cleaning bones. After the flesh is carved off and the brains sucked out, the bones are placed in aquariums full of dermestid beetles. Villemarette harvested the first group of the beetles from a dead cow, and the hordes of insects gnaw through flesh and tissue to the bones, which are then placed into a peroxide bath. After the teeth are glued in, they are ready for sale on the Skulls Unlimited website or in the gift shop.
Skull purchasing options range from the “Periodontal Disease Dog & Cat Skull Set” to a cast of a “Human Male with Machete Wounds Skull “ to the “Economy Skeletons Collection,” including the common toad and carp fish. There are even a few real human skulls for sale (and you can buy a skull carrying box to go with them).