MARIE O'DAY, a
nightclub entertainer, was killed by her common-law husband, who
stabbed her in the back and cut her throat (for which he was
sentenced to ninety-nine years in the Utah State Penitentiary).
He threw her in Utah's Great Salt Lake, where her body remained
for twelve years. It had washed ashore but remained
covered with salt, silt, and sand. When discovered in
1937, her body was said to be "mummified, but not petrified" due
to the more than 20 percent salt chemical content present in the
water of the lake. A stitched incision in her neck appears
to be a stab wound, and the stab wound in her back is also still
visible. the mummy was exhibited by Charlie Campbell,
Profess L.O. "Hoot" Black, and at least two other showmen.
Over the years, O'Day toured thirty-eight states and Canada in
the "Marie O'Day Palace Car." In 1955 the chief of police
in Springhill, Louisiana, vouched for the authenticity of the
mummy in a letter to a fellow officer of the law: "The doctors
and nurses here all agreed that the exhibit Marie O'Day was an
actual body and was once alive." Admission in the early
1970s was fifty cents. "The remarkable thing is the hair is
still growing," claims the advertisement.
O'Day's body was
said to be leather like "... you will see that the body is still
pliable, you will note the beautiful red hair upon her head,
which is still growing. The well-preserved teeth, you will
see her finger nails, toe nails - even the corn upon her toe."
The exhibitors offered an inspection to doctors, nurses, or
undertakers who desired to convince themselves of the
authenticity of the body. In 1975 Black sold the mummy to
Captain Harvey Lee Boswell. Boswell took ownership of
O'Day buy had to abandon her Palace Car in the adjacent state.
He also removed her from the traditional casket in which she had
been exhibited, having found that it offended the public,
particularly the recently bereaved, O'Day became part of
his Palace of Wonders, billed as "The World's Largest and
Strangest Tented Museum. "She took a celebrated place among the
sideshow's shrunken heads, five-legged and two headed animals,
live snakes, and other exotic and domestic wonders. In the
late 1980s Captain Boswell was contacted by a vice president of
Ripley's Believe It or Not.
permission Marie O'Day above as she appears
today, in the
collection of her Captain Harvey Lee Boswell.
The Palace Car in
Which Marie O'Day was Exhibited
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Modern Mummies: The Preservation of the Human Body in the
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