When most people think of Instagram, they think of looking at photos of their friends or favorite celebrities. But there is another side of the social media site that involves the selling and trading of human skulls — and it is a market that is thriving.
Skull enthusiasts across the world who are willing to spend thousands of dollars to get them don’t have to go far — they just need Instagram, Wired magazine reported.
The magazine spoke with Henry Scragg, one seller of the unusual remains who has amassed more than 34,000 followers on the platform. Scragg said he bought a box of skulls on eBay before the company banned the selling of human remains. He began sharing photos of the skulls on Instagram and was approached by many interest parties who wanted to buy them.
Debbie Reynders, another skull collector, said while most people might think the hobby is weird while most people who are in the trade are “open and lovely” people.
“People outside of the community often see what we do as maybe a little disturbing,” Reynders told Wired.
“But the people who collect and trade are really genuine people, open and lovely. But a bit guarded.”
Many sellers often decorate skulls with tribal garb, and some even carve designs into them for an extra dose of the macabre.
Archaeologists Damien Huffer and Shawn Graham have studied the human skull market on Instagram since 2013. They found that it is a booming industry. In 2013, sales totaled only $5,200 but by 2016, $57,000 was made from the grisly business.
Huffer said the true amount of money being made is likely higher because many sellers do not advertise prices. Deals are usually made through DMs or emails after initial contact is made.
Strangely enough, the trading of human skulls — and other human remains — is technically legal in the U.K. Human bones reportedly fall under the “no property rule,” which means that they belong to whomever owns them. In addition, owners do not have to provide any paperwork proving their ownership.
However, displaying human remains publicly requires a license while no such license is required for posting photos of remains online, Wired reported.
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Most of the traded skulls are probably medical specimens that have been circulating the market for decades, with many making their way from India, Wired reported.
While most people might see the trade as morbid, Scragg and Reynders said the skull-collecting community on Instagram has its own standards, and will report anything they deem odd.