16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man

Trista - October 26, 2018

One of the technicians for the 1970s television show The Six Million Dollar Man found a real dead corpse on set. The body was mixed in with the props for a haunted house scene. The deceased man’s name was Elmer McCurdy. He was nearly mummified when they discovered his body was real. No one from the television crew was responsible for his death.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man. Famefocus/Wikia.

Here are 16 facts that proved that this corpse had a bigger story in death than it did in life.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Elmer McCurdy Allias Frank Curtis, Frank Davidson, Shot by Sheriff Posse near Pawhuska, Okla 10-7-1911. The 13th Floor.

16. Today, Many People Believe McCurdy Will Never Be Forgotten

In life, McCurdy could easily be forgotten. He never did anything special to make people remember him. Even in the army, McCurdy was just another number. In fact, McCurdy did not even do anything during his robberies to make people remember him. To the authorities and others who knew about his crimes, McCurdy was just another criminal. However, this was probably fine for McCurdy as he never seemed to set out to make a name for himself.

Even after his death, McCurdy was forgotten, at least until his body was discovered in the funhouse. Ever since authorities were able to identify Elmer McCurdy officially, he is anything but forgotten. Furthermore, many people believe he will never be left in the dust again and for good reason. Other than all the television shows that have featured McCurdy, there is also a book about him. Actors and the Northern Stage ensemble also featured Elmer McCurdy during their performances called “The Oklahoma Outlaw: The Life and Times of Elmer McCurdy Deceased.” On top of all this, people continue to visit his grave quite often.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Elmer McCurdy. Find a Grave.

15. Elmer McCurdy’s Passion for Explosives Started in the Army and Ended with Robbery

Throughout his life, McCurdy seemed to just kind of drift around. He did not do anything incredibly special to make himself famous, at least, not until after his death. However, this did not keep McCurdy from finding passions in his life. One of these passions he gained through his time in the United States Army. McCurdy joined the Army in 1910. While he did not do anything surprising in the army, Elmer McCurdy did find a new passion for explosives. While in the military, McCurdy worked with nitroglycerin demolitions. It did not take him long to realize the bombs could help him with certain parts of his life.

In life, McCurdy was an outlaw and knew that the skills he learned in the army with explosives could help him in his illegal activities. However, McCurdy would realize that he still had things to learn about bombs. McCurdy’s first robbery was on a Pacific Express Company train. He ended up melting $4,000 worth of silver because McCurdy used too much nitroglycerin. In the end, McCurdy and his partners were only able to dash away with $450 worth of silver. Unfortunately, for the robbers, they could not pry any more silver off the walls of the train before they had to run from authorities.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Nu-Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, CA Postcard. Plastichrome by Colourpicture /Synthetrix.

14. The Unusual Amusement Park Where McCurdy Was Discovered

When members of the television crew discovered that McCurdy was a real corpse, thousands of people had seen him before. McCurdy had been at the Nu-Pike Amusement Park for years. He had always been located in the funhouse with many other horror movie-type items, such as monsters and skeletons. The children, and probably some adults, who had seen McCurdy often poked at him. Some of the children would scream, and others would run around him. However, none of them knew he was a real corpse. From about 1902 until 1979, Nu-Pike Amusement Park was a trendy place.

In fact, it was the first major attraction in the Long Beach, California area. It is recorded that during the 1950s there were 218 amusements in Nu-Pike. Along with the scary funhouse, Nu-Pike had many rides including a long wooden dual-track coaster called the Cyclone Racer. Other rides at the park included a carousel, House of Mirrors, bumper cars, and kiddie land. While some people might believe that the discovery of McCurdy’s corpse led to the park’s demise, there is no proof of this. According to reports, the park closed due to the redevelopment going on around the park, disrepair of the park, and the lease with the city had ended.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Drawing of a train robbery. Ozy/Getty.

