Catalina’s Own Mysterious Museum of Bones

Dr. Glidden, an entrepreneur who in the 1920s and ’30s excavated bones and relics from the Tongva Indian burial grounds for sale and trade, was eerily honored with the recent Catalina Island Museum’s opening of The Strange and Mysterious Case of Dr. Glidden.  He was well-known for building Catalina’s first museum, the gloomy and morose Museum of the American Indian in 1924. Nestled on the Channel Islands on a hill high above Avalon, the museum was said to be made entirely of the human bones of the native Catalina people.

Obsessed with archaeology, Dr. Glidden excavated “thousands of objects related to the 8,000 year history of human settlement on Catalina Island,” between 1919 and 1928.  The interior of his museum resembled that of the catacombs in Rome, and the walls of a mortuary chapel on the island of Malta.  For dramatic effect, ceiling panels were decorated with human vertebra and rosettes of shoulder blades, leg and arm bones were shelving brackets and the windows were edged with toe, ankle, wrist and finger bones according to the LA Times.

The Wrigley family, of the chewing gum franchise, bought his artifact collection for $5,000 and donated the pieces to the museum and “hundreds of skeletons, skulls and thousands of teeth were immediately moved to UCLA” when Dr. Glidden died in 1968. When Catalina’s own museum curator, John Boraggina, accidentally came upon some of Dr. Glidden’s private papers and photographs, he included them in the special opening.  Catalina Island Museum’s executive director referred to it as “a disturbing and troubling exhibition” equating it to a Holocaust Exhibit.

Photo Credit: The Catalina Insider