It was 1976, and The Six Million Dollar Man ruled the networks (remember that show? "He was better than he was before... better... stronger... faster....." I loved those bionic sound effects). The producers planned an episode of the adventure series that would take place in an old funhouse, and they found the perfect set in Long Beach, California. It was called "Laugh in the Dark," and it featured the typical "funhouse" decor--skeletons, wax figures, ghosts, etc. One of the wax dummies in particular caught the director's eye; it was painted a glow-in-the-dark orange and hung from the ceiling on a makeshift gallows. The director wanted the hanged man moved, and a crewman who carried out the order was perturbed to find that the dummy's arm fell off, revealing--a human bone!
It wasn't a dummy, it was a mummy. That was a little too much reality for television circa 1976, so the discovery was taken to the L.A. County medical examiner's office, where an examination confirmed that the funhouse prop was indeed a petrified human corpse.
An autopsy revealed that the body was that of a male. All of his internal organs were present, conserved with arsenic, which hadn't been used for embalming in many decades. The examination also revealed an old-fashioned copper-jacketed .32 bullet, which was fished out of the pelvic area. The coroner's office determined that the man had died of gunshot wounds some time around the turn of the century.
A hunt through the historical records revealed that the body probably belonged to one Elmer J. McCurdy. The coroner's office used what was then a relatively little known identification technique known as "medial superimposition"--they took known photos of McCurdy and overlaid them with x-rays of the funhouse mummy. The identification was confirmed.
McCurdy was born in 1869 and became a hard drinker, a loner, and by one account a murderer as well as a notorious train robber. In October, 1911, McCurdy, one of the last of the western badmen, was cornered in a barn by a sheriff's posse near Pawhuska, Oklahoma. McCurdy declared that he would never be taken alive, at which point the sheriff's men indulged him, and Elmer died with his boots on.
The outlaw's body initially went to a funeral home in Pawhuska, but nobody claimed him. They embalmed him and put him in a back room. The funeral home had a few offers for his corpse from showmen (mummies were common to carnivals and traveling "freak shows" until the 1930s) but the funeral home refused these offers. Then two "cousins" from California came to finally claim old Elmer, and his long journey to the grave began.
After such long and ignominious treatment, Elmer McCurdy came to his final resting place in 1977. Following the belated funeral in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Elmer was buried in the same cemetery that hosted such infamous badmen as Wild Bill Doolin and Tom Capers (who was known only for the crude newspaper headline that followed his murder during a dice game: CAPERS CRAPS OUT.) The town residents gave him full honors, including a parade to the cemetery replete with wild west costumes, fire engines, the whole nine yards--which was probably more than old Elmer McCurdy, murderer, gun-toting desperado, railroad-robbing thug, fluorescent orange carnival dummy--ever deserved.
"Mummified Body of Desperado," by the Associated Press, Indiana (Pennsylvania) Gazette, Dec. 13, 1976.
"Elmer McCurdy's Body Goes Home to Boot Hill," by United Press, Elyria Chronicle Telegram, April 17, 1977.
"Oklahoma Cemetery Burial Place of Frontier Outlaws," by Bill Johnson, Associated Press, Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune, Nov. 10, 1987.
Coroner at Large, by Thomas T. Noguchi, M.D. (Simon & Schuster, 1985).
Find-A-Grave on Elmer McCurdy
Recommended Reading: Elmer McCurdy: The Misadventures in Life and Afterlife of an American Outlaw by Mark Svengold -- a biography of the man and the mummy.