Monday, July 18, 2016

The Wandering Mummy - and a Giveaway

Elmer McCurdy had a desire for more in his life, but he didn’t truly become famous until he’d been dead for many years. Elmer was born in Maine in 1880. His early years were difficult and by the time he was a teen he began to drink heavily. He worked as a plumber, but often lost jobs because of his drinking.

At nineteen, he joined the U.S. Army and became a machine gun operator. He also trained to use nitroglycerin and do demolition. He received an honorable discharge in 1910 and met up with a friend who had also been in the army. He and the friend were arrested for having burglary tools in their possession, along with nitroglycerin. They claimed they were innocent and had no intent to rob anyone.

After being acquitted, Elmer began his very short life of crime. He wanted to put his knowledge of demolition to use and decided to join with some other men and rob a train. Elmer would blow up the safe. They had the nitroglycerin ready and were eager to get the silver coins the train carried.

The men stopped the train, but when Elmer put the nitro into the safe, he didn’t calculate correctly. He put in too much nitroglycerin and destroyed not only the safe, but also the silver coins. The men tried to scrape silver up from the wreckage, but had to leave to avoid capture. The robbers parted ways.

In 1911, Elmer joined with two other men to rob anther train. They thought they were stopping a train carrying cash, but ended up stopping a passenger train. The robbers came away with only $46 and a few odds and ends, such as whiskey, a watch and a coat. Elmer ended up with a bounty on his head and was tracked to a hayloft by three lawmen. Elmer was killed in a shootout the next morning.

Elmer in coffin.
This is where the story of Elmer McCurdy takes a bizarre turn. You would think he would be buried and that would be the end of the story, but that is not the case. Elmer’s body went to a funeral home in Oklahoma, but wasn’t claimed by anyone. The funeral home director decided to make a display piece out of Elmer. (At this time, displaying bodies wasn’t an unusual practice.) Elmer was embalmed so thoroughly with arsenic that he became a mummified corpse. For five years, the funeral director displayed Elmer in his window.

In 1916, a man claiming to be a relative of McCurdy’s claimed the body. Instead of burying Elmer, the man put him on display in a show, exhibiting him as the Oklahoma Outlaw. Thus began Elmer’s time of traveling exhibition. From being part of a carnival for people to view to being a display in the Museum of Crime, Elmer’s identity became lost. People forgot who he was and that he wasn’t a bizarre prop, but had once been a person, and was now a mummified human.

That all changed in 1976 during the filming of an episode of The Six Million
By Source, Fair use,
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/
index.php?curid=2328848
Dollar Man. The episode, Carnival of Spies, included the use of a wax mannequin hanging from a gallows. During the filming the mannequin’s arm broke off and the workers discovered a human bone inside. An autopsy was preformed, during which they discovered a 1924 penny a a ticket for the Museum of Crime in the figure’s mouth. Those helped to find Elmer’s identity.

In 1977, Elmer was finally laid to rest in Guthrie, Oklahoma with great fanfare. In order to be certain Elmer stayed buried and wasn’t displayed again, two feet of concrete was poured over his grave. McCurdy wouldn’t be traveling anymore.


Have you ever heard of Elmer McCurdy? Have you ever visited a wax museum? The figures there can appear to be very real, but a bit macabre too. Leave a comment on my blog today to be entered in a giveaway for one of my books. I have pictured The Cowboy's Bride, but if you have that book, you may choose a different one. 





Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.

39 comments:

  1. Oh wow! I LOVE this! I used to be a huge Six Million Dollar Man fan, but I don't recall that episode. I do, however, remember wanting to be The Bionic Woman. LOL
    I am amazed and appalled at the same time over the thought of displaying a corpse in a window. I've never heard of Elmer McCurdy, but I have visited wax museums before. They are eerie to me. Although, I did see the entire Last Supper display once that was very cool. Boy, I never know what to expect when I visit this blog...ALWAYS something fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you for your comments, Debbie. I did love the Six Million Dollar Man too, but don't recall that episode. I'm glad you stopped by.

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    2. Was I supposed to leave my email address for the drawing? Just in case:
      debsbunch777@gmail.com

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  2. Oh my! I have not heard such a story for a long time! How bizarre! I live in Maine now so that is a fun connection for me, and like ChappyDebbie, was a Six Million Dollar Man fan. How sad that no one seemed to mourn this man......

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    1. I agree, Connie. This was a rather sad story, but fascinating too. Thank you for commenting.

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  3. Wow! What a story! Elmer sure had a different life and a different death as well. I haven't been to a wax museum in years and years but there is something about them that are rather creepy at times. I can't imagine Elmer being displayed for years..not a pretty sight! Thank you for sharing this interesting tale and this great giveaway opportunity, Nancy!

