The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Alas poor Yorick! Alberta family finds old human skull in Hinton garage

  • Print

HINTON, Alta. - Police in an Alberta community on the boundary of Jasper National Park are asking for help in identifying an old human skull found tucked away in a family's garage.

According to Andrew Groeneveldt, the skull was apparently won by his father, Leo Groeneveldt, in Hinton decades ago during a heated hand of cards.

Groeneveldt said family lore has it that the skull was placed in the pot by no less than the chief of Hinton's municipal police at the time.

"It's a little creepy. I can remember having a nightmare or two about it as a kid," said Groeneveldt Thursday, who remembers seeing the skull as a young boy.

Groeneveldt said his older sister was the first person to tell him about the skull, mostly to scare him. He didn't believe her, so she dragged him out to the garage to show him.

It was in a cardboard box, in a wicker basket under the tool shelf. He said the family never talked about it much, but he said it was a very cool way to impress his friends.

"It was always the trump card when kids were telling their fish stories and the fish got bigger and bigger, to the point where I could say, 'Yeah but I've got a human skull in my garage, do you want to come see it?'" Groeneveldt recalled.

After he and his sister grew up and moved away from home, the skull was moved. Leo Groeneveldt died in 1997 and the family assumed he must have gotten rid of it.

But in February 2013, Groeneveldt said his mother was moving into a seniors residence in Calgary and the family home in Hinton was being cleared out.

"My wife and I were cleaning out the garage. I came across this old, one-gallon ice-cream pail. Pretty well, as soon as I picked it up, I kind of knew what I was going to find in it when I opened the lid," Groeneveldt said.

It was missing the lower jaw and had some loose bits in the back. Groeneveldt admitted his first thought was to chuck it in the trash with everything else that was being thrown away. His mother was already stressed from leaving her home of 50 years, and a police interview would only add to her anxiety.

But it was a human skull. He knew that wouldn't be right. So he called the RCMP.

It hasn't been an easy investigation, since the man who won the skull and the person who may have wagered it are both long dead.

Const. Melanie Riopel said DNA testing was done on the skull, but that it hasn't helped police match it to any cases.

So far, she said police don't consider it to be a criminal investigation.

"They've had a forensic anthropologist look at the skull. The forensic anthropologist stated that it was historic in nature, and that's what they've determined it to be," Riopel said.

Groeneveldt said when officers interviewed his mother, a few more interesting memories about the skull's history were revealed.

The previous owner, she said, had been a police officer in Lloydminster, Alta., before moving to Hinton. He got possession of it there when it was dug up during a basement excavation.

He said RCMP have interviewed the former police officer's widow, but aren't any closer to solving whose skull it was.

"Everything at this point is second-hand or worse," Groeneveldt said.

Mounties want anyone who may have been at the card game party in the late 1960s or early 1970s, or who may know something about the skull's origins, to contact them.

— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton


Updated on Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 10:34 PM CDT: Corrects typo.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Étienne Gaboury: Manitoba "shining light" of architecture

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


Do you support Canada's involvement in the fight against Islamic State?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google