October 7, 1911 - It was on this day that a wannabe outlaw named Elmer McCurdy attempted to rob a train in Oklahoma. He thought it would be a big score worth thousands of dollars. Instead, he only got away with $46 and a few bottles of booze.
A few hours later the authorities cornered him in a barn. McCurdy told them, "You'll never take me alive." And those were his last words as he died from a gunshot to the chest, possibly from his own gun.
McCurdy's corpse was taken to a funeral home but nobody ever came to claim the body. The undertaker came up with a novel idea. He mummified the body with an arsenic-based preservative and he put it on display to anybody willing to pop a nickel into the mouth of "The Bandit Who Wouldn't Give Up."
Apparently there were a lot of nickels going into McCurdy's mouth and he became a popular attraction. After 5 years on display, a man claiming to be McCurdy's brother came to collect the mummy. He said he was going to give him a proper burial. Well, turns out the so-called brother was actually a sideshow operator who soon had McCurdy's mummy as part of his traveling carnival.
Over the next 60 years, the gunfighter mummy made the rounds through a neverending series of state fairs, wax museums and haunted houses. Eventually he found a home in an amusement park in Long Beach, California. McCurdy's corpse was painted day-glo yellow and hung from the ceiling on a ride called the "Laff in the Dark."
In 1976 a film crew was preparing to film a scene for The Six Million Dollar Man inside the carnival ride. As a crew member went to move what he thought was a mannequin, its arm popped off and revealed a very real human bone sticking out. The mummy was sent to Los Angeles where it was examined by the famous coroner, Thomas Noguchi (the same guy who performed Marilyn Monroe's autopsy). Inside the mummy's mouth, Noguchi found a 1923 penny and a ticket to the Los Angeles Museum of Crime. Using these bits of evidence, investigators were eventually able to identify the mummy as none other then Elmer McCurdy.
A few months later McCurdy finally made his way back to Oklahoma. He is now buried in the Boot Hill section of a cemetery in Guthrie.