The story of how Elmer McCurdy, born in 1880 within the Knox County city of Washington and raised in Bangor, went from on a regular basis Mainer to infamous prepare robber to, finally, one of the vital weird footnotes in twentieth century historical past, is kind of the saga. It spans almost a century, crossing the nation from Maine to California, and ends with “The Six Million Greenback Man” TV present, and McCurdy’s mummified corpse, hanging from the rafters in a haunted home.
Sure, you learn that proper: his mummified corpse. However let’s begin at first: Who was Elmer McCurdy?
In keeping with Mark Svenvold’s 2003 e-book, “Elmer McCurdy: The Life and Afterlife of an American Outlaw,” McCurdy was born in Washington in 1880 to 17-year-old Sadie McCurdy, an single teenager. To spare her the disgrace of elevating an illegitimate baby, Sadie’s brother George and his spouse Helen adopted Elmer, who grew up believing that they have been his mother and father.
After George died of tuberculosis in 1890, Sadie and Helen moved to Bangor with Elmer. Not lengthy after that, in accordance with Svenvold, Sadie advised her son that she was truly his mom, information that apparently so disturbed McCurdy that he started to disintegrate, stepping into bother and, finally, beginning to drink closely.
By the point McCurdy was 20 years outdated he’d misplaced his job as a plumber, and his mom had died; Sadie McCurdy is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Bangor. Elmer set off for factors west, drifting round, working as a plumber and a miner till finally heading to Kansas. In 1907, he joined the U.S. Military, and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, the place he was honorably discharged in 1910. Then he started his transient and explosive felony profession.
McCurdy was educated within the military as a nitroglycerine professional, and used the substance throughout his robberies. Sadly, McCurdy was fairly inept, as evidenced by his robbing of a prepare in Oklahoma in March 1911, as a way to steal a secure holding $4,000. When McCurdy went to explode the secure doorways with nitroglycerine, he destroyed a lot of the cash together with the secure.
McCurdy’s closing theft was of a prepare in Oklahoma that was supposedly carrying $400,000 in money. The hapless felony picked the incorrect prepare to rob, nonetheless, selecting a passenger prepare as a substitute and stealing simply $46, a gun, some whiskey and the prepare conductor’s coat. Authorities caught up with McCurdy on October 7, 1911, and after a shootout on the hay shed the place McCurdy was staying, he was shot lifeless by a single gunshot wound to the chest.
McCurdy’s story was simply starting, nonetheless.
His physique was embalmed by an Oklahoma undertaker with arsenic, as was frequent in that period when a physique wanted to be preserved for an extended time period. As there was no subsequent of kin, McCurdy’s physique lay unclaimed, with the undertaker, Joseph Johnson, refusing to bury or launch the physique till he was paid for his companies.
After about six months, Johnson started displaying McCurdy’s corpse and charging folks a nickel to see it, dubbing him “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up” and having spectators put their coin within the corpse’s mouth. His ugly and deeply unethical sideshow grew to become fairly profitable, and gained some notoriety.
In 1916, two males from California, claiming to be McCurdy’s brothers, took possession of the physique from Johnson. They weren’t his brothers, nonetheless — in accordance with an article revealed by the Library of Congress, they have been James and Charles Patterson, who operated the Nice Patterson Carnival Present. The brothers concocted the scheme to so as take possession of the mummified physique, and show the “Embalmed Bandit” of their touring present.
In 1922, the Pattersons bought the mother to Louis Sonney, who operated a touring “Museum of Crime,” that includes wax collectible figurines of well-known criminals. Sonney and, later, his son Daniel, owned the corpse for greater than 45 years, loaning it out to quite a lot of folks. In 1933, he was placed on show in movie show lobbies to advertise the exploitation movie “Narcotic!”, with studios claiming the physique was of a “lifeless dope fiend.” Because the years went on, McCurdy’s true identification grew to become ever extra obscure and finally forgotten.
By the Fifties, the mother was principally spending its time in storage, although Daniel Sonney did mortgage it in 1967 to filmmaker David Friedman, and it may be seen, briefly, within the 1967 B-movie “She Freak.” In 1968, Sonney bought it to Spooney Singh, proprietor of the Hollywood Wax Museum, who later loaned it to a touring sideshow close to Mount Rushmore. Whereas being transported there, strapped to the roof of a automotive, McCurdy’s ears, fingers and toes blew off in a windstorm.
Singh now felt the mother was too ugly to indicate in public, and as a closing indignity after many years of desecration, within the early Seventies it was bought to the proprietor of The Pike, an amusement park in Lengthy Seaside, California, the place it was hung from the rafters in a haunted home, coated in neon paint.
Right here, lastly, is the place “The Six Million Greenback Man” is available in. In keeping with an entry on the Ripley’s Imagine It or Not web site, in 1976, the present was capturing on location at The Pike. When a crew member tried to maneuver what he thought was a prop dummy, the dummy’s arm snapped off, revealing a human bone and muscle tissue.
The corpse was taken to the Los Angeles coroner’s workplace. An post-mortem — which concerned getting via a number of layers of paint and wax — decided the person had died from a gunshot wound. Additional examination discovered a 1924 penny and a ticket stub from Louis Sonney’s Museum of Crime in its mouth, and dental evaluation and a forensic anthropologist later confirmed that the petrified corpse was none apart from Elmer McCurdy, the embalmed bandit.
The coroner’s workplace finally launched McCurdy’s physique to the city of Guthrie, Oklahoma, the place in April 1977 Elmer McCurdy was laid to relaxation on the city’s Summit View Cemetery. He was buried within the “boot hill” part reserved for outlaws and criminals, alongside the significantly extra profitable outlaw Invoice Doolin, founding father of the Wild Bunch.
Given the extraordinarily checkered historical past of McCurdy’s stays, he was supposedly buried below two toes of concrete to discourage any would-be thieves from digging up his physique and placing him again on show. Although, not surprisingly, his closing resting place continues to be a vacationer attraction.