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Burial Ground Mystery Deepens In North Philadelphia

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(credit: CBS) Walt Hunter
Eyewitness News Reporter Walt Hunter is one of the market's ...
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By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Archaeologists are now at work as the mystery deepens into seven coffins and human remains found under a North Philadelphia schoolyard.

Neighbors looked into the excavation behind the school playground, where the remains were found by contractors digging a trench on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s disturbing, it’s disrespectful,” said Margie Walker, a neighbor.

The caskets, which were all about seven feet underground and neatly spaced in a row, were among 65,000 bodies once buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery, officials say. Old aerial photos show the burial ground once occupied the site, before a high-rise housing project and a school were built there in the early 1950s.

“It’s sad, half the families probably don’t know [their relatives] are here,” another neighbor, James Brown, said.

Before the housing project was constructed, families were told that the bodies from the cemetery would be transferred to two other cemeteries in the area. This discovery indicates that didn’t happen.

The bodies might never have been found if the School District hadn’t made renovations to the schoolyard.

“We were surprised to find human remains,” Fernando Guillard, School District spokesperson, said.

Guillard says archaeologists who arrived early in the afternoon will now develop a plan to identify and respectfully reinter those buried here. They also want to find out how many others once laid to rest in Odd Fellows Cemetery may still be at the North Philadelphia site.

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