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Grave of Elmer McCurdy.

Grave of Elmer McCurdy the Sideshow Mummy

Field review by the editors.

Guthrie, Oklahoma

Elmer McCurdy was 31 years old, an inept, bottom-rung outlaw, alcoholic and disease-ridden, when he died in a shootout near the Oklahoma-Kansas border. The posse who killed him on October 7, 1911, believed that he was part of a gang that had robbed a nearby train. Maybe he was, but maybe he wasn't, and in any case the robbers had robbed the wrong train. It was an appropriately stupid end to a forgettable life.

Elmer McCurdy's career, however, had just begun.

Since no one would claim his body, Elmer was embalmed and propped in a corner of a Pawhuska, Oklahoma, mortuary where visitors could view him for a nickel a peek, placing their coins in the corpse's mouth. Elmer was dubbed, "The Bandit Who Wouldn't Give Up." This went on for five years.

Then two men claiming to be Elmer's brothers -- they weren't -- took the body and turned it into a freak attraction at various carnival sideshows. This lasted for five decades. Elmer made more money dead than he'd ever made when he was alive.

Grave of outlaw Bill Doolin.

The corpse eventually ended up covered in day-glow paint in a Long Beach, California, amusement park spook house, where Elmer dangled from a noose. Shrunken and mummified, missing his ears, fingers, and toes, McCurdy was simply called "the dummy." People had forgotten that he was real.

One day in 1976, while filming a TV episode of The Six Million Dollar Man at the spook house, a crew member moved McCurdy and the corpse's arm fell off, exposing the bones and muscles within. The mysterious dead man was autopsied by the LA County Coroner and made the headlines. People wanted to know who the body belonged to.

Oklahoma eventually proved that it belonged to Elmer McCurdy, and on April 22, 1977, he was finally buried in Guthrie's Summit View Cemetery next to Bill Doolin, an outlaw who'd been dead even longer than Elmer (The cemetery refers to these two graves as its "Boot Hill"). Guthrie's medical examiner ordered that two cubic yards of concrete be poured atop decay-proof Elmer's grave, so that he could never be dug up and used as an attraction again.

Grave of Elmer McCurdy the Sideshow Mummy

Summit View Cemetery

N. Pine St., Guthrie, OK
Summit View Cemetery. North edge of town. I-35 exit 157 west onto Noble Ave./Hwy 33. North at first light onto Pine St. The cemetery will be several blocks north on the east side. The grave is in the "Boot Hill" section, which is near the northeast corner.
Gated after hours. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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Nearby Offbeat Places

Statehood WeddingStatehood Wedding, Guthrie, OK - 1 mi.
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In the region:
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