What’s buried in your backyard: a jar of cash, the family pet, human remains? A home inspection doesn’t usually involve shovel work, and even a good survey can’t cite unmarked graves.
True Story: There was a man who bought a new home in a new development. Each of the lots was five acres, and on this man’s new property, the front yard had a nice grass lawn, trimmed with shrubs and flowers. The back section was wooded. Now the developer had disclosed that there were stones in the backyard that seemed out of place, in other words, not of a natural formation or deposit, but he gave no further details.
The developer really didn’t know what they were. That part of the five-acre property did not fall into the construction area of the house, nor into the landscaped part of the yard. The man moved in and was very happy with his new house on his new property, but when he went to clear a garden, he discovered a cemetery in the woods!
Nineteen headstones marked slave graves, untouched for over a century.
The man wanted none of this. He didn’t hold a séance; he started a sue-ance. He sued the developer, the real estate agent, and the title company. The man felt the property was contaminated, compromised. He didn’t want the bodies relocated—he wanted to be relocated instead!
In the end, the nineteen bodies were relocated, the developer resold the property, and the man lived unhaunted ever after.
What to do if you find human remains in your backyard:
- Call the Medical Examiner. In St. Johns County the phone number is (904) 209-0820.
The Medical Examiner will determine the age of the remains. If more than seventy-five years, then an archaeologist gets involved. If less than seventy-five years, you may have a police investigation in your own backyard.
This is not as much a property rights issue as it brings up issues of crime, public health, historical value, and respect for human remains.
* True story. Some of the details are changed to protect the parties involved.