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    1. Melanie, I agree about the creepiness. This wouldn't have been a pretty sight. Even the picture was creepy. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Wow! What a story! Elmer sure had a different life and a different death as well. I haven't been to a wax museum in years and years but there is something about them that are rather creepy at times. I can't imagine Elmer being displayed for years..not a pretty sight! Thank you for sharing this interesting tale and this great giveaway opportunity, Nancy!

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  5. I have never visited a wax museum and never heard of Elmer McCurdy, but I love the history lesson. I would love to visit a wax museum someday. I hope to win The Cowboy's Bride collection. Thanks for the giveaway and good luck everyone.

    princessdebbie1_2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Debbie. I'm so glad you enjoy the history in our blogs. We're glad you visit.

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  6. Yes, I have heard of Elmer before! So creepy and I cannot imagine being the one to discover that he was a REAL body. Ewwww. Nope, no wax museums for me, they seem creepy too. :) I loved watching the Six Million Dollar man with my dad growing up!

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    1. Yes, Susan, that would have been quite the shock to discover a real person in that supposed wax body. Thank you for stopping by.

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  7. No, I have never heard Elner's story and I find it extremely sad. As the wife of a funeral director, I have always understood, that regardless of their status in life, Everyone deserves respect in death!
    Connie
    cps1950 (at)gmail (dot)com

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    1. Connie, I agree with you that everyone deserves respect in death. It is a sad story. Thank you for commenting.

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  8. Oh! I cannot imagine such a thing! Thank you for sharing Elmer's story, Nancy, and for the wonderful giveaway opportunity!

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

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    1. Britney, thank you for stopping by and commenting.

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  9. What a bizarre story! Yes, I have visited a wax museum! Many years ago, on a vacation in California when I was a teenager, we visited Grauman's Chinese Theatre and while it was fascinating, I also thought it was bizarre. It's not a place I would visit again as an adult. I enjoyed your History lesson Nancy.
    Dblaser(at)windstream(dot)net

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    1. Diane, thank you for commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the blog.

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  10. Interesting crazy story. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom.

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    1. Kim, this was an interesting, crazy story. Thanks for commenting.

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  11. I know this wasn't supposed to be funny, but I did have a good chuckle! I love the things learned from this blog. Haven't heard of Elmer, even though I'm an Okie, somehow he missed our history books!

    missionwife AT hotmail DOT com

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    1. Melody, I had to chuckle at the thought of Elmer's story in the history books. There are a lot of fascinating stories that never made my history books in school. Thanks for commenting.

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  12. Wow, I found this to be very interesting. This would indeed make good fodder for a story! I loved this info! So, sad. Dead over $46 dollars. NikkiPrince @ writeme .com

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    1. Nikki, I agree this would be great in a story. It's very sad, but so interesting. Thanks for commenting.

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  13. How very interesting! Not sure I would have wanted to see the body, but interesting never the less..lol Thanks for the giveaway. bettimace at gmail dot com

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    1. I agree, Betti. I don't think I would have wanted to see the body either. Thank you for stopping by.

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  14. WOW. I hadn't heard of this. This was very interesting. Thank you for sharing.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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    1. Susan, I love sharing interesting bits of history like this. Thank you for commenting.

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  15. This was an interesting post. I have never heard of Elmer McCurdy. I haven't been to a wax museum but have seen wax figures that were on display for the wax museum in Las Vegas.
    kmgervais(at)nycap(dot)rr(dot)com

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and for commenting, Karen.

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  17. Happy Birthday! Very interesting story.

    From Lisa Vincent

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. I'm so glad you stopped by.

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  18. HAHA...pretty funny story really!! A traveling salesman, so to speak :-) I've never heard of Elmer before this, and years later to find it wasn't a wax figure after all, would make me shiver! I'm glad he was finally laid to rest, but what a story. Thanks for sharing this little history tidbit Nancy! And by the way....happy birthday to you, hope it was a blessed day spent with loved ones :-)

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Trixi, I'm glad you enjoyed Elmer's story. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and for the birthday blessings.

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  19. I'm still shaking my head about how it was discovered. I can't imagine being on the set of (one of my favorite childhood shows, btw) Six Million Dollar Man and seeing something so tragically morbid and sad. tlhcoupon(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Terrill, thank you for commenting. The Six Million Dollar Man was one of my favorite shows too.

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  20. Let me try this again...That is an amazing story. I did not know about Elmer. I knew about displaying bodies. My great-great aunt's beau was a photographer in the Civil War and beyond and left her many photos of displayed bodies from his travels. I did know about the human bone found on the set of The Six Million Dollar Man. I heard someone talking about it on one of the talk shows, I don't remember if it was Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin or Dick Cavett.
    I love these collection books. I don't have this one yet.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Andrea. I hadn't heard about Elmer before doing this blog after I stumbled across his story.

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