Ep 9 Elmer McCurdy – The Corpse in the Funhouse

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In 1976 the crew of the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man was preparing for an on-location shoot at a Long Beach California funhouse. During the preparation, a crew member accidentally knocked the arm off of what they had previously believed to be a papier-mâché mannequin. To their surprise, this mannequin’s newly dismembered arm had a bone inside. Upon closer inspection it was learned that the mannequin was also anatomically correct, complete with a wisp of pubic hair.

Elmer McCurdy in 1911 and after his rediscovery in 1976.

After a lengthy autopsy and a bit of sleuthing, it was discovered that the corpse, which had by then been featured in the amusement park for 4 years, was the remains of a bumbling failed outlaw of the Old West. This prop from the Laff-in-the-Dark ride at the Pike Amusement Zone was the mummified body of Elmer McCurdy.

Elmer as he appeared in the Laff-in-the-Dark amusement park attraction.

Elmer’s life story is one that is at once sad, hilarious, and wildly interesting. In life, he participated in several robberies, all of which were horrible disappointments in terms of monetary takeaway. During one of these robberies, in an attempt to open a safe that sat inside a train, Elmer set off an explosion so violent that it blew the entire side out of the train car. Unfortunately for Elmer, the heat from the explosion also melted the metal currency that was in the safe, fusing it inextricably to the safe’s interior walls. Elmer’s relationship with explosives would continue to be one of frustrating complication throughout his criminal career.

Elmer McCurdy’s run-ins with humiliation would not conclude upon his death in 1911. After a fatal shootout with police, Elmer’s corpse would spend decades traveling the country with wax museums, freak shows, and as an attraction connected to a transcontinental foot race. It would even get a shot at the silver screen. By the time his body was discovered at the Pike Amusement Zone, it had been spray painted, mechanized, and further desecrated in multitudinous ways. His name had been lost to time, and he had spent years entertaining amusement park goers who never suspected that the jump-scare that they had experienced had been provided by the remains of a real human being.

Learn how all of this came to pass, hear how Elmer’s criminal relationship with explosives was set into motion by an eventual 5-star general, and find out how Elmer became the inspiration for one of the most famous cartoon villains of all time, on episode 9 of Where is the Line?

We’ll also teach you how to build a bomb. Seriously, it’s in there.


Sources

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Bandit slain in desperate fight with officers. (1911, Oct 8,). The Daily Oklahoman

Boot hill claims its man. (1977, April 23,). Wilmington Morning Star Retrieved from https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=YxtOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GBMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6977%2C4166320

Coppock, M. (2017, ). Celebrate the holidays with a trip to historic guthrie. Tulsa World (OK)

Harvey, S. (1977, ). Another grizzly discovery at nu-pike. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/158232721?accountid=14472

Harvey, S. (1979, ). Carnival mummy ‘was a pitifully poor outlaw’. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/162617202?accountid=14472

Lion trainer killed by pet. (1916, June 17,). The Grand Forks Daily Herald

MacArthur lived on post as child, instructor. Retrieved from https://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/news/20160728/macarthur-lived-on-post-as-child-instructor

Oklahoma City Bar, T., & Snyder, H. G. (1909). The compiled laws of oklahoma, 1909, a compilation of all the laws of a general nature now in force, including the session laws of 1909, being correct copies of the enrolled bills; with the declaration of independence, the constitution of the united states, the organic act of oklahoma territory, the enabling act, the constitution of the state of oklahoma and the naturalization laws of the united states, vol. 1. Kansas City, MO: Pipes Reed Book Company. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=4EIwAQAAMAAJ&rdid=book-4EIwAQAAMAAJ&rdot=1

O’Rourke, M. (1978, ). Postscript: Los Angeles Times (1923-1995) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/158408886?accountid=14472

Schaefer, E. (1999). “Bold! daring! shocking! true!”. Durham [u.a.]: Duke Univ. Press. Retrieved from http://bvbr.bib-bvb.de:8991/F?func=service&doc_library=BVB01&local_base=BVB01&doc_number=008795328&sequence=000002&line_number=0001&func_code=DB_RECORDS&service_type=MEDIA

Sideshow outlaw:  elmer McCurdy. Retrieved from http://terrysplace2000.tripod.com/mccurdy.html

Svenvold, M. (2003). Elmer McCurdy:  the life and afterlife of an american outlaw. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Thackrey, T. (1976, ). Painted mummy 1912 posse victim. Times-Picayune

Train robbery in wild western style. (1911, Mar 25,). The Times Picayune

Train robbery in wild western style. bold work of bandits near coffeyville, kans. an iron. (1911, ). Times-Picayune

Traxel, D. (2003, ). Where’s elmer? New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/92653795?accountid=14472

Warrants out for patterson show boosters. (1919, May 28,). The Omaha Daily Bee

‘Wax model’ identified as oklahoma bandit. (1977, ). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/123481556?accountid=14472

Williams, G. (1970). C.C. pyle’s amazing foot race : The true story of the 1928 coast-to-coast run across america. United States: Retrieved from http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005581375

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