the mccurdys

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Born in 1880, Elmer McCurdy was an infamous outlaw, but interestingly enough, his fame didn’t come until his death.

McCurdy ran away from home at the young age of 15, working odd jobs and developing a heavy drinking habit along the way. Eventually he joined the military and ended up leaving with an honorable discharge. Once out of the military and not knowing what to do to take care of himself, McCurdy used his military expertise in nitroglycerin to become a train robber. McCurdy did not have the best luck as a thief, using too much nitroglycerin to blow up the train safes and actually melting the money in the safe, other times, he chose the wrong trains and ended up netting little to nothing from his robbery excursions. But the fairly unsuccessful train robberies were short lived, as less than a year into it, he was wanted by the police for a robbery, with a $2000 reward in place for turning him in. McCurdy was turned in and woke up to 3 sheriffs and a group men trying to capture him. That turned into a shootout between McCurdy and the group, and McCurdy ended up being shot to death. Normally, that’s where the tale would end, but not in Elmer McCurdy’s case!

McCurdy’s body was subsequently taken to a funeral home, where it went unclaimed. The undertaker embalmed McCurdy with an arsenic based preservative, used at that time to preserve a body for a long period of time. And then the mortician decided as no one claimed the body, he would put it on display to the public and charge them to see it. He dressed the corpse, put a rifle in his hands and stood it up in the corner of the funeral home and allowed visitors to view McCurdy, charging 5 cents a person.

After several years and the undertaker making quite a bit of money off of the attraction, a man paid him a visit claiming to be McCurdy’s brother. For whatever reason, the undertaker bought the story and released McCurdy’s body to the alleged brother. The fake brother was actually a carni who worked for a traveling circus.

A few weeks after obtaining the corpse, it was put on display as a “freak show”. Initially, McCurdy’s corpse was known as “Oklahoma’s outlaw mummy”. After some time, the circus, along with the corpse, were passed along to several different new owners and with that, the history of McCurdy was lost and he became a fun house prop, with carnival owners and visitors alike just assuming he was a creepy prop.

Years went by and a television crew was set up to film inside of a funhouse and MCCurdy’s corpse was displayed on set. Someone was moving him around and an appendage came off of his body, revealing it to be a real corpse. He was then taken to a coroners office and identified as Elmer McCurdy and shipped back home to Oklahoma, where a funeral was held for him. In April 1977, Elmer McCurdy’s body was buried at the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma.