History Bones: Artist Lee Harper Recreates Strange History with Miniature Skeletons

By on November 2, 2017

Explore the scenes of some of history’s most deranged moments with these incredibly detailed and macabre dioramas by artist Lee Harper.
History Bones diorama of a sin-eater
Sin-eaters consumed the deceased’s evil deeds so the soul could pass peacefully into the afterlife

Not since the forensic crime scene models known as the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death have there been such deranged dioramas. Like rooms in a dollhouse inhabited by history’s greatest weirdos and psychopaths, artist Lee Harper’s History Bones project brings some of the past’s most morbid stories to life in startling miniature detail.

From barber-surgeons and sin eaters to the strange love between Carl Von Cosel and a stolen corpse, Harper digs up strange moments from history and meticulously crafts the dark scene with miniature human skeletons.

Why skeletons? Well, it started as a joke.

“I thought it would be a funny macabre version of Elf on the Shelf for the week leading up to Halloween,” Harper writes. “For the first two Halloweens his adventures were texted to my son, niece, and nephews while my husband, unbeknownst to me, was putting them on Facebook. Bones garnered his fair share of fans and the project just kept getting more elaborate each Halloween. Being a huge history nerd, I eventually thought I’d incorporate Bones into historical scenes. That change prompted what is now pretty much a year round obsession.”

Elizabeth Bathory
Elizabeth Bathory, the “blood countess,” bathed in the blood of virginal girls to stay young and beautiful

“There’s something beautiful about skeletons being the great equalizer,” Harper says. “They represent all of us, no matter the gender, race, or nationality.”

Catacombs
Catacombs incorporates elements from Capuchin crypts and the Sedlec ossuary

Typhoid Mary
Mary Mallon, an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever, infected as many as 53 people, 3 of whom died, through her cooking

DB Cooper
D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane, demanded $200,000, and parachuted out over the mountainous wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Neither Cooper, nor the money, were ever found.

The Resurrectionists
Resurrection men robbed graves to provide medical schools with fresh cadavers in the 18th and 19th-centuries

Ray Harryhausen
Ray Harryhausen films the epic stop-motion skeleton attack scene from Jason and the Argonauts

Carl Von Cosel
Carl Tanzler stole the corpse of Elena Hoyos and kept her preserved in his Key West home for 7 years

Medieval witch burning
Thousands were burned at the stake during Medieval Europe’s witch hunts

Miss Atomic Bomb
Miss Atomic Bomb pageants, complete with mushroom cloud crown, were in held Las Vegas at the height of America’s excitement over atomic energy

Ronald Clark O'Bryan killed his son with poisoned Pixy Stix on Halloween night 1974
In 1974 Ronald Clark O’Bryan poisoned his children’s Halloween candy to collect the life insurance money

See more of Harper’s amazing and grotesque work: Follow History Bones on Instagram and visit historybones.com

All photos courtesy of Lee Harper

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One Comment

  1. Betsy Patton

    November 3, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    Harper’s dark genius never disappoints!

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