There’s a scene in the movie Poltergeist that’s not easily forgotten. Towards the end of the film, the terrorized mother runs from the home and slips into an unfinished swimming pool filled with mud and skeletons that have “risen” from the sacred Indian burial ground. Thanks to Spielberg’s use of real human remains, the shot has a terrifyingly authentic feel and has since become a movie moment praised by horror fans. But the scenario is something only found on a Hollywood set. Or so one would think.
On the morning of October 27, an excavation crew for Budd’s Pools & Spas began digging a gunite job at a mansion along the Delaware River. It was business as usual for the Deptford, N.J.-based builder. They had just finished excavating the deep end and were moving on to another area when suddenly a stone fell away from the wall. And there it was: a human skeleton.
That’s when owner Randy Budd got the call.
“I thought my guys were full of [it],” he said. “I thought it was a Halloween prank.”
It wasn’t. Shortly after Lead Mechanic Eric Todd reported the discovery to his boss, Budd arrived at the Riverton home to find a taped-off crime scene.
From there, it quickly turned into a “three ring circus.”
“There were helicopters hovering around, and media,” he said. “It was all pretty weird.”
At first, Budd said he didn’t want to be associated with the event, telling the lead cop he wanted to remove his tools and crew from the area. But it already was too late.
Suddenly everyone wanted to interview Budd for their evening news segment.
“The excavator had buddspools.com plastered all over it, and someone must have called a news tip line,” he said. “So once the flood gates opened I figured I’d take my 15 minutes of fame and granted all the interviews.”
Had it appeared to have been foul play, Budd said he would have handled it differently. As it turns out, however, after the forensic scientists carefully exhumed and examined the remains, they determined the body had been buried there for at least 100 years.
During the course of his career, Budd has dug up just about everything, from the remains of pets to cars, but this was the first corpse.
“It was a pretty big deal. I’ve been doing this since 1958, and I’ve never come across this,” he said. “I don’t know if anyone has ever run into a body before. We may be the first pool company in the country to do it.”
Although Budd wouldn’t quite compare the incident to the Poltergeist scene, he does believe there was something supernatural at work.
“I think that those remains wanted to be found because if that dirt didn’t pull away, it would never have been found,” he said. “I think the body was saying, ‘Hey. I want to be properly buried and identified.’”
Of course, when a body turns up like this, it’s hard for any New Jersian not to immediately think of the infamous vanished American Union leader who has yet to be found.
“I was hoping it was Jimmy Hoffa,” he said. “It would have made my year! There’s still a reward out for him, right?”