This one is just too strange to pass up.

According to a report in the Southtown Star, a man in Park Forest, IL, has kept “a disorganized heap of crusty human bones” in a box for 26 years.

According to the report, John Ray claims he bought the box of human remains in 1982:

It was the year Ray said he bought the grisly collection, albeit accidentally, at an estate auction in Shipshewana, Ind. There he bought a tattered, 150-year-old book titled “The History of the American Indian.” Packaged with the book was a cardboard box layered in duct tape.

“The dealer said, ‘Wait till you get home to open it up,’ ” Ray said of the box. “He said, ‘You’ll really be pleased with it. It’s like a little gift from Santa Claus.’ ”

But Ray said he didn’t wait until he got home. When he got to his car, Ray split the box open with a pocketknife. To his shock, the book was packaged with the bones. He marched back to the dealer, who refused to take back the “gift.” The dealer claimed to have bought the remains at a separate estate auction earlier in the year.

But Ray never called the police, until recently.  According to the story, he waited to call the police to avoid trouble.  “I did put it off,” Ray said. “I was a teacher, I was afraid.”

Ray claims he called the police after he retired from teaching in 2001, but they never called back — a claim Park Forest Police dispute:

Park Forest Deputy Chief Mike McNamara said he doesn’t know whether Ray phoned the department but that people who do find bones should call police.

“We would probably contact the crime lab, and they would take it,” McNamara said. “It depends if it was an ancient skeleton – sometimes they take them to an archaeologist to examine.”

Ray may be in for more trouble, according to Bob Nale, former president of the South Suburban Archaeological Society:

“There are some fairly stringent laws, and some of them are being enforced with some big-size penalties,” Nale said. “Then there’s the other option – take them out in a field and bury them deep.”

The Illinois Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act instructs anyone who discovers human remains to report the incident to the coroner within 48 hours or face misdemeanor charges.

The Illinois attorney general’s office points to state statute prohibiting the sale of body parts.

Under the law, anyone who buys or sells a human body or any part of a human body is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for the first conviction and a Class 4 felony for subsequent convictions.

According to a second report, a local funeral home has offered to bury the remains, but Ray is “weighing the option.”

Ray said the estate auction dealer told him the bones belonged to a boy who claimed to be one of the last Delaware Indians. The boy was beaten to death at a bar, Ray said the dealer told him while refusing to take back the bones. Ray said he does not know the dealer’s name.

McNamara suggested Thursday that Ray turn the bones over to Shipshewana police.

“If this was a homicide, and the bones are 40 to 50 years old, they would have an open case on it, and they’d have evidence to solve the case,” McNamara said.

Who keeps a box of human bones for 26 years?