Thursday, December 4, 2008

Restless Remains

On today's date in 1891, young pianist Emma Crawford passed away from tuberculosis. As per her request, she was buried near the top of Red Mountain in Manitou Springs, Colorado. More than 20 years later a railroad transplanted her remains to another part of the mountain, causing her remains to wash down the side of the mountain in 1929. After some time spent in custody of the city of Manitou Springs, she was finally buried in Crystal Valley Cemetery and there she's stayed. While Emma's story has made her the most famous resident of Crystal Valley Cemetery (the city has a yearly festival in her name), there are other unusual tales of the dead associated with Crystal Valley cemetery.

There is a man whose body never made it to the cemetery. Tom O'Neal was mummified using embalming techniques that the county coroner was experimenting with. His body was regularly brought out of storage over the years so that it could dry in the sun. Eventually, the coroner died and was buried in Crystal Valley. A relative of the coroner buried Tom O'Neal as well, but the burial didn't last long. Graverobbers stole the body and it wound up as part of a traveling sideshow.

The ultimate fate of Tom O'Neal's body is unknown. It may have finally been lain to rest. It might just be in storage somewhere. In 1976, while filming an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man on location at a fun house in Long Beach, California, a crewman accidentally broke the arm off of a mannequin used in a display. It was quickly discovered to not have been a mannequin at all, but a mummified corpse! Celebrity pathologist Dr. Thomas Noguchi solved the case when he proved the body had belonged to gunfighter Elmer J. McCurdy. McCurdy, who like Tom O'Neal was never claimed by relatives, had his mummy wind up in a sideshow. Many years later, after his sideshow days were finished, McCurdy wound up in a warehouse full of mannequins. He eventually got purchased as a mannequin for use in an amusement park fun house.

Once identified, McCurdy was finally lain to rest in Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1977. McCurdy's corpse wandered for 65 years before being discovered more than 1,300 miles from where he had died. Who is to say the same fate hasn't befallen Tom O'Neal? The next time you visit a dark fun house in an old amusement park or pass by a mannequin in a store that doesn't look quite right, you might just be looking at the corpse of Tom O'Neal.

After these tales of restless remains, it may be surprising to read the tale of Theresa Kenny, the woman who loved her plot at Crystal Valley Cemetery so much that she spent a decent portion of the last decade of her life sitting in a rocking chair there.

Pay a visit to Crystal Valley Cemetery and learn that while "dead men tell no tales" there are still plenty of unusual stories to be read about the deceased.


Velvet Blackbird Creations said...

I heard the story about McCurdy before. Its amazing how long his remains went without being noticed. Very creepy!

judygraham said...

My parents used to live north of Guthrie, OK (they moved there while I was away at university). I remember driving by Summit View cemetery whenever I went to visit them. I had not heard this story then. Great post!