Weird History: Outlaw Elmer McCurdy Became a Traveling Carnival Star After His Death

Most outlaws lived a pretty eventful life in the Wild West, considering all the robberies and clashes with other outlaws and lawmen. But for one outlaw named Elmer McCurdy, this continued to be the case even after his death. His body became a traveling carnival star and ended up at an amusement park before finally being put to rest 65 years later.

McCurdy was a former United States Army soldier who decided to resort to a life of crime after being discharged in 1910. He took advantage of his army training in the use of nitroglycerin for demolition purposes to rob banks and trains, becoming quite a familiar face on the wanted posters.

However, McCurdy’s outlaw career didn’t last long. In 1911, after a robbery of a passenger train in Oklahoma, he was cornered by deputy sheriffs in his hideout and killed by a single gunshot to the chest.

McCurdy’s body was taken to an undertaker in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, who proceeded to embalm it. This was a standard practice to preserve the condition of the body of the deceased who had no familiar relatives.

After no one picked up McCurdy’s body for some time, the undertaker decided to display it in his funeral home as an attraction. It remained there for several years before two men, claiming to be McCurdy’s brothers, came to pick it up. However, it turned out that the men were actually owners of a traveling carnival who wanted the body as an attraction.

McCurdy’s body would go on to be featured in various shows, undergoing further preservation efforts with wax. It later spent 15 years at storage in Los Angeles before being sold to Hollywood Wax Museum in 1968 and then resold to the owner of The Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California.

McCurdy’s body hung from the ceiling at one of the attractions in The Pike for years before a crewmember of the television series The Six Million Dollar Man bumped into it during the shooting. The arm from the body fell off, and when a crewmember, thinking it was a mannequin, went to fit it in place, he discovered hanging bones and human tissue.

After an investigation, the body was put to rest in 1977. As a precaution, McCurdy’s grave was poured over with two feet of concrete.

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