Friday, October 15, 2010

My visit to Jonah's grave

A few weeks ago my Lovely Wife and I went with some friends up to Guthrie, Oklahoma. Guthrie, among other things, was the first capitol of Oklahoma, has the largest urban historic district in the United States, and was hosting an art festival. We wandered about, looking at art when I suddenly remembered something.

Elmer McCurdy. I quickly asked a local where the grave of Elmer McCurdy was and they gave me exact directions to the graveyard. We had to do a little searching, but we found it.  While wikipedia states it's in the NE corner of the graveyard, it's more in the North center of the graveyard. But now I had to explain to our companions who Elmer was.
Here is a nice overview from
A notorious outlaw in the early 20th century, who's events in death have become more famous then anything he did in life. He was born in 1880 to an unwed teenage mother whose family gave infant Elmer to her brother George and his wife to raise. He was later told the news which he did not take well. He began to drink heavily and eventually ran away. He tried several jobs working as a plumber and a miner and even tried to enlist to go in Theodore Roosevelt's occupation of The Philippines. McCurdy missed the expiration dated and didn't get to go. His tour of duty in the Army lasted only three years. After leaving the Army, McCurdy had no luck finding work and tried making his fortune as a robber. He and friend Walter Shapelrock were arrested for possession of tools used for burglary. Awaiting trial he met a man named Walter Jarrett. After being found not guilty, McCurdy was released and met up with Jarrett. Jarrett gave McCurdy the nickname "Missouri McCurdy. The two were not very successful as bank robbers, often blowing up the money with the nitroglycerin used to blast open the safe. In 1911, the two tried to to steal the safe from a Kansas train. The safe contained only a few dollars so taking their meager shipment, the gang headed into Oklahoma where McCurdy would meet his match. On October 8th, drunk and in need of rest, he fell asleep in a barn and later awoke to find that a small posse had tracked him down. Holing himself inside the barn he shot it out with the posse for better then an hour. When the shooting stopped, McCurdy was dead at the age of 31. No family or friends came to claim the body and the undertaker refused to give the body to the sideshow carnies who asked to have it for display. Sometime later two con men (one claiming to be his brother) showed up and claimed it and took it back to California where they encased it in painted wax. McCurdy was an outlaw doomed to fade into historical obscurity until his story took a bizarre twist some 65 years later. In 1976, a film crew went to Nu Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, California to film an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. One of the technicians came across a wax dummy hanging from a rope. Trying to move it, the arm came off and sticking out of the wax was a bone. The dummy was taken to a forensics laboratory for an autopsy but it was so petrified that the doctors had to use a hacksaw to get through it. They learned that this was in fact the body of Elmer McCurdy and that he had died of a .32 caliber gunshot wound. He was soon after buried in a formal ceremony and cement covered the coffin of a man who's body had made a 65 year journey to the grave. (Bio by S. Mason) (bio by: Savannah Mason) 

But now I had to explain WHY I wanted to see this. For that I had to explain the Jonah Hex Spectacular  from some time back and the Secret Origins issue from yesterday. My friends are way too patient with me.

So we wandered the graveyard for a little bit, paid our respects to Elmer and also to this headstone:


SallyP said...

I did not know of this story, but the parallels are quite striking! Not to mention gruesome.

Susan said...

Geez, all I knew about was what happened to Elmer after he died. His life didn't sound so pleasant Jonah, he was a guy who just couldn't catch a break. :(