The story goes that a desperado got caught cheating at cards. In 1890s Arizona, this was a killing offense. He got shot a couple of times, but he rode off into the desert and became an enigma. Who was he really?
The mummified remains of a man made the rounds in sideshows around the United States. The mahogany colored mummy was displayed in a secondhand store in Yuma, and then a carnival show in Texas bought him. Then sideshow con man "Soapy" Smith acquired him and named the mummy McGinty.
He 1909, he showed up at the Alaska-Yukon Exposition, and in 1915 at San Francisco's Panama-Pacific Exposition.
In the 1930s, he was sold to a doctor in San Jose for $35. After the doctor's death it was back to the carnival circuit for McGinty. He was given different story, mostly as an outlaw gunslinger that met a bad end.
In 1955, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, Washington bought the mummy, named him Sylvester and placed him in a glass case. He made an appearance at the 1962 Seattle World's fair.
Sylvester's backstory is that he was found by two cowboys in the desert sands of Gila Bend, Arizona. Cause of death was supposed to be a bullet he got for his troubles when he cheated at cards. The arid sands and the heat mummified his body where he fell.
The non-romantic version is that Sylvester was preserved in arsenic. He was toured as a Wild West outlaw, or as "Desperado from the Old West."
In 2001 the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac University scanned Sylvester via MRI and CT. In 2005, with newer technology more revelations about the mummy were found.
It turned out he was a Caucasian male, 5'11" tall, weighing about 225 pounds when he was alive. His age was about 45. There was proof he led a hard life; he had shotgun pellets in his right cheek, neck and lung, however he'd been walking around with these for a while, and this injury didn't cause his death. There was metal shrapnel, possibly a piece of a bullet under his collarbone. Blue eyes peered out between his slitted eyelids.
His internal organs and his brain were well preserved. The 2005 exam found that his tongue was intact, he had a healthy liver which means chances are he wasn't a drinker, however he did have severe bunions and extremely high arches.
The secret to Sylvester's excellent preservation is that he was injected with arsenic, probably by an embalmer right after he died. Arsenic killed bacteria and insects that aid in decomposition.
Where is Sylvester now? He keeps company with another mummy named Sylvia, acquired by Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in 1970. She was a white European female, about 30 years old, and her remains were found in a central American cave. She died of tuberculosis.
As to what McGinty/Sylvester died from, and who he was remains a mystery.
There is a theory that he was the Louisiana Kid who had a shoot out with one of Soapy Smith's gang members outside a saloon in Creede, Colorado in 1892. The Kid supposedly didn't receive any fatal shots, but he was never heard from again. Did Soapy Smith, ship off the dead Kid to an embalmer so that he could cash in a macabre display? The world may never know.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer