Grave of Charles Speedy Atkins.

Grave of Speedy the Mortuary Mummy

Field review by the editors.

Paducah, Kentucky

Charles "Speedy" Atkins, a black handyman, drowned while fishing in the Ohio River in 1928. "Lived 51 years as a pauper," reads the inscription on his grave marker, "buried 66 years later... as a celebrity."

What happened was this: Atkins' body was embalmed by a local mortician, A.Z. Hamock, but no one claimed the body (or paid the bill). So A.Z. kept the corpse around. He nicknamed him "Speedy" because he never moved, and stood him in a closet at the funeral home.

When A.Z. died in 1949, his wife Velma took possession of the funeral home and Speedy. She would change Speedy's clothes three times a year to keep off the mold, and showed him to anyone who stopped by and wanted a peek. She even appeared with Speedy (and John Davidson) on an episode of That's Incredible. Velma died in 1994, and it was only then that Speedy was buried.

There's a little fish engraved on his tombstone plaque. A quick scan of the surrounding graves suggests that the Hamocks are buried elsewhere.

Grave of Speedy the Mortuary Mummy

Maplelawn Park Cemetery

1335 N. 13th St., Paducah, KY
Maplelawn Park Cemetery. Enter cemetery from N. 13th St. Bear right. Make third left (at light pole). You'll see the blocky Veterans' Monument and flagpole ahead, on the right side, at a cross street. Speedy's little headstone will be on the right, directly across the street from the flagpole, flush with the ground.
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