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Shelly the Skeleton at the corner of North Hermitage and West Berteau on April 18, 2024. Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Ecoglobalsociety

RAVENSWOOD — Over the last few weeks, neighbors have left loving farewell messages to a beloved Ravenswood fixture: Shelly The Skeleton.

For nearly two years, Shelly’s spent her days chilling at her wooden picnic table near the corner of North Hermitage and West Berteau.

Come rain, shine or snow she’s kept an eye on the neighborhood while entertaining passersby with her “humerus” outfit changes, Shelly’s owner Jenny Corbett said.

“It started as a joke that turned into this genuinely nice neighborhood thing the last couple years. She helps me feel connected to the neighborhood,” Corbett said.

Jenny Corbett (right) with Shelly the Skeleton at the corner of North Hermitage and West Berteau on April 18, 2024. Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Ecoglobalsociety

It was Halloween 2022 when Corbett, like many Chicagoans around the spooky holiday, decided to purchase a skeleton as a decoration, she said.

“The day I picked it up, I happened to run into my friend Kate [Wolff] and she was laughing while asking me why I had a skeleton in my in my car,” Corbett said.

Corbett set Shelly up at a picnic table outside her apartment building and dressed her up in a multicolored wig, a pair of oversize sunglasses and some old bachelorette party gear she had in her closet, she said.

“She was dressed like she was tired from the previous night’s bachelorette party. I like to think she’s pretty sassy and kind of a tough broad,” Corbett said. “I picture Shelly with a Queens accent, because I'm from Queens and my whole family talks that way. She kinda reminds me of my family, just hanging out on the stoop all the time.”

A few of Shelly the Skeleton's outfits over the years. Credit: Provided.

When Thanksgiving rolled around that year, Corbett said she decided to give Shelly a turkey hat. For December, she updated the skeleton's attire with a festive Christmas outfit, she said.

Shelly continued to grace the front of the building until spring 2023, when Corbett brought her inside in order to make use of the picnic table as the weather got warmer. But Shelly was back outside for Halloween, Corbett said.

Since then, Shelly’s been tickling the neighborhood’s funny bone with her frequent wardrobe changes and related picnic table tableaus, including March Madness and Easter themes this year. Corbett has been changing the skeleton's outfit about every two weeks to match the weather, a holiday or some other event, she said.

“Her consistent rotation of new costumes and looks for Shelly have caught the attention of local grade schoolers and neighbors in general. Kids and adults alike love her,” Wolff said.

A few of Shelly the Skeleton's outfits over the years. Credit: Provided.

Shelly’s picnic table was near a popular bicycle route and the German International School Chicago, 1726 W. Berteau Ave. People walking or cycling by would admire her latest threads and sometimes contribute a trinket or two to match the latest theme or even join her for a snack, Corbett said.

“There was some construction on my apartment building in April; they were working on the masonry on the side. And three big construction guys sat with her at the picnic bench to have lunch with her,” Corbett said.

In another instance, Corbett was adjusting Shelly's outfit and ran into two women taking pictures of the skeleton. While chatting with them, she found out that one of them was visiting from England and her friend who lives in the neighborhood regularly sends her photos of Shelly’s latest outfits.

“They had come so her friend could meet [Shelly] in real life while she was in town,” Corbett said.

A note a student from the German International School Chicago left for Shelly the Skeleton in April. Credit: Provided.

At the end of April, Corbett was getting ready to move into a new apartment about a mile away. She gave Shelly’s fans a heads-up by putting a sign on the picnic table.

It read, “Dear neighbors, next week, I’ll be moving to a new home. I will miss this friendly corner, but you can come visit me at Hoyne and Addison. Love, Shelly the Skeleton.”

The final weeks at her old corner, Corbett was surprised by how many people left behind well wishes and farewells, including a note from a student who attends the German International School Chicago calling Shelly a superstar, she said.

“I love my new apartment, but Shelly’s fans were truly the number one thing that made me sad to leave. But you can still visit her, she’s just across town,” Corbett said.

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