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The Toe Tag: The Postmortem Adventures of an Oklahoman Outlaw



You may not recognize the name of Elmer McCurdy. Unlike the infamous Bill Doolin or Jesse James, who were outlaws known for their exploits in crime, Elmer was more famous deceased than he was while alive. 

McCurdy was an Oklahoma outlaw at the turn of the 20th century. In 1911, he was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies after the commission of a train robbery in the Osage Hills, which is not Osage County as well as portions of Tulsa, Mayes and Washington counties. The loot that cost him his life was only worth forty bucks and some change along with two bottles of whiskey. He was only 31 years old when gunned down, but that was only the beginning of an afterlife of sorts that lasted another 66 years....

McCurdy’s body was never claimed, and he never had a funeral. The Pawhuska funeral home embalmed him with three times the amount of arsenic, eternally preserving his corpse. With no next-of-kin, the funeral home was said to have charged spectators five cents to see the famous outlaw. Rumors were told that people would deposit the money into Elmer’s mouth. In 1916, two carnies posing as Elmer’s brothers arrived at the funeral home to claim his body, and he was released to them without question. He would then travel the country as a carnival sideshow attraction and prop for museums. By the time his corpse arrived in California, it had been sold six times. 

He ended up on the set of The Six Million Dollar Man in 1976. McCurdy was hanging from a banister in a funhouse ride on set when the crew noticed that an arm had fallen off, exposing tissue and bone. Beneath the wax that had been placed over his body throughout the years laid the revelation that what they thought was a prop was in fact once a living human being. 

An autopsy was conducted by famed “coroner to the stars” Dr. Thomas Noguchi, and Oklahoma’s own forensic anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow, was consulted to help identify the remains. Dr. Snow used X-ray superimposition to identify the travel-weary body as McCurdy. On April 22, 1977, Elmer McCurdy was finally laid to rest in the Boot Hill section of the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie. He is reportedly buried under six feet of concrete so his body would never be disturbed. Buried next to the famous outlaw, Bill Doolin. The owner of the Stone Lion Inn, also in Guthrie, has held murder mystery events at the cemetery and it is rumored that she has purchased the plot next to him for herself. The outlaw who traveled the world more dead than alive, McCurdy’s grave still gets frequent visitors and, while they are no longer depositing the coins directly into his mouth, a sizable pile of coins still gathers at the base of his tombstone.

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