Ask Abe: Creepy-Crawly

An Alum

Is it true that UW–Madison has a creepy-crawly underground chamber?


Yes, and it might be more than the faint of heart can bear: beneath Bascom Hill is a secret chamber known as the dermestarium. There, a painstakingly cultivated colony of flesh-eating beetles labors night and day to strip the flesh from animal carcasses so that the cleaned-up skeletons can be studied by scientists and students. The UW–Madison campus houses numerous skeletons for students to study. The most cheerful (relatively) of the UW’s skeletons is Sally, the giraffe skeleton that gazes down on visitors to the School of Veterinary Medicine. The geology museum boasts a number of fossilized skeletons for all to see, including the Boaz Mastodon, named for the small town just an hour west of Madison where it was discovered. However, not all of the UW’s skeletons are so easy to see. Example: for nearly two decades — unbeknownst to joggers and strolling lovers — a massive rhino was sequestered in the cold, wet earth beneath Picnic Point. Watch where you walk this Halloween season.