Have any of you ever ventured into the London Dungeons 'Creepy Crypt' exhibition? Sounds interesting, if not slightly cheesy. The exhibition has come up in the news this week after one of the prop skeletons on display there was found to be genuine human remains, It is believed the bones could have been there since the attraction opened in 1975. I personally think this is fascinating! You'd think someone would have noticed this sooner, but I guess these 'props' can be very life like!
Its is thought the remains could date from the early days of anatomical research when bodies were regularly smuggled in from the Far East, or maybe a victim of grave robbing to supply scientists and doctors. Staff at the dungeons now believe a second skeleton which they call Twiggy may also be real, staff have decided to get their 'props' checked as real human remains have to be licenced by the Human Tissue Society for up to £2,000 a year.
I find it fascinating that real human remains have been unknowingly veiwed by hundreds of people at a tourist attraction. The story reminded me of another incident I remembered hearing about in which a real preserved corpse was used unknowingly as a prop in a haunted house attraction at a fair.
The incredible story was discovered when a television company was filming at the 'Laff in the Dark' funhouse in Long Beach California. A member of the cast accidently knocked the arm off what he thought was a spooky dummy, but on closer inspection he saw a bone inside the arm and realised this was a real corpse!
More interestingly when the body was being examined a 1924 penny was found inside its mouth along with a ticket from Sonney Amusement’s Museum of Crime in Los Angeles.
These artifacts helped piece together the corpses story and indentify him as Elmer Mccurdy.
Mccurdys story began with his birth in Maine in 1880, from here he moved to the Midwest where he lived as a drifter before enlisting in the army in 1910 where he did little of interest. After his time in the army he became a train robber.
He was shot dead after a standoff with the police on October 7 1911.
His body was not claimed, so it ended up in a funeral home in Oklahoma where the owner mummified him as a display piece (this was actually quite common at the time)
In 1916 A man came to claim him, saying he was a family member wanting to give him a proper burial, this man was in fact from the 'Great Patterson Shows' and then took the body to be displayed as the 'oklahoma outlaw' in his show.
For the next 60 years he was passed between shows and carnivals once even ending up in a theatre lobby for opening night of a gangster film.
In the 1940s he ended up in a museum of crime, by this time his true nature had been forgotten and he was thought to be a macabre waxwork. Sold on as a waxwork in the 1970s to a museum and ending up in the California Funhouse where his indentity was discovered.
He was finally laid to rest and buried in Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma. To make sure his corpse stayed put, 2 cubic yards of cement were poured over the coffin before the grave was closed.
Elmers story is one of the most Bizarre and Amazing things I've ever read. I wonder what he would have made of the amazing journey his body was to go on!
This brings to mind another story I've recently read from another part of the world, in Northern Mexico, in a city called, Chihuahua we find the legend of 'La Pascualita'.
75 years ago a dummy appeared in a Bridal shop in Chihuahua, locals peered through the windows at the veiny hands and sinister smile and remarked how the dummy resembled the owner of the shop and over time her legend grew.
rumours began going round that she was infact the preserved corpse of the shop owners daughter, who had died from a black widow spider bite on her wedding day. She was receiving abusive phone calls accusing her of hiding her daughers death and embalming her body. She issued a formal denial, but the story stuck.
In more recent years stories have been told of the figure shifting position in the window in the dead of night, and that her eyes follow customers round the shop.
Some of the shop workers are too frightened to change her dress, with one reporting that she has varicose veins on her leg! The shop assistants certainly feel that she is a real person, she is always changed behind a curtain to retain her modesty.
Tourists come to the shop from all around the world and leave offerings by the window to La Pascualita'. Candles, rosaries, sugar skulls and flowers are left there, especially on mexico's day of the dead.
When asked about her true Nature the current shop owner simply shrugs and says 'I could't say'.
Who knows where she came from, but the legend that has built up around her is amazing. I wonder if any more 'props' will be discovered to be just a little too convincing to be fakes.