13. Elmer McCurdy’s Name Is More Well-Known Today Than When He Was a Traveling Sideshow

During McCurdy’s after death sideshow attraction days, McCurdy’s name was forgotten. Eventually, people did not even know his body was a real corpse until a television crew member discovered it. While tourists began visiting his gravesite as soon as they could a few months after he was identified, popular culture did not catch on right away. In fact, except for a few small mentions, movies and television shows did not pay attention until a few years ago. One of his first popular culture references was in 1996 when the HBO documentary series Autopsy featured McCurdy’s tale.

The next known show to discuss McCurdy was BBC’s show Timewatch in 1998. After that, it was almost a decade before McCurdy popped up in more popular culture pieces. This time it was through a song by Rotary Downs. McCurdy’s story was the inspiration for both the song and music video. However, in the last couple of years, McCurdy’s story has been a part of several podcasts and television shows. In 2016, McCurdy was a part of the Futility Closet Podcast. Then in 2017, Ghost Adventures, The Memory Place, and Netflix’s The Toys that Made Us all featured McCurdy’s story.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man

Map Atlas 1881 Old Town Maps of Washington County Maine. eBay.

12. McCurdy Had a Low-Key Yet Troubled Childhood

Elmer McCurdy was born on January 1, 1880, in Washington, Maine. His mother, Sadie McCurdy, was 17 years old and his father was nowhere to be found. In fact, no one knows who his father was, but many believe he was Charles Smither, Sadie’s cousin. Because Sadie’s family did not want to see her shamed for raising an illegitimate child, McCurdy was adopted. Fortunately, for Saide, it was her brother, George, and his wife, Helen, who adopted McCurdy. Tragedy struck the family in 1890 when George died from Tuberculosis. Sadie and Helen then took McCurdy and moved to Bango, Maine.

McCurdy’s life began going downhill after Sadie told him the truth. When he was a teenager, Sadie informed McCurdy that she was his biological mother and had no idea who his father was. Many people speculate it was this news that made McCurdy rebellious. As a teen, Elmer McCurdy became very unruly and started to drink often, which is something he would continue to do until his early death. No matter how hard Sadie and Helen tried to guide McCurdy, they were unable to get through to him. Therefore, they made one last-ditch move to try to help McCurdy in his mid to late teens.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Elmer McCurdy in his coffin. W.J. Boag/Wikipedia.

11. McCurdy’s Adulthood Started Better Than His Childhood But Ended in Disaster

In the mid to late 1890s, Helen and Sadie sent McCurdy to live with his grandfather. McCurdy then became an apprentice plumber. For a little while, it seemed Elmer McCurdy was turning his life around. The people whom McCurdy worked for said he was a good worker. McCurdy began to live comfortably until the economic drop of 1898, which cause McCurdy to lose his job. Then, two years later, both his mother and grandfather died within weeks of each other. After this, McCurdy’s life changed for the worst. He began drinking heavily again and was unable to hold a job or keep a home.

After losing his grandfather and mother, McCurdy went out east to look for work. He received a job as a lead plumber but could not hold this job. He then moved to Kansas but lost that job due to his drinking. In 1905, Elmer McCurdy was arrested for public intoxication. McCurdy then went into the army in 1907 and received an honorable discharge in 1910. However, this did not help McCurdy turn his life around. A couple of weeks later, McCurdy was arrested for possessing burglary paraphernalia. Yet, McCurdy was found not guilty the following year and released from jail.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Elmer McCurdy mugshot. geraldengland.co.uk

10. McCurdy’s First Train Robbery Was Not Explosively Successful

After he was honorably discharged from the United States Army, McCurdy felt he knew everything he needed to about explosives. Even though Elmer McCurdy had a reputation of being inept when it came to bombs while in the army, he felt confident in his abilities. It was not long after McCurdy was discharged when he got an idea. McCurdy planned to use nitroglycerin during a robbery. McCurdy believed that with the use of nitroglycerin, he could easily and quickly get into a safe.

