Growing up in a house filled with animal skulls and bones has left its mark on student Josh Villemarette, a business major at OCCC.
His father’s collection of bones occupied every nook and cranny of their den until his father’s passion finally spilled over into a store and later found a home in their museum, he said.
Villemarette’s family founded the business Skulls Unlimited in 1986, before Villemarette was born.
Skulls Unlimited got its claim to fame by making use of the European mount, which involves placing the cleaned animal skull onto a display board.
Most often it is used for hunting trophies, he said.
Skulls Unlimited was the first to employ this mount which is now used throughout the world by many hunters and collectors.
The most common European mount involves taking an American whitetail deer head, removing the skin and flesh so that the skull is clean and the antlers are still intact on the head of the deer, Villemarette said.
This is a contrast to the taxidermy practice of preserving the skin and attaching the head or entire body of the trophy animal to a display board or foam exo-skeleton.
On Oct. 1, Skulls Unlimited extended its business and opened the Museum of Osteology. Osteology is the study of bones, skulls, and skeletons, according to the pamphlet found at the entrance to the museum.
The museum was a dream Villemarette’s dad had as long as he could remember. It was a dream that started in the den of their house and eventually expanded into the museum it is today.
“As a little kid I actually had nightmares of the skeletons coming alive,” Villemarette said about growing up in that environment. Among other animal skeletons in the collection is an adult gorilla.
He would imagine the gorilla skeleton that’s in the museum now coming alive with red eyes.
“My dad would come to school and give class talks. I was known as ‘Skull Boy,’” Villemarette said.
Luckily most of his classmates found the subject fascinating and would come to ask him about it, rather than think it to be strange and run from it.
Villemarette said he started working for his dad at the age of 12. He would clean out the brains from the skulls.
He also emptied the trash bins that contained the leftover meat and skin not used in their mounts.
In the few months that the museum has been open, it has attracted more than 6,000 visitors, Villemarette said. In addition, many national television shows have covered their museum and store.
The shows include “Dirty Jobs,” “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” “MSNBC,” and Animal Planet’s “Weird, True & Freaky.”
He said the museum will also be featured on an upcoming broadcast of “Modern Marvels.”
After his father’s 30 years of collecting, the museum has many specimens that include monkeys, apes, humans, penguins, and a 40-foot humpback whale that hangs in the center of the museum.
Villemarette said he is studying business so he can do more to market the business and museum and hopefully take over and run the family legacy one day.
For more information on Skulls Unlimited or the museum, call 405-814-0006 or visit at 10313 S. Sunnylane just two miles south of Interstate 240.
Admission is $5 per person, and children 3 and under are free. The hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
To visit Skulls Unlimited online, visit www.skullsunlimited.com.