Oklahoma Territorial Museum & The Carnegie Library – Guthrie, Oklahoma - Atlas Obscura

Oklahoma Territorial Museum & The Carnegie Library

Home to the story of the outlaw turned funhouse mummy, Elmer McCurdy. 


Guthrie, Oklahoma is home to more than its fair share of Americana, and the Oklahoma Territorial Museum & The Carnegie Library has a rich bounty of it in lively exhibits that feature everything from land grabs to corsets. But there is one item that is worth a visit all on its own–the gun that killed Elmer McCurdy.

If you’ve already perused our Guide to Modern Mummies or enjoyed the 31 Days of Halloween in Review from 2013, you already know all about poor old Elmer, but if this is your first introduction, here’s the fast and dirty details. 

Elmer McCurdy was a degenerate of the Wild West, a train robber that was shot dead by the sheriff after a train robbery that took place on the Kansas-Oklahoma border. When no one came to claim his embalmed corpse, the ever-so-professional coroner decided to prop the body up in the corner of his office so that anyone with a morbid curiosity could have a little look-see. Before long, a couple of “distant relatives” (cough, cough, carnies) claimed McCurdy’s remains and did who knows what with him. He wasn’t rediscovered until 1977, when the TV series “The Six Million Dollar Man” was shooting at a Long Beach fun house, and a horrified crew member picked up the mummy “prop” and poor Elmer’s arm snapped off to reveal human bones within.

McCurdy’s history was unraveled, his remains identified, and he was finally put to rest at the Summit View Cemetery, where his gravestone can be located on Boot Hill. The Oklahoma Territorial Museum, while not exactly dedicated to McCurdy, probably wouldn’t argue with the assertion that he’s sort of their mascot. The two-story building housing the collection is attached to the old Carnegie Library building, which is also a part of the museum and available for exploring. The museum lays claim to the gun that actually killed Elmer McCurdy, as well as formerly unseen information regarding his grisly history.

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October 30, 2015

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