Old Rip, Miracle Horned Toad
In 1897 a horned toad was placed in the cornerstone of the courthouse in Eastland, Texas, as it was being sealed. People remembered the event, but no one thought much of it until February 18, 1928, when the courthouse was demolished to make way for a new model. Three thousand people were on hand to watch the opening of the old cornerstone. Inside lay the horned toad -- flat and covered with dust -- and ALIVE! After 31 years!
The toad was christened "Old Rip" and became a national sensation. He toured the U.S. He met President Coolidge. Local gas stations gave away complimentary toads to customers.
Eleven months after his resurrection, Old Rip croaked. His body was embalmed and placed in a tiny, velvet-lined open casket in the lobby of the new courthouse.
A horned toad can still be seen in the velvet-lined casket today, although there's some controversy over just who is being exhibited. That's because in 1973 Old Rip was stolen. An anonymous kidnapper wrote a letter explaining that his conscience would no longer let him remain silent. He claimed to be part of a larger conspiracy that had hoaxed the nation with Old Rip. He demanded that his accomplices join him in a full confession.
When no accomplices came forward, another letter arrived, saying that Old Rip could be found in his coffin at the county fairgrounds. The coffin and a toad were recovered, although some believed that this Old Rip was an impostor. Eastland County Judge Scott Bailey was quoted as saying, "This toad is fairly well-preserved. The other was more ... mummified."
Old Rip, real or fake, is still on display in his coffin in Eastland. And the toad has been immortalized in another way, too -- as the inspiration for the Warner Bros. cartoon character "Michigan J. Frog," who later served as mascot for the WB television network.