Bones found in wall at Benson’s


HUDSON - Demolition workers at the former Benson’s Wild Animal Farm experienced a bit of the nightmare after Christmas early Friday afternoon when a skull rolled out of a wall in one of the property’s old buildings. Hudson police responded to the former animal and amusement park at about 12:55 p.m. after receiving a call that some skeletal remains had been found at the site, Hudson police Sgt. Bob Tousignant said. The bones, which police described as resembling those of a monkey, were found inside the kitchen area of a log cabin on the property adjacent to Kimball Hill Road. The bones were discovered by employees of Dunne’s Demolition and Asbestos Removal, which has been contracted by the town to do selective restoration and asbestos removal on the building as well as to restore the roof of another nearby building. The work is part of a process to preserve the historical buildings of the former Benson’s property. Juan Felix, a supervisor for the company, said he and another worker were attempting to pull out some ductwork from a wall when several bones fell out of a cylinder leading to an exhaust fan. At that point, Felix said he and the other worker stopped and began to examine the bones that lay spread out on the floor, he said. Immediately, Felix said he recognized what appeared to be a small scapula bone, resembling that of a human body. “These bones look like a baby’s,” Felix said he told his co-worker. He said he then touched the ductwork again and a small skull with teeth intact rolled out of the pipe and onto the floor. “I said ‘Oh my God look at that,’ ” Felix said. Tim Dunne, owner the company, said he had just left the property when Felix called him on his cell phone to report the disturbing find. “He said ‘We found a body,’ ” Dunne said. “It was pretty freaky,” he said. Dunne said he told Felix not to touch anything and then called police to report the find. “They got there in record time,” he said. Detectives photographed and gathered the bones at the site then delivered them to the state lab in Concord for testing to confirm that they are of an animal, Tousignant said. Felix, who has worked in the demolition business for years, said it was the first time he has ever found any type of remains. “We have found antiques and things,” Felix said. “This is the first time I have ever found anything like that.” He said police told him that similar finds may come up during work on the old animal farm, but to continue to report such finds to police. Dunne said the project was in its third day and was expected to take several weeks to complete. Benson’s Committee Chairwoman Esther McGraw, who worked at the park the 1960s, said the building was a former gift shop that was later turned into an office when the park was purchased by Arthur Provencher in the late 1970s. The kitchen was actually an attached building that at one time led to the “Bavarian Beer Garden” at the former amusement park, she said. At one time, the park did have a structure that housed monkeys, but that building was not near the building where the bones were found, McGraw said. The park, which entertained local folks with trained lion and chimpanzee acts as well as housing other exotic animals, was opened in 1927 by then owner John T. Benson. It was renamed New England’s Playworld Park and Zoo under Provencher prior to its closing in 1987. Town officials are in the process of buying the 165 acres the former amusement park resided on from the state Department of Transportation. In March, voters approved setting aside $253,000 for the future development of the property. Stephanie Hooper can be reached at 594-6413 or
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