We all have our beliefs about where we’re going to go after we die. Some of us will go to heaven. Some of us will go to hell. Others will go to an island paradise where the sun never sets, the crystal clear waters cease to ebb and flow, and an endless supply of pineapple martinis in coconut husk cups is only an arms length away. Better yet, others may end up somewhere up in the sky, floating on clouds, where the Backstreet Boys are eternally serenading our souls and anything that we have ever desired appears out of thing air at the simplest of thoughts, much like in the movie This is the End. But, in the case of Elmer McCurdy, he got to travel the world, visit new places, and see exciting things after he died. He was a dead-icated vagabond, going wherever the wind (or people who purchased his extremely well-preserved remains) took him.
The story of Elmer McCurdy’s life, when he was alive and functioning, is quite simple. He was a run-of-the-mill Oklahoma outlaw born in 1880 who made his living robbing banks and trains. Long story short, he was shot dead in the chest and sent to the mortuary to have his remains preserved. This is where things get interesting.
Because no one came to claim the outlaw, the undertaker displayed Elmer McCurdy’s notorious body and allowed the public to observe “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up” for a nickel, which they would place in his mouth. After denying many requests by carnival owners to purchase the body, the undertaker eventually agreed to give the remains to a carnival sideshow operator claiming to be Elmer’s long lost brother. There, Elmer was the feature exhibit, attracting people from all across the country. With his post-mortem fame he was sold to various carnivals, wax museums, haunted houses, film production sets, and amusement parks for the next sixty years. At one point, a haunted house owner refused to purchase Elmer’s remains because they did not look life-like enough. With great fame comes great downfall, and during the filming of a popular television show in 1976 while moving his remains that were thought to be a mannequin, his arm fell off. And after examining the body (because now, almost 65 years after his death, people finally realized he was a real human) forensic anthropologists identified the original fatal gunshot wound and found both a penny from 1924 and an amusement park ticket in his mouth.
That’s insane. And to make things even crazier, the Oklahoma state medical examiner decided to have his remains buried once-and-for-all in a casket under two cubic years of concrete. Elmer McCurdy had one incredible afterlife. I wonder how ours will be?