The Bone Man's Home and OfficeOsker Gilchrist aka The Bone Man (1925 - 2004)
Nichols, South Carolina, 29581, United States
The site is non-extant, but some of Gilchrist's objects are held in private collections.
About the Artist/Site
Osker (sometimes spelled Oskar or Oscar) Gilchrist was born in Jamaica in 1925 and then swiftly relocated when his parents moved to New York that same year. Three years later, the family moved again–this time to a plot of land in rural Nichols, South Carolina, that was once inhabited by Gilchrist’s great-grandfather. Nichols is about one hour from the Atlantic coast and has a population of approximately 300.
As a child, Gilchrist recognized his special abilities: “I was born psychic. I always had the power. When I was ten or twelve I realized I could cure people. When you got that talent, you got to study. So I studied with the people that could give me knowledge. Lot of my knowledge come from the dead. Come from dreams. I get dreams; they tell me stuff; they tell me when people was going to come see me. They tell me about stuff that’s going to happen,” said Gilchrist to Bill Arnett during a 1997 interview. Gilchrist became a practitioner of traditional folk medicine–a practice brought to the United States by Africans captured and forced into the slave trade. The African practices melded with those of local American Indians and European colonizers to form a hybrid tradition involving foraged plants, herbs, moss, leeches, bones and animal skins, etc., that was passed orally through generations.
Gilchrist’s family home in Nichols became the “office” where he welcomed patients seeking healing. The office was filled with “power objects” like hornets’ nests, wood carvings, roots, bird feathers, and animal bones. Regarding these items, Gilchrist said (in that same interview), “The stuff represents different things. It represents trouble, trouble you get into. It helps you get shed of the trouble. The things there, they work with something you carry, something like the feets of birds, or ducks, or rabbits, or coons, or chickens, and they got to be wrapped up in the foil." The office also contained Gilchrist’s family heirloom “The Cane.” According to Gilchrist, The Cane–a wooden cane densely wrapped with fetish objects like bones, a raccoon foot, chains, rope, and more–was passed down through the generations, starting with his great-great-grandfather.
In addition to the many bones lining the property, the home was surrounded by sculptural installations, small structures, handmade signage, and other objects related to Gilchrist’s healing practice, including farm equipment, antlers, a “sacrificial stump” (according to Arnett), scarecrows, and more. Many of the bones that Gilchrist collected on hikes in the area (according to gallerist Aarne Anton who visited Gilchrist’s home) made up two installations: the “bone rack,” a fence decorated with dozens of specifically-placed bones meant to provide “general protection;” and a bed frame ornamented with bones intended to provide respite for “people who suffer from nightmares and unpleasant dreams,” said Gilchrist. His healing paraphernalia extended to personal decoration as well in the form of multiple baseball caps sprouting with feathers and a large set of what appear to be moose antlers and other bones prominently displayed on the front of his bright red Chevrolet truck.
Gilchrist passed away April 8, 2004, and his environment has since been dismantled. Some of Gilchrist’s objects are currently held in private collections.
For more information about Osker Gilchrist's life and work, visit the Souls Grown Deep website–the primary source for this article.
Narrative: Annalise Flynn, 2020
animal bones, farm equipment, found objects, painted signage, tree limbs
Map & Site Information
Nichols, South Carolina, 29581 us
Latitude/Longitude: 34.2337747 / -79.1486503
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