The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up

(Deb) OK Frank, I bet you haven’t heard of this next guy. He’s one of my favorite outlaw stories in the Wild West, Mr. McCurdy. And I got to visit his grave down in Guthrie, Oklahoma, I think it was in April, when we were down for the Wrangler Awards. McCurdy, I don’t know how to not give the story away, but he was not a very successful outlaw. And I will say this, he winds up as a mummy and he winds up as basically a sideshow exhibit. And that sounds really crazy but you can’t believe how many mummies there were traveling in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. That was really common. In fact after John Wilkes Booth died, the man who killed Abraham Lincoln, there were three mummies traveling the country that were supposed to be John Wilkes Booth and for a nickel you could pay to see the mummy of the man who killed the president. So, the fact that poor Mr. McCurdy here ends up a mummy is really not that odd. But the rest of the story really is. (Frank) Oh. Well I’m gonna watch this one with you. So, here’s the rest of the story. (Deb) You might think Elmer McCurdy would have given up when his attempts to blast into safes went awry. In one attempt he used so much nitroglycerin that it destroyed most of the money he was trying to steal. Another time the nitro melted the silver coin. In a Chautauqua, Kansas, bank they blew the vault door clear through the bank but couldn’t get through the interior door and made away with only change. In 1911 he and his crew planned to rob the Katy Train carrying $400,000 to the Osage Nation. Only he stopped the wrong train. Three days later he was surrounded and shot dead by the law. Poor Elmer’s body was taken to a funeral home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma where it went unclaimed. The owner embalmed the body using arsenic preservative to halt decomposition. Hoping to make a dollar off the unclaimed cadaver, he gave McCurdy a shave, dressed him in street clothes and put him up for display. For a nickel you could see the Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up. This would go on for five years until out of the blue McCurdy’s long lost brother aver arrived in town to claim the body. After satisfying local law enforcement and paying the undertaker for expenses the body was released into his care where it was supposed to be shipped to California for burial. Instead it was send to Arkansas City, Kansas. It turns out that Aver’s real name was James Patterson, partial owner of the Great Patterson Carnival Show. McCurdy’s corpse was renamed The Outlaw Who Would Never Be Captured Alive and traveled with the carnival until 1922. Following a series of owners the body eventually ended up in a LA warehouse until it was sold to the Hollywood Wax Museum and then in 1976 to a funhouse in Long beach, California. On December 8, 1976 the crew for The Six Million Dollar Man were filming an episode in the funhouse where McCurdy’s body was thought to be part of the set. However when one of the prop men tried to rearrange the “wax mannequin” the arm broke off, revealing human bone and tissue. The police were called in and an investigation ensued. In 1977 a funeral procession transported McCurdy to Boot Hill in Guthrie, Oklahoma. McCurdy was buried next to Bill Doolin, pretty good company considering McCurdy never managed to successfully complete one single robbery.

(Deb) OK Frank, I bet you haven’t heard of this next guy. He’s one of my favorite outlaw stories in the Wild West, Mr. McCurdy. And I got to visit his grave down in Guthrie, Oklahoma, I think it was in April, when we were down for the Wrangler Awards. McCurdy, I don’t know how to not give the story away, but he was not a very successful outlaw. And I will say this, he winds up as a mummy and he winds up as basically a sideshow exhibit. And that sounds really crazy but you can’t believe how many mummies there were traveling in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. That was really common. In fact after John Wilkes Booth died, the man who killed Abraham Lincoln, there were three mummies traveling the country that were supposed to be John Wilkes Booth and for a nickel you could pay to see the mummy of the man who killed the president. So, the fact that poor Mr. McCurdy here ends up a mummy is really not that odd. But the rest of the story really is. (Frank) Oh. Well I’m gonna watch this one with you. So, here’s the rest of the story. (Deb) You might think Elmer McCurdy would have given up when his attempts to blast into safes went awry. In one attempt he used so much nitroglycerin that it destroyed most of the money he was trying to steal. Another time the nitro melted the silver coin. In a Chautauqua, Kansas, bank they blew the vault door clear through the bank but couldn’t get through the interior door and made away with only change. In 1911 he and his crew planned to rob the Katy Train carrying $400,000 to the Osage Nation. Only he stopped the wrong train. Three days later he was surrounded and shot dead by the law. Poor Elmer’s body was taken to a funeral home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma where it went unclaimed. The owner embalmed the body using arsenic preservative to halt decomposition. Hoping to make a dollar off the unclaimed cadaver, he gave McCurdy a shave, dressed him in street clothes and put him up for display. For a nickel you could see the Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up. This would go on for five years until out of the blue McCurdy’s long lost brother aver arrived in town to claim the body. After satisfying local law enforcement and paying the undertaker for expenses the body was released into his care where it was supposed to be shipped to California for burial. Instead it was send to Arkansas City, Kansas. It turns out that Aver’s real name was James Patterson, partial owner of the Great Patterson Carnival Show. McCurdy’s corpse was renamed The Outlaw Who Would Never Be Captured Alive and traveled with the carnival until 1922. Following a series of owners the body eventually ended up in a LA warehouse until it was sold to the Hollywood Wax Museum and then in 1976 to a funhouse in Long beach, California. On December 8, 1976 the crew for The Six Million Dollar Man were filming an episode in the funhouse where McCurdy’s body was thought to be part of the set. However when one of the prop men tried to rearrange the “wax mannequin” the arm broke off, revealing human bone and tissue. The police were called in and an investigation ensued. In 1977 a funeral procession transported McCurdy to Boot Hill in Guthrie, Oklahoma. McCurdy was buried next to Bill Doolin, pretty good company considering McCurdy never managed to successfully complete one single robbery.

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