McCurdy and his partners then decided to rob a Pacific Express Company train. The men agreed on this train because they learned there were thousands of dollars worth of silver on the train. At first, their plan was working like a charm. However, McCurdy used the nitroglycerin he brought to open the safe on the train. Unfortunately, for McCurdy, he was still inept with explosives, and he used too much. McCurdy ended up blowing off the hinges off of the safe and created a hole on the side of the rail car. Because he ended up melting all the silver all over the rail car, McCurdy and his partners only got away with $450 worth of silver.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
A hearse from 1911. Stumptownblogger.

9. McCurdy’s Corpse Became a Sideshow Attraction After Death

After Elmer McCurdy’s death in 1911, he was sent to an undertaker who embalmed him and then dressed him up. However, the undertaker felt McCurdy looked too fancy all dressed up. Therefore, the Undertaker propper him up in a corner and charged people a nickel to see McCurdy. The Undertaker then named this attraction, “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up.” However, instead of handing the Undertaker the nickel, viewers would drop the coin in McCurdy’s mouth. An interesting side note to this is the Undertaker did eventually collect the coins from McCurdy.

Without a next of kin coming to claim McCurdy, he continued to collect nickels for the funeral home. Even when carnival promoters came in to try to buy McCurdy, the Undertaker refused. After all, McCurdy was creating a steady income for the funeral home. However, this changed in 1915 when two men claimed McCurdy was their brother. Unfortunately, these two men were carnival promoters. They brought McCurdy to Texas and exhibited him as “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up.” After this, McCurdy showed up in a variety of places, such as an amusement park near Mt. Rushmore.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Narcotic. nightflight.

8. The Start of a Wild Ride for the Corpse of Elmer McCurdy

From the time of McCurdy’s first carnival show until his discovery at the California funhouse, McCurdy attracted millions of people. However, not all people knew that McCurdy was a real corpse. While we do not know when this information was lost, we do know that people knew he was a corpse during his first carnival journey. While we cannot be sure that people knew of McCurdy’s truth after that, we can be sure that he was sent to many carnivals after his first journey. We also know that McCurdy’s corpse started to become used for more than just festival sideshow attractions.

McCurdy’s corpse was once forfeited as security for a loan of $500. He was also on display at a theatre during the 1930s. The theatre had decided to use McCurdy as a prop in their lobby for their 1933 showings of Narcotic. We also know that the same man who told investigators the corpse was McCurdy displayed the body during the 1930s and 1940s. This man was Louis Sonny, and he was a former police officer who presented McCurdy in his Museum of Crime. Many people speculate that McCurdy’s status was lost after he left the Museum of Crime. Along with his identity, McCurdy’s travels during the 1950s and 1960s are also lost. Traveling records for McCurdy do not show up again until 1967.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
A train robbery. Truewestmagazine.

7. Police Shot McCurdy After His Second Train Robbery

Elmer McCurdy did not have the best of luck as a train robber. His first robbery did not fare well because he used too much nitroglycerin. Of course, this caused problems with his partners and they parted ways with McCurdy. However, it did not take long for McCurdy to find new partners for his next train robbery. Together, they formulated a plan to rob another train. The men decided to attempt the train robbery in Oklahoma. However, this decision would prove to be fatal for the amateur train robber.

While we are unsure if McCurdy used any explosives in his second train robbery, we do know that McCurdy made it out of the train with $46. In today’s world, this amount is a little over $1,220.00. However, McCurdy did not get very far with his plan after the robbery. The police in Oklahoma were catching up to him. Of course, McCurdy did not help his situation when he stopped at a barn to drink the whiskey and party with the workers on the farm. It was here the police found him, and after McCurdy yelled that they would not take him alive, he was shot dead.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Drawing of an old barn. c21rb/Pinterest.

6. The Hunt and Kill For a Robber who Accomplished the Smallest Train Robbery in History

Elmer McCurdy’s second train robbery was just as bad as his first train robbery. The plan for the second one was to rob a Katy Train which was carrying $400,000. However, McCurdy and his partners got on a passenger train instead and only made out with a coat, gun, the train conductor’s watch, $46, and whiskey. A newspaper which wrote about McCurdy’s robbery stated it was “one of the smallest in the history of train robbery.” While McCurdy found refuge on a ranch, a $2,000 reward was placed on him. People speculate that it was one or more of the ranch workers who called authorities on McCurdy.

