18 human heads found in package at O'Hare

The runway and control tower at O'Hare International Airport are seen in this file photo.

January 15, 2013 4:14:37 PM PST
Authorities say 18 human heads found in a package at O'Hare Airport's international terminal Monday were meant for anatomical research.

The shipment came in from Europe and caught the attention of Customs agents because the packages were missing important paperwork

The heads arrived as a regular cargo shipment a week before Christmas. They were packaged in three sealed containers.

The containers were x-rayed and that is when U.S. Customs agents discovered 18 human heads stored in formaldehyde.

Because the paperwork was incomplete, Customs detained the shipment, but after four weeks, the feds no longer had a proper storage facility, so the heads were moved to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Tuesday, the heads were examined and determined to be used for medical research.

An employee at Cremation Service Inc. in Schiller Park says the heads came from a Michigan lab, were sent to Rome for research, and then back to the U.S. for final disposal.

As soon as U.S. Customs signs off on the paperwork, the Schiller Park crematorium will dispose of the heads.

In a written statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says, "Shipments of human remains into the U.S. are not without precedent and there is nothing against the law when they are sent with the right documentations."

Not having the right documentation was apparently the issue with the heads.

Due to privacy laws, U.S. Customs is not allowed to discuss specific cases.

The heads will remain at the medical examiner's office until Customs signs off on the paperwork. Then they will go to the cremation service.