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Late Bay Area Scientist Leaves Behind Massive Bone Collection With 7,000 Skulls

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- There's a house in San Francisco that from the outside, looks like any other house. But on the inside, there's something unlike anything you have ever seen.

It's the legacy of an eccentric scientist with a passion for collecting.

Scientist Raymond "Bones" Bandar collected more than 7,000 skulls, and now they are heading to a new home.

Jacob Kaplan is the great nephew of Bandar, who passed away last year at the age of 90.

"This is heavy. An elephant femur. It weighs about 40 pounds," Kaplan says as he plays museum docent for us.

In an otherwise unremarkable San Francisco house, from the living room to the dining room to the garage are rare and exotic skulls.

"A giraffe skull hanging out in the living room," Kaplan says.

And there are lots of rattlesnake bones.

Kaplan said his great uncle "used to keep and breed rattlesnakes."

But nothing in the house so far can prepare you for what's in the basement.

Kaplan said, "You bring someone down: 'Oh my god. Oh My God!' You know. It's crazy."

The skull collection is the life's work of Jacob's great uncle - the kind of man they write books about.

Bandar was, by trade, a science teacher at Fremont High School, but his other passion was collecting items for what he called The Bone Palace.

In a video prior to his death, Bandar said, "I can't handle a 24-hour's too damn short. I need a longer day, more days in the week, more months in the year."

Each one of the more than 7,000 skulls and bones were legally collected for scientific purposes from beaches, forests and zoos around the world, adding up to a world-class collection of specimens large and small, exotic and familiar.

Moe Flannery with the California Academy of Sciences said, "There are a lot of specimens to move."

When Bandar ran out of space he built more shelves into the ceiling of his basement, for additional storage.

Now Bandar's collection will officially transfer to his longtime partners at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Not only will every single bone be digitized and made available to researchers around the world, the California Academy of Sciences is also working hard make sure some of Bandar's character remains intact.

The California Academy of Sciences is holding onto his handmade labels.

Flannery said, "So we're keeping these, and when we bring things out for display, we'll include the handwritten tags, because they're so unique."

"That's what he would have wanted," Kaplan said. "He loved the Academy, it was essentially an extension of his home and family."

It's a bittersweet move. One man's exhaustive, meticulous work rightfully heads to an actual museum, but it has to leave behind the almost unbelievable novelty of The Bone Palace in a family basement.

"I'm going to miss that," Kaplan said.

If you want to check out some of the collection, the Academy of Sciences will host a tribute to Raymond "Bones" Bandar during one of its Thursday Nightlife events. That's scheduled for May 24th.

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