The next morning, on October 7, 1911, three sheriffs and bloodhounds surrounded the barn where McCurdy was sleeping. On October 8, one sheriff recounted what happened to McCurdy in the Daily Examiner. The sheriff said they had surrounded the building by 7:00 when a gun was fired at them. The shooting between McCurdy and the officers went on for about an hour. The shooting ended when one of the officers shot McCurdy in the chest, which killed him. Elmer McCurdy was then brought to the coroner’s office where unknown to the officers, McCurdy would become a traveling exhibit.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Elmer McCurdy’s corpse propped up. podensteinslab.

5. McCurdy’s Corpse Traveled Through California as a Prop

After McCurdy’s wild ride around the United States, he finally ended up in California. McCurdy first arrived in Los Angeles in the 1930s. He was used in the horror movie She Freak in 1967. McCurdy then spent some time lying in an open casket at a wax museum. He then made his way to the Nu-Pike Amusement Park. In this Long Beach, California scene, Elmer McCurdy was dressed as a cowboy. He was hanging from a noose and believed to be a mannequin. McCurdy had been seen hundreds of times by this point, and no one knew he was a real corpse.

It was in 1976 when a technician for the television show The Six Million Dollar Man discovered Elmer McCurdy. The crew member was given the task to prepare the set for a scene at the funhouse. So the technician went to Nu-Pike Amusement Park to set up for the stage. While there, the technician noticed he needed to move the neon-painted cowboy mannequin. However, as he was about to, he saw strange things about the dummy. As he picked McCurdy up to move him and get a closer look, his arm fell off. This shocking movement is when the technician noticed there was a bone in the arm. The crew member then realized that this was not a mannequin at all.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Image of Elmer McCurdy as a corpse and as a mummy. porterbiggs.

4. The TV Crew’s Shocking Discovery

For The Six Million Dollar Man crew, the clues that Elmer McCurdy was a corpse and not a mannequin did not start with his arm falling off. In fact, it began when one crew member noticed strange and human-like features on the hanging prop. The first clue for the crew member was the cut and crude stitching from the autopsy. Next, the crew member noticed the accessory had robust human-like features. At this point, the crew member pointed the elements out to another crew member. They then decided to move McCurdy to get a better look, which is when his arm fell off.

The crew then notified the authorities, who noted the corpse had been dead for a very long time. The authorities then contracted a criminologist, who noticed the hair on the back of the leg. The criminologist confirmed McCurdy was indeed a real corpse. McCurdy was then sent to the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office, who sent out a news release of the clues. They later received a call from someone who believed it was McCurdy. The investigators then contacted Oklahoma Historical Society who sent a picture of McCurdy with information on his death. Matching everything up, the investigators realized the body was Elmer McCurdy.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Elmer McCurdy’s tombstone. deskgram.

3. McCurdy’s Tombstone Tells the Length of His After Death Travels

Elmer McCurdy died on October 7, 1911. However, according to his tombstone, McCurdy was not laid to rest until April 22, 1977. If you do the math, that is almost 66 years of traveling McCurdy did after the sheriff shot him in Oklahoma. After being located in Los Angeles County and identified, McCurdy made one last journey. He was sent to Guthrie, Oklahoma. His final resting place is Summit View Cemetery. They even gave McCurdy a tombstone which talks more about his corpse’s time after death than McCurdy’s life. The tombstone states, “Elmer McCurdy shot by Sheriff’s posse in Osage Hills on Oct. 7, 1911, Returned to Guthrie, Okla. from Los Angeles County, Calif for burial Apr. 22, 1977.”

