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10 Bizarre Circus Sideshows


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The Oklahoma Outlaw Mannequin Mummy
Elmer McCurdy was a well-known outlaw, but his accidental mummification increased his popularity after his death. Kool Cats Photography/Flickr
Elmer McCurdy was a well-known outlaw, but his accidental mummification increased his popularity after his death. Kool Cats Photography/Flickr

Before his death, Elmer McCurdy was the stuff that spaghetti westerns were made of. After it, he became the kind of character that Alfred Hitchcock — or David Lynch — might dream up. A small-time crook in the early 20th century, McCurdy was shot by authorities after a train robbery in 1911. The Oklahoma funeral home that ended up with the body had the bright idea of embalming him for display. They embalmed him with such gusto, however, that he became mummified.

Five years later, a sideshow promoter saw McCurdy in the funeral home display and — pretending to be a relative — took the body for his own exhibition where McCurdy became the "Oklahoma Outlaw" [source: Pednaud]. For the next 60 years, McCurdy's body was passed from show to show. (Which begs the questions: Was there such a strong demand for lots of dead outlaw exhibitions?) Eventually, he was sold to a wax museum as a mannequin — but when a clumsily broken arm on the mannequin revealed a bone, police were called to investigate. A ticket from a crime museum (one of McCurdy's many post-mortem homes) was stuck in his mouth, and his identity was sussed out. McCurdy was finally buried in 1977.