The man’s name may not be familiar, but his visage left an impression on countless youth throughout his five-decade-long career as an urban legend incarnate.
Elmer McCurdy was shot dead by a sheriff’s posse on the Oklahoma-Kansas border in 1911 for his involvement in a train robbery in which the total take was $46 and two jugs of whiskey. Generally regarded as a drunken failure of a man, it’s no small wonder that his body went unclaimed.
During this interval, the local coroner charged gawkers five cents to view the preserved corpse. Visitors were required to slip the nickel through the dead man’s parted lips, though it’s best left to the imagination how these coins were retrieved.
For the first few years, McCurdy spent his afterlife on his feet, propped in the corner, until one day he was claimed by two carnies posing as his brothers. Fast forward to 1976: A crew for the television show The Six Million Dollar Man was setting up shop in a Long Beach, California funhouse when a crew member accidentally detached the arm of a hanging man prop, revealing mummified human bone.
McCurdy’s history was unraveled piece-by-piece, slowly revealing how he was passed among freak shows, carnivals, and haunted houses for over five decades until his true origin was forgotten. His owners at the Nu-Pike Amusement Park genuinely believed him to be a dummy.
Rumor has it that when “The Funhouse Mummy” was finally laid to rest in 1977 in Guthrie, Oklahoma, concrete was poured on top of his casket, preventing further profit being made from dear old Elmer McCurdy.
You can find his grave in the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, alongside the more successful outlaw Bill Doolin of the Doolin Gang.