Because people wanted to make sure McCurdy did not go on another journey, they buried him in a unique way. At McCurdy’s burial, there was a concrete truck which filled his grave with concrete. However, this has not stopped people from taking home souvenirs from McCurdy’s resting place. Reports state that several tourists have brought small pieces of McCurdy’s tombstone home. It seems that Elmer McCurdy may always be an attraction.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
Elmer McCurdy’s mummified remains, mysteryu.

2. The Clues Found Inside of McCurdy’s Body Led to His Identity

No one is sure when or how McCurdy lost his identity. Right after he was embalmed, McCurdy became “the Bandit who Wouldn’t Give up” so McCurdy’s identity could have been lost quickly. However, we do know that for the first few years people knew the attraction was a corpse what we do not know is when McCurdy went from being a corpse to a prop. However, it happened at some point during McCurdy’s 65 years of traveling after death, and because of this, the authorities had trouble identifying McCurdy.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the few items found in McCurdy’s body, he might have never been identified. Because McCurdy’s fingers were damaged, law enforcement could not pull his fingerprints. Therefore, to determine the corpse, the coroner’s office took x-rays of his teeth and measured his bones. After that, they also realized McCurdy had been embalmed before. Other clues that led to McCurdy’s identity were items which were found inside of him.
These items included a bullet, a Sonney Amusement Museum of Crime ticket, a newspaper article, and a 1924 penny.

16 Interesting Facts about the Real Corpse Found on Set of 70s Hit The Six Million Dollar Man
(L) Laffing Sal at The Pike (R) The dummy that hung in the ride “Laff in the Dark.” mysteryu.

1. McCurdy’s Body Was So Well-preserved He Was Basically a Mummy

It is well documented that McCurdy’s biography tells a more exciting tale after death than before death. In fact, there is very little information about McCurdy when he was alive. There is tons of information about McCurdy after death. When it comes to all of McCurdy’s after-death experiences, we have one man to thank. This man is the original coroner who embalmed Elmer McCurdy. For if this man had not done such a good job, McCurdy could have quickly turned to dust.

The original coroner who took care of McCurdy embalmed him with too much arsenic that he really mummified McCurdy. However, without this much arsenic, there would have been no way McCurdy would have lasted through his travels or being painted for the funhouse. Furthermore, McCurdy’s corpse had barely decomposed during his nearly 66 years of traveling. After all, McCurdy was not only set up as a sideshow attraction and used as a movie prop. He was also shipped around the United States, hung from a noose, and painted orange so he could be seen better at the funhouse.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Strange Story of Elmer McCurdy – The Outlaw Whose Body Became a film Prop.” Rachel Saverby, Ranker. 2018.

“Elmer McCurdy: Did a Dummy ‘Dead Man’ on a TV Set Turn Out to be the Real Thing?” David Mikkelson, Snoopes. August 2008.

“The Strangest Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy.” J. Mark Powell, jmarkpowell. February 2017.

“Elmer McCurdy.” Wikipedia.

“Elmer McCurdy- The Wondering Dead.” Candyguy, Human Marvels.

“Real Corpse Found in California Funhouse: The Bizarre Life and Death of Elmer McCurdy.” David Ian McKendry. The 13th Floor. March 2016.

“Why Elmer McCurdy Will Never Be a Dead Loss.” Evening Chronicle, Chronicle Live. February 2013.

“The Long Beach Pike.” Blogger, Modern Day Ruins. January 2000.

“How the Corpse of an All-Time Loser Became a Money-Making Sensation”. Barbara Stepko. Vintage News.

“Elmer McCurdy, From Maine Plumber to Dumbest Outlaw to Traveling Corpse”. New England Historical Society.

“The Strange Odyssey of an Oklahoma Outlaw’s Long-Lost, Long-Dead Mummy”. The Lineup Staff. Gizmodo.

“Inept Train Robber Had an Unimpressive Life but A Celebrated Afterlife.” STEVE HARVEY. Los Angeles Times.

Also Read: “19th Century Woman Mummified Inside the Airtight Metallic Case”. Trista. History Collection.