read your piece on Marie O'Day and I'm trying to track
down who owned her before Capt. Boswell. Ron and I did
the examination on her two years ago, but we are finally
getting around to writing up the story now. We got the
librarians in Salt Lake City and the Utah Historical
Society to search the records. They found nothing on a
"Marie O'Day" or a murder as described by the legend.
The only other clue we have left are her dentures. They
were made of this material call vulcanite. It was first
manufactured in 1864 and was popular until the 1940's.
We know the Captain got her in '75. Do you know who any
of the previous owners were? Prof. Gerald
Conlogue Quinnipiac University Hamden CT.
Jerry, W.F. (Dub) Duggan owned Marie, he sold her to
Charlie Campbell, a showman out of Sylva, N.C. He worked
for several years and sold her to a showman named Hoot
Black, out of Athens, Alabama. He sold her to Capt.
Harvey Boswell out of North Carolina. It is my
understanding that Capt. Boswell's brother still owns
The information below is from W.F. (Dub) Duggan,
Wherever I go, the
question that I am asked the most, is the true story
of Marie O'Day, and the three seasons I spent
exhibiting her body. I never thought much of telling
the story, because three years with Marie is enough,
and the story is not funny or it is not meant to be.
I guess it is interesting and shows the reader
something. Besides, there are some people that will
be heartsick if I don't write it down. So, here
NOW HERE IS THE PITCH
THAT I MADE TO THE PUBLIC;
"Please allow me to
direct your attention to the back of the tent where
I am going to show you the body of Marie O'Day. Now
this extra added attraction (meaning you had to pay
extra to see it) is the same body that you have read
about in the newspapers, and in the detective
magazines, it has been featured in Sunday papers for
several years. By special arrangement, with the
State of Utah, you are going to see this body, and
the powers of the Great Salt Lake, in preserving and
mummifying a human body.
Now, Marie was a
beautiful red headed, American girl who was a
professional dancer. She was murdered by being
stabbed in her right side, by her lover, who threw
her body into the Great Salt Lake, where it washed
to the shore, and was covered up by the salt, sand
and minerals, and remained there for some eighteen
years. The Dance Casino burned down and in
excavating for a new Casino, her body was discovered
By special arrangements
with the State of Utah, this show, The Pan American
Animal Exhibit, has received special permission to
exhibit the body. When you come back here I am going
to open the casket and show you this body from the
top of her head to the > bottom of her feet. I will
show you the beautiful red hair upon her head, and
you will be allowed to touch it if you wish. You
will see the eyes, the teeth and lips, the breasts,
hands and fingernails, and on down the body to the
legs and feet. I will take the body out of the
casket, and turn it over so that you might examine
Compliments of the State
of Utah." In the small towns that we showed in,
everybody knew everybody, and what they did, so all
heads would turn and look at a man or woman, and
that way I would know what I was working with. Not
that I could do anything about it, but did put me on
notice. If you can't tell the difference between a
doctor and an undertaker, you really need to get
into another line of work.
Going on with my
speech, I would say, "For the rest of you people, it
will be 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for
children. Pay, and walk right in. Get in early and
get a good place to see.> " How it may seem like to
some of you that we did not get a lot of money. But,
in those days, it was all the traffic would pay. If
I had thought I could have gotten more, I would
have. Marie O'Day took in a lot of money. Never less
than one hundred dollars and day, and most days more
than that. The biggest gross that I remember was in
Harley, Ky. where I got over one thousand dollars in
one day. After I sold her body to Charlie Campbell,
he took in over two thousand dollars in three days
in Chattanooga, Tenn. When you start talking about
hundred and thousands of dollars in the 1940s and
50s, you are talking about serious money.
HOW THE TRUTH ABOUT
MARIE O'DAY, OR WHAT I KNOW TO BE THE TRUTH
First, the body was an
embalmed body of some woman, and the red hair was
for real. I don't think it was a real stab wound in
her right side. I really don't know how she died. I
don't think Marie ever saw the Great Salt Lake, and
I doubt that she was ever in the state of Utah. I
heard a lot of stories of where she came from, and I
don't know when one is the truth.
