It turned out, it was not a mannequin at all, but the mummified remains of a human body, one that had been travelling with carnivals for over half a century.
What he had accidentally discovered was the lost remains of a long-time sideshow attraction, the mummified remains of Oklahoma outlaw Elmer McCurdy.
Elmer’s body was a long way from home. Quite the seasoned traveller, McCurdy's body had seen a lot more of the country in death than it did in life.
During his time in the army, McCurdy took up a liking of nitroglycerine, a highly unstable explosive liquid. After his time in the army, and whilst looking for work, drifting about the states, McCurdy utilised his knowledge with the explosive to see his way into a gang of bank and train robbers.
It was then McCurdy put his nitroglycerine knowledge to good use, blowing up safes in order to access the money inside. Well, that was the idea anyway.
His first attempt to blow up a safe on a train went miserably wrong. McCurdy placed too much nitroglycerine at the safes door, and not only blew it off its hinges, but also blew a hole in the side of the train and splashed the now partially liquefied silver coins about the carriage. The gang attempted to scrape the silver off of the floor and walls but only managed to collect a little.
Suffice to say, McCurdy needed to seek out a new gang in order to ply his explosive knowledge.
After being arrested for holding tools used for burglary, and subsequently being released under a verdict of 'not guilty', McCurdy met a man by the name of Walter Jarrett. Jarrett gave McCurdy the tough (sort of) outlaw name 'Missouri McCurdy', and the two spent a time blowing safes and money up together, in a number of bungled burglaries.
But soon McCurdy heard of a money train, which had a carriage containing a safe with thousands of Dollars inside it, a veritable fortune back in those days. The gang went to Okesa, Oklahoma in order to rob the train, but once again McCurdy bungled the deal. This time he did not blow up the money, but had rather got the wrong train. Instead of a money train carrying thousands of dollars, the gang robbed a passenger train and made away with $46 and a few bottles of whiskey.
The Last Stand
Sears gave in and pointed Sheriff Freas to the location McCurdy was now resting. He also warned the sheriff that he had given McCurdy a shotgun, but also more whiskey, so if acting soon, the sheriff should be able to get him while he was drunk.
At about 7am on the 6th of October the sheriff and his two deputies surrounded a hayshed where McCurdy was sleeping. Sheriff Freas then yelled at McCurdy to give himself up, but the response was a streak of curses and an hour long stand-off.
Then McCurdy fired several shots at the sheriff and his men, and it was on!
The gun fight was so intense and prolonged that neighbours turned up to watch the battle. The hour long exchange of fire continued until shots heard coming from the hay shed ceased. A young boy was sent in to check on McCurdy. Not seeing anything the Pawhuska chief of police entered the shed and ascended the ladder to the loft, lead by the stock of his rifle, adorned with his hat.
No shots were fired or any other response was had. McCurdy was dead, with a rifle bullet in his chest. One of the deputy’s bullets had hit home, killing the outlaw. McCurdy's last words were reported as being "You will never take me alive!"
The Travelling Mummy
For nearly five years McCurdy's dead body provided another source of income for the funeral home, until one day a man claiming to be McCurdy's brother showed up to give his brother a proper burial. The funeral home released McCurdy into the man’s care, and within a fortnight, the 'Great Patterson Shows' carnival had a new exhibit.
Many people flocked to see the body of the 'Outlaw who would not give up', and soon he was making much more money then he ever had when he was alive.
For over 60 years McCurdy's body was traded and sold, from carnival operator to carnival operator and curiosity museums. Once he was even used to pay a default on a loan to a bank!
As the years passed, his body suffered the wear and tear of being such a sought after attraction, until after a time, it was forgotten that it was a body at all. Soon he found himself in tacky displays, finally to be painted bright red and hanged naked from the rafters of the 'Laff in the Dark' fun house at the new Pike Amusement Park
In 1976 he was examined by forensic anthropologists, who discovered the gunshot wound, the make, model and year of a bullet jacket lodged in his hip, and were able to confirm the bodies identity.
Ashley Hall 2013