User:Kayau/Human heads seized at Chicago airport to be cremated

Friday, January 18, 2013 In mid-December last year, US customs officials at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport seized eighteen human heads, raising questions about their origin and destination. They were found to be medical specimens shipped to the United States for cremation. The crematorium has provided the necessary paperwork for the release of the heads.

Italian researchers had been using the heads before returning them to the United States. When they arrived at the airport in three containers, US customs officials discovered them during a routine X-ray scan of incoming cargo. Although the heads were properly preserved, wrapped and tagged as "human specimens", the customs confiscated them because of a paperwork problem. They then transferred the severed heads to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office for investigation. "They were all properly preserved and tagged for the purpose of anatomical study. The paperwork just isn't properly done," said Tony Brucci, chief of investigations at the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

Mary Paleologos, spokeswoman for the Cook County medical examiner's office, said she was shocked when she was first told about the heads. "The destination was unclear. So there is something up with that," she said. The incident has fuelled headlines and questions about how, when and why the heads got to the airport.

The crematorium went to the office on Tuesday with the necessary paperwork. Federal authorities will confirm the paperwork before releasing the heads. "The crematory has done nothing wrong. In fact, they were just here to hand all the paperwork over, and we're satisfied everything is on the up-and-up," said Brucci.

The shipping of human remains into the United States is a legal and commonplace practice. "Just last week, we transported eight heads, unembalmed, to Rush University Medical Center for an ophthalmology program," said Paul Dudek, vice-president of the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois. Dudek said that such shipments required thorough documentation because the shortage of bodies had created a black market for them.