The one that sounds the
best is that she was found dead, sitting in the
waiting room of a bus station in Mississippi. There
was no I.D. on her body, or in her handbag, but she
was well dressed and looked like class. The
undertaker assumed that someone would show up to
claim her body, and it would be only a matter of
days until he would be rid of her. Well, the days
turned into weeks, then months, then years, and
still no one showed up.
The poor undertaker kept
waiting and putting in more formaldehyde to preserve
her, and wondering what to do next. After so much
time had passed, a traveling showman came by and
offered him something for her. It seemed like a good
idea to sell and recover something, but better
still, to get rid of her and out of town and gone.
After all, the undertaker didn't have a lot of
options open to him. So, he sold.
Somehow, the traveling
showman went by the Pan American Animal Exhibit, and
sold out for $200. I have never seen a receipt, or
any other written proof that is what happened, but
it is still uncommon when dealing in cash money, not
to put everything in writing.
The first time I ever
saw the body; she was displayed in an old wooden
crate, and presented by an old time Showman, by the
name of Bill Stiles. Bill was a nice fellow, but he
was subject to being suddenly taken drunk, generally
at the most un-opportune time. That's how I got his
job. One night in some little town in Kentucky, it
was time for Bill to make the presentation, and he
fell down on the stage drunk, so there being no one
else available, I took over. Did a hell of a good
job with it, especially with the part about Bill not
being drunk, but instead was grief-stricken, as he
knew Marie in real life.
I bought Marie a casket,
changed a couple of things in the pitch, like making
her a professional dancer, which gave her a reason
to be in a casino. Couple of other little changes
and worked the pitch very hard, because I was cut in
for half of the money. It was the first big or
serious money that I ever made. Jean use to laugh
about running our fingers down the left side of the
menu, ordering whatever we wanted to eat. Everybody
else had to run down the right side to see what each
item cost before ordering.
I am most asked if we
ever had any problems with the law. I worked it for
almost three years, and there were others behind me,
and I never heard of any trouble. I don't know if
there is a law against it or not. I never heard of
it and I don't think it comes up often enough to
have need for such a law. In those days there were a
lot of freak shows, and they were very popular.
Today, there are none and they wouldn't make money
if there were.
I am often asked
whatever happened to Marie, and I don't know. I sold
her to Charlie Campbell, a showman out of Sylva,
N.C. He worked for several years and sold her to a
showman named Hoot Black, out of Athens, Alabama. I
heard that some person in North Carolina bought her
from Hoot, and still has her in his home, but does
not exhibit her. That's enough about Marie O'Day. I
have told you what I know, and I hope certain people
Marie was sold to Hoot
Black who also owned and exhibited Gold Tooth Jimmy.
Jimmy resides in Maryland with a collector and Marie
is owned by the showman, Capt. Harvey Boswell who
owned her until his death.
Gold Tooth Jimmy was
purchased by a collector in Maryland.
I have pictures of him
looking at the mummies of Gold Tooth & Marie on
Boswell property. He never did buy Marie, as he
said her back was broken and she was apparently
mounted on a board. The last I heard was Boswell's
brother still has her. It is my understanding that
some of his estate has been sold, I was told that at
one time his brother wanted to sell it intact, but
may have pieced some of it if not all of it. I
haven't confirmed the information of the sale.
John Robinson Sideshow World
Prof. Gerald Conlogue
is better know for his work on the Mummy Road Show
which airs on the National Geographic Channel.
Ron Beckett and Jerry Conlogue, are professors of
health science at Quinnipiac University Hamden CT.
They co-host the program which
fast paced half-hour television series following the
adventures of Ron and Jerry, who have a passion for
the off-beat -- mummies. They also have a talent
that goes with that passion -- investigating mummies
using x-ray and endoscopic technologies.
Special Thank to: MARIE O'DAY by W. F. (Dub) Duggan,
Tickets courtesy of Ricky Hargrove, Photos of Marie Brain
Ezzelle and Mark Frierson
If you have a question you would like
to submit email us at the
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