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The Mummified Train Robber Who Became a Circus Prop

Elmer McCurdy couldn’t catch a break, even after he died. Born in 1880, he was a member of a bumbling, inept outlaw gang who made three attempts at robbery. The first two got them a fraction of the loot, thanks to their own missteps, and in the third they robbed the wrong train! Then McCurdy was shot dead by law enforcement. Skip ahead 65 years.

Propmen from Universal Studios were at the Laff in the Dark fun house in Long Beach, California, in December 1976, prepping for an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. When the crew tried to move an eerie red mannequin hanging by a noose under fluorescent lights, one of its arms snapped off … and revealed a human bone.

The mystery of the fun-house mummy lasted for five months, when a positive identification was finally made, but investigators had guessed the corpse’s identity within a few days: It was Elmer McCurdy, an ill-fated train robber who was shot dead by a posse of officers in 1911 after a not-so-illustrious career.

The saga of what happened between McCurdy’s death and his eventual burial many years later is told at OZY. A more detailed account of McCurdy’s life can be found at Sideshow World.


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