Truth proved to be stranger than fiction for a high school criminology class investigating a fake crime scene after students discovered a real body on a field trip.

Teacher Sue Messenger has been planting fake skeletons with bullet holes and other evidence at mock crime scenes for more than 20 years to give her students a firsthand look at what crime scene investigators do.

"I think they kind of went into shock and disbelief, but also, you have to say it's completely bizarre," Messenger said. "I mean ... what are the odds that we would be out here?"

The discovery Monday at Fort Lauderdale's Holiday Park by 29 students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School jolted the class.

"It was a good crash course," said student Juan Cantor, 15. "The first thing we thought was, 'That's a real good dummy she set up.'"

The body of the man, in his mid-50s, was not immediately identified. He appears to have died recently of natural causes, Fort Lauderdale police Sgt. Andy Pallen said.