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A skeleton is a magically animated undead creature. Skeletons have a slowing attack. They have a chance of getting a leather armor (25%), a knife (8%) or a short sword (16%), but no random offensive item.

Orcus Town is the only place where skeletons usually appear. Polypiling multiple objects of material bone (such as unicorn horns) may also create a skeleton.

Chatting with a skeleton (even a tame one) will paralyze you for a few turns.[1]

Old players of the Dungeons & Dragons games are again put on notice that NetHack is different: in D&D, skeletons are the weakest of the classical undead monsters, safe to fight for very inexperienced characters. Not so in NetHack, where they are much tougher, reminiscent perhaps of the classic Ray Harryhausen movies.

Encyclopedia entry

A skeleton is a magically animated undead creature. Unlike
shades, only a humanoid creature can be used to create a
skeleton. No one knows why this is true, but it has become
an accepted fact amongst the practitioners of the black arts.