By Elizabeth Hur
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Crews working on a school playground stumbled upon a cemetery that wasn’t supposed to be there.
Now, we’re hearing exclusively from two women whose family members were buried there.
“I almost jumped out the window,” said Carolyn Ganzelli, who called the discovery disturbing, while her 91-year-old aunt, Anita Grano, said it’s unsettling.
“Well, I almost died. I’m surprised they’re finding caskets down there, did they find any bodies?” Grano wondered.
They’re reacting to news about what crews uncovered at William Dick Elementary School in the 2400 block of West Diamond Street: human remains, coffins and headstones.
It happened around 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon while water department crews were there doing excavation work as part of improvements being made to school’s playground.
Grano recalled, “They wanted to build more houses there, and that’s why they were moving us.”
Turns out, the school is on the former site of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, where Grano’s sister, Stella, and father, Joseph, were buried. To make room for the new homes and the school in the 1950s, the cemetery told the Granos that the bodies of their loved ones had to be transferred to another cemetery.
“It’s shocking after all these years we’re now finding this out, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this story,” Ganzelli said.
According to published reports, 80,000-plus bodies once lay buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery. But in 1999, human remains were found on the site during construction work being done at the time.
Ganzelli added, “It makes me wonder whether they were even moved. Where is my family? I want to know, and we’re going to find out.”
The family says that for now, all they have is a letter from the cemetery stating the transfer was completed. They never saw the need to question the move, until now.
The family plans to follow up with the cemetery and get to the bottom of this.
City officials say